Tuesday, October 30, 2007

By the Numbers

Since Thursday marks the beginning of my third month in this lovely (or horrible depending on which way my bi-polarness is swinging) country I thought I would do something special to mark the occasion. So here it is, two months in Yakutsk, Russia by the numbers.

Number of times I've been in a taxi: 4
Number of scary taxi Drivers I've encountered:3
Number of days I've been here: 60
Number of months left: 7,5
Number of days I haven't had tea: 2
Number of times I've had Russian vodka sitting in front of me: 1
People I've seen drinking Russian vodka: 0
Times I've tried Russian vodka: 0
People I've seen with braces: 2
People I've seen with cell phones: 5,000
Times I've slid on Yakutian Ice: 50
Times I've fallen on Yakutian Ice: 3
Average daily cups of tea: 3
Days a week I don't want to get up for school: 6
Times I've skipped saturday class: 2
Number of new words I've learned: 1,000
Books I've read: 2
Times I've been asked if I know who Dima Bilan is: 10
People who've asked me if I have winter where I come from: 75
People who tell me that temperatures here can get to minus 50: 500
Times I was ready to get on a plane and go home: 1
Hours a week I spend in art classes: 6
Khomus lessons: 1
Friends: 4(?)
Times I've not done French homework: 2
Minutes a day I practice the Khomus: 10
Days a week I go to Grammar lessons: 2
Speeches about the USA I've given: 5
Birthdays I've had: 1
Times I've been turned away from the Pushkin Library:2
Books I've bought: 1
Magazines I've bought: 1
Plays I've seen at the Russian Theater: 1
Russian Movies I've seen: 3
Yakutian plays I've seen: 0
Times I've been to the Theater of Opera and Ballet: 2
Times I've eaten ice cream in negative degree weather: 3
Churches I've stumbled upon: 4
Churches within the city limits that I've been inside: 0
Number of people who now think I'm going to hell because of my last statement: 50
Time it starts getting dark: 3:00pm
Price of the bus: 10 rubles
Price of a new camera: 7 500 rubles
Number of attractive boys I've seen: 3
Times I've randomly wanted to burst into tears: 15
Times I've talked to my parents on the phone: 3
Times a day I say I'm tired: 7
Days a week I check my e-mail: *coughcoughnumbercoughcough*
Paintings I've completed: 1
People who've said that New Year's is coming up: 2
Times I've worn underarmour: 3
Unique visitors to this blog since september: 893
Minutes I've wasted writing this blog entry: 30

So there you have it. I hope you enjoy reading all of that. ha ha ha. *Laughs evilly*
Oh by the way, that whole library thing really really ticked me off. The lady basically told me I wasn't allowed to just go look at books. The only good thing about the whole situation was that I understood well everything she said.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

A Long Day

Raisa came into my room last night at about 11:15 pm. She goes "You're not asleep?" I was like "nope." I'd just gone to bed. She basically told me that tomorrow (IE Saturday which was today) she was going to do something at a lake. I could go with her if I wanted or If I prefered I could go to school. I bet you can guess which one I picked. I'm up for just about any adventure that gets me out of school.

So I got up today, and put on my lovely underarmor because Raisa said it would be cold. Bundled up, and with the daughter of one of Raisa's co-workers accompanying us, we drove to the lake.

Once we got to the lake, we drove on it to somewhere out in the middle. Yes, you read that right. We drove On the lake. Don't worry, it was nice and frozen. I really had no idea why we were there, to be perfectly honest, but I asked what exactly the people were doing and all soon became clear.

The family of Raisa's coworker, Tatiyana, were cutting blocks of ice out of the lake so they could have water all winter. I think it's water for their dacha, but maybe they hall them into the city and use them at home, I'm not really sure. What I do know is that it's an interesting process. A process that unfortunately I'm not going to describe here, because I'm a lazy bum. Besides a picture's worth a thousand words right? So if you want to know about the process, you can check it out Here at my photos page.

From what I understood, they can drink the water at this particular lake because it doesn't have any organisims in it. So they make piles of ice blocks and haul them home throughout the winter. Tatiyana let me taste some of the ice. It was sweet on my tongue.

We came back just in time for my first lesson on the Khomus. Which really excited me. I have since discovered that learning the Khomus is harder than I thought it would be. Who would've thought you need so much technique for such a simple looking instrument?

After class, I ran home because I needed some money to give the girl who was going to color my hair. So I went to the bankomat at the post office. But it was out of money. I was rather frustrated. Mostly because this meant that I had to walk clear to the other end of the city. On the way I stopped and bought the book I mentioned previously.

On my way to the bankomat, Kolya, a guy I know from the university called and was like "hey want to go to the Miss Yakutia pageant?" and I was like "okay." So I had to tell the hair-coloring girl that we couldn't do it today and I'll have to call her.

So I pulled out some money, and bought a ticket to the Miss yakutia pageant and spent three and a half hours of my life watching girls parade around. But it was actually kind of interesting in some ways. The tiara they awarded Miss Yakutia is very yakutian looking.

I've noticed something about Russia. Events are kind of like my family. Because to every concert-type thing I've gone to has started late. This is no joke. I've been to events where it says the concert/event starts at seven. Like that is the time printed on the ticket, and then it actually doesn't start until twenty to thirty minutes later. It's just, interesting.

Anyway, so I hung out with Kolya and Lena, another girl from the university I met. After Miss Yakutia was crowned, Kolya called a taxi for Lena and I and we hopped in to go home.

The taxi driver was a jerk. He realied I was foreign and promptly decided that he wouldn't be able to understand anything I said. No lie. He actually said that. Lena told me. And told me that I should pay before the end. (originally I was going to pay when I got out) so I leaned forward and asked the taxi driver "Do you want the money now?" And he was like "what?" And I said "Do you want the money now?" and then he said something I didn't catch and Lena was like "what are you trying to say?" amd so I told her in English and she said to the taxi driver "Can we pay now?" and of course he understood that. Whatever. Tell me that if you were a taxi driver and somebody with an accent asked if you wanted the money now, you would understan what they meant? I would. Urgh. I'd heard stories of taxi drivers pulling stuff like that. I guess it's the truth.

We're doing something else at the lake tomorrow. I think it might involve reindeer, but honestly, I'm never sure. Sometimes I think someone says something and they really said something else.

Friday, October 26, 2007

An Opera of a different kind, A "lesson", and John Steinbeck

I hate opera.
The browser, not actual musical opera.
see we got this new computer.
My host cousin Nika came over and set it up, and my other host cousin, Lavik, came over and set up the internet, which is cool.

Except internet explorer on the new computer doesn't have Java installed so I can't see my google page, and that google page is my connection to everyting. Well, not really, but you know what I mean.

So I switched to the other browswer on the new computer, Opera. I hate it. It's like it's trying to be cool like firefox, but is only succeding in looking like a nerd.
I think it doesn't keep connected to the internet all the time or something because google talk comes on and then when I flip back over to it to check it, it says that I'm offline. I just felt like complaining about it.

