Thursday, March 17, 2011

Lubim and the Ballet

So two weeks ago all of the students in the Yaroslavl region had a mandatory afs camp that we had to go to in a smaaaaaall town in the northern part of the Yaroslavl region: Любим (Lubim). Unfortunately we had all had leave from Yaroslavl at 11 am which means that in order to get there on time everyone from Uglich had to leave Uglich at 7 am which meant waking up at 5 which didn’t make me too happy.

The bus we took from Yaroslavl to Lubim may have possibly been the worse bus ride that I have ever been on in my entire life. It was so bumpy that me and Jenia were asleep and when they would go over a particularly big bump we would both go “oww” it would wake us up out of our sleep it was that bumpy and just over all bad. Thank the lord that it was only 2 hours long or I think I might have gotten carsick! Needless to say we didn’t get to sleep much so we were pretty tired by the time we got to Lubim but we had a full schedule for the day so there was no sleeping in sight.

It seems to me that every small town in Russia feels the need to have a museum about the history of their town (even if its not all that interesting to be honest, they all seem to have the same stuff) and Lubim is no exception to this rule. So we went to see the museum, which turned out to be kind of strange. It went from the history of the town, to random wild animals, the room filled with Lenin, to a room that had all sorts of old cameras and record players. Me and jenia spent most of our time there taking pictures with all of the things, not just your regular picture but fun ones (evidence in my picture website).

After the Museum we had to go to a bread factory that was in that town. Honestly I think that I’ve decided that factory tours just are not a good thing to do because once you see how something is made you don’t really want to eat it any more. I don’t know the rules for how things are to be made in the USA but the one we went to here didn’t seem very clean to me. They didn’t even wear GLOVES!! I don’t know, I'm sure that it was fine but still I think that I’m going to refrain on going on any more factory tours in my lifetime I do strongly believe that there are times when ignorance really is bliss. Then the topper on the cake (get it, it’s a sweets factory haha! Wow my joke making abilities are dyeing in Russia!) Is that after we had the tour they invited us to a party up stairs where we got to sample all of their products!

Then after that we finally got to meet our new families, yes we got MORE families to live with for the weekend. It turned out that I had a girl that was around my age and her parents, after I met her we started to walk to her home which took us about 20 minutes which wouldn’t have been bad except it was pretty coooold! Then once I got to her house her mom told me something that I never actually thought that I would hear. She told me that they did not have running water in the house.

It was one of those moments where I had to consciously check my face because I knew that if I didn’t I would make that face where your jaw drops open slowly and your eyes get really know the one. Well pretty much the only response I could come up with was “oh, okay that’s normal” I didn’t know how I was supposed to respond to that and honestly what was running through my head was “okay, so how am I going to do this for 2 days without water. I know people do this every day but I never have”

It wasn’t as traumatizing as you might think (and to a girl who thinks camping is a crappy motel …thanks mommy…) I thought that living without running water would be VERY traumatizing! Because I was there for only a few days it didn’t really effect me but let me tell you that flushing the toilet and brushing my teeth became infinitely more complicated without running water.

The next day we had to all meet up at the school so that we could go to an even smaller village to go to a school there. Most of the stuff that we did at the school was the typical stuff afs does to show off its students but we did do one interesting thing.

This day was a holiday in Russia what they called “masleeneetsa” which is really their way of celebrating lent but they say that it’s the celebration of spring because during the USSR they were not allowed to celebrate Lent. Well in order to celebrate springs arrival (mind you it was snowing REALLY hard while we were celebrating) all of us afs students and all of the students at the school we were at stood around what seemed to be a scarecrow type thing that was in the form of a woman. Then the next thing I heard was about every AFS student screaming and jumping back because they LIT IT ON FIRE!!!! Yes that’s right we were in a group of about fifty holding hands singing in a circle around a burning woman type thing.

