Monday, November 24, 2008

Interviewing: A View from the Other Side

Several years ago, I went through a Club Interview and a District Interview in order to become an exchange student. Yesterday, I got to see the interview process from the other side. It was an interesting experience.

Several weeks ago, one of the Rotarians in charge of the district exchange program got a hold of me and said "Do you want to help interview potential outbounds?" I answered with a very enthusiastic "Yes!" The interviews were yesterday. I was on an interview team with three other people and we interviewed four students, two guys and two girls. Three of the students were interested in Spanish speaking countries, and one was interested in India. It was a really fun experience. The interviews themselves were tiring, but it was fun to interact as well. We interviewed two students, broke for lunch and then interviewed two more. In some ways, my favorite part was that break for lunch. It gave me a chance to walk around and talk to some of the potentials that I wasn't interviewing, see where they were interested in going, and share some of my stories. Actually, what's great is everyone knows me as "The girl who went to Russia last year and almost got deported."

There was a meeting during the noon hour for all the parents and their students. One of the Rotarians told me that he was going to tell my Korea story. I went to eat lunch and then I popped into the meeting to see what was going on about half-way through. The Rotarian had already told my story, but he had me talk a little about the training program that the students will go through before leaving, and told the crowd that I was the student he'd mentioned earlier. I also got to talk a little bit about the orientation things that go on in-country. The Rotarians embarrassed me because they said that they'd heard from people in my Russian district about how integrated I became and how well I spoke the language. If it was Eleonora saying this, she had a tendency to exaggerate, and if it was the Alaskan in charge of Youth Exchange, he didn't know Russian and wouldn't know. I did mention though how one of the most interesting experiences I had on exchange was at district conference. It was interesting because I was able to speak Russian to the Russians and feel completely Russian and then turn around and speak English and deal with Americans no problem. It was cool how I was able to slip between cultures.

An interesting thing about the interviews was seeing it from this side. We'd call the kids in and they'd be all nervous and that sort of thing, and they're all so naive in some ways. Naive not in a bad sense, but because the unknown is before them. They don't have those experiences yet. Part of me just wanted to be like "wipe those expectations out of your head because it's completely different when you're there" But I doubt it would do much good. I didn't listen when I was in their place, so why should they be any different. It's one of those things you just have to experience and see for yourself.

Our team kept up more of a dialog with the students rather than an actual interview. We asked them questions, of course, but we also just kind of talked to them as well, about their interests, things they'd written on their applications, expectations for exchange. That sort of thing. My favorite question to ask was pulled from my own experiences "What do you do if you get there, and you hate the city and you go to school and you have no friends and feel like no one likes you?" Most of the students had to stop and really think about this question. This is something most of them don't think about when they're getting ready for exchange. They're prepared for questions about homesickness, tolerence, and why they want to do exchange but the fact that they might get in-country and not have the time of their lives from the very beginning is something they never considered. I sure didn't.

It was odd. Several of my exchange buddies, people who trained with me and went out in 07-08 were there, but I didn't spend a ton ton of time talking to them. I didn't quite feel connected and I don't know why. Is Russia that scarring? (Ha!) Was my exchange that different? Did it mature me in different ways? Or am I just at a different point in my life now? One thing I did enjoy was talking to a student who was in the Czech Republic in 06-07. The languages are similar and the cultures in some ways are similar and so it was a very enlightening conversation.

I enjoyed yesterday's experience a lot. It made me feel like I was being useful and using what I learned in Russia to help people out. I'm hoping to go to some of the overnighters that are coming up in the next few months.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

My College Posse

So, I get these groups of friends. The ones I hang out with the most are the ones who I am closest too and therefore become what I call "my posse." Don't ask me why I use this term I just do. There are four of us in my posse here. Me, Puppy, Zhin, and a newer addition, Chatter. I knew all of them individually and then Puppy hung out with Zhin and I once so they met. I knew Chatter from the karaoke night here, and took Zhin with me one week and so they met, and Puppy and Chatter met each other one day when we had lunch and ended up sitting in the Center from about 2 in the afternoon until 5:30. So it was just a matter of bringing them all together. Which I did last Tuesday. Tuesday, we didn't have class and after going to lunch with Chatter, I wanted to walk Downtown to the music store. We decided to invite Puppy because he's into music and he's hilarious, and I said let's make a party of it and so we invited Zhin too.

I honestly cannot tell you what we do when we hang out, because in just telling you, it doesn't seem like much of anything. We walk around and hang out different places. We often end up at The Diner which is a place on campus open all night that has decent food. Also, almost every time we hang out, we end up in the Music building so Puppy can play the piano. But I mean other than that we hang out, and we talk, and we act completely stupid, and we pretty much speak almost entirely in inside jokes which means that anyone listening either thinks we're really creepy, or has no idea what we're talking about. From playing catch phrase, and the bottle game in The Diner at one in the morning, to wandering around aimlessly, being loud and people telling us drunks to go home (though we really aren't drunk. I promise) hanging out with my friends is always a very very interesting experience. It's memories like these that you look back on later and think "man, college was a great time!"

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Dealing With It

I recently got a Facebook message from one of my fellow Russian exchangers. She needed someone who understood and so told me how she was tired of people not listening to her view on Russian politics, of people implying that even though she spent nine months in country, she was too far from Moscow and therefore didn't really know the political situation in the country. That got me thinking about some of my own experiences and I decided to do this entry about it, so you would know. For those of you who may be reading this and are in Russia right now, this is what you have to look forward to. For any other exchangers who might be reading this, you will probably go through something similar. For the rest of you, I hope that by reading this, you get a better understanding.

It's really hard coming back from Russia. Not just because of the general leaving your second culture behind thing. It's hard because you don't realize how prejudiced Americans are against Russia until you get back and start facing it. It also doesn't help when barely two weeks after you get back, the front page of the newspapers are splashed with headlines about Russia invading Georgia. Immediately the questions started. "Were you in Russia when that happened?" "no." "Did you see this coming?" "Not really." And my least favorite of all: "What do you think of this whole situation." Apparently having just come back from Russia, Everyone wanted my opinion and my insight into the conflict. It quickly became my least favorite question though when I had several conversations that went sort of like this:
"What do you think about this whole thing?"
"Well, I think it's interesting."
"Yeah, Russia's so power hungry right?"
"Actually, you do realize that Georgia started it...?"
"What? No!"
"They invaded the Breakaway regions first."
"Yeah, but Putin is evil and power hungry and trying to grab up land!"

I started avoiding the topic. How can you explain your side to someone who doesn't want to listen? To someone who just wants you to confirm their stereotypes? Because you get a lot of that. This is what we're taught, this is the way it is. I got very tired very quickly of, as soon as I said anything to defend the Russian government in any way, people looking at me like I was a communist, or making comments to that effect. What most people don't realize is that Russians know their government is corrupt, but their attitude is that this is the way life is. There is no history of democracy in that country so most people don't know any way to change it. Oh and by the way, if you actually ask the Russians, many of them will tell you that they approve of Putin because he's done some good things for the country. And I know what you'll probably say "It's because there's a history of Putin eliminating any and all competition and opposers." I'm not saying that this isn't true, I'm just telling you what it's like.

The other thing that really bothers me is the actual "communist" comments. I have a few friends who make this sort of comment, mostly because they know it gets to me. You fake smile and shrug, or make threats under your breath in Russian and go on. I hide how much it really bothers me and I think this is something I need to stop doing. Hiding. I need to stand up and be like "look, this really bothers me when you say things like that. " Because it does and maybe if I spoke up people would understand better.

I guess you could say this is where I'm at right now, piloting through the remnants of my exchange. It seems so long ago, sometimes it just feels like a dream. Some days I wake up and I think "Was I really in Russia? Oh. I guess so." It's rather depressing in some ways.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Scientific Experiment #2: Showing Your Stripes

As you know, I am a Republican. If you've been reading my blog you know that SPU is a very liberal college. Also if you've been reading my blog, you know that I was planning on showing my support of McCain and Palin on the whiteboard outside of my dorm room. For those of you who are interested, Here are the results of that experiment, i.e. The things that people wrote on my board.

This is what the original sign looked like:


Here are some of the variations I got (italics are things that others wrote):

McCain (Old guy)
Palin (Bimbo)

Wanting to F*** the U.S. The next four years
--The interesting thing about this one is I erased all but the F of the bad word. The next morning it had been replaced by "screw"


Yes! Yes!
--This one made me feel less alone.

Eat the Poor!!