My life has finally started to settle into a routine, or something resembling a routine, which is cool. I'm getting more used to this place as well. I no longer wake up every morning and think "Oh my word, how am I ever going to make it ten months here?" I take it one day at a time, focus on things that are worth looking forward to, such as fall break here in another week. There was never really any real question of me coming home. I knew going into it that I would make it all ten and a half months, but I did have my moments. Usually my first thought upon waking up is "I really don't want to go to school." But I go. Although I haven't been doing all my time this week. I haven't intentionally skipped though. There was the end of last week, where I didn't go two days because of Maynard Gross, the district 5010 governer, and then this week, I've gotten to leave school early/miss some class about everyday. Today I woke up really late, 7:32. Once I realized I was going to be late I didn't really rush. When I got to school, I decided I didn't want to risk angering the godess of physics, so I sat that class out.

In math, one of my classmates, Kesha, sat beside me and basically told me today was the day to start Homus lessons. I was like "uh...okay!" So we did some arranging and I skipped english class *with permission* caught the bus home, changed, snarfed a butterbrot, grabbed my homus and fifteen minutes later was back on the bus to the school where I said I'd meet Kesha at 1:30. We went together to the Homus museum for the lesson. Whoever Kesha had talk to had told him to be there at two, and we were right on time. The teacher wasn't. So we got to look around at the museum while we waited. I found it really interesting.

The teacher showed up around 2:30 basically to inform us that we weren't actually going to do any learning/playing today. Instead she told Kesha and I to come back tomorrow at 3:00. Kesha seemed really disappointed but I was like "okay" because spending time at the homus museum waiting around a half an hour killed an afternoon that I would've otherwise spent reading John Steinbeck. So after school tomorrow we're going back for our first lesson.

After The "lesson" I didn't go home because I was supposed to meet Kunai. I can't remember if I wrote about it on here, but she asked me to speak to some of her economic students yesterday (though she's an english teacher), so I did and they invited me to their I forget the word. I think maybe convocation? It's where they all officially become first year students, and students of the university.

So I grabbed a cheeseburger at Max Food, Which isn't like the good old Micky D's burger I've been hungry for (read odd sauce, carrots, and who knows what else on it that I didn't care to analyze) drank some cherry juice and then caught another bus to the university just in time to meet Kunai.

I really do prefer walking, but one thing I have to say about the bus. It sure is convenient. Plus it gets me where I want to go in about half the time as walking. So when I have time I walk, and when I'm short on time, I take the bus.

The convocation was basically a bunch of skits and singing and stuff, it reminded me of our day of teachers celebration at the 8th school. It seems like the Russians have a lot of these types of celebrations.

I got home at about 6:30. Raisa had (and still has) friends over. So I ate rather quickly, had a cup of Chai (only one today, that's unusual for me) and vacated the kitchen rather quickly. I was reading on the couch when Raisa told me I should see what Lavik was doing, so I came into the bedroom, pretended to watch Lavik, and kept reading until he finished setting up the internet, and now I'm testing it. Or rather, I was testing it. Until I realized I'd been testing it for a while, and so I disconnected to write this blog.

I've gotten some comments about how some people enjoy reading about the "emotional" part of my journey. Sometimes I'll be walking, or sitting in school, and get these really profound thoughts, and I'll write them down and forget to put them in my blog. The result is that I'm going to have to take every stinking one of my school notebooks home just so I have all the complete thoughts.

I've been reading John Steinbeck's East of Eden. Actually, it was kind of an accident. I started it a day or two ago, just because I wanted to read something in English because I missed reading. Those of you who know me, know that once I got into it, I couldn't stop. You all should read it because it's an amazing book, and I've decided that Steinbeck is a brilliant writer. Some of his similies and descritions make me jealous.

Unfortunately it being in English is a bad thing. The good news is that since I read a lot yesterday evening and all day at school today, I'll be finishing the book soon. Or maybe it's bad news because that means I have one book left in english. I was looking at one of the many bookstores today and found a copy of The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe Translated to Russian. I think I'll buy it because reading it in Russian won't be too terribly difficult because I already know the story and have read the english version. But it'll be in Russian so that'll be good practice. An additional bonus is that the book is small so it won't be too heavy to carry to school.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Rather unorganized.

I seriously wasn't going to use the computer today. I use it too much. So I was just not going to do anything with it for a couple of days and then e-mail my parents just when they're beginning to wonder if I've been abducted by Chechen rebels. But my plans kind of changed because Kunai, the teacher who "accompanied" me to the Lena pillers called and wants me to speak to her english students. Tomorrow. Which I can't refuse because I put her off last week with the excuse that my power point needed finished. Which was basically the truth.

See I made this powerpoint presentation about myself before coming here. Dad helped me fix it all up spiffy and everything. Timing was all good, and what not. But there was a slight problem. When I plugged it into the computer here, the timing was wrong, or rather, there was no timing for the slides with pictures. So I have to fix it so the pictures come in right. While I was at it I thought I'd check my e-mail and write an update. I would just like to say though if you think powerpoint is bad in english (Which actually it's a good, easy to use program) Try using an older version of it. In Russian. So now that I've figured out where the buttons are, it's going faster.

Art class was better today. I didn't get screamed at. I actually talked to some of my classmates. I have a love hate relationship with that class. It's fun, and I enjoy it, and even though I've had like two lessons, I've learned a lot. Yet at the same time it's difficult because I really have zero background in art other than what they made us take in middle school, so that makes it challenging. Which is good because school here doesn't really challenge me because I don't do a whole lot.

In other news, I found out that we are having a really mild winter so far. Apparently usually by this time of year it's negative 30 and there's like 5 feet of snow. Okay, maybe not five feet, but you get the idea. Actually, it didn't snow for a week or two and then yesterday it started up and it's basically been snowing ever since. Which is fine with me because it makes the city beautiful! Though you do have to be careful not to slip. There's a different way of walking on the snow. I can't describe it, but you can't walk on it like you normally walk, or you'll end up hurting yourself. *though I have slid many times, I've only actually fallen once so far knock on wood*

I just got back from looking at an apartment with Raisa. Not for her but for her aunt or cousin or something. Everytime I see other apartments, it makes me really glad to be living with Raisa mostly because her apartment is more modern than most. Read: really nice by Russian standards.

Just a digression, but I'm glad I went back to art class. Even though it was really bad the first couple of times. I went back because I know a secret that I'm now going to share with all of you. I could make so much money if I sold this secret, or wrote a book about it, but instead I'm going to share it with all of you. The secret is this: You've got to keep getting back on the horse, Eventually you'll tame it. Or you'll just break your neck in the process.

Monday, October 22, 2007

So I lied

Alright, I wasn't telling the truth when I said that exchange is the hardest thing I've ever done. But at the time I said it, I didn't know there was something harder. I now think that the hardest thing I've done is take an art class on exchange. I know that sentence probably made all of you burst out laughing, but I'm beginning to think it's the truth. Between the woman yelling at me (literally) and the teacher practically painting my picture for me, plus everyone thinking I'm an idiot who can't speak Russian, it's an emotional journey. Plus I'm not good at art like everyone else in my class because unlike writing, I haven't been drawing and painting since I was a babe in arms. This is right up there with coming down the Lena Pillars, thinking I was going to meet Jesus face to face with every step. oi, mametchka!