If you could have seen the looks on all of our faces it probably would have been a priceless picture! Well this celebration didn’t last for too long because it was freezing and snowing pretty hard so we had to go back inside because we were all getting soaked. We all later found out that this is a completely normal tradition in Russia and something that is very important to them in welcoming spring (or celebrating lent, how ever you want to see it).

That was pretty much how we ended our trip to Lubim which definitely proved to be a very interesting experience but it made me realllllllly miss my host family and my host city of Uglich!

For more current news: I went and saw a Russian Ballet! We saw Swan Lake.

Me and Jenia had long ago decided that we wanted to see a ballet before we left Russia and last Saturday we got to do just that. SO Saturday morning we ventured to Yaroslavl and after a few false starts we made it to our friend Bettina’s house on the bus, ALL by our selves! Which is a big thing because we had never taken that bus before and we had never gone to her house alone before! But we did make it to her house and there we waited for the other girl that was going to go with us: Palin from Thailand. While we waited for her we got dressed up in our nice cloths.

We must have looked pretty silly on the streets in our dresses and skirts then, rain boots. Yes we all wore rain boots because now that its starting to warm up here the mountains of snow and lack of drainage system is proving to equal GIANT lakes forming around cities! So we now live in rain boots!

We finally got to the theater right on time, at 700 for a 700 pm showing. This is very Russian seeing as they ballet hadn’t even begun yet and most people were just arriving. At about 730 it actually started and let me tell you, it was BEAUTIFUL!

I never really took myself to be someone who would enjoy watching a ballet but seriously guys it was sooooo beautiful! I’m very glad that it was a story that I’ve heard before because it was a little confusing because ballets don’t have any words and the programs were in Russian so it was hard to read. But we did manage to figure out what was going on and understand about 90% of the program! YAY!

In theory we were not allowed to take pictures or video but being the foreigners that we were we “didn’t understand” when they told us that and we took them anyways (so did a WHOLE bunch of Russians, we weren’t alone!) so if you mosey on over to my picture site there should be a bunch of pictures of the ballet and even a video or two (but you have to scroll down for those!)

Over all I’m very very glad that we went to the ballet because it was just sooo beautiful and I personally think that it’s really cool that I saw my first ballet in Russia. It was a great experience that I’m glad that I have! And if I get a chance to go to another one here I will definitely be taking it!

So just for a quick update on general things… THE SUN HAS FOUND RUSSIA AGAIN!!!! After 3 months of basically living without sun it seems to have found its way back and is slowly melting the mountains of snow that we have! Its starting to get warm again, granted, by warm I mean that its about 35 degrees! But 35 degrees means that I no longer have to wear tights underneath my pants, I only have to wear one pair of socks, and a hat and gloves aren’t 100% necessary! So for me I’m happy with 35 right now even though 80 would be nice!

So that’s my life as of the last couple of weeks, if you have any questions that you would like to answer or things you want me to talk about comments are ALWAYS welcomed (yes, this is a hint!)

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Мои Товарищи

So I guess its time for an update! Yay! So I figured that this time I would give you a few updates on the strange happenings at my school and everything that has been going on there past the boring updates of “school is boring”. So there have been 3 main strange things that have happened at my school in the last month or so. I guess ill go in order in which they happened.

So about a month and a half ago everyone started talking about the flu. Which to me didn’t seem like such a big thing. I mean it’s the flu it happens everywhere and I mean we are IN RUSSIA!!! It’s a cold place of course people are going to get sick in the winter its been -20C for the last 3 weeks! (Although as I write this it is back up to -5C!!!). But there are a few differences between Americans and Russians when they get sick. In Russia when you get sick you stay home from school (and work) when you are sick but then you also must stay home for 4/5 days after you are better to make sure you are fully recovered. While yes this is very continent for someone like me who doesn’t have to make up any thing in school its pretty bad for the school because it means when someone gets sick they are out of school for more then a week, usually around 2 weeks just for one little bout of the flu.