--This liberal does get points for creativity

I ran this experiment over two weekends, and Happened to go home. When I got back the first time, the board looked like this:

Change we can count on

The second weekend I came back and my sign had been completely erased to be replaced by more pro-bama slogans. I rewrote it and when I left my dorm the next day the board looked like this:


and here are the last few collected:

Because one Depression just wasn't enough

Honoring the time cherished value of lying

And the final one which was written just yesterday:

Is this for the Hugh Hefner look-alike contest?

Now, one other interesting thing about this, is not just the reactions I got when I wrote it, but what happened after I did. When I wrote this on my board, there was only one other person in my hall who was showing their political stripes. It was an Obama supporter who had signs outside their door and their board said "Obama Biden" etc. Not long after putting up McCain/Palin, I realized that a lot more people had written on their boards which candidates they supported. Yeah, 90% of them are Obama, but I just think it's really interesting. Even the guy who had stuff up before me got more elaborate. He drew one of those O's on his board with the flag thing that is a symbol of all things Obama. I felt kind of bad because people came by and kept erasing parts of it. When I came back from this last weekend, he was out fixing it, and I talked to him a bit. Well, actually mom started it. She said something about "Oh you have the same problem she does, people keep messing up your board" and then he was like yeah, and said something about the Conservatives are all hiding and I said "that's because we get beat down by liberals every time we mention who we're supporting." What was interesting is that we both came to the realization that we were tired of people putting us down for whichever candidate we were supporting, and we can't wait for the election to be over. Okay, so maybe not all of the liberals at SPU are crazy.

Generally, I think this was a very interesting experiment and I learned some interesting things from it.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Losing It

From "And the Words Poured Out..." the author's paper journal.

Thursday, October 16th 2008

I was really down yesterday. I realized that I don't feel Russian anymore, and it feels like part of me is missing. It's the most depressing feeling in the world. I remember how it felt, to be living there, to be part of that and to go to the district conference and be able to slip between cultures, though i really felt more Russian. And yeah, I can interact with Russian speakers here and I can remember my language, but I'm not Russian. I mean, not that I ever was or could be, but it's just this feeling, a sort of pride. Pride in the fact that you are comfortable in your language and culture, a language and culture that used to be so alien to you. The ability to be able to say "Well, this is how we do it in Russia," and I've lost it. My heart feels purely American and it makes me want to weep. Of all the things I was worried about losing/forgetting when I came back, I never thought it would be my sense of Russianness. I told mom last night and she said it doesn't mean I might feel that way again. I know that's true but I'm afraid that the only way I'll feel that way again is if I go back and who knows when that will be?

I wish I could describe it better than "empty"but it's sort of like that. It's this sort of sensation that you carry around with you and you don't realize how it filled you up or how heavy it was until it's gone. For some reason, I've always felt Russian as heavier than English. I don't know why. Now, with my Russian self gone, I feel too light, as if I'm just going to float away into the sky, or blow away with the wind. I dislike the feeling.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Spreading the Word

The past few summers SPU has hosted a Language School for four weeks in the summer. Juniors and Seniors in high school pick one of a variety of less common languages such as Russian, Chinese, Arabic, and Hindi. They then spend a month on campus taking classes and doing their best to learn the language. When the four weeks are done they then have Saturday sessions once a month where they spend all day expanding their knowledge of the language. By the time they are done, students have completed the equivalent to two semesters of their basic language. This means, if they are in Russian for example, that when they start school, if they choose to continue study of their language, they will already be in an intermediate program. Puppy has connections to the Language School (or as he calls it, the concentration camp. I told him gulag was more appropriate.) He attended it two summers ago and then last summer he worked as a tech guy/student helper. So he knows the people.

Saturday was one of the weekend sessions. Puppy invited me to go eat lunch with some people he knew who were attending the school in the Russian program afterwards, he was going to be helping with some stuff and invited me to tag along. Since I wasn't doing anything else, I thought I would. It gave me something to do as well as show me how the school works since I'm hoping to be able to work there as a Teaching Assistant next summer. Mister Doctor who, as I mentioned in my previous post is the head of the Russian department was there because he's also one of the people in charge of the language school. He also works with the Russian program. Obviously. So I showed up and got put to work which was fine with me, since it was better than sitting there being awkward. When there was a bit of a lull, Mister Doctor came up and asked how my semester was going. I told him well, and told him which Russian class I'd ended up in. then I said something to the effect of "I'm going to see my adviser on the 20th and I'm planning on declaring Russian." He was like "oh that's good! Then I'll be one of your Advisers" and that was the extent of the conversation.

Yesterday, I walked in to my Russian class and my Russian Prof. Starts talking about all the classes she's teaching next semester. In the middle of it she goes "by the way, I heard that you were going to declare Russian." I love our small Russian department!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Moments of Triumph

I'm listening to Sufjan Stevens and feeling pretty pleased with myself. It is amazing how much I encounter Russian here. The hard thing though is to make myself interact with it. It was the same when I lived over there. I had to force myself to interact with native speakers. It was a matter of survival. Here, I have no problem interacting with non-native speakers. Most likely because if I make mistakes they won't care or won't notice. At least I think that's my sub-conscious reason for doing it. I don't know, but I really have been trying to interact more with the Russian speakers I encounter.

Last week, Mom and I went to a Russian festival at a local Orthodox Church. Naturally, I had to make a little fun of the stuff, and criticize the "Russian food" that they served (although the Borsh was really good!) but we happened to run across some Russian speakers. My mom said "go on, go talk to them" and I was really nervous about it. Even though you do it all the time as an Exchange Student, it's really really hard to go up to random people and just start speaking to them in their native language. Especially since that's probably the only thing you have in common. So mom, being her personality type, took the lead and went up to the woman, and said "hey, my daughter speaks Russian and wanted to talk to you." so much for introductions heh heh. So I chatted a bit with one lady and then another. I talked about where I lived, and the Moscow metro and Another random thing or two. They told me I spoke Russian well, and that was about it, but I felt good about it afterwards.

Sunday night, I went to an Orchestra concert here on campus. It was free with my SPU ID and one of my friends was playing so off I went. The seats weren't assigned and so I sat myself down and was waiting for the concert to start, half listening to the people around me. The two people sitting behind me were talking about "Something something twenty something" and I'm sitting there thinking "that's nice..." when all of a sudden it hit me that they hadn't been speaking English. (funny how when you know another language your brain just processes it.) So I turned around and looked and met this guys gaze and realized I was staring so I turned back around, although I definitely continued to listen to the conversation. I told myself I would regret it if I didn't talk to them and so at intermission I got up the courage and asked the girl where she was from (in Russian). She told me, and then asked where I was from. I told her I was American but that I'd lived in Russia last year. And the usual kind of conversation followed. The girl was from Turkmenistan and the guy was from Central Russia. It was fun to just chat with them. They told me that except for Mister Doctor who's the head of the Russian Department here, I was the best American Russian speaker they'd heard in a while. I told them that I didn't speak well (because I don't feel that I do. I make so many mistakes and things) and they insisted that I did. It was really fun to just talk to them, and once again I felt really glad about it afterwards.

The last thing happened just today. We were talking about Europe in my "Where in the World Are We?" lecture. We were talking about different languages and then the teacher decided to show different alphabets. The first one was the latin alphabet. Then he showed the Cyrillic alphabet. I got all excited, especially when there was a little blurb in Russian up on the screen he asked if anyone could read it and I raised my hand. So he asked me to read it and I did, I translated it and read it in English. Was very proud of myself because I read it right out. Sometimes when I'm translating my brain does weird things to my English. It was a little thing about some registration for a conference in 1997 or something. Afterwards, the teacher told me good job and told everyone to clap for me. It was pretty funny.

I guess my point is that even when you're not on exchange, those little moments of triumph still matter. You still find them in random places, and they still tend to just make your day!

Monday, October 13, 2008

New York and McCain

Found this video through The Drudge Report today. It'll take you about five minutes to watch. I thought it was very interesting.

Here in my dorm at SPU we have white boards outside our doors. Some people went around and were writing Obama 08 on them. I wanted to, as an experiment, write McCain/Palin 08 on mine to see what would happen, but I was a little scared. Think I'm definitely going to though. I'll let you all know the results.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Another Sort of Culture Shock

Over the weekend I randomly had the chance to go to see my cousin Aay who is going to school down in Tennessee. Naturally, I blew off everything else to that I was going to do and headed down there with Aunty and Uncle. It was a good trip, and I really enjoyed getting to see Aay. Hadn't seen her since she went down in August and didn't expect to see her again until Thanksgiving so it was a nice treat. Where does the culture shock come in? well actually we were talking about dorm rules. See the little thing I didn't mention about Aay's school is that she's attending a small Christian college. So we got to talking and naturally, her dorm is all girls, yeah okay, I can deal with that. I can't remember how we got on the subject but she mentioned something about how guys are only allowed into the room for like fifteen minutes at a time and they have to keep their feet on the floor. This just blew me away. I mean, I'm a hard core Christian and I understand why they do it, but it was just completely mind blowing. I guess because I'm used to the whole "guys living down the hall from you and people having their boy/girlfriends coming and spending the weekend with them" thing. I never thought I would experience that kind of culture shock here in America. I guess I see it as here, we're all adults and so you have to act responsibly. Where Aay goes to school, they're still all adults, but being a Christian school they have different Moralistic Ideals. Or whatever. I just thought it was interesting.