So I'm thinking I need to reclassify because it seems like every month I go through something harder than the last month, or as hard as. Living here day to day is a challenge, but then I get these extra big mountins that come along. oi. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger right?

Okay so here's how it works. The general heading is "Exchange is the hardest thing I've ever done" period. Because as a whole, it is. Then under that we have the sub headings. "Climbing up and down the Lena pillars" "Going to art class" and "Asking the kiosk ladies for a candy bar" though the latter gets easier everytime I do it. Just like art class gets a little easier everytime I go, just like climbing...well, I've only done that once, (I'm not sure I want to do it again) but you get the idea. And not only that, but living in Russia gets easier with everyday that passes.

I was proud of myself because when I came home, I told Raisa about the woman yelling at me. It was broken, bad grammar Russian, but it was Russian. That makes me proud. I've discovered that everytime I'm down I feel better about myself when I use Russian in an everyday situation. A lot of times this involves buying something. I know it sounds like I'm a shopoholic, but It's usually just small stuff. I don't do it for the stuff. I do it because in a lot of stores here you have to ask for what you want. So it's not really the buying stuff that makes me feel good, it's the fact that I can use my Russian.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Russia Update #3-Reflections

I think this is number three now, right? If I loose count, forgive me. Also please forgive any spelling and grammar errors as I seem to be losing my writing ability due to learning more Russian.

Anyway, I hope that this update finds everyone well. Life here is always interesting. I still feel like I have yet to develop a true routine as random things seem to pop up and come and go. Maybe this week my routine will finally reveal itself. I've been waiting for it for almost two months.

Speaking of which, I'm finishing out my second month here in the city of Yakutsk. It's very odd the way the time seems to fly by, but at the same time, it's very slow. Not that slow is always a bad thing. I guess the main thing that's slow is school. School bores me. A lot. But I go because if I didn't, I wouldn't get nearly the exposure to Russian. I've been trying to make more of an effort to participate and do homework which helps, but school is still tedious.

For those of you who missed the memo, I celebrated my 19th birthday here. I feel so old. Do you realize that most of my 19th year will be spent here and that when I get home I'll be ready to turn 20? AHHHHH! lol.

The governor of District 5010 came for a visit this last Friday. I ate dinner with him, his wife, and the Rotary Club president on Thursday night. I did some translating which was kind of exciting. It shows how much my Russian has improved since I've come here. On Friday I basically spent the entire day doing stuff with and related to the govorner's visit. Raisa and I were really tired when we got home Friday night, so she told me I didn't have to go to school saturday. That was really exciting.

I know this letter isn't as formal as the last one, not as well organized, and maybe more rambling, but I just don't feel like being formal right now. I think that you all will deal with it.

My language has improved. I'm not sure really about my speaking except that I have a larger vocabulary than I did two months ago. I get so frustrated when I can't express myself. Though last night I was able to figure out how to tell a girl why I didn't like the last Harry Potter book. Which made me feel really good.

I have my ups and downs. I want you all to know this because I don't want to paint an unreal picture of my exchange. There are days when I just want to curl up in a ball and cry. There are days when I think that I never want to go back to America. There are times when all I want are my friends an family in America. Yet, if given the chance I wouldn't go home. It's like I don't know what I really want. It's weird. It's like this country makes me bipolar.

Yet, at the same time I know that it'll feel odd when I go back to America. How do I know this? Because the idea of me going back already seems...different...The way I see and view America is different. I guess what I'm trying to say is that I already feel the change. Though it may not look like it, I'm already a different person than I was when I got off that airplane in Yakutsk's tiny airport almost two months ago. Already I see things through different eyes, there are issues that I look at differently, and there are things I've learned here that I will carry with me.

I don't know if any of this is making sense, and maybe some of you don't enjoy reading about my emotional process. You think when you signed up for this e-mail I was going to give you the bare facts. Well, I've got news for you. These are the facts. Yeah, I could tell you details about my daily life here, but I already do that in my blog. If that's what you want, then go read it. http://learnspeak.blogspot.com I just figure that this is my newsletter, and you wanted updates so here they are.

Sometimes I think I'm a bad exchange student. I think that maybe I'm not outgoing enough here, I don't try hard enough to make friends. Sometimes I think about the day I get off the plane in good old Cleveland Ohio. Sometimes I think about it a lot. More than I think I should and then I mentally chastise myself because I need to be living here, in Yakutsk Russia. Sometimes I want the time to hurry up so that it can be february, or march, and I can be more used to living here. There are moments that I wish would last longer. Sometimes I wonder why Rotary picked a person like me to go on exchange. I know they had their reasons, and I've always wanted to go on exchange. Felt like I was meant to go on exchange. I know that once I get through it, like the Moscow airport, I'll have a sense of accomplishment. I've seen so much and done so much here that I couldn't in America. If I could go back in time to the beginning of my exchange journey, and were given the option of coming or not, knowing what I know now, I would still come. Because even though this is probably the hardest thing I've ever done, I know it's also going to be the most rewarding when I get done.

I appreciate those of you who have read this far. Appreciate the fact that you listened to my personal...not problems really, I guess reflections is a better word. If you were expecting this letter to be something other than what it was, maybe next time you won't be disappointed, but this right now is the reality of my life.

I have this thing about stuff that's more personal, how it doesn't go on the internet because you never know who reads it, so there are some things that are best left to a paper journal, or not said at all. I do not classify this as one of those things. Because I want you to know what exchange is like, and this is it.

I was going to do shout outs now, but I figured why? mostly because I talk to those of you I would shout out to on a semi-regular basis, so I guess I'm just going to leave this letter where it is. As always I appreciate your thoughts, comments, prayers, and e-mails. I really am doing well here. Don't think that I'm not. If this letter came off sounding really negative, I didn't mean it to. It's more of a reflection. I've come to love this city, the dust, the cold, the old school cars. I've already started making plans for how to save up money to make a second trip here. So life really is good.

I hope that you all are doing well too wherever you may be, exchange, college, home, high school. I hope that you are enjoying whatever it is you have chosen to do, just as I am enjoying mine.

Until next time,

Abigail Faust
Якутск, Республика Саха (Якутия) Россия
Yakutsk, Sakha Republic (Yakutia) Russia
Website: http://learnspeak.blogspot.com
arfaust@hotmail.com (Rotary)
AIM: InterpretedSigns

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Dear Americans: A Letter from an American To Americans

Welcome to Russia! And I mean that in the most sincere way possible. Despite all of the rumors circulating in our own country, Russia is actally a pretty cool place. It's modern and there are things about it that are extremely convenient. Russia however, is not America. So I thought I would help you out by giving you some advice before you go blundering around irritating people like me.

First off, Do not even attempt to interfere with anything having to do with food. Why? Because Russians have a thing with food. You're just going to have to deal with that. In America if you go out to dinner and just order a soup and salad, that's fine, but in this country it's not allowed. If you tell someone that you just want soup and salad, they will pretend to not understand your english, and order you additional items. If you tell the translator (Me and anyone else who knows english and Russian at the table) that you just want soup and a salad, we will not translate this request to the person paying and you will end up with a meal anyway. It's Russia. You might as well enjoy the good food.

Secondly, all restaurants have cloth napkins. These napkins are for your lap. You do not wipe your mouth with them. What do you think the paper napkins are on the table for?

