Thursday, January 6, 2011

С Рождеством и С Новым Годом!!

С Рождеством и С Новым Годом!!! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year (a bit a little late)

So naturally I’m about a week late with this (okay okay the last post was only 2 months late, forgive me) but I figured that you would all like to know how my holidays were spent here in Russia.

So we shall start by saying that Christmas doesn’t exist in Russia (well it does, in fact its January 7th, so tomorrow or today depending on when I post this) because they are Orthodox not Catholic so to them December 25th is just another day on the calendar where they have to go to school, work, and continue to prepare for New Years. Knowing that Christmas is a big holiday in most other countries AFS decided to try to have a “Christmas celebration” for us AFS students. The mere fact that it was on December 22 – December 24 it failed slightly in getting us in the “Christmas spirit” but it was still nice of them to try to celebrate for us.

So on December 22 we left for Yaroslavl where the event was being held and when we got there we were told that we were going to be staying in host families, which was nice, but honestly after all the problems that I had with families I was and am tired of getting to know new families. My family that I stayed with there was very nice but we didn’t really do much because I was only going to be there for 2 nights.

Russia has yet to figure out that the country that they live in is well… COLD… they still seem to think that it is a good idea to plan out door activities when it is about 0 degrees outside. When we say that its cold they always respond with “well it's Russia” in my head all I think is “well thank you for informing me where I am but its still COLD, if you’re cold and you’re Russian then obviously WE are cold! Give us a break and don’t plan 7 hour outdoor activities in December” but outwardly I just smiling and say “yes I know, but its COLD” All in all the outing was fun, we went sledding then played some games outside on teams, our team came in second but I must admit it was done mostly without me, me and Jenia hid inside for some of the games (we found coffee).

The next day was mostly for the AFSers to hang out which we did, we also had to watch a performance that the school put on for us. Oddly enough their choice for a Christmas play was “the Headless Horseman of Sleepy Hallow” … we didn’t understand either. We then had a small feast with cake and fruit before we all went to the center to walk around before we went home.

When I got home (on Christmas Eve) my host family had a whole feast prepared for me! It was so nice of them! They had baked me chicken, real salad, and a cake. They kept asking if they had done it right! It was soo sweet of them, I mean I had only been living with them for about 5 days at that point and so it was just really really nice of them. They gave me a small Christmas gift and then I went to bed, still not quite believing that the next day was Christmas.

So my actual Christmas was very uneventful. I went to an art museum with Katia’s (my host sister) class in the morning. While I would like to be able to say that “I learned a lot and I really enjoyed the museum” I unfortunately cant say that. I’m learning that I’m really just not one for art museums and all I could think was “its Christmas, why am I here?” After that we went home and I met my host dad for the first time since I had been in the house. He works one week on and one week off (as far as I understood when they told me) but I still don’t know what he does exactly. Then Katia & I went ice-skating. Russians really enjoy holding hands while they ice-skate which to me, holding hands with someone who hasn’t ice skated in over 2 years and wasn’t that great to begin with (me), is not a very good idea but alas they really love to hold hands! They also don’t really understand that you can't go from “bad” to “90 mph” in less then one hour! But I’m proud of myself I only fell once and it created a bruise the size of Rhode Island on the side of my right knee but it was still worth it! After that I skyped with my whole family back in the States which was pretty sad, I missed them A LOT, Christmas is a hard time to be away from family. That drew an end to the strangest Christmas of my life!

On to New Years! Which to Russians seems to be Thanksgiving, Christmas, and something REALLY amazing all rolled in to one. Everyone started talking about New Years about 2 weeks in to December. Although now that I think about it, in the States, we start thinking about Christmas in November so maybe it’s not that weird after all. And everyone kept telling me how amazing New Year's was going to be. So the day before New Year's myhost sister & I helped my host mom and grandma get food ready for New Year's, they seemed to be preparing a FEAST (which they were!).

