Sunday, August 31, 2008

Saturday Night

After the Good Samaritan event, I treated myself to a rarity- a midday nap. It was blustery, rainy and cold out so I figured, hey why not? I laid in my bed planning to cancel my coffee date with Nastya. Then finally I told myself, it's going to be like this for the next 8 months- even colder and with snow! So I had better buck up and get out now while I still can =) So off I went to Torgovili Ryadil (the new mall) to meet Nastya at Coffee Bean. They have the best carrot cake there!!! That's what I planned to eat. Luckily, the also had sandwiches to eat since I hadn't eaten all day.

I saw my friend Meesha (one of our translators from CHC). I invited him to join us and before long, there were 8 of us sharing many laughs!

Good Works, Good Times

Hey Everyone!

Yall haven't heard from me in awhile because the internet went out at our school =( Yup, I have been without the internet since Wednesday. Not all together a bad thing but I was information starved for sure. For example, I had not even heard about Palin as McCain's VP choice. I had to have my Russian friend tell me, crazy huh? And I didn't hear Putin's interviews with CNN until today- those are intense. Definitely a must hear if you haven't already!

In the meantime, I have been a productive teacher.Ha! I have completed my first mock teaching which I received valuable feedback about in order to use as my first class lesson. I am excited to meet my students. I will have four classes total- Thank God!!! I was worried I'd have six. I will be teaching 3 advanced classes, B2 level. And one B1 level- all of my students speak English, yahoo! My schedule is Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday at 4pm and 7pm. I will hold office hours in between those two classes from 5:30-6:30. I am excited to finally get things rolling- those teacher training workshops and seminars were boring!

Thursday night I helped prepare for the Good Samaritan project at Emmanuel Church- where I have attended the last 3 Sundays. My friend Anya heads the project for providing school supplies (it's called stationery here) for 100 children of single parents.
From L to R: Rebekah (Anya's daughter), Anya and I.

Friday her daughter Rebekkah and I purchased candy and some extra supplies at Globus, my favorite place. I forgot to take photos at Globus, we were there 3 hours! But I do have photos of us having tea at Anya's house.
And we had more packing to do after shopping and tea. It was fun to pack Friday night because the worship team was practicing so we had great music while we worked =)

A small group of the finished product =)

On Saturday, I helped Anya and Galya distribute the bags, it was a priviledge to be a part!!

Above: the final group to receive their bags.
Below: the cutest little kids I befriended while leading their arts & crafts project, bookmarks.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Kameshkovo Konnections Thus Far - Per Request

For Amanda and my other friends who've requested a blog update. I am sad to report that I have yet to visit our beloved kids at Kameshkovo orphanage.

But here is a beautiful photo of Alyosha and I saying paka (see you later) during my last visit to Kameshkovo in March 2008.

I will say that I have seen Tanya Morozova. She saw me! It was about 7pm (Russia time) last Thursday night. I sat wearily at the bus stop near Valentina and the Golden Gates. Just as I was going to rest my head in my hands, I heard a sweet voice "Privet!". I looked up and saw Tanya's precious smiling face!

I jumped out off the bench to hug her. The bystanders must have had a good laugh watching us try to communicate with our hands- and me with my broken Russian. Haha. She looked great. I tried to invite her to dinner with me but she said she had to go home. So I hope that will get to see her again soon.

Other than Tanya, the only other Kameshkovo grad I saw was Katya Shubarinova. She's super sweet!!! She came last week to interview and take the placement test at my school, The American Home. Her English has significantly improved!!!! I am sure she'll be invited to add our school. I hope that since she is quite advanced in her knowledge and use of grammar, that she will be in my class =)

I did see Natasha and Andrei at church on Sunday. Andrei and I have already begun to exchange DVDs =) I lend him romantic comedies in English (per his request, seriously!) and I borrow whatever he's got in Russian. It's been good.

So far an official date for my first visit to Kameshkovo hasn't been set =( I am waiting to hear back from Natasha who will get that date and permission for me to visit from Tatiana (the orphanage director). I am hoping that it will be in the middle of September so I can celebrate my birthday with the kids!!!!! How fantastic would that be?!?!?!

Tomorrow, I am going to begin my first community service/outreach/humanitarian activity!!! I am helping Anya Victorova and the Emmanuel Church purchase/gather/pack school supplies for children of single parents. Anya has headed this event for the last few years. I am going to purchase some items and also spend my Saturday packaging the supplies and helping to distribute them. I am really excited to do this!!!! Since the church is literally 2 blocks from my apartment, this will help me get to meet the neighborhood kids and their families. This will be fun! Plus, I am very excited to finally see Anya!!! She's been working in St. Petersburg.