Thirdly, plan for a restaurant dinner to take at least two hours. This isn't america. Russians enjoy their food. Not only that, but service in restaurants is a lot slower here. So just relax and enjoy the atmosphere.

Fourthly, life equals tea. Learn this lesson and learn it well, grasshopper. Russia without tea would be like...jelly without peanut butter? Milk without cookies? Actually tea is so much a part of the culture here that the two are inseperable. If you are invited to someone's house, expect to stay for tea. And don't expect to "Just have tea" Mostly because "having tea" also includes butterbrot, cookies, jelly, and sometimes other random things that the Russians have about the house. It's insulting if you don't have some.

Speaking of butterbrot, if you are making one for yourself, do not make it like an american sandwich. Butterbrot are meant to be eaten open-faced. Besides if you add that second slice of bread you lose the flavor of the kolbasa and cheese.

Finally, Russians are a proud people. You'd better try whatever national/traditional dishes they offer. Even if it's cold fish, butter soup, or funny-looking whipped cream. Besides, why wouldn't you try it? You might not get another chance.

Please learn these lessons and learn them well. You'll save people like me, who live in two worlds a lot of agrivation. And please, enjoy your stay here. It really is a great country.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Mister Black Star aka Timati (and DJ Dlee)

I'd seen the concert advertised for a couple of weeks. I saw the ads, though "oh, that's interesting" and thought no more about it. Sunday morning we were eating breakfast (yay blini!) and Raisa goes "So there's a concert by this guy called Timati on Tuesday. Why don't you call up Vika and see about going." Since I had nothing planned on Tuesday I was like "Okay," So I called up Vika, and we made arrangements, bought tickets, and last night we went to see Timati. Vika was pretty excited about it, and so her excitment was contagious even though I'd only heard one song by Timati on the music video channel. (Just as an aside, have I ever mentioned that one of my favorite things about this country is that they have not one, not two, but three channels that show music videos?)

The concert was at the Circus so I met Vika at the tsentralnye theater (our usual meeting spot) and we walked to the circus. We were being silly the whole time. I don't even remember what about. Mostly just stupid teenage girl stuff. It was fun. We arrived at the plaza outside the circus at about twenty til seven. (The concert was supposed to start at seven) We met up with some of Vika's classmates and stood around with them until almost seven. Then we went inside.

Once inside we left our coats at the customary coat drop off. I'm going to miss those when I go back to America as they are so convenient. We milled around for a bit and then headed to find our seats. Vika and I had good seats. That was a good thing since I didn't pay 1,200 roubles to sit and look at the back of some famous Russian's head. We weren't right in the middle or anything, but our seats were really good. The concert was interesting. Timati seems to be a typical tatoo covered, bling wearing, ACDC t-shirt sporting rapper. Except that he's Russian.

He's got this whole "Mister Black Star" thing going on and I looked at Vika and asked "Why is he called Mr. Black Star...He's not black." Seriously. He's really not. His skin is slightly darker than the average Russian's but personally I think he looks more hispanic than black. Vika said something (I think) about him being arab by decent. Anyway she said that since his skin is a little darker, and most rappers (except eminem) are black, he calls himself "Mr. Black Star" I was like Oh okay. Secretly thinking to myself that that was...interesting. The concert was filled with shrieking teenagers which gave me great entertainment because sometimes they would cheer for Timati at the oddest times. Напремер (For example), Timati was singing this rap about a guy who catches his girlfriend in bed with another guy. So he shoots the guy. He was kind of acting this little story out, and so there was a gunshot sound effect. Naturally in songs like this, the killer gets caught, this was evidenced by the sound of a police siren. And since this is a rap we have to condone suicide so Timati pretended to shot himself (accompanied by another gunshot effect) and he sprawled out on the floor. Right after he did that there was a cheer from the teenage girls in the audience (Because they loved the song) but I just laughed, because it was almost like they were happy he was dead. It gave me great amusement.

The concert ended sometime after nine, but I don't really know because we were there for maybe another 45 minutes because Vika wanted autographs. It was something I hadn't even thought of. So we waited in line and while I was there I had both Timati and Dj Dlee (A famous DJ he's touring with) sign my ticket. It makes a cool souvenir anyway. Wait til I go home and show everyone. I can just hear the conversation in my head:

"And look while I was at this concert thing, I got Timati's Autograph. Isn't that awesome?"
"You got who's autograph?" *Person wanders away*

yup, I can hardly wait. hee hee.

Speaking of conversations I've found some more mistakes that I've made while speaking. I realized the other day that I'd gotten the words for "never" and "Not allowed" mixed up so when I had a conversation with one girl about boys it was something like:
Girl: "Do you have a boyfriend?"
Me:"Nope, I'm not allowed"

She probably thinks I'm nuts. Oh well, just about everyone does. I'm okay with that too. Here's a conversation I had with Vika:

Me:"Yeah I want to get together with Lilia next week and make American Liver"
Vika:"Liver? uh...okay?"
Me:"yeah! you know (in english) cookies!"
Vika:Ah! Okay, because you just said you wanted to make liver
Me:(slightly embarrassed)HA HA HA!

In other news someone told me that last winter the temperature here didn't hit negative 50. I was like "really?" and inside I was secretly thrilled. She went "Yeah, it was only negative 48" and I was like "You're kidding" in a rather disappointed tone. She then went on to explain that there's a big difference in temperature between negative fifty and negative forty eight, and after living here for a month and a half, I believe her.

The District governor is coming on Friday. I'm doing events all day. That's cool with me as I get to skip school.

There was something else...what was it?
Ah! I remember.
How many of you have heard the song "Sexy Back" by Justin Timberlake. Go on Raise your hands.
Now how many of you can say you've heard this song in Yakutian?
That's what I thought.
I have heard this song in yakutian. I didn't understand a word of it. But it was pretty sweet anyway.

We were singing it in English. Okay, actually the teacher was out of the room and I was helping people with their stuff and I started signing a little of a song by a Russian artist, Pavel Bolya. All of a sudden Aita, one of my classmates, goes "I'm bringing sexy back" And so naturally I'm like "Yeah!" the bell rings and I'm walking with some girls, singing sexy back, and Galia goes "I have it on my phone!" So she turns it on and we're heading to the first floor and I'm singing along and then Kirill, one of the boys in my class goes "hey Abigail, want to hear it in Yakutian?" So he turns it on, and I listen to part of it and I'm like "Sweet!"

Then they all had to go to gym and I had to go to Rotary so the moment was over, but it was cool while it lasted. And that's my story for the day. Now I must finish my little speech about jazz for History tomorrow.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

They Call Him Dima Bilan

So it's time for another one of my more interactive posts. I know how much you all enjoy them. Actually I don't really know, I'm just guessing. If I were you, I would enjoy them.

Watch the youtube video below. It's in English for your convenience since I know that 95% of you don't know Russian. (Actually the truth is that the song is in English, it's not really for your convenience.)Notice in particular the man singing. Also, you might want to notice his hairstyle. (it's a rather popular style here.)

Have you watched the video? THE WHOLE VIDEO? Good. Now do you know who this man is? And don't say Dima Bilan just because it's in the post title, or on the bottom of the video, or because he says it about five hundred times during the song. Do you actually know him. Like, have you heard of him? You haven't? Well that's a shock because everyone knows Dima Bilan.

