So I guess that its about time for that typical “I’m half way through and this is what I’ve learned” post considering that my half way point passed my by about 5 days ago. I know I know, I’m not very good at keeping this blog up on time but this time I’m only about 5 days behind so I reckon that I’m getting better.
So today while I was on Facebook (I know, not a great way to spend an exchange but hey, I’m 19, its how I will spend some of my time no matter where I find myself) I was talking to one of my friends Kylie, who for those of you don’t know her she was in Italy the same year as me and is currently in Korea on the NSLI-Y scholarship, and we were talking about our experience together. We do this a lot because she is one of the only other exchangers that I know that can completely 100% relate to the way I’m feeling about my exchange because she too is a Yo-Yo (someone who does 2 exchange’s before college) and we both went to Italy the first time and a considerably harder country (Russia and Korea) the second time around.
Kylie and I went through this entire process together, from finding out about NSLIY to the frantic Facebook messages of “OMG I GOT THE SCHOLARSHIP” to the many times that we have said “What. Were. We. Thinking.” But there is something that we have both started to realize as we come closer to (and passing of) the halfway point of our second exchanges: This second exchange was very much a slap in the face with reality.
Now I definitely have to explain myself. I want to start this blog post with saying that I truly am beginning to fall in love with this country and its culture but it really has been, as I said, a huge slap in the face. It wasn’t the bad kind of slap that means “you messed up big and you’re in trouble” more like the “its time to wake up and realize that life simply isn’t perfect” kind of slap.
When I started this journey last year I thought that I was in for another experience like I had in Italy but this time I figured that it would actually be easier because I had already done this once, I’ve been through it, I’m a veteran of high school exchange. This thought right here, was very very wrong.
As most of you know these last 5 months have not been the easiest of my life, in fact they have most certainly been the 5 most difficult months that I have faced thus far. Which took me by an even bigger surprise then it would have if this had just been a regular exchange. It shocked me because I assumed that because everything went okay in Italy everything would go okay in Russia. Well I very very quickly realized that Russia is not Italy. That doesn’t necessarily mean its better or worse, but that it’s simply a different country and a different experience.
This realization hit me pretty hard when I realized that this year might not be as easy and as painless as my first exchange in Italy. I had a lot of host family problems this year (see previous posts) and I am currently residing with my third host family, this is something I never thought would happen when I left the USA and came to Russia. But it has, and honestly I LOVE the family that I’m in now. I also began to realize that Russian is A LOT A LOT A LOT A LOT harder then Italian. Now, honestly I DID know this before I left for Russia but I don’t think I realized quite how much harder it actually is. I’d say that this month or so my Russian is equal to how my Italian was in October/November. In Italy I picked up the language fairly quickly and I never really had much of that time where I literally did not understand anything. But in Russia, that time period has lasted for a solid 3 months. I’m definitely getting better but its MUCH slower going then my Italian was.
I’m realizing now that, Italy was somewhat of a dream, most of the year went fairly easily but that’s not normal. Normal life has speed bumps, detours, traffic jams and crashes. This is one realization that I have to thank Russia for. While its not Russia’s fault that I’m having these realizations here I do believe that anywhere that I would have been (be it another country or college) I would have had these realizations and I really am thankful for what Russia has given me these last 5 months.
Russia has made me realize, that well, life isn’t perfect and during specific times, it may never become perfect but with a little work and help from others you can learn to adapt and accept what’s happening, change certain things and you can get to the “happy” stage, even if its not “perfect”. Yes I said it. My life in Russia isn’t perfect but you know what, I really am starting to love it here, does it infuriate me sometimes? YES!!!!!! Do I ask my self “why did I do this again?” on a weekly basis? YES!!!! Do I sometimes ask my self “how do people live like this on a daily basis????” Yes I do. But even with all of that, this place is really growing on me and I’m starting to love it.
So now that I’ve explained myself a little bit ill go through the typical updates:
My Russian I am glad to say is starting to get a little better. I can definitely write more grammatically correct then I can speak because for those of you who don’t know Russian grammar is one of the most complicated things that I have tried to understand (pre calculus included!!!). When I can write it out and take time to think about all of the endings I tend to use them better then when I'm speaking but my speaking is starting to come alone. And the level at which I understand is much higher now then it was back before Christmas so for that I’m thankful! But I do have one complaint. THEY LIED TO US!!!! Everyone says that “you read it like you write it and say it” in Russian! That is a HUGE HUGE HUGE LIE!!! All of the most common words in Russian are not pronounced like they are spelled, letters change their sound depending on where the stress is in a word. And the stress is NEVER marked. Russians are lazy and never write the two dots above the ё. Those two dots make it a “yo” sound instead of a “ye” sound. But in everything except dictionaries they conviently leave these 2 dots out!!! Oh and the stress in Russian is NEVER marked and there are no rules as to where the stress should be… every word is different and if you mix up the stress in a word it can be a completely different word and people probably wont understand what you’re saying! This is probably one of the most annoying things about Russia.
Me and Jenia are convinced that Russians aren’t used to hearing their language spoken by foreigners so they aren’t used to “guessing” and “filling in” missing words. If we forget a word or mix up a case a little bit they get all confused and don’t understand. Which makes no sense to us because as English speakers we are used to hearing our language butchered (and I say this as lovingly as possible! I love my foreign friends!) by non-native speakers but yet, GASP, we still understand!!! Its something that makes talking to strangers a little hard but its getting better with every passing day as my Russian gets better.
School, I know that I say this every time but well…its still high school and by extension just a little boring. Plus it doesn’t help that I still cant fully understand what goes on in my lessons and I’ve come to find that Russian lessons (especially algebra and chemistry) are really easy to zone out in because I don’t really need these classes here! But me and jenia have picked and started the 2 lessons that we are going to do presentations/tests in at the end of the year. We have chose….dun dun duuuuuun… Liturature and Geography. We’ve only had these lessons for about 2 weeks but they seem okay so far and it is nice to be doing something productive for once outside of our Russian classes.
Family: Everything in my family is AMAZING! Seriously I LOVE this family! They are so nice to me and I really do feel like I am apart of their family! Its really nice to feel like apart of a family again, its something that I’ve missed these last few months in Russia! I’m coming up on my 2nd month with them and it already feels like I’ve been here forever so I’m really happy on this front!
So.. that’s how my life has been for the last few months. If anyone has any specific questions that you want answered or something you specifically want to hear about ☺ let me know and I’ll try to blog about it
Oh and another thing! I REALLY wish I had been in Wisconsin this Sunday! GO PACKERS!!!
Love and miss you all =)