My first mock teaching lesson went well. The evaluation of my teaching went well and it was all shiny and great- UNTIL they said I don't anticipate problems with the students. Of course not! I have never taught before! I need to better anticipate comprehension problems my students my have and address them immediately and clearly. Geez. Maybe next time will be better. Well, it will have to be!

What else??? Hmmm.... Oh! I befriended an American missionary named Brenda from Kansas. She's awesome!!! Just when I started to enjoy hanging out with her, I learned that she'll be moving back to America in October. But for good reason, she's going to adopt a Russian child!!! I have already started to lobby for one of our precious Kameshkovo kids to be chosen =) I enjoyed spending time with her this weekend. We went shopping for ingredients to make pesto (thanks to Marti for the inspiration and teaching me!). Then we made pesto at her apartment. And can I just say, for anyone out there wanting to be a missionary in Vladimir, Russia- join the Wesleyan group!!! Their apartments are AWESOME!!!! They have every Western convenience you can imagine, it's like you never left the states. No, wait that's a stretch because when you look out the window you'll know. hahahaha.

Anyway, we made enough pesto for me to take to Anya and Maxsim's dacha (cottage). Maxsim bbq'ed shashlik (kebabs) of beef!! I finally had beef!!! It was delicious. And seriously, it's a concern, I am starting to bruise from the lightest things! Either I am turning to solid fat or I need beef or a shameful combination of both! The pesto was a hit!! At first when they were gushing about it, I thought they were being polite. Then I tasted it and I have to admit, it was yummy!

Sunday, Brenda and I watched two minutes of some weird new Olympic sport. They were dancing, doing acrobatic moves, and jumping on the floor throwing hula hoops in the air. Very strange it was. I started thinking, if the USOC would notify the masses that new odd sports were being added, I'd take up a new hobby and be an Olympian!!! HAHAHA. I am sure it takes more than that but it was strange.

Luckily we watched at the other nice Wesleyan-owned apartment. We got to see the closing ceremonies but no Michael Phelps victories. Sad. But I more than made up for it in my mock-class today but dedicating my subject "compound adjectives" to his athletic prowess.

Off to plan yet another lesson.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Things That Make You Go Hmm...

So in good natured fun, my fellow expats make fun of me for all the luggage I brought. HA! And I thought I did an oustanding job downsizing from 8 large suitcases to 2 large suitcases, 1 wheeled duffel, 1 carry-on roller, 1 backpack and 1 large tote. Apparently, once we got to Domododevo Airport in Moscow, I learned they had significantly fewer bags.

The evidence:

The other thing they tease me about it is my "celebrity" status in Vladimir. The AH staff told us that all the teachers would be like celebrities around town because it's a small city and all the students will be wanting to "show-off" their American friends. Well my fame started earlier than everyone else's thanks to many previous 5 trips to Vladimir. So everytime we go somewhere as a group- I see someone I know or someone knows me. I LOVE this!!! Not so that I can feel like a celebrity (because seriously, what good is fame without fortune?) but so that this place feels more familiar and more like home.

The last funny thing... when Americans come to Russia and see something that's totally confusing and so they ask their Russian native friends and those friends say, "Ah, who knows? It's Russia!" To me, this is hysterical!!!!!!!!!! It's happened to me several times with my different Russian friends. Gotta love this "riddle wrapped in a mystery inside the enigma".

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Will it Ever End?

Nothing major to report from out East =)

School, training, seminars, workshops and even more training- ugh. Very boring. Very tedious. Very repetitive. The information is useful though I feel that it could be presented in a fare more efficient and effective manner. This feels like college on crack- as in all day class 9a-6p, only one hour for lunch and essays for homework. But no pizza in the dorms at midnight. Oh well. It will be over soon, this necessary evil.

Meanwhile I am LOVING my Hillsong Kiev CDs. They are OUTSTANDING! I now have SIX CDs, woohoo! You all know me and to know me is to know that I when I love something, I need it in large doses. My dearest friend and college roommate Mare learned this the hard way. When I liked a song, I'd listen to only it on repeat for weeks on end. She eventually took the CD and hid it from me. Since the advent of the iPod, this is not necessary =)

Other thoughts... I am MISSING the Olympics. I have NEVER enjoyed watching them- only the features did I enjoy. But this time since the much-hyped Chinese are hosting I am curious. Darn, I can't watch it. Maybe I will watch online when I return to the States. Of course, I am sure I won't care anymore.