If a Russian knows that you're foreign and you say you like Russian music, the first question you get asked is "Ты знаешь Дима Билан?" Which roughly translated means "Have you heard of the great and powerful Dima Bilan?" Actually it just means "Do you know Dima Bilan." The point is that if you say "nyet" you will get a lecture becaue Dima Bilan is probably the most famous singer in Russia right now. As I previously stated. Everyone knows Dima. The above music video has been number one on the MTV Russian countdown every week that I've been here. (Closely followed by the Song by Maxsim that I posted earlier) You can hear his songs on the radio, on commercials, you see his picture in girly magazines. Apparently they think he's attractive, personally I'm all for him getting a hair cut, and what's with that little half gotee thing? The magizine "yes" had a countdown of the one hundred hottest guys. It was a big poster. Do you who number one was? That guy from fallout boy. Followed by that guy who looks like a chick from the german band Tokio Hotel and then somebody else who I forget. Dima Bilan was number four. He beat out Justin Timberlake, Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, and basically almost every other typically "attractive" celebrity you can think of.

Comedians make fun of him. Actually I enjoyed watching the sketch I saw of comedians making fun of it because I understood it. I'm not going to try to describe it because I won't do as good of a job, and it's only funny if you've heard more than one of Dima Bilan's songs, but I about died laughing.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that like the mobile provider МТС (That's em-tey-ess, not em-tee-see) Dima Bilan is kind of a Russian icon.

Friday, October 12, 2007

A Russian Birthday

Author's Note: I had a few people comment on the way I wrote my last post and so I thought I would write part of this one in the same vein.

The alarm went of and like every other morning she counted the beeps the watch made. She got a different number every day. Today it was 45. When the watch had finished doing its thing she rolled over and went back to sleep for another ten minutes. Just like every other morning.

When she opened her eyes what seemed like only a few minutes later, she knew there was something wrong. There was too much light coming in the window. She rolled over, and looked at her clock. 7:20 the digital numbers taunted. She hissed a soft Chort! She was supposed to catch a bus in ten minutes. Just as she put her feet on the floor her host mom's voice cut through the stillness of the apartment.


"Yeah, I know," She replied. She grabbed her contacts and dashed toward the bathroom. Knowing all the while that she had known she was going to over sleep one day, but did it have to be today? Actually...She decided while frantically scrubbing her teeth, she would've liked to sleep in and not go to school. It was her birthday after all.

Her mission in the bathroom completed, she sprinted back to her room and threw on her school clothes, for once not mentally complaining about the fact she had to wear something akin to a uniform. It made deciding what to wear a whole lot easier.

Back home she would've just skipped breakfast but she knew her Russian mother wouldn't hear of it, so she reluctantly headed towards the kitchen and pour her frosted flakes equivalent into a bowl. She was working on getting her morning started with the most important meal and she wasn't really paying attention to what was on the TV. Just the news, like usual. "THE STATE OF OHIO..." She paused with the spoon halfway to her mouth, the cereal dripping back into the bowl. Why would they anounce something about her state here? She watched the news report without understanding a word, and that frustrated her. Her host mom, seeing her confusion explained that there had been a school shooting. Well, that was interesting. She would have to e-mail her parents about it later.

Finishing her cereal she ran for the bus, though in all honesty as soon as she got out the door she slowed down some. It honestly didn't matter to her whether she was late or not. She tried not to make a habit out of it, but if she was late, the school wouldn't care. It was another average morning on the bus. She disliked the bus because it was usually crowded and the people here were so pushy. But she dealt with it because she didn't want to have to get up for school any earlier than neccesary.

She reached the school with two minutes to spare, inside she changed into her dress shoes and headed to the second floor where her first class was located. The classroom reminded her of one of those disappearance stories. There were bags, and books, but not a single student. That was very unusual. But being the naive person she is, she figured they'd all show up eventually so she started to unpack her stuff.

She had only begun when two of her classmates showed up. The literature teacher appeared and muttered something about another classroom and a birthday, so the classmates took her by the hand and dragged her through the halls.

They arrived at the english room, went inside and there the whole class waited to wish her happy birthday and present her with a few gifts. She was extremely touched and felt herself tearing up. So what if her English teacher had arranged it, it was still a very cool thing.

The rest of her day went smoothly and her spirits were soaring high as she headed home. She and her host mom had arranged for a party to celebrate and she was looking forward to it more than she'd like to admit. She bound up the steps, the stairwell was back to smelling like cigarettes, and opened the door. She removed her coat and scarf and stopped upon entering her room, there waiting for her was a huge bouquet of white lilies and a card from her host mom. She couldn't stop grinning.

The guests began to arrive at 5:30. In the span of an hour she had amassed enough stuff to fill a suitcase. She hadn't expected that people who she'd only known a month and a half to be so kind to her. Each gift was special and unique and she appreciated the thought that went into each one, and knew that it would find a place with her when she went back to America. She loved all her gifts, but her pride and joy was from the Rotary Club.

At dinner the Club president made a speech. They had known that she wanted to learn to play the national instrument. So they helped her out and got her a khomus. A simple piece of metal that could speak worlds. She adored it.

Toasts were made some she understood and some she didn't, all of them wishing her life, luck, and happiness. Somehow she knew they meant every word of it too. There was food. So much good food, though she was distracted and only ate a little. People kept coming and going, and she had to greet them, or thank them yet again, she was getting tired, but she was enjoying every minute of it.

A game of twister later, she was sitting with a group of friends trying to figure out how many USAs would fit into Russia. It reminded her of an old SCTV sketch and that made her smile. The phone rang, but she paid no mind to it. Probably one of her host mom's friends. Yet a few moments later her host mom entered the room and held the phone out to her. "Who is it?" She asked.

"Papa" came the reply. She took the phone hesitantly because surely it was some random Russian on the other end of the phone. Surely it wasn't her father calling. The voice on the other end of the phone confirmed that it was. She spoke with them for a half an hour, her flesh and blood parents, and felt slightly bad that she did most of the talking, and honestly couldn't remember what she even talked about, and she enjoyed talking with them, she really did. But when she got off the phone and joined the party at the table once more she had a sudden shock. She realized that though she loved her real parents and missed them, they were part of a different life, and she loved hearing their voices and telling them about what she was doing, and hearing about home, but she realized as she sat at that table, listening to the Russian fly past her that she felt like she belonged here. And that feeling was bittersweet.

Not to kill the mood, but as you can tell my birthday was awesome. Better than I expected, though I wasn't expecting too much so as not to be disappointed. For those of you who do not know what a khomus is, look it up on wikipedia and I'll play it for you when I get home. The instrument is kind of a big deal here, it seems like almost everyone learns to play at least a little on one, and you can do some cool stuff with it. I was really excited that the Rotary Club was kind enough to get one for me. I just wanted to share a few interesting thoguhts and observations with you in first person.