So on December 31st we all woke up late (as usual) and pretty much just lounged until about 5ish pm and that’s when we all started getting ready. Well to be more accurate with that I noticed that they were all getting ready, doing makeup, putting on nice cloths, so I figured that that’s what I should be doing too. No one had told me but I didn’t want to be the only one in pajamas! I mean they even put my little host brother in a SUIT! So we all got dressed up and around 8 some guests came over, friends of my host family and their little daughter who is the same age as my host brother. We all hung out until about 10 pm which is when we started to eat. Yes we STARTED to eat at about 10 pm. My family got very distressed when they realized that I wouldn’t eat most of the food on the table because 90% of it contained mayo, which is one food that I cannot stand! I still managed to fill my stomach much more then I should have yet my бабушка (grandma) was still worried that I’m not eating enough (which is a daily worry of hers)

At almost midnight we turned on the TV and we watched Russia bring in the New Year in Moscow. The president of Russia, Mendeleev, spoke for about 5 minutes and then they counted in the New Year. Then I saw one of the funniest things. I watched the president, and former president (Putin) dance! Together! On! Live! TV! I thought it was amusing. Well Russians have the same champagne and kissing tradition as the USA. We all had champagne and kissed each other’s cheeks at midnight and shouted “С НОВЫМ ГОДОМ!!!!” and that’s when the fireworks started! All over the city you could hear fire works going off and the distant lights in the sky. (and for future reference, its January 6 and people are still setting off fireworks and saying Happy New Years on the street)

Me and my family sat around, talked, danced, sang and hung out with our guests until about 3 am which is when the party started to die down and everyone went home and we went to bed.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

The last crazy month! Part 2

So no time like the present to fill everyone in as to why exactly I am in yet another new family. I’ll also start off again by apologizing because this post is going to be a bit scattered and a little confusing because I have a lot of information to get across in (hopefully) a relatively short blog post but I want to fill everyone in.

So with my first host family that I had the actual relationship that we had was good and was not the reason that I had to switch to a new family. About 3 weeks after arriving in Russia I started having some sort of mild allergic reaction to something. It manifested in small red bumps that itched really badly and kind of looked like mosquito bites but stayed red all the time. At first I had no clue what it was and I ended up going to the Russian doctors more then once about it (it was not quite as positive of an experience as the dentist) but the only thing that they could tell me was that it was an allergic reaction but because EVERYTHING in my environment was new there was no real way that they could pinpoint what I was allergic to exactly.

Well after a few more weeks I figured out that the only time I got the spots was after I slept in my bed so I talked to my host family about that and we decided that me and my host sister would sleep in my moms bed and my host mom would sleep in our room to see if that cured the problem. For the most part that helped but I still couldn’t sit on my old bed because when I did I got spots. I had thought that this was going to be a temporary fix but this was really the only way that I could sleep in the house and not get spots but I was not fully comfortable with sleeping in the same bed as my host sister for the next 8 months. When I told AFS about our sleeping arrangement they agreed that it had been long enough with this allergy never really going away that they thought it was time that I changed.

All of this talk of changed happened to come up right before I left for Sochi (see last post) and so they decided that they would start searching for a family and would tell my host family about the switch whilst I was away in Sochi and that I should call on the way home and not to worry while I was there. So I tried to do as they told me (but for those of you who know me…I worried) and I called AFS on the train from Moscow to Yaroslavl. That was a BIG mistake. They ended up telling me that they still hadn’t found a host family (because they forgot to start looking) and I totally broke down in the train. Thankfully it was a train full of exchange students who understood what was going on so they were nice about it. After a lot of phone calls and many many many more tears we finally got it worked out that I would be going to staying with Jenia until they found me a permanent host family.

So when Jenia's host family picked her up from the bus station they also picked me up. And so started the 2 weeks that I lived with Jenia. Because Jenia’s house doesn’t have an extra bed I slept on a mattress on the floor of Jenia’s room, which was fine by me. But that meant that in one room it was me, Jenia, and her host sister Natasha. It was cramped but it was a lot of fun. So while I was at Jenia’s I had a big event happen. It was my 19th birthday!!!!! Well in Russia birthdays aren’t huge deals like they are in the states. Jenia’s family was really nice and they tried to make my birthday as memorable as possible. They bought me balloons and gave me a small gift and Jenia bought me a birthday cake so that was really nice. It was a great birthday under the circumstances but I really do wish I had been with a family of my own for my birthday. So just 4 short days after my birthday it was Thanksgiving! I know I know, thanks giving in Russia? Maybe not but me and Jenia were determined to do something for it. Well an actual thanks giving meal was out of the question because we didn’t have any of the ingredients that we needed so we had one of the worlds most unconventional thanks giving meals in the world: Tocos! Jenia and me made tacos for her family for diner. She had already made them for them once so it wasn’t new but still it was exciting because even in Russia we managed to make them taste like “home” we had to substitute things with the Russian version but they still ended up tasting pretty darn…. well I was going to say American but well Mexican!

