Saturday, May 31, 2008

More Polar Days

Both of these pictures were taken from my window at about 1:30am on the day I watched Eurovision which was...May 25. So actually it was the morning of May 26th but that's being Technical. Anyway, it was actually lighter than shown in the pictures. Sorry about the bad quality my camera takes bad pictures of slightly dark and indoor settings but I figured a bad picture was better than none right? It's actually lighter than this now since we're coming up to the Solstice soon. I love the Polar Days!

Addressing Esperanto

There's nothing wrong with English, but I would like to argue the case for Esperanto as the international language. It is a planned language which belongs to no one country or group of states. Take a look at

Esperanto works! I've used it in speech and writing in a dozen countries over recent years.
Indeed, the language has some remarkable practical benefits. Personally, I've made friends around the world through Esperanto that I would never have been able to communicate with otherwise. And then there's the Pasporta Servo, which provides free lodging and local information to Esperanto-speaking travellers in over 90 countries.

Maybe Eurovision would be more interesting if the participants sang in their own language - or even in Espertanto!

This comment was left on my post about Eurovision Normally, I do not adress comments really, I read them and move on leaving them where they are for others to read or not as they so chose, however I felt like addressing this comment. Why? Well...Let me just start by saying that There's nothing wrong with Esperanto, but I would like to argue the case for English.

Back home in America we were told that we should all learn Spanish because so many people speak spanish. I decided to take French. In French class we learned that a lot of countries speak French. I took French because I thought it would be more of a challenge and after I started taking it, I decided the usufulness of knowing it in a european setting outweighed the usefulness of knowing spanish in my opinion. What does this have to do with English? Well even though both Spanish and French teachers were quoting statistics to me about the usefulness of knowing either of those languages, I heard other rumblings about how English is becoming an international language. Now, it's not that I don't trust my country's news, but coming straight from home, things are going to be a bit prejudice. So I figured, yeah, English is becoming an international language and some people are learning to speak it. I never realized that English is already an international language. I just didn't realize it until I got here.

I can't tell you how it became an international language. Will have to watch the BBC's Story of English and then tell you. But I can definitely say for sure and not just because I'm a native speaker, that English is a world language. I have seen it countless times here. Not just because Eurovision was broadcast in it either. For example, remember when I had to go to Korea? Well something interesting that I didn't tell you was this. I had to arrange with a travel agent to get my tickets set up. She was helping me find a hotel. So this Russian speaking travel agent calls to the Korean Speaking Hotel and what does she say? "Hello, I am calling from Russia and would like to know how much one night at your hotel would cost." And no, I'm not translating that from Russian. She was speaking English. And the Korean people were answering In English! It's not just that that proves my point either. It's the fact that all airlines use English. It's the fact that international airports give announcements and post flight listings in both the native language and English. It's the fact that the kids here start learning English in preschool. My seven-year old host brother knows more words in English than my 19 year old friends back home know in Russian. I mean for pete's sake the kid can sing "The Alphabet Song" complete with British accent. (It's adorable actually because it's like this Psudo brussian accent but I digress.) It's the fact that the kids here don't swear in their native language because swearing in English is cooler. It's the fact that they listen to American singers, and writing on clothes and back packs is done in English. I mean if you step outside the U.S. and take a look around, it's an English world out there.

Oh and another thing, The English education doesn't stop with high school. The kids who go on to college take special English classes with vocabulary related to their fields. i.e. Doctors learn "English for Physicians" Future Economists learn "English for Economists" and yeah, most of them are probably never going to use what they learn but it's just the fact that they have to learn it in the first place.

The good news is that I've actually heard of Esperanto before this comment was left for me. If you ask, a lot of people probably don't even know what it is. Not that I'm trying to bash Esperanto, it's just personally, I don't know anyone who speaks it. Or reads it, or basically knows it. I guess that's what my point is, it might have been started as an international language, but it doesn't have nearly the range as English. It's not nearly as available. How many of you have heard a famous Esperanto rapper on the radio? Or seen t-shirts with things written in Esperanto across them? My point exactly.