This weekend I have been invited to a Russian dacha!!!!! YAY!!! I will be going to Anya, Maksim and Baby Dasha to their dacha =) I am excited- just one step closer to being a real Russian! Every Russian- literally, leaves the town of Vladimir on Friday nights and is gone until Sunday night at their dachas. Some go to escape the heat- although going further south does not usually mean enjoying a cooler climate. Some go to escape- as a mini vacation, this is why I will go! That and to hang with my friends.

I am really starting to miss social interaction- I notice it now especially since Zhenya is gone =( Thank God, He knew I needed friends and Andrei is here =) YAY! Yall may remember him, he was one of our translators at Kameshkovo this year. We went to Gordoskoi Park last night and he showed me around my neighborhood and taught me the shortcut to church. It was good to explore my neighborhood especially at night so I can recognize places when I get home from work late. I was glad to explore with a male since it seems that many Russian men sit outside talking loudly and drinking. Not ideal for me to wander around alone.

Okay- off to the post office! Catch me again soon =)

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Out and About in Moscow

PYOTR & IRINA: in the middle of drinking Baltika 7 at Gorky Park. Round one tasted like Bud which grossed me out. But in 95 degree weather outside, the cold pivo tasted good half-way down!
Saritchka (L) y Anya (R) buying round one.

Good times! Alex (L) y Andrei (R) Riding MosMetro- the only way to go in Moscow! L to R: Anya, Lora y Sasha.

We're a fun group. The best expats Vladimir has EVER seen =)

Out and About

Friday ended up being a fun night with Zhenya and seeing other friends in Vladimir. Plus, I found Skittles for sale- always a good thing!
Saturday I was up at 6am to take the train to Moscow with Zhenya and the other teachers. I had a FANTASTIC time!!!! Zhenya found the Hillsong Moscow service for us without a problem! I will probably go again soon by myself. The service was AWESOME! You could feel the presence of the Holy Spirit as soon as we walked in. Everyone was super friendly and even helped us cart around Zhenya's bolshaya cyumka! (big bag) I purchased the Vera Kevasich book, Born for a Purpose and 3 more Hillsong Kiev CDs, including my favorite Pozhar (Burn).

We walked through Gorky Park- ochen klassna (very cool)! Then ate lunch at KFC and then added more minutes to moya mobilia (my phone). By then the other teachers were ready to meet me at the Gorky Park metro. Zhenya waited with me and then left for her uncle's house. I knew I'd miss her more than I felt at that moment.

My fellow teachers only lasted 15 feet into our walk at Gorky Park. They saw the first cafe and we stopped for pivo (beer). Nearly 3 hours later, we took a bathroom break and then got back on the Metro bound for the vokzal (train) to Vladimir. I should have gone to Dom Kingi (Book House) to buy my Russian textbook but it was very hot I was too tired to make the huge effort. I stayed and bonded with my co-expats. We had fun and shared some good laughs and quality pics!

I finished the Kasevich book on the train; it was a good, quick read. I got home, showered and ate. I was asleep by 11:20pm.

Today, Sunday, I went to church with Natasha at the Emmanuel Church. Andrei also attends, it was fun to see him and chat. His English has greatly improved since he was our translator in March. He comprehends and responds so much faster. He says, "Your Russian will too! In one month, you'll speak like a native... In the name of Jesus!" I received that! I told him to make sure he prays that for me every night =)

Natasha and I ate lunch at Torgovbil Tsenter, the new mall's food court. I am getting tired of that place and the food selection but it's cheap and air conditioned. We sat there for 2 hours chilling on Friday night for the AC only- that and I enjoyed my time with Zhenya and Nastya. Plus it had a grocery store and I needed to buy water. Then we said our good-byes. I went home to rest and watch episdoses 3 and 4 of Ugly Betty Season 1- good stuff. It was 94 degrees today. It's now day 8 of temperatures above 90. Not fun but I found if I sit still and do nothing but breathe and drink water then I can live.

I had a 4p date with Anya and baby Dasha to hit Globus. It was a 3 hours shopping and dinner extravaganza!!!!!!!!!! I brought new sheets, a new pillow, lunch for the week, detergent, pajamas and soda!!! No more than $60 USD, nice huh? Ya tak lubiou Globus!!!!!!!!!

Now I'm at the AH supposed to be working on my grammar presentation- yeah right! I'm loving the AC and the internet!!! WOOHOO. Plus, I'm doing laundry. Who says you can't be productive online?

All for now! MIRA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (peace)

Friday, August 15, 2008

More Snapshots of My Life

Alexander Nevsky statue- the founder of Vladimir.