Which brings me to another point. I've decided that God is good, and I've been praising him, actually before I even went on this little weekend getaway. Because I've come to the conclusion that good old SPU is exactly where I need to be for college. I mean I've met some really cool people here, I speak Russian almost every day and I'm learning to stand up for myself. I was always one of those people who wanted a good education from a christian college, but I don't know, in some ways being at SPU is causing me to grow more spiritually than if I were at a Christian College. So I'm really content with where I'm at.

There was one more story I wanted to tell you last week, but I didn't get the chance because I went off to Tennessee. It happened last Wednesday in Comparing Governments. As you know, we are doing different presentations about different countries. Last Wednesday was the Germany presentation. One of the most interesting things that happened was that a girl mentioned that in Germany, they are very proud about their German heritage and even if you were born in Germany and lived there all your life, if your parents were foreign you would be considered foreign too. I raised my hand and said something to the effect of "I think that's very interesting. Do you think perhaps this comes from part of Germany being occupied by the Soviet Union because Russians feel the same way." Then, a guy in the group went on to talk about how he'd been reading and how the reason Russia reacted like they did to the Georgia thing is because they still considered those people Russian. I seriously was like "Thank you! Because I tell people that and they don't believe me!" What was great was here was a guy who's never been to Russia, he just reads a lot and he came to this conclusion. See, often we as Americans just take what people tell us as the straight truth without ever looking any deeper than the surface, and I'm not just talking about in regards to Russia I'm talking about the world and politics in general.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Protests, Movies and English

I went to eat lunch in Campus Center yesterday. I happened to be sitting by the window reading a book and when I looked up, there were people gathering on the plaza outside. I watched them set up speakers and people hanging out. Naturally I had to go see what the hubub was. It was an anti-war protest. Okay, and I'm not going to lie. I knew it was going to happen and that's why I chose to eat lunch there and to happen to be sitting in that particular spot.

I wanted to see a protest because I'd never seen one, and besides, my brother saw the Republican National Convention riots. I was behind. (Up until that point I'd been ahead because I sat jury duty) Plus, SPU is a hippie school so might as well go watch them right? What else are you going to do when you have homework to procrastinate?

When it looked like they were getting started, I went outside and about laughed. First, they had this guy play a song on a guitar and sing about how horrible it is that we're in a war and how we shouldn't support the troops or whatever. Then, this girl got up and read this whole thing about what they all did at the aforementioned riots at the Republican National Convention. I really really wanted to interject a few comments, but I kept my thoughts to myself. To be perfectly honest, the whole protest thing was rather disappointing. I don't know what I expected to see, maybe something straight out of the 70s but it definitely didn't happen. After a few more little speech thingies, they all grouped up, grabbed signs and started chanting about how we shouldn't be in Iraq. They then went marching off across campus. The Campus newspaper today said that there were about 100 people, but there was no way there were that many unless they picked up people along the way. There were maybe maybe fifty people. Generally, I just shook my head and supressed a laugh at the whole thing. Yeah, if you ask most of the students on this liberal campus, they will tell you that they don't support this, and we should get out of Iraq. Yet, do they care enough to do something about it? not really. The hippies do though. This event was sponsored by a group on campus called "the Anti-war commitee" My question is, what do they do when there is no war?

Last night was Russian movie night. The movie was called "The Barber of Siberia" it's really long (i.e. 3 hours) and it's typically russian (i.e. Rather depressing) but there's enough good stuff in it to definitely make it worth the watch. Plus, it's mostly in English and there are some well known people in it such as Julia Ormond and Richard Harris. The best part was when I went into the room where it was being held. I asked the grad students (in Russian) if it was a good movie, and they were like "yeah, but it's long" and they spoke slowly and they said one word for long and then decided I may not know that and so used another (Understood both) I nodded as they spoke and said something about how I'd heard it was a good movie, and then one girl randomly goes "How do you know Russian" because this is America and these are grad students from Russia and they teach beginner courses and so most Americans they know don't speak Russian. And so I said "I lived in Russia last year" and they asked me my name and I don't know it just made me feel special. I miss rapid-fire Russian.

The only other news really, is how irritated I was in my English class today. Not that that's news, but this time it was at the students, not the professor. We've studied some books on the ideas and theories of Postcolonialism and now we're reading fiction. So today we're sitting in class and he's just about to let us go. "Any other questions?" And people start asking the most ridiculous things ever! like "Do we find out about this in the book?" And I'm like just sitting there thinking "why does this matter? Read the book and you'll find out" and then someone else asked a question about something really insignificant like "Is such and such important later?" I'm like "are you all idiots?" At least we're reading fiction now which is more along my lines. I get into the whole analyzing the symbolism thing and stuff, so I'm going to be enjoying the rest of the semester. At least, I hope I will.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Goals and Dreams

I remember how excited I was the first time I dreamed in Russian. It was such exciting stuff. I then went on to tell you every time that I dreamed in Russian. I've sort of slacked off because since I've been back I've had several dreams in other languages.

I can't remember exactly when the first one was, I don't think it was too long after I got back, but in it, I had to go back to Yakutsk for some paperwork or something and I was in my third host family's house. Instead of my little host brother though, a little girl from my church was there and she said something to me in Russian and I answered back. Odd.

The second one was not long after I met Puppy. We were wandering around campus and I was speaking a lot of Russian. That night I dreamed that I was speaking Russian on a cell phone and my family was freaking out in English, trying to figure out what I was saying, or wanting me to stop or something. I don't really remember.

Finally, last night I dreamed in Yakutian. Yeah. I know. that's really odd. Especially since I don't really speak Yakutian. What was weird about it is that the people in the dream were speaking to me in Yakutian but when I said that I didn't understand, instead of speaking to me in Russian, they spoke to me in English. Complete with accents if I remember right. That's probably the strangest dream I've had. I don't typically dream in languages that I don't really speak.

Speaking of dreaming in other languages, as I was getting ready to write this post, I remembered that several years ago, when I started this blog, I had several goals for myself. I went back and looked at them, and realized actually, I've completed many of them. For those of you who are too lazy to click the link, here's what they were.

1. Learn Swahili
2.Go to France
3. Dream in another language
4. Read "Le Petit Prince" by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry in French
5. Speak Fluent Russian

I can now cross the following things off the list.

1. Learn Swahili
2.Go to France
3. Dream in another language
4. Read "Le Petit Prince" by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry in French
5. Speak Fluent Russian

The only one I haven't done is learn Swahili. I went to France right after I graduated from high school. Went with Madame, and a group of classmates. Spent two weeks there and it was a very eye-opening experience. Number two I've mentioned several times so you know about that. In my AP class we took care of number 4. Number 5 is the only one that I might not technically cross off. Technically, I'm not fluent in Russian, but I speak it well enough to survive day to day situations and such. So while, I've realized since the time I wrote these goals, that I'll never be fluent like a native, I would say I'm conversationally fluent. Or almost.

I made those goals in 2005. It took me what? Three years to complete four out of five? Not bad if I do say so myself. I think I'm going to have to work on coming up with some new language goals for myself.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Social Time

People I know tend to hang out in my room. I'm not sure if this is because I'm very hospitable and easy going about people being in there, ("I don't care how long you stay, just be warned that at some point I'm going to bed") or if it's because I don't have a roommate and so it's pretty easy to just come in and hang out. Perhaps it's a bit of both. Generally it doesn't bother me, and when it does, I just don't invite people in.

Last night Zhin and I got together and made brownies and cookies in the dorm's communal kitchen. We got rid of most of the cookies and some of the brownies. To get rid of the rest, we wandered up and down my hall randomly asking people if they wanted one. It was pretty entertaining. She then came back to my room and we just talked and she bounced some ideas around for a paper she was writing. A little after nine, Puppy got a hold of me and wanted me to help him go over some German for a test he was having today. I reminded him that I don't know German, but to come over and I would help him however I could. So he came over and the three of us sat here and had a good time. Around 11, Puppy decided that he was hungry and I wanted a milkshake. I convinced Zhin that she should come with us and we went to the Diner which is cafeteria food but it's open 24/7. Oh and they have really good milkshakes among other things. So we walked across campus and got our stuff and then we walked back and said goodnight. It was a really fun time. This is another example of reasons why College is great. More of that random hanging out stuff.