First of all, I'm proud of my language skills. No, they're not "madd skillz" yet, but I'm working on it. Yesterday I was walking from school with two friends, and one asked me about the weather in my state right now, so I was explaining about how it's cooler and rainy, and then I decided to explain that it was beautiful because the trees were all colors, so I go "But It's so pretty because the..." I suddenly realize I don't know the word for "tree" just the word for "Forest" so I'm like "Because the...forest only one...is gold." My friend figured out what I meant and told me the word for tree. Which I promptly forgot again. I don't know why it takes me so long to remember some words and not long at all to remember others. I do best though when I can hear the word, see what it looks like, and then write it down. Usually I'll remember it then. Sometimes I have to reapeat it a lot in my head.

In liturature class I sit next to a guy, and infront of two more guys. This makes literature class a very interesting experience. Especially today when they were practicing their English. I'm sitting there, trying to pay attention in Literature, but slowly drifting off into a day dream when all of a sudden the guy next to me whispers to the guys behind me "I want to F*** animals" Naturally this makes me suddenly sit up and give them a funny look before busting up laughing. I think they forgot that I can understand English the looks on their faces was priceless.

The main reason I recounted this story for you is because of this. When school let out, I was walking with my friend Nina and I was able to recount this story to her. In Russian (In a cleaned up version.) I was so proud of myself. You have no idea.

Let me see, what other news can I tell you...Oh! I know! So I had asked Raisa about my second host family. Not because I am unhappy here, but because I was just curious. She told me that she didn't know and to ask the Rotary club. So I asked the Rotary Club president and she didn't know either. So at my party we had a little private chat and this is what I understood.

I might not have another family. I might just stay here. In fact that's what will probably happen and here's why. The rotary club here is small. There aren't a ton of people in it. There is one family that has kids, but they have a baby who's like three months old so they can't take me. Basically what this means is that since there is a shortage of good families, I'll probably just stay here with Raisa. I was actually more pleased than I thought I would be to hear this. Raisa is awesome, and the apartment is nice, and I've got a routine established. Besides, I like the fact that I can kind of do my thing. This is what I told the president. If they find another family. Fine, and if not, that's okay with me too. So as far as I know this is going to be my place of residence during the rest of my stay here. And while at first I wanted host brothers or sisters, I'm now okay with the fact that my two host sisters are far away. Mostly because my social life has picked up, and I actually have friends. Whoo hoo! Go friends!

The only other news I can think of at the moment is that the district governor is coming here from Alaska. I think on November first. I think I'm supposed to play the Khomus for him when he comes. hee hee hee.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

They Were the Best Potato Chips She'd Ever Eaten: A Personal Narrative in the Third Person

Authors note: Sometimes I feel that I write better in the third person than first person. I've been thinking about doing something like this for a couple of weeks and finally decided it was time. I guess the real purpose of it is to give you more of an inside look at what my everyday life is like here. Hope you enjoy it.

The time and temperature sign on the top of the Sakha Telecom building read -3 when she was walking home from school. Negative three degress and she was eating ice cream. She didn't feel odd about it. She wasn't the only one enjoying the treat. She licked at the cone fiercely holding it first with one hand and then the other, as they alternately numbed and then warmed when she stuck them in her pocket. She was irritated. Irritated with the buracracy in this country. What kind of country makes you register before allowing you to enter a library? She frowned as she walked. Hoping that when she returned in a few days they would accept her American passport. Probably not.

Her face brightened slightly as she hit the carmel center of her cone. It was her favorite part. She strolled toward the largest supermarket in town, she thought it was the best because it usually had the most variety, but it was a good ways away from her apartment so she rarely went there. As she strolled she thought about how much she'd changed in these six weeks.

Lost in her thoughts, she no longer noticed the dirt covering the soviet era cars, and the bits of broken beer bottles lying around. It was just part of the landscape. She reached the store and went inside, rejoyicing in the relative variety. She strolled through the aisles and picked out what she wanted, noticing that there were only three brands of pop this time, while there were about five different types of colgate toothpaste. On her way to the checkout, she walked down the chip aisle. What she desperately wanted was potato chips. Potato chips that weren't bacon, onion, cheese or crab flavored. Just plain potato chips. She didn't see any and was turning away when her eye caught a yellow package. Joy of Joys! The package said "Naturalnye" and they were lays! She could hardly contain her excitement. Then her eye fell on the price. Fifty two rubles. She groaned inwardly. Fifty two rubles why that was a week's worth of bus money! She gazed longingly at the package, debating inwardly for a few minutes. Finally she reached out and plucked the package from the shelf. She hadn't had regular potato chips in a long time. It was worth it.

She paid and as soon as she left the store she opened the chips, the cellophane was music in her ears. She grabbed one crispy chip and popped it into her mouth. It was the best potato chip she'd ever eaten. Even the chips in the states couldn't compare to original russian lays. There was something almost more natural about it. Even the grease that was left behind on her fingers seemed more natural somehow.

Heading home, she munched her chips all the way, enjoying every last bite and resolving to save some for later if there were any left by the time she got home. There weren't. It was getting dark by the time she reached her building. She checked her cell. 5:15pm She keyed open the outside door to the apartment building. The first thing she noticed as she began to climb to the fourth floor was that the hallway smelled like beer instead of cigarettes. Well that was an interesting change. When she reached the door that lead to her apartment, she stuck her skeleton key in the lock without hesitation. She coaxed the key like a stray kitten and obligingly the door swung outward. She popped her second key into the door that led to the apartment itself and without furthur delay stepped onto the small swatch of carpet right inside the door. She took of her scarf, hat, and coat and hung them up. Glad that it was still warm enough to wear her shorter jacket, or kourtka, while at the same time looking forward to the weather that would force her to wear her warmer coat.

Looking for something to do, she plopped down at the computer hoping to hear a word from her family and friends. If she didn't she wasn't going to stress about it. She knew they were just as busy as she.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

A Dog, A Coat And A Near-Death Experience

This is a picture of Sully. Actually the dog's name is more like sally but pronounced S-AH-lly if I write sally you'll mentally pronounce it sally so I'm going to spell it Sully. Sully is the dog. Why haven't I mentioned Sully before? Because he/she/it (I'm not sure which I think she but I'm just going to say he for the sake of clarity) has only recently come to live with us (I guess this is a regular event)He was with my Russian grandparents up until a day or two ago. The reason that Sully is even worth mentioning is because I dislike him. The first day he was here, I came home from lunch and he followed me around the house. Literally. Also the whole time I was eating lunch he sat and stared at me. No lie. I found out later it's because he's used to getting bits of meat from the table, but still how would you feel if you are trying to relax and eat lunch and a little grey poodle is just sitting there staring at you. I think he's planning something. Seriously. I think he's going to overthrow the Yakutian government or something.

Sully is Raisa's dog. He literally waits all day for her to come home and then he follows her around the house. When I'm here with him alone, he makes me nervous. Mostly because he follows me around the house and every few seconds he sits up and listens to see if Raisa is unlocking the door. Honestly I think the thing needs a tranquilizer, or maybe a chew toy or something. Other than his nervous temperament, I dislike the fact that you can't pet him. When Raisa brought him home, I leaned over to have him sniff my hand and then maybe pet him and Raisa goes "Don't! He'll eat you!" And made a biting motion on her finger. Great a dog that's not only planning world domination, but also planning on treating me like Hansel and Gretel. That makes me feel Real great.