Because of this pretty much all of February there were a tun of kids that were out of school and class. One day Jenia and me came to school and all the teachers were wearing those medical mask type things that you sometimes wear in the doctor’s offices because they were afraid that the teachers would spread the germs I guess? I’m not sure but all of the teachers were required to wear them at all times because of the “break out of the flu” now mind you, this is just the regular old flu. That very same day this lady with a clipboard came to our class and asked how many kids were missing from our class. This confused me and Jenia so we asked our Russian teacher about it and she told us that the school was deciding which classes they were going to quarantine… YES QUARANTINE!!

This SHOCKED us. I mean they are acting like the plague broke out when in reality it was just the FLU! So when the deemed that too many kids from one class were gone sick from school they closed that class down for a whole week. One week of no school for everyone in that class because there were too many kids sick… WOW! They also made us stop changing classrooms because of the flu. So we stayed in the same classroom all day because they were afraid of people “mingling in the hallways”. But this did lead me and Jenia to discover that our school has a whole classroom dedicated to CHESS! Yes CHESS!

So basically the whole month of February my school was freaking out over what they called the “flu epidemic”. We thought it was a bit ridiculous but its how they work. It’s Russia.

So on to the next strange thing than happened in February in my school. We went to school one day only to discover that there was NO ELECTRICITY! None at all. We had to take off all our coats and boots in the dark, the classrooms were dark, the bathrooms had no light, and the kitchens didn’t either. So of course we asked our Russian teacher right away because we wanted to know why there were no lights. Well it turns out that 3 schools in my town didn’t have electricity because they didn’t pay the bill so the city shut off their electricity! TO A SCHOOL! We were really surprised. So for that day we had short lessons and there were only 3 lessons because the kitchens couldn’t work and no one could go to the bathroom because they were really dark!

This went on for about 3 days and then they got the electricity back to the school! So I can now officially say that I’ve been to a school that didn’t have any electricity!

So for the last interesting thing that happened in my school was that they had a Marching contest. Yes you heard me correctly. A marching contest. For a bout a week we saw that all the classes seemed to be practicing marching and when we asked them why we were told that there would be a competition between the classes. Me and Jenia thought that was a little strange because I mean, its marching, isn’t that a military thing? Not something you do in school! But nope they were all preparing for a marching contest!

It was really weird to walk down the hall and turn a corner and suddenly see a group of kids (a class) practicing their marching in the hallway!

So on the day of the contest of course me and Jenia went to watch it because I mean come on, a school wide marching contest? How Russian is that! So it started with all of the kids (dressed completely in black and white!) marching in class-by-class and standing all around the gym. Then there seemed to be some kind of flag ceremony and then the Russian national anthem was sung (if I do say so myself this song is a little intimidating!) and then all the kids went out into the hall way and the classes started to come in one at a time to do their marches.

Our class went first (they…didn’t exactly invite me and Jenia to join in, so we just watched) and they all came in from tallest to shortest and did this salute thing to the army man that had come to the school to watch this event and then they counted off and did some “front, back, right turn, left turn” militaryish type stuff and they ended their presentation by walking around the gym all singing a song.

Each class proceeded to do this one by one, it got a little boring by the end but in one of the younger grades this adorable little short boy who was at the end of the line ended up turning the wrong way so that he was facing the audience instead of the opposite way like the rest of his class but he didn’t know he was wrong so it was THE most adorable thing EVER!

So pretty much when all the classes had gone they announced the winner (10th grade) and then pretty much everyone left.

So this is my experience of a Russian marching contest! Only in Russia.

So I hope you enjoyed some happenings of my school that all happened this February! Ill do a general life update in the next few days after I get back from my afs camp!

OOOOOO! The title of this post means “my comrades” yes I’m VERY proud to say that I can say “Comrades” in Russian. To me this is a VERY Russian word! And want to know a secret? They actually use this word in every day life! I love it!