In Russian, we're watching a movie called Brat or Brother in English. It's a pretty good ganster movie, but my teacher decided that it would be really fun to pile on the homework for that class over the weekend. Not only that, but I have a test in "We Come From Monkeys" on Monday and several other assignments and things for other classes. Needless to say school-wise I'm pretty stressed out at the moment. I did find out that there's going to be a Russian Movie night on Monday. I'm pretty excited and definitely planning on going.

Other than that, I don't really know what else to say. Russia's been in the news a lot lately. Seems, they've been making deals with Venezuela about Nuclear Energy and working with the United States on keeping Iran's Nuclear Energy under control. It's something I'm going to have to keep my eye on over the next several days.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Medvedev On Georgia

Several days ago, I came across This article in which the president of Russia, Dmitri Medvedev, comments on the Russia-Georgia conflict. I encourage you all to take a look at the article. While I don't agree with everything that he says, I personally thought that Medvedev had some very interesting points. In particular all of the things relating to prejudices that the United States has against Russia because of the Cold War. Let me quote a few things.

" In a put-down to Miss Rice, who wrote her doctoral thesis on the military of the USSR, he said: "The world needs fewer Sovietologists and more experts on Russia." "

Personally, I agree with this statement. Many people here in the States still think that Russia is still a communist country that is still out to get us. While I don't know all of the things going on in either government I know that many of America's views of Russia, many of the sterotypes are wrong. I also found this particularly interesting:

" "Some think that not only are we the legal successor to the USSR, but we are also the ideological heirs. This is simply not true. We have a completely different set of values." When Russia offers mediation or peace-keeping, its motives should not be called into question. "We have no messianic ideals." "

This is also a good point. I've felt for a while that one of the main reasons relations between Russia and the United States are not as they should be, is because there is a trust issue. Neither country really trusts the other.

And that is my little view of the political world for the day.

What College is About

I'm settling in nicely. I feel like I actually have friends now. Actually, to tell you the truth it's only been the last week or so that I really feel like I've got people. Some of them are closer than others, but you'll have that. I've got a group of people I talk to in Comparing Governments, I've got people in The Sisterhood, which is a women's service organization I've joined, and then there's my dance class. The people in these places I primarily interact with in said setting. I might say hi to them if I see them "out of context" but I don't usually hang out with them otherwise.

I do have some tighter friends and I'll get to them in a minute but first I want to tell you one amazing thing about college. The randomness. An aquaintance of mine who I met during Orientation week was having a game night. I wasn't going to go, but I felt like I needed to get out of my dorm room for a while. So I went, and had a good time. Played Mafia and Uno attack, and then a few of us went to the field behind the dorm and played hide and seek followed by a discussion that covered everything from politics to religion to cheese whiz and ended up in me not getting to bed until like 2 a.m. It was a really good evening. I love that about college. How people are on generally the same level and you can just hang out randomly with people. College, the great equilizer.

Now, on to my friends. I figured I might as well tell you about the people I hang out with on a fairly regular basis since I might be mentioning them again.

The first is Zhin I met her randomly during Orientation week. SPU had all the freshmen read a book and then they showed the movie version of it. I wanted to see the movie version but at the time couldn't get anyone to go with me. So I went by myself and plopped down in the middle of the theater where I'd have a good view. A few minutes later, this girl comes by and asks me if the seat is taken. I say no and she sits down and we begin to chat. It takes us about thirty seconds to realize that we're both in the honors program and that our dorm rooms are pretty close to each other. Pretty cool. So we watch the movie and walk back and go on with life. Except I kept running into her. I stopped eating at one of the main cafeterias because it was too crowded and started going to a smaller one, where I happened to run into her. So we ate dinner together and I invited her to join our dance class. From there, we just kind of eased on into the friendship. Probably the major turning point was the one night after dance, we had a "study party" we didn't get much studying done, be we got to talking and had a good time. Zhin and I usually meet for dinner at that little cafeteria twice a week and we are actually planning on hanging out some this weekend since we're both staying on campus.

I met Puppy through a girl I'd met who is taking Russian here. She and Puppy had both participated in a summer language academy that SPU has for high school students and they are now taking Russian here. Puppy and I exchanged phone numbers and he is now my "I feel like doing random things at random times" friend. He's into languages and though German is his main thing, he doesn't mind when I sit and randomly speak Russian to him and he'll speak it back. He also doesn't seem to mind my constant references to what life in Russia is like.

As I mentioned above, there are other people I talk to and interact with on a regular basis, but these are the ones who are closest at the moment. Even though I get frustrated with college at times, I really do enjoy meeting new people and learning new things. Both inside the classroom and out.

Saturday, September 20, 2008


I should be studying which is what my life is now that I've started college, but I'm home this weekend and felt like telling you about a movie I saw yesterday before I hit the books.

Downfall is the story of the last ten days of the Third Reich from the point of view of Hitler's secretary. It's a German made movie and is therefore all in German, so you'll be reading subtitles, but it's definitely worth seeing. They've done a really good job portraying the mood that hung over Hitler and those closest to him during the final days of Hitler's reign. You get a sense of how hopeless the situation was. The movie is a little scary because it brings the end of the war to life in very vivid detail. I definitely reccomend that you see this movie.


In case you haven't noticed, I've been playing with the template, fonts, and so on. I figured that since I hadn't really updated the look of the blog since I started it in 2005, it was about time that I did, so please just bear with me as I'll be playing with various things over probably the next couple of weeks until I decide on something I like. Do not worry, neither the quality nor the Frequency of my posts will be affected by this. It's just something I feel I need to do. Need something different for a while.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


Monday was my group's presentation on Great Britain in "Comparing Governments" It went as well as could be expected for something we sort of randomly threw together. It could've been a lot worse and thankfully wasn't. I think the best thing we did, was try to ask questions and stimulate discussions. I've only just now come to realize how difficult it is to get college students to interact with you. I should make a note of that to get more into my classes.

Today in Comparing Governments, we got to listen to a presentation on Japan. It was okay, except I couldn't help but noticing that one guy in the group kept talking about how the United States "Forced" Japan to do things like adopt a constitution and "Forced" them to keep military only for their self defense. Several people echoed that they agree with this and that basically it was horrible how the United States forced Japan to give up what they had and adopt a different sort of government. I have the curse (Or the blessing?) To be able to see different sides of issues. I enjoy playing devil's advocate and things like that, and it feels like since I've come to college everyone is always on one side and I'm on the other. My point though is that Hindsight is 20/20. You cannot judge those who were in charge during and after WWII for what we know and don't know now.

What I'm saying is that, yes, perhaps the government at that time was wrong for what they did to Japan, but if you think about where they were coming from, their perspective, Can you really blame them? I mean Japan was responsible for what was then the biggest and worst attack on American soil by an outside force up to that time. The attack on Pearl Harbor (Unprovoked for those of you who know history and know of the isolationist attitude the U.S. was persuing at that time.) was a huge jolt to the American people. So naturally we wanted to stop Japan from taking over the United States. Can you really blame the government upon Japan's surrender for making sure that Japan would never try something like again? Would never be that kind of threat again?

I should've brought this up in class after several comments about the U.S. and the bad things they did to Japan. But I didn't. Now I'm regretting it. The people and that class can be pretty agressive and stuff and I think my problem was that I didn't feel like trying to defend my viewpoint all by myself. Next time though, when I come up with a thought like this, I'm going to try to state it. If nothing else, I will at least show that I'm thinking about stuff.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Saturday, September 06, 2008

A Little More Positive

Okay, forgive me because my last two posts were rather...uh...angry? You have to understand, it's not that I hate america, or am anti-american or anything. In fact, being in Russia showed me just how much I love my country. It's just I get frustrated with people who are ignorant about things when, what with all our modern information systems, there's no reason to be. Having said that, on to the news.