We went to the "market" today, again. Market is in "" because the one we went to yesterday to try on coats, and today to buy a coat is actually more like a mall. I'm planning on going back and heading for the fourth floor because the food court on the fourth floor is the only place in town I know of that you can get a hamburger and fries. Oh I miss McDonald's! Yakutsk is too small to have one. That's what Raisa told me once, that the bigger cities like Vladivostock have McDonald's but not Yakutsk. Anyway, we went to Akvarium which is the name of the "market" and we bought a winter coat for me. Actually I bought a winter coat for me. It was on sale too! Only six thousand rubles! Now that might sound like a lot and it is, even in Rubles, but when you think about how the Shubi which are the nice fur coats that people sometimes wear in winter run upwards of 20 000 rubles, 6000 isn't so bad. Not really. Anyway, I love my new coat. It's light blue and has some fur like stuff around the hood but not enough that it's going to irritate me. I had Raisa help me take a picture so I could show it too you.

After Akvarium, we went to the Chinese market because I'd heard that stuff there was cheaper. It was, but the whole place was overwhelming because if you try to just look at stuff the chinese people attack you and try to get you to buy. Plus, some of them don't speak Russian real well so that makes it difficult.

We were really tired so we looked at the market and then headed home. On the way, Raisa said that she needed to get gas for the car. I was like okay. So Raisa gets out and I'm sitting in the car jamming to the radio and...wait...the radio? Yes, All of a sudden I realize that the radio is still on. "Oh my word! Did she leave the car on? I think so. Should I turn it off? No, she already has the gas cap open." I reached out and put my hand on the dash in front of me and velt vibration. "Chort! she did leave the car on" It was then that I started praying for all I was worth. "Oh please, oh please oh please don't let me die right here. Please, please please" Was going through my head as I tried not to think of the whole SUV exploding in a fiery ball of death. What would they tell my parents? That line from zoolander kept popping into my head for some reason. The one about the tragic gasoline fight accident.

It felt like Raisa was pumping that gas for eternity. And I thought about how in America they have those little warnings on the gas pumps and the first one is "Turn off Car," They even put that one before "no smoking." Finally after I'd sat there praying my heart out, Raisa gets back in the car. I'm expecting her to reach for the ignition to turn the car on and realize she'd forgotten to turn it off, but when she gets in the car she reaches right for the gear shift. SHE LEFT IT ON ON PURPOSE. Now that really freaked me out!

Saturday, October 06, 2007

A Night at the Opera

Okay, techinically it was a night at the ballet but that didn't have nearly the ring to it that "a night at the opera" did. Besides there was opera involved. Yesterday afternoon, I came home for lunch after school and then I went back to school to recite a poem for Teachers day. Personally I thought teacher's day was awesome and I think we should have it in America. See, basically in Russia October 5th is day of teachers. This means that the students give cards, flowers, and candy to their teachers to show their appreciation. Our school also had an assembly where the different classes did different things to show their appreciation of the teachers at our school. That's where I recited the poem. The poem I chose to recite was by Robert Frost. The title? The Road Not Taken It goes as follows:

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler long I stood
And looked down one as far I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth.

Then took the other as just as fair
And having perhaps a better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black
Oh I saved the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads onto way
I doubted if I should ever come back

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Someday ages and ages hence
Two roads diverged in a wook and I
I took the one less traveled by
And that has made all the difference.

It was funny because I went up to the mike and said hello in Russian and everyone clapped for me. It made me smile. When I was finished, everyone cheered which made me feel really good about myself.

after the program, Raisa picked me up and we went to see the famous ballerina Anastasia Verochkova. She's danced in Moscow which is really cool. I was surprised because there was no rule or announcement about not taking pictures during the performance. So I did. Unfortunately most of the pictures turned out badly. Stupid camera.

My favorite dance was where Volochkova danced with a guy, but he was all stiff, kind of like he wasn't there. Then at the end you find out that he'd been killed. It's hard to explain, but I really enjoyed the story the dance told.

In between ballet sets were opera singers. Naturally they were really good. Probably the best I've heard, though I haven't seen a ton of opera so I'm not really an expert.

That's basically it I guess. The ballet was awesome, the night went well. That kind of thing. I'm tired right now as I've been going at a constant pace all week. It's funny because whenever I don't have anything planned, Raisa tells me to call someone to hang out. I tried to get a hold of a few people but they're all busy. Good. Maybe I'll take a walk by myself. There's a CD I've been wanting to buy and I've also been wanting to hit the Pushkin library, I just haven't had a chance.

By the way, it's been snowing all day. Again. People have started telling me that winter's begun. Actually I'm enjoying the weather as even though it's pretty cold here it doesn't feel nearly as cold as home. I finally figured out why. There hasn't been an icy winds. I hope it stays that way!

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Guessing Game

Okay, now it's time to play a little game I've put together. There is a picture at the top of this post. Do all of you see it? Good. Now here's the game. Can any of you guess the place where this picture was taken?
(No peeking to the rest of this post)
If you said Yakutsk, give yourself a point.
If you just said Russia, you need to learn the name of my city and you only get half a point.
Now, Can you guess when this was taken?
If you said this morning, you automatically lose. No. Actually you just lose a point.
The correct answer is yesterday. If you said yesterday, go you! you get another point. Now, do you know what the date was yesterday?

October 3rd.

Yeah, that's right. I got up yesterday morning and was doing my thing and Raisa says "It's the first snow!" and I was like "What?" She goes "You didn't see it?" uh...no. So I look out the window and sure enough, there's snow on the ground. When I went outside to walk to the bus stop I found out it was a decent covering of snow. It stayed most of yesterday before melting into muck. This morning when I woke up, there was no snow on the ground. I went outside to go to the bus stop and guess what? It was snowing. Hard. It snowed all day. Basically. It stopped snowing around three and all the snow melted into muck. But all day it snowed. And snowed and snowed. It was like midwinter Ohio, only less cold. It was snowing hard enough that if this were Ohio they probably would've cancelled school. Here they cancel school when there's no heat in the building. Or when it's too foggy. My guess is that it's probably going to snow tomorrow. Let the Yakutian winter begin!

In other news, I'm doing much better here for those of you who don't know. Things got better my fourth week here, and I'm enjoying myself a lot. I feel like I'm integrating better with my classmates, and I can understand spoken Russian better. Sometimes I can understand better than people think I can. I'm proud of myself because I can have conversations outside of just the basic small talk. Sure, I have horrible grammer, and sometimes I pantomime a lot, and I really need a thesaurus to improve my vocabulary, but at least I can do it. Last night I was telling Raisa about a poem I read for literature, that I didn't understand and what the teacher said it was about, and then I told her a little about Bunin. Today I sat and talked to a girl from school for about twenty mintues. Some of it basics and some of it not. Oh and I recounted my Great Bus Adventure in Russian. Twice.

And now for your enjoyment

Here's how it went down. There is one bus that stops at the station nearest the apartment complex where I live. That bus is number 17. When I first started riding the bus in the mornings, Nadia, my classmate, said that I had to be careful to not get on the wrong bus because there are two bus 17s and one goes to the wrong side of the city. So today guess which bus I got on?