So a few days after Thanks giving just about 2 weeks after I moved in to their house AFS told me that they had found me a new host family and that in my new family there would be a mom, a dad, a brother my age (but lived in Yaroslavl for university) and a sister that’s 16. I was really excited. So I packed up all of my stuff from Jenia’s (its surprising how much unpacking you can do in just a 2 week time period) and Jenia and Natasha went with me in the taxi to my new family. They lived in a house about 10 minutes’ drive outside of Uglich in a small village. I could still Uglich but I didn’t technically live in Uglich any more.

So while I was there I unpacked all of my stuff as well. They were a nice family, very quiet but they seemed very nice. After I had been there for about a week AFS told me if it was okay if they switched me and Laura (a German girl in Uglich) because Laura needed a new family and they had no other families besides they one that they just gave me. I told them that on my end it was okay because honestly I had only been with this new family for 1 week so it was okay with me. I knew that it had a lot more people to go through to get approved but still I was excited about the possibility.. I had met Laura’s family and they were really nice and lived close to the school.

Over the next week I was slowly informed of each persons approval as it came. First was AFS Russia’s : this one surprised me because I didn’t figure they would allow 2 students to just switch host families. But they said that under the circumstances this was the best solution. The next one I also figured would be difficult: Laura’s family. Again I was pleasantly surprised and they agreed that they would host me and Laura could go to the other family that they still wanted to host and thought that I would be a good fit with their family. So with two of the three groups agreement the last was my family.

At first when AFS called them they said no because they didn’t want to start over again. I can’t say that I wasn’t a little disappointed because I also wanted this switch to happen. But then after afs talked to them again (they really needed a new family for Laura because things for her were getting worse) my family agreed that the switch could happen. So when my school contact called me I started to re-pack my stuff again. And that’s when I VOWED that this would be the LAST time that I packed until June!

So on the next Sunday (just one day after the switch was agreed upon) I finished packing up all of my stuff and got everything together from this family and we went in the car and they drove me to my new host families house. When I got there my new host sister Katia (13) and her friend were outside waiting for me. So once I got all of my stuff out of the car they showed me where the entrance of the house was then told me….we lived on the fifth (yes I said it FIFTH) floor and the building had no elevator.. so I guess I'm going to get very used to stairs! I carried up all my stuff and she helped me unpack it.

I knew instantly that this family would be an AMAZING match for me! In my family I have a Мама (mom) and a Папа (dad) (but for those of you who know my family at home, you’ll find it funny that my mom and dad here are the same age as my oldest siblings) a host Бабушка (grandmother, who is the same age as my parents), Сестра (sister) Katia who is 13 and finally a Брат (brother) named Lonya (pronounced like lone-ya) who is 2.

When I got there the host dad wasn’t home because he worked in another town and does one week at the house and one week not and this happened to be the week he worked. But I got along great with all of the other members of the family! And they talk A LOT, like more then me! And that is a very hard thing to do loll!

So I’ve been here for about 2 and half weeks now and everything has been great. My little host brother is super adorable, he calls me “kenda” because he cant say my real name and me and the rest of my host family get along great. They are very nice to me and I’m enjoying living here A LOT!

So that has been how my last crazy month and a half went!! Now that I’m all caught up in the next day or two I’ll get a post about Christmas and new years up and PICTURES I promise! Ill put up pictures..this week! I’m on break from school for the next 10 days so I WILL GET IT DONE! I promise.

Я вас люблю и скучаю!! (I miss and love you all!)