College is tough. I'm not going to lie. There are a few classes I strongly dislike, but some of them aren't so bad. My Russian class for example. I'm taking a Russian class called "Speaking and Writing." So we write essays and have conversations and stuff, but the best part about this is that we are using MOVIES for the basis of our writing and speaking. Which is pretty awesome if you ask me. The first movie we're watching is called Tsirk which means Circus. It's about an american circus star who has a black child, gets run out of town, meets a German guy and goes to the Soviet Union. This movie was made in 1936 and the most interesting thing about it (in my opinion anyway) is that this is one of the Soviet Union's answers to Hollywood. Apparently, they sent spies to Hollywood to find out about the movies and when they came back, this is the result. I thought that was pretty cool. The good thing about this class is that there's no textbook but we are going to have to buy a few movies which can be either a good thing or a bad thing depending on how you look at it :)

Another interesting thing occured in my "Comparing governments" class. As part of this class, we are required to get into groups and do a presentation about a country. I bet you can't guess what country I wanted?...Do you know what country I got? Britain. How did this happen? Well, mostly it has to do with the fact that because of the way in which the sign-up sheet was passed around, I was the very last person to sign up. (Yet I was sitting in the front of the room. ironic no?) as a result, by the time the sheet got to me, there were already six people signed up for Russia. (For some reason it's really popular right now. Gee, I wonder why. heh heh) I'm a flexible person so I looked at my options, or rather, I looked at the countries that didn't have a lot of people signed up for them. The countries were India with two people, North Korea with one, Britain with one and the U.S. with none (Even though the presentation is the last week of class) I thought about picking India, but the teacher recommended picking Britain. I eventually went with that. Why? Well at first it seems really stupid because 1. I know nothing about Britain's political system and 2. We're going to be presenting a week from Monday. But actually, I went and signed up with it because of its distinct advantages.

First of all, knowing next to nothing about the political system, this will give me a good opportunity to learn more and broaden my horizons. After all, I get mad about ignorant people in the United States, but in some ways, I'm one of them myself. It should be especially interesting because the one guy in my group (There are now three people including myself because another woman switched to ours) is originally from New Zealand. So that should be interesting.

Now to my second craziness of having to present this a week from Monday. The first advantage is that I get my project over with early in the semester. This is great because already thinking ahead, I know as the semester goes on I'll just get busier and busier what with mid-terms and finals a possible job and all. Another advantage to going a week from Monday is that as the first group to go, we set the standard. Also as the first group to go, if we mess something up, it might be more easily forgiven because we don't yet have a standard.

So, there you have it. I'm actually looking forward to the presentation. Now, if we could only get our group together and work.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Things You Overhear

I was walking back to my dorm yesterday. I can't really remember from where and these people were talking as they went past me. I wasn't really paying attention until the guy goes. "I know where all the little Russian ones are, like Czechoslovakia and those." I continued to watch them pass me with my mouth hanging open. I really really really wanted to say something but I didn't. I let them go and I sort of fumed about what he'd said for a while.

For those of you who don't realize why what he said irritated me, let me enlighten you. Obviously, the guy was talking about Geography. The first thing that irritated me was the fact that Czechoslovakia is not a country. If you don't know, it is now two separate countries, The Czech Republic and Slovakia. Another reason this irritated me is because Neither the Czech Republic nor Slovakia are Russian. They have a different language, they are not Russian citizens. The same goes for any of the other former CIS countries such as Georgia, Azerbaijan, Ukraine and so on. Yes, I do realize he was referring to the fact that during the Cold War, they were part of the CCCP (Soviet Union) but it's like seriously people. I cannot believe this. People need to work on their geography and history.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008


One year ago yesterday I got off an airplane and started my Russian adventure. I didn't even realize that's what yesterday was until I was sitting in my dorm room journaling at ten o'clock last night. I wrote something about 9/11 and thought "wow, that's this month" then I realized that it was September first and I got really weirded out. A call to my parents, who had just dropped me off ensued.

Me:"Mom, do you realize that at this time last september I arrived in Russia?"
Mom:"Yes, are you sad?"
Me:"No, just really weirded out."

We then proceeded to talk about many things including the Russia/Georgia conflict. I mentioned how hard it is when people ask me what I think of that, but then they get disturbed when I defend Russia. It's like "then why do you ask me if you're going to imply that I'm crazy and don't know what I'm talking about." I think the reason people ask me is because they know I've lived their and they want confirmation for their own stereotypes. I seriously think sometimes that they want me to just be like "Well, I've lived there and you are absolutely right. Russia is evil and power hungry." Honestly, I think it disturbs people at some deep level when I say something like "well, Georgia did start it." I'm probably going to get some nasty comments now for writing that too. I'm currently trying to work out a way to explain how I feel about this whole thing. A way to explain to all of you why it bothers me to hear you say the things you do about Russia.

While we're on the subject of things that bother me, here's a few more. The first one dealt with one of my textbooks. As you may know, One class I'm taking this semester is called "Comparing Politics" Well, I went and bought the textbook for this class only to show up on the first day of class and have the Prof. tell me that we were, in fact, using a different book. But that's really not the point of my story. See, before I realized this, I'd been looking at the textbook since we are comparing various governments I was hoping that there would be a section about Russia. There was. It was put under the section heading "Communist and Post-Communist Governments" along with China. Yeah, you could say that bothered me. You know it's funny though because sometimes the bothering is on a subconscious level and I won't realize how bothered I am by it until later. Why does it bother me? I think because every time we mention Russia in this country it's usually in conjunction with Communism. Like I found it really offensive that Russia has not technically been a communist country for what? seventeen years? And yet in modern editions of this particular textbook it was still being associated with communism. Oh and please don't even start with the whole "Well, even though it's not 'communist' we all know what Putin's doing." Because that will just make me angrier. And yes, people have said that to me. But that's a topic for another post.

Finally, the last thing that's bothered me over the last couple of days. It really has nothing at all to do with Stereotypes or the political situation. I was sitting in church on Sunday, next to a couple with a little girl. She was playing with a magnet set and I was mentally thinking of the words in Russian in case she asked. (We were playing this sort of thing with a sticker book a few weeks before. I'd tell her the words in Russian.) So she's got all the magnets piled up on the chair and I'm refreshing my memory and then I see that one magnet is a pineapple and I just stop. Because for the life of me I cannot remember how to say the word "pineapple" in Russian. I know it may not sound like a big deal. I mean it is only the word pineapple after all. It's not like a hugely important word. But I was seriously really disturbed because I couldn't remember it. I knew if I heard or read it, I would recognize it immediately, but I couldn't remember how to say it. Every time I tried to think of it, I drew a blank. Seriously disturbing. In fact, I couldn't remember this word all day Sunday, and all day yesterday. (I thought maybe if I stopped thinking about it and returned to it later, I would get a memory jog. No such luck) In fact I continued to draw a complete blank with this word until I just now found an online Russian dictionary and looked it up. It's Ananas by the way. In case you care. Ананас would be how it's spelled. I know, it doesn't sound like a big deal, but this was an almost terrifying moment. I'm afraid that I'm already forgetting.

Monday, August 25, 2008


So today was the first day of classes. I had two. "Comparing Governments" and "We Came From Monkeys" The first one is going to be interesting, the second..well..let's just say that it's not my cup of tea. I came out of the classroom feeling like my brain was overloaded. So the semester starts. But what I'm really looking forward to is my last class tomorrow. Why? Because it's my Russian class! "Reading and Speaking" Here I come! I'm really really excited. I miss Russia so stinking much and miss speaking it, and the culture and everything. It's so bad, coming back because I seriously think about it every day. I seriously cannot watch American fireworks displays anymore without automatically remembering the couple I saw in Yakutsk, and the announcers calling out propoganda and the shouts of everyone going "Ura!" Gah! I want to go back to Russia, but in the meantime, I'll have to settle for becoming active in the Russian department.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

What I Love About College

So, I've discovered that there's something very special about being at college? I mean, it's really great so far although I haven't started classes yet (They start tomorrow) so maybe it'll get worse once they do, but somehow I doubt it. My favorite thing so far about being in college though is FREE STUFF!!!! I mean seriously. I thought the commercial building at the fair was great but that's child's play compared to a college campus. The past week my collection of free stuff includes Two SPU t-shirts, a Laundry Bag, a change purse, a little backpack, ten dollar gift card to Panera bread, a key chain light and whistle, and a key chain pen. I have a lanyard that has my room key on it along with some other things, and the only thing I actually bought was the lanyard. It's like people are just dying to give stuff to college students. It's absolutely awesome!

Another thing that I like is meeting completely random new people. It's so fun and easy and acceptable on a college campus to go up to someone and be like "Hi, I don't know you" and start talking to them. Okay, maybe not those exact words, but you know what I mean. Besides, if you don't talk to random people, you don't learn anything.

Finally, college is great because there are always interesting things to do and usually they are free. Last night I went to see the movie version of The Kite Runner which was our summer reading book. This week I've also been to a dorm-floor jam session, learned about guys who play the card game Magic and eaten dinner with several random groups of people. I am seriously just eating this up.