Yup, the wrong one. Personally I handled it very well. I remained calm, and honestly it didn't really matter to me that I was going to be late for school. The school doesn't really care if your late and I don't know, I just have this really lax attitude about school while I'm here. I'm on the wrong bus and I'm like. "Okay, it's an exchange adventure." and with that I rode the bus. I had it all planned out when I was going to get off, and then the bus driver goes "It's the end of the line, everyone off!" or the Russian equivalent so I gave him my money and got off. Do you want to know where I was? I was at the opposite end of the city. No joke. I was seriously on the opposite side of the city from where I started. In some was, the school was closer to where I lived than I was. I didn't have a ton of money with me to get back on the bus so I started heading towards the general direction I thought the school was. Did I mention it was snowing...Hard? Yeah so by the time I got to school I looked like the abominable snowman. I was only about ten minutes late. I looked at the schedule, realized that our first lesson was math, not literature like I had previously thought and promptly decided that I wasn't going to math.

I don't skip classes. Seriously, it's not a habit I have. I accidentally skipped gym class once here, and on Wednesdays sometimes I skip, but that's technically not skipping because I go to the Rotary meetings. It was just. I was tired from walking across the city, and hot because I'd been wearing my coat and my sweater and so I'm roasting and decided that I couldn't take sitting through math class. So I didn't. I sat and talked to a girl from one of the other 11th grade classes and you know what? I think I got more out of that than if I'd sat in on Math because it gave me a chance to practice my Russian.

This is kind of off topic, but what amuses me is when I start thinking in my head the way Russians speak English. I don't talk to native english speakers here. Why? Because there aren't any. Well except for Judith that one time, but she's in Vladivostock now. Anyway, so when I hear English I hear English the way Russians speak it. (Except for Leilia because she speaks English with a German accent because she just came back from Germany but that's another story.) So today I was walking to the city center and I was thinking about something, and I thought about how tomorrow is "the day of teachers" That's seriously the way the words were in my head. Not teacher's day like a good native english speaker, but day of teachers. It made me smile. I did it yesterday too. I said something about "In Sakha Republic" the Russian speakers tend to leave out the "the" in The Sakha Republic". It's just something interesting.

Okay this is a really long post, but just wanted to give you all a thorough update on my life while I have the chance. To end with here are some entertaining mistakes I've made the past few days that either I've caught or the native speakers have.

Me: "Yeah, the restaurant is in the old year"
--In Russian the word for year is "god" (long o) and the word for city is "gorod" I was speaking quickly and accidentally said "god"

me: *pointing to the crosswalk signal for go" The alien is my friend!
--Leilia laughed at this one. The crosswalk signal for go is a green colored person that looks like they're walking. So I said "The green person is my friend" or "the green man is my friend" I found out after I said it that "green man" (In Russian zelonii chelovek) is basically the phrase for Aliens (UFO not aliens from another country)

Monday, October 01, 2007

This Ain't Carnival Cruise Lines or How I Spent Another Yakutian Weekend.

*Note this post is excerpted from Dnevnik: The Paper Journal of Abigail Faust All rights reserved.

28th September [Friday]

I love how plans change in [Yakutsk] and I'm not being sarcastic. It seriously Amuses me. Here's what I was planning on doing this weekend: Tomorrow not much of anything except possibly some shopping. Sunday I was going to do a bunch of running around. Here's what I'm actually doing this weekend: Taking a two day boat cruise to see the Lena Pillars with some random person who teaches english who I've never met. It's okay though, Rotary prepared me for hanging out and spending time with and even sharing a room and bed with someone I don't really know so it's all good.

Later 21:24

So I came home after Russian, had tea and then Raisa and I left for the port. K...I forget her name, the teacher, said she'd meet us at the port. (*Note* At the end of the trip I remembered her name was Kunai so In the rest of this post, she will be referred to by her name.)We came to the ship after a short drive. Raisa helped me get the key to my room and set my stuff in the room and then we stood around with some of Raisa's co-workers and some worker guy waiting for Kunai...The ship pulled out at about 7 I think. Basically I got aquainted with my "friend" for the trip and we sat around looking at pictures of Yakutsk and Yakutia in books and talked before dinner. Dinner itself wasn't spectacular but it was decent enough. I liked the main entree, didn't care for the salad. Now I'm enjoying some alone time. I think in about half an hour there might be a movie in the кинозал (movie hall) but I'm not entirely sure. What I really want is to go to the top deck and see if I can see the stars. I haven't seen them in so long!

29 September

...The Pillars are outside my window. We are passing them as I write. I didn't realize that they go on for what seems like miles. I sat on the middle deck watching them go by for the longest time, but I finally caved to the cold and came into my warm room.

So there I was, sitting there watching these huge franite formations go by, aching from the raw beauty of it, wishing I could share it with the people back home, but as mom reminded me we are all alone inside ourselves, and I don't care what John Donne syas, she's right. [No offense]I would not trade the experiences I've had in this country for anything.

Yeah, it's a little depressing that pictures don't do this land justice and the only other thing I have is feeble words, but maybe that's okay.

I did some praying up on the deck, thanking God for stopping the rain this morning, tanking him a thousand times that I'm in this place and can see the beauty that his hands created. I mean the nature outside my window, yes. But I mean more than that too. I mean what I've seen so far of this country. I feel like dancing with joy...

Later 15:42

My idea of hell is one long staircase that you have to keep climbing and climbing for all eternity. Doesn't sound that bad? Try climbing a really long staircase. It's pretty bad. If you want the staircase to look like pie, try going down steep shale covered trails. You do that and you'll be like me saying лесница моя подруга! the staircase is my friend!

...I went with a group of Kunai's former students [To the top]. The boat docked and I went with this group of three girls and a guy onto the rocky beach...We walked around and took some pictures and then it was time to actually climb up one of the pillars which I was pretty excited about. Sasha, the guy, decided to go on a path that wasn't technically a path and we girls decided to follow the "real" path. It was seriously a lovely walk. At first. All pretty trees and rocks, and pillars of stone. Then we started the actual ascent. I think that in America if there was an ascent that steep, they'd put a slowly increasing zig-zag path. But do the Russians? Not really. There was basically this hugely long staircase that went straight up.

Okay so it wasn't vertical vertical, but it was pretty bad. I worked up a sweat on that one, let me tell you what. So we go through this grueling but preey climb and then we reach the top of the pillars and there's a beautiful iew of the river and other pillars. We walked around and took pictures in several different spots. Sasha met us at the top (we beat him). We stood and looked at the beauty of it and took loads more pictures. Then we decided to go back down, but not the way we had come. We decided to go down the way Sasha had come up. Now that was scary.

Other than exchange, it was probably the hardest thing I've done. I[t] was steep and covered with loose gravel and I kept loosing my footing. Very, very, scary. There was this one place that was particularly steep. I'm coming closer and closer to it and thinking "HOw am I ever going to make it over this?" And then came my life lesson. One of the girls, Anna, waited for me, took my hand, and led me over the particularly steep part. She basically was an anchor to keep me from falling or sliding. While she was helping me, I just kept thinking "God, it's pretty cool that even at a time like this, you're reminding me you're there."

The whole Lena pillars experience was awesome, like a lot of the experiences I have in this country...