Gorgeous church near the Nevsky statue. Inside are beautiful icons and relics. I could have paid to take photos inside but opted not to do so =)

This is another beautiful church in Vladimir next to the first one =) I took a tour and saw all 5 in town!

The view from atop the Golden Gates. This is Ultisa Moskovskaya. The main downtown road. I walk down this street everyday to the bus or mall or post office or store or school. It goes many places, including Kameshkovo =)

The beautiful countryside of Vladimir. This is the area surrounding the Nevsky statue. All the photos were taken on 08/08/08. There were many, many wedding celebrations on this hill. I pushed them all out of the way for my photo =)

NOTE: It turned out to be a good day. The morning orientation went by quickly and then I went to Mister Hamburger for a chicken burger. It was as close to America as I could find and only $3. The bonus is that I have extra time before my psych evaluation to post photos, YAY PHOTOS!

Adjustments Needed

So I finally realize just why I am getting stung by bees. The realization made me nearly pull my hair out.

I was struggling to get to sleep last night- it was hotter than any night thus far. The windows were wide open. There was no breeze so there was really no point. I heard a bee buzzing around my head and I just lost it. I tore off my blanket in frustration and tore through my things looking for my can of Off.

I sprayed all of me (my face included) with Off and my bed and blanket. Thankfully, I did not get bit. Probably because if I did, God knows I would have failed the psychological exam that I have today at 2pm. Yes, that is one of the requirements for me to get my work permit here.

Even though I didn't get bit, I woke up the proverbial wrong side of the bed. Unfortunately, my bed is against a wall so I have only one side. I prayed a lot this morning and listened to Hillsong Kiev in hopes of adjusting my attitude.

We had a Russian exam today. Not fun but fortunately, I didn't have to take it. I guess our instructor knew there was no way in the world I'd answer a question much less pass. HAHA! Who cares, I've been on the internet for 2 hours now. YAY! It's like I am finally breathing =)

I am going to purchase a fan today at Globus. Globus is like Super Wal-Mart but bigger and better. As I type, I realize that somewhere right now in Texas an even bigger Super Wal-Mart is being built. God Bless Texas!!! I can't wait to come home and shop there =)

I am also hoping Globus sells sheets. I left my sheets in CT even though I purposely got my twin sheets assuming that I'd have a twin bed here in Russia. The AH staff told me not to bring them. I obeyed. A bad move!

I should have brought them. The last two nights have been bad. The first two nights I didn't notice because I was wearing winter pajamas. Now that it's hot, I am sleeping in a tank top and shorts. And now, I notice the small, light scratches on my skin from the wool blankets. It's very, very uncomfortable. I have put all my towels on the bed to remedy the situation. I have only gotten 3 hours of sleep, grr...

Oh well, the situation will be fixed soon. If anything, I will buy sheets while I am in Moscow tomorrow. The AH is taking us all to Moscow. I don't really want to go but I figure I will since it's free. Fortunately, Zhenya is coming with us. She is riding the same train at the same time, woohoo!

We haven't been able to hang out b/c of my long hours here at the AH, 9a-10p. I miss her already! She is a load of fun! I do have my fellow expat teachers but we are in continuous class so we don't get to chat much. And speaking of class, it's starting again- ugh, what a grind!!!

I complain that it's boring but it's better than a real job, HAHAHAHAHH!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

First Week as a Russian

Today we celebrated many things at the American Home:
1) our first week anniversary of living in Vladimir;

2) birthday of our supervisor/teaching assistant Olya;

3) receipt of our teacher certification certificates.

It was a festive time complete with Soviet champagne! Until we learned that we are going to work yet another day until 10p, sigh! Oh well. I knew my social life in Vladimir would slow down when Zhenya left for the U.S. and when classes started but didn't expect it to halt to an end yesterday!

Oh well. I probably don't need to be out and about everyday. I do need to get out and buy laundry detergent to do laundry. Other than that, I'm all set. Life is good.

I did get another bee sting, this time on my cheek. Again on the right side of my face. Luckily, the swelling of the sting on my right eyelid is gone otherwise I'd be a painful sight. I don't know what it is about Russian bees and I but it needs to stop! I will sleep with my window closed tonight for sure.

What else is new???? AH! The Russian media is mum on their not-invasion and not-bombing of Georgia. Can you believe it?!?!?!? Think Cold War and it's believable. I have to get all my updates on the conflict from BBC, CNN or CBS online. It's crazy. The few Russians I have encountered who use the internet daily have whacked opinions of it. One of them told me that they think that John McCain paid the Georgians to point fingers at the Russians. I told the person that was nuts b/c McCain has no motive to do that and one single American wouldn't have that kind of serious bribe money. The person's response and I quote, "Well, maybe Georgians don't need that much money". I thought I would fall over. Luckily I didn't since we were on a busy street corner, ha!