Oh and speaking of "eating up" Let me tell you that the food situation here is different. The Center is where it's at with Chinese, burgers, bagels and such, oh and ice cream, really good ice cream. I go there a lot because it's the closest eatery to my dorm. I get lazy and don't always want to walk clear across campus for food. Though there is a good place on the other side with amazing milkshakes. The problem with the food though is it's so easy. It doesn't feel like your spending money at all. See, when I'm at home and getting ready to go through the drive through, I stop and think "okay, how much money do I have? Do I really want to spend X amount." But with the meal plan it's all on my SPU ID card and you just swipe and go. They aren't teaching good money management here but it's really convenient. "ooh, I feel like a rootbeer float" swipe!

And so, I guess I'd just like to say that I definitely recommend college because, well, it's just completely awesome!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

New Blog

So, I am a member of a forum for exchange students. I hadn't been on in a while due to all this preparing for college stuff, but I logged on today and found out about a kid who's going to spend their exchange year in Russia in the city of Niryungrei. This is particularly exciting for me because Niryungrei is a city in the Sakha Republic. In case you're interested, here's the student's blog.

Russia Bound

I look forward to following this blog.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


I move in tomorrow. Into a college dorm, sort of a place of my own. So why am I not excited about it? Well, to be honest, it's anti-climatic. I mean come on. I spent the last year in Russia for Pete's sake. After a fourteen hour time difference, moving half an hour away seems like nothing. Am I worried about my roommate? Well, not really. I mean we at least speak the same language. Will things there be different. Well, this is America so basic culture is the same. Yeah, I think that college while it's not going to be a breeze, it's something I can deal with. I guess what I'm trying to say is that Russia's put some stuff into perspective for me.

Though life isn't a box of cherries either. I'm rather stressed at the moment, mostly because I'm trying to work out my schedule. As I mentioned, I had a meeting with SPU's head of the Russian Department, and the good news is that he seemed to be rather impressed with my "mad Russian skillz" heh. Basically, he told me to drop my "Where in the World Are We?" Class in order to take either "Speaking and Writing" or "Today's Writers." Both of which are Russian classes, but he couldn't remember which one was at the same time as "WITWAW?" no problem. Okay, so I figure no problem. I'll talk to my Advisor and all will be well. Except that I did some checking and have discovered that the Russian classes I'm supposed to be taking don't fall at the same time as "WITWAW?" Blin! Blin! Blin! Chyort! So after much thinking about it and schedule studying, I'm thinking that I'm going to be taking my math class in the evening in order to take "Speaking and Writing". But that's twenty one credit hours, and I'm not sure I can take all that when I have a couple of hard classes this semester. Hard classes in Addition to my Math. So at the moment, I'm looking into dropping my math and taking it next semester. I'd rather put off math than Russian. The latter is too Important to lose.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The World Homesickness and Final Preparations

So For those of you who've been living under a rock the last week or so, the big news of the day is that Georgia and Russia are practically at war. And everyone's freaking out. Especially about the fact that Russia supposedly is overreacting. And maybe they are. But I find myself in Inexplicable ways both defending and putting down my adopted country. When people talk about how bad Russia's being I'm quick to point out that "In case everyone's forgotten, Georgia's the one who started it." But then at the same time sometimes in the next sentence I tell people about how carefully we need to watch Russia because that's how the CCCP (Soviet Union) got all that land back in the day. They just never left after the war.

I find the whole attitude towards the United States to be interesting too. Sometimes I feel like Everyone goes around hating us, and telling us that we're not the world's police and that we need to keep our noses to ourselves, yet when stuff like this happens, everyone wants us to come and save them. It doesn't make any sense to me.

In other, more personal news, I've been particularly homesick lately. Homesick for Russia that is. I've just been hurting. I don't know if I'm really homesick for Yakutsk itself, but I miss Russia. The culture, the language, everything. I miss speaking Russian and all the books in the bookstore being in Russian. I miss having Chai and the culture that goes with it. I miss everything on TV being Russian and am depressed that in watching the olympics here, they only show the American athletes.

Then I also get my little freakouts. For example, yesterday I pulled out my khomus to play it and realized that it was all rusted. Naturally, this made me completely freak out and as I result I burst into my parents' room at like one in the morning because I didn't know what to do and was terrified it was ruined. Mom told me that sand paper might word very gently. I said that I wanted to wait until morning to do it because if I tried to do it last night I was tired and freaking out and was sure I'd mess it up. That worked out though, because my dad, who'd been asleep (Or at least we thought he was) heard the whole thing and this morning before leaving for work, he looked on the internet how to clean rust off delicate things (I do put the Khomus in my mouth after all.) So this morning mom and I set to work and with a combination of Lemon Juice, Toothpaste, a bit of steel wool and some vodka, got my khomus mostly better and much prettier than it has been in a while. Henceforth, I will be taking much much better care of it.

In other other news, I'm moving into the Smart dorm at SPU on Tuesday. I'm not sure how I'm feeling about this. I mean in someways I'm really looking forward to it and in others I'm not. I'm also upset because I don't know that I have room in my Schedule for a Russian class this semester. The good news is that I'm talking to the Doctor who's head of the russian department on Campus tomorrow. I'm hoping if he can't get me into something, he can at least offer suggestions to keep from loosing my Russian, which by the way, I already feel like I'm loosing. It's not nearly as much in my head now as it used to be. That's very frustrating. I'll let you all know how the meeting goes.

Sunday, August 03, 2008


So I thought I would dedicate an entire post to walking. Okay, or maybe not the entire post, maybe just half of it. But you see this is a really big issue for me and I guess in some ways, it's a part of reverse culture shock. See here in America, you can get your driver's license at the age of 16. Okay, great fine. We drive a lot, especially where I live because there's no sidewalks for walking, town's a way off and there's not really any public transportation. Okay, I guess technically there is but it's so inconvenient and expensive that you might just as well drive. So I got my license when I was seventeen and the world was whole and I tooled around with my friends and decided that I was cool. Then, I decided to go to Russia. I was kind of depressed that the rule was I wasn't allowed to drive. "Man," I thought (rather ignorantly in retrospect) "I'm gonna miss driving." And I did, but I got by. How? Well, because God gave me a set of two working legs, that's how. So I started walking. I mean. that's what you have to do when you don't have a car and don't want to pay for a bus ride because they raised the price by two roubles.

So what does this have to do with Reverse Culture Shock? Well, let me put it this way. I went from driving everywhere to driving nowhere. Which wasn't nearly as bad as going from Walking everywhere to Walking nowhere. I really really miss walking. More than I thought I would. I mean. I really really liked walking. NOw It's not nearly as convenient to walk places so I don't. As a result, I feel fat and lazy. Plus my legs have gotten to the point where they feel cramped all the time. I'm always trying to stretch them and stuff As I sit or lay or whatever, but it doesn't help. They just feel cramped up. So I'm seriously thinking about walking four miles into the little town near us. Maybe take a day next week and do it. Go to the library or something. It's hard though to motivate myself just to walk for the sake of walking. I mean I did it in Yakutsk, but Usually I could find something to entertain myself among the various stores I passed. Just randomly walking, out in the middle of the country, well, it's not as much fun. I mean, it is, but it's just not the same.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Dealing With People

So I've been home a couple of weeks now. Sometimes it's just...strange. I'm completely and utterly sick of people asking me how Russia was. My typical answer is different. How do you really answer that? Because you can't just say "good." I mean, some parts of it weren't really that good. I usually answer "Different" though Sometimes I just feel like being rude and I want to say "Do you really care or are you just asking to be polite?" The other question I'm sick of is "Have you re-acclimated yet?" My usual answer to this is something along the lines of "Somewhat" or "eh.." But I seriously think that the next person who asks me that is going to get an earful of Russian.

I miss speaking Russian tons by the way. The other night I came home from somewhere and I just started speaking Russian to my mom. Naturally, she didn't understand it. So I started trying to tell her what different words meant but without telling her in English, just explaining it in Russian. Bless her heart, she was very patient with me just sitting there babbling on for like twenty minutes before she was like "Abigail, I'm sorry, I'm just too tired." Even though it's pointless to speak Russian to people here, I find myself doing it anyway. It's good practice for me anyway. When we got done, I followed mom upstairs to my parents' room where I promptly started to cry.

I've had that happen a couple of times. Just burst out crying. The first time was actullay the day I made my last blog post. The day before my party. I had stumbled upon a website that listed "the worst roads in the world." Number two were the roads in Yakutsk. A picture of a truck half stuck in mud was accompanied by a little blurb. I read said blurb which was basically not nice about Yakutsk. The last line was something like "Maybe Yakutsk isn't worth visiting after all." I promptly burst out crying. A lot. I felt so hurt and insulted because I lived in Yakutsk. Ten and a half months of my life were dedicated to that city and I know very well that even though it's remote and freezing in the winter, it is a good place to visit.

I'm weird about Russia too. Woe to anyone who makes some comment about Communism. They will quickly be set on the straight and narrow. Russia is not a communist country and has not been so for like 17 years. Woe as well to anyone who makes fun of Russia and/or Yakutsk. I spoke in my bible class today about life in Russia. I passed around a book with pictures of Yakutsk. One girl was flipping pages and came to a picture of a woman in Yakutian National Dress. She laughed loudly and asked if it was one of my host moms. I just shot her this evil glare.

Which is odd actually. Because I have no problem making fun of Russia myself. I mean, I don't feel bad about making comments about Vodka, or Russia, or Communists, or I'll make jokes about this country and the Capitalism. That's okay. Yet when other people do it, it irritates me. I felt rather hypocritical about it until someone said it perfectly. They said it's like having a little brother or sister. You can pick on them all you want, but are quick to jump to their defense when someone else does. And that, I think, is exactly what it is. I've lived in Russia. I know well, if not intimately, The language, the culture and the people. So I can kind of pick on the faults of the motherland. Yet it bothers me when people who don't know anything make fun because, well, they're just ignorant about it. Because they don't know about Russia, their jokes are coming straight from stereotypes. It irritates me. Usually, when a comment based on a stereotype comes out as just someone not knowing. Perhaps they ask it as a question. I assume that they just don't know and that they'd like to know so I'm usually pretty polite; however, I had some guys today that were just making fun and I...uh...wasn't nearly as polite to them :) Duratskii amerikantsii. But such is my life right now. I have my good and bad days. Just like when I was in Russia.

Some days are basically good with only a few thoughts on Russia. Most days though I think about it a lot. Or at least, the russian speaking part of it. In some ways, I try not to think about it. It's my defense tactic.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Being Back

It was a long trip. Last Friday was the longest day of my life. Seriously. I got up at 3am moscow time and went to sleep in my own bed at 3am Eastern Time. 12 hours right? no problem. You have to remember that between those times, I had a 4 hour flight, an 8 hour flight and a two hour flight. Plus layovers in various airports. I had many adventures, like almost getting on a flight to Detriot, but the upshot is that I started crying when, at 9pm eastern time, my airplane landed in Cleveland. All I could think was "Oh my goodness, I'm in Cleveland. I'm home, I'm home."

It was a shock on the flight from Moscow. I flew Swiss Air from Moscow to Zurich. Why was it a shock? Because Swiss Air speaks German and Swiss Air speaks English. They do a little French too. So it was a bit of a shock to be on this airplane and have the in-flight magazines not be in Russian, and to have people automatically address me in English. I was freaking out and had to mentally tell myself that "I need to be doing English."

I've been here almost a week and the novelty is starting to fade. I mean, yeah, I'm still happy to be hanging with my parents. To be able to see my family and friends. But in some ways, I no longer feel connected to them. My feelings are as changing as the wind. Mostly I don't want to be here. But my problem is that I'm not sure that I'd want to be back in Russia either. I don't know where I want to be.

I feel bad that I haven't updated more. Mom said people had started asking her why I wasn't updating. The truth is that I've been really busy. I feel like I've been going almost non-stop since I got back last week. What have I been doing? Well, aside from a family dinner and a party tomorrow, I've been doing what I've always done. I run errands with my parents, I go to church, I occasionally meet with friends. Yet somehow now, it seems like too much. Probably because I've gotten used to having entirely too much free time.

I haven't gotten back in to watching American TV yet. Just haven't felt like it. Don't really play a lot of Wii either aside from Wii fit and occasional guitar hero. I've been reading a lot. Working on Pride and Prejudice right now. I sleep a lot too. I tell you what, it hits 8 or 9 pm and I just crash. But I don't dare go to bed until at least ten. The one night, I went to bed at 8:45. Bad idea because as I result, I found myself nice and awake at about 4:30 in the morning. Fun.

What else has been happening? Well, I've got myself a cold, On the way home from the airport I forgot the English word for smetana (It's sour cream by the way) and I occasionally find myself asking questions with Russian intonation rather than English. Oh and I've gotten rather sick of people asking me "how was your trip?" I mean normally, it wouldn't be a problem but after ten and a half months of ups and downs in a foreign country, how do you answer that. I mean saying the standard "good" is just so inappropriate. Mostly I just say "different" and leave it at that though I'm seriously thinking about just giving a good russian answer, "normalnye"

Sometimes I do things that are really rude without thinking, and then I'm like "Oh, man, I'm really really sorry about that." Sometimes I find myself reaching for the button on the back of the toilet to flush it, before realizing it's not there, or I'll reach for the little triangularly folded paper napkins on the table and then remember you have to ask for them.

I've been enjoying American food, but every time I eat it, I can't help thinking about all the Russian food that I can no longer eat. What do I miss most? Caviar, Salo and Ice cream.

I was at a wedding yesterday. Watching the Bride and Groom the just seemed so young. Although actually, the couple is a year or so older than me. I told mom when I got home last night that some days I watch people and I feel positively Ancient.

She says it'll pass and I know she's right, but you can't come out of Russia, or exchange for that matter, without being changed in some inexplicable way. My friends tell me I'll get used to life here again, that I'll get "Back to normal." That makes me want to scream. I don't have some disease that I'm overcoming and can then return to society. There's nothing broken about me.

Well, I guess that's all. At least for right now. But stay tuned for more drama and excitment from the land of Capitalism and Free Trade. (And yes, I've been thinking that rather sarcastically lately though I have no reason to.) Oh, by the way, if you know me and haven't heard, My welcome back party's tomorrow. It's at the church from 2-4 so feel free to drop in and have all your burning questions answered. I should really go finish my power point for that too.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Конец Мира

Ну вот и все. So I'm leaving tomorrow. It's nuts. It doesn't feel real but at the same time it feels entirely too real. Ten and a half months ago do you know what I was doing? I was hanging out with my friends for the last time. And now it's the opposite. Just over ten and a half months ago my parents were taking me to the airport, and my mom was saying "If anything, we'll meet right back here in Ten and a half months." While we were at the baggage claim. That's something that's stuck with me over the last ten months. The fact that at the end of it, we'd meet right back where we started.

I've been busy the last few days, meeting with friends and my 'family' here. Yesterday, I made a call to my parents working out last minute details on a hotel in Moscow. A 15 hour layover means spending the night.

It's just weird. Now I have to go back. I have to be a grown-up. Go to college, get a job, that kind of thing. I'm not sure I'm ready to be an adult. Not sure I'm ready to go back to life in Ohio where I have responsibilities to people and places and things.

And I can't be a kid, because I don't feel like a kid at all anymore. I don't know when it happened, exactly, but at some point, I realized that I hadn't felt like a teenager in a long time. Hadn't felt like a kid in a long time. So I can't go back. Only forward. I just keep telling myself that going back is going to be the start of another adventure, but after being here, it's hard to think of it that way.

It's strange to think that I can go back to my native language now. That in two days, I'll be speaking only english. Seeing only english, hearing only english. It's depressing. I don't want to stop speaking russian. I like it.

Okay, so maybe this post is rather disoriented. Sorry, that's how I'm feeling at the moment. It's all so weird. I can't believe I'm going back to Ohio.

Even though there's things I hate about this city, I'm always going to have a soft spot for it. It's like the fact that there's things I love and hate about my city back in Ohio. But it's where I was born, where I grew up so I have a soft spot for it. In the same way, I grew up in a sense here. Yakutsk is where I learned about Russia, where I learned about the culture and the language and so in a sense my Russian self grew up here.

Okay, I've talked enough. Consider this my last post from Russia. The next one comes from American soil.

Monday, July 07, 2008


So, Thursday morning I head to the airport for the last time. My bags are mostly packed and I've been half living out of my suitcases the last week or so. These last three days, I'm going to be saying my final goodbyes to the people and places here that I've come to love. I feel like I should tell you about my weekend. Tell you about how I went to the Opening Ceremony of the Children of Asia games. Tell you about the odd Rotary New Year. But why? I mean, I feel like not talking about Russia on here, because well, I'm going to be home in four days and then you can ask me what you want to know, And if I'm not going to see you, then drop me an e-mail. I mean, I just feel like telling you how I feel. And this is it. Almost every day the past week or so I've cried. It'll be random things that set me off. Little things sometimes. The kids playing in the fountain on Ploshad Lenina. The other day, it was watching my Russian family interact with each other, and thinking about how in a week I'd be doing the same thing with my family back home.