Speaking of politics, all my fellow expat teachers are vocal about voting for Obama. Go figure. So I scrapped my idea of all of us printing our absentee ballots and mailing them to our boss in the U.S. Especially when I learned that two of them are registered voters in the swing states. Nah. They can fend for themselves on getting their votes in. Ha!

I did meet former and current AH students last night at our school's mixer. It was fun. They are so super interested in us as people and in our former lives in America. It's flattering but strange. Sara, our resident teacher for the last 3 years, has told us that the new students will be even more intrigued as we will be the first foreigners many of them have met. She also told us for the first few months we'll be celebrities around town. Since Vladimir is a small city (approx. 400,000 population) we'll see our students out and they'll wave and want to introduce us to whomever they are with and invite us to join them. I think that will be fun. As long as I don't have to sing autographs, that will be weird.

Okay, off to the magazeen.


Hanging with Zhenya

On Saturday, my dear friend Zhenya leaves for New Jersey. She will be gone for one year. I will miss her dearly. I've spent nearly everyday with her since I arrived. She's helped me buy a cell phone, find the stores and orient myself with the buses and geography of Vladimir. Most importantly, she helped me with this blog and find a church =) YAY ZHENYA!!!! Here are a few photos from Saturday when I got lost then lost again and then found!


Privet Druzhia!!!
At long last, I am able to post photos!!!!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Welcome to My World

Hi Everyone!!!

I finally posted a blog =) YAY!!! Many thanks to Zhenitchka.

So today marks my 7th day in Russia, not that I should count the first since most of it was spent on a plane. Either way, tomorrow will be one week. Sad to say, my Russian is not any better. I would say that my comprehension has improved but I can not answer back in full sentences. I was starting to get very frustrated with this when at my apartment with Nina (my babushka/host mom).

She often greets me at the door with a game of 20 questions- not at all fun after hiking home from a crowded bus and I am dripping sweat and starving. When I take a deep breath and say, "Ya ni poniyemau" she only raises her volume which after three times sounds like she's yelling. I get the final say, luckily, once I muster up a very confused face. She then laughs and walks away.

She's a very kind lady and eager to please me which I am very blessed and flattered by. She is always asking me what I want to eat, even though I know that I know the correct vocabulary words for the food but somehow, I don't get them. I'm totally not complaining! I am amused but also wondering why she bothers to ask, maybe out of politeness- HAHAH. Tak in attempt to remedy the situation, I have learned to say, "whatever you are cooking is fine".

Nina is hilarious though. She is a great cook. I have begun the daunting task of trying to teach a Russian babushka that Americans (more specifically, me) don't eat raw vegetables for breakfast. For the sake of compromise, I will eat ramen noodles (called macaroni) and hot dog weiners (sahshiski) even though I am not a fan. But for some reason I can not stomach raw cucumbers, tomatoes or squash first thing in the morning. Plus, it's LITERALLY the very first thing. I open my eyes, make up my bed and Nina opens the door saying "Good morning- go eat" (in Russian, of course). I have tried and tried to ask her to give me some time to wash my face, etc- to no avail.

Oh well. Life in Russia is good. Life in Russia is comical. My life often plays out like a sitcom (even in the US) but that's what makes it a good life =)

Back on subject- learning Russian. Today in Russian class, I did very well. I even went to the magazeen (store) to purchase water and the kinshgi magazeen (bookstore) to purchase a very cool DK Russian/English Photo Dictionary. It was $30- yikes! But I figure it would be more in the States unless I e-bayed it. So I purpose to study one page every day. Stay tuned!

Other than that happy note, teaching orientation drags on... Today we had a mixer with some of the students we'll have in the fall. It was really cool to meet my Russian peers and other adults. They are all very eager to hang out with us outside the AH and be our friends. This will be fun- although I imagine we'll speak primarily in English =)

One more funny Nina story. I got sting by a bee on my right eye. Yes, the surgically repaired one. I knew it was a bee because I was not yet fully asleep and I smashed it with my hand. It hurt too but I fell asleep. To my horror, I awoke in the morning to my Quasi-moto image in mirror. It was bad. (Michele, I know you'll laugh at this). So then I try to tell Nina what happen because of course, she asked. I told her it was a chela (bee). She said no, it's because I take cold showers everyday! GO FIGURE. Hilarious! When I told her I saw the bee, she did not believe me and continue to reprimand me for the daily cold showers.

So that's all for now.

Until next time, I continue my quest to become Russian- to become IRINA (my Russian name).