It's weird because I think it's finally hit me that I'm leaving. But It's just so weird because I've just been living here, doing my thing. I've finally gotten used to life here. The rhythm of it, and now I'm leaving and let's be honest. I don't know if I'll ever come back. And that hurts.

A part of me could see me coming back. Renting an apartment, teaching english for a couple years (Even though I adamantly told my mother that I never wanted to be a teacher) Visiting Elena Ivanovna once a week, finding myself a Yakutian husband (ha ha) It's like this little thing in my head. But I don't know if that's the direction God has planned out for me. So for now, I'm wrapping up this adventure, and going to meet the next one head on. Life is always interesting. And I live it once. Might as well make the best of it.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Homeward Bound-A Folk Song

(No, I didn't write this. It's a folk song. Sort of. sang it for a competition in like 8th grade. Or seventh. Don't remember. But thought it would be appropriate to post)

In the quiet, misty morning
When the moon has gone to bed
When the sparrows stop their singing
And the sky is clear and red
When the Summer's ceased its gleaming
When the corn is past its prime
When Adventure's lost its meaning
I'll be homeward bound in time.

Bind me not to the pasture,
Chain me not to the plow.
Set me free to find my calling
And I'll return to you somehow.

If you find it's me you're missing
If you're hoping I'll return
To your thoughts I'll soon be listening
In the road I'll stop and turn.
Then the wind will set me racing
As my journey nears its end
And the path I'll be retracing
When I'm homeward bound again.

Bind me not to the pasture,
Chain me not to the plow.
Set me free to find my calling
And I'll return to you somehow.

One week from tomorrow, I fly out of Yakutsk...

Monday, June 30, 2008


So, I started packing last week, I don't have to do it all at the last minute. My heart's been really heavy the last couple weeks. I realized today as I was jamming stuff into a suitcase that it wasn't fitting. So I took it out and started putting it back in in a different order. And I burst out crying. See, this is my last full week in Yakutsk. In 11 days I'll be meeting my family at the airport. And I want it to be here because I'm tired of feeling sad like this. Tired of trying to Jam an entire lifetime into two suitcases weighing no more than 50lbs, and two carry-ons. How do you do it? But what's weird is that even though my time here ends in a week and a half, life goes on as normal. I get up, get ready for the day, go walk, spend too much money. So life goes on. It's like when I was leaving the states. The world doesn't stop because I'm leaving.

So for now, I'm doing the best I can to shove stuff into suitcases, and enjoy the little time I have here left, and hang in there for another 11 days.

Ysyakh-Yakutian New Year

So, Now that I've been to at least three Ysyakh celebrations, I feel that I can safely say I am an Ysyakh expert. Or at least I know more about it than your Average American.

Ysyakh is, as the title of the post says, the Yakutian celebration of summer and the New Year. But it's also much more than that. My guidebook says that Ysyakh usually takes place the weekend after the Summer Solstice, which is the truth, but actually, Ysyakh is the big summer holiday and only the big City-wide Ysyakh takes place the weekend after the Solstice.

The smaller Ysyakhs are like family reunions. It's a chance for people who haven't seen each other in a year or so to get together and catch up and what's going on. While Ysyakhs vary in size, there are some things that remain the same.

Ysyakh is held in an open field out in nature. You go and when you first arrive, you set up camp. This involves spreading out blankets sometimes, putting up a little tent and hauling out the masses of food. There's no set menu of stuff you eat at Ysyakh but there are a few key traditions. Such as horse meat, and Koumiss which is fermented milk. Traditionally, it's mare's milk, but now a-days it's often cow, sometimes goat. Other than those two things, the menu varies. Chicken, Pirozhki (Pastries filled with meat) and sliced cucumbers and tomatos are very popular. To drink there's usually in addition to Koumiss, water, beer, and juice.

The events are in some ways standard as well. There's usually a program of welcome. There are usually singing contests and fellowship. There's usually Sports Games as well where young men compete in various events to prove their strength (wow, I sound like one of the translated from Russian guidebooks you find here.) These games include such things as wrestling, Seeing who can pull a stick out of another person's grasp, and seeing how far you can carry a 116kg stone before dropping it.

The City-wide Ysyakh is Ysyakh on steroids. It's absolutely huge. It's kind of like the county fair, only with less rides. There are booths selling everything from toys, to souvenirs, to food. There are horse rides, and stages where various concerts and things take place. Everything relating to Yakutian culture and done in the Yakutian language of course. At the big Ysyakh, there's an opening ceremony where a shaman sprinkles koumiss on the ground. Typically the City-wide celebration starts on a saturday at noon and finishes the next day at six in the evening. At three a.m. On sunday morning, there's a celebration to welcome the sun. I don't know what all that entails because I didn't get to attend that part.

The Ysyakh celbrations usually begin around the last weekend in May and continue through July. If you would like to know more about Ysyakh, or would just like to see some pictures and press from it, you can do so at The Official Ysyakh Website But I warn you that it is all in Russian.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Russia Update

Hi all!

I know it's been a long time since my last update and I"m going to be honest. The reason for this is because I've been putting it off. I mean, what do you say to a group of people you're going to be seeing soon? Not only that, but how do you describe all of this? I'm so confused right now. In some ways it feels like these final few weeks are harder than the first because the truth is, I'm ready to go home.

I think sometimes, the exchange students who feel this way don't like to admit it because it's at this point that many of our peers are having such a good time, they don't want to leave. And it's not that my exchange has been bad, in some ways it's like the defining moment of my life up until now. It's just I'm tired and ready to go home and have a break before starting the next adventure.

At least I'm not as scared as I was. For a while there, I was terrified to come home. At District Conference we were asked how we felt about the whole "Soon going home" concept. I answered "Afraid" and started to cry. It's hard to explain why. I was afriad because what if everything back home has changed and what if nothing has? THankfully though the raw terror in the pit of my stomach stage is past and I'm dealing with it.

Now the big question I'm wrestling with is how to share what I've learned, what I've experienced here. My mom said that we should have a welcome home party about a week after I get back. She told that it would be good for me to do a fifteen to twenty minute presentation. I know at some point I'm going to have to do one for my sponsering Rotary club as well. And that's when I realized firstly, How do you fit ten and a half months into fifteen minutes? Secondly, How in the world do I share this? One of the most depressing things I've realized recently is that as soon as I leave here and share my experiences with people back home, I'm going to be talking to people who've never experienced these things. I know, it sounds really odd when I write it like that. Like it doesn't make any sense. But it's like this. I can tell you what it feels like to lay on ice in June, to realize you suddenly understand a new word, to hear the rough sing-song of the Yakutian language. I can even show you pictures. But it's not the same as actually experiencing it.

So that's what's been bothering me most of all the last week or so. The fact that I won't be able to share my life here with you well enough. Maybe it sounds stupid, but that's one of the reasons for coming here in the first place. I wanted to learn what life in Russia was really like so I could share it with the people back home and break down sterotypes, just like I've been doing here with America.

I've spent the last nine and a half months doing everything in my power to become Russian. It makes sense to carry toilet paper around with you, to pack whole meals with you when you travel, even for a short time. It no longer bothers me to eat yougurt that's been sitting unrefrigerated on a boat for two days, or eat meat that's been sitting out most of the day. And when there's a 50% off sale on plane tickets because of the March 8th holiday and your usually 10,000 rouble tickets only cost you 8,000 you just shrug your shoulders and go on with life because it's just "Russian Tradition"

The irony is that after spending all this time learning and becoming this not quite russian, not quite american person, in Two weeks I'm going to be returning to a culture that expects me to be fully American, and I'm not sure how I'm going to deal with that. It's not that I don't love my birth country, but after something like this I don't think I can ever go back to being fully American.

Having said that, I hope you all have patience with me at first. I have a feeling I might be a little confused and disoriented sometimes. lol.

That's basically all I've got right now.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Adventures At the Waterfall and Buluus

I thought it would be fun to do this post mostly in pictures. Hope you all enjoy.

Crossing to the other side of the Lena River

The main Road out of Yakutsk. This is the one that goes to Nirungry. Looks fun doesn't it?

Our little group of adventurers minus Egor's nephew who's taking the picture.

The Hazards of the road

Wait, Where is the road?

At the Waterfall at last!

The Wild Abigail creeps through the forest of Russia's Far East

Random Ponies in the Road. Actually, horses. Yakutian Horses

What happens when you blow a tire in the middle of nowhere? The menfolk change it!

We Finally arrived at Buluus where the snow never melts!

What is this?

That's right! It's SNOW!

I can now say I've made a snow angel in June!

The Wild Abigail in her natural Habitat. Captured here while drinking from the stream.

The view from the top.

And that was our adventure!