So I guess that about wraps up, what I think may have turned into a rant (Forgive me if it did.) Sorry if I insulted any of you Esperanto speakers out there, but take a look around. Maybe you should try English.

Oh and for the record many countries in the Eurvision Final did sing in their Native Language. Such as the Armenian group, The Turkish guy and the Guy from Isreal. Not one person sang in Esperanto. Funny though, how quite a few groups chose to sing in English...

If you'd like to learn more about Esperanto, the history, word base and that sort of thing you can do so at Good Old Wiki

Friday, May 30, 2008

Straight From the Horse's Mouth

I opened up my host sister's english textbook to a random page and was very entertained. Here are some examples of dialogues:

-Hi, Dick! What a surprise! Your hair doesn't smell.
-I haven't been smoking since last year. I feel much better now

-Nick, You really look better now.
-I have been taking Coldrex for 2 days. I feel better.

-Hello, Mary! You look so slim!
-I have been eating only low-fat food for 5 months

Hope you enjoyed as much as I did.

Things I'm going to Miss About Yakutsk

1. Speaking Russian
2. Hearing Yakutian
3. Friendly People
4. Being American=Being a Celebrity
5. Priozhki
6. Salo
7. 6r ice cream
8. Blini
9. Plov
10. The food here in General
11. The big sky
12. The fact I can walk anywhere
13. the kiosks
14. Sweet Cheetos
15. Lack of responsibilities
16. free time
17. The people I've met
18. Yakutian culture
19. Russian Tv
20. nasha russia
21. my host siblings
22. nature
23. dachas
24. the juice
25. "having chai"
26. The fact that I can say "chai" and everyone knows what I'm saying
27. The fact that I can speak russian and people understand
28. bookstores
29. Reading in Russian
30. Cell Phone Kiosks
31. Babushkas
32. The cleaning ladies
33. The lack of drama
34. The fountain on Ploshad Lenina
35. Polshad Ordzhonikidze
36. Watching the kids play in the fountain
37. sitting on the ploshadi

That's all I've got for the moment more to follow as I think of them

okay that's all I got for the moment. Will

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Eurovision 2008

Guess who won Eurovision 2008?

Wait? What do you mean "What's Eurovision?" Where have you been living? Under a rock?

Actually, don't worry about it because up until a few days ago, I too was in the dark. This is the conversation I had about it with my host sister.

Me: What are you Watching?
Natasha: Eurovideniya (The russian word for Eurovision)
Natasha: Do you know what Eurovideniya is?
Me: Nope.
Natasha: How can you not know? It the biggest song competition in Europe!
Me(thinking): Well, that explains it. I'm not from a european country.

Natasha then went on to explain all about Eurovision which I will now enlighten you about. Eurovision is the biggest song competition on this side of the world. It involves over forty country and takes place every year. It's a competiton where artists from various countries compete for the title and the right to host Eurovision the next year. There are several levels of competition. The goal is the finals. The groups and artists who make it to the finals do a performance, after which voting is opened up to all the countries. For fifteen minutes people text message their votes from over forty countries. The top ten countries are awarded points. tenth through fourth get 1-7 points depending on where they ranked. 3rd place gets 8 points, 2nd gets ten and first gets 12. Naturally, the object is for your country to get the most points. Whoever has the most points, wins. Oh but there's a catch, you can't vote for your own country. It's like American Idol on Steroids

Okay, so having said that, back to my original question.

Guess who won Eurovision 2008?
take a wild guess?

Figured it out yet?

I'll give you a hint.
He has a funny haircut.

Need another?
He's a very popular singer

Still don't know?
He's Russian...

Oh that's right! Everyone's favorite artist, Dima Bilan, Swept away Eurovision 2008 with his song Belive. He scored 272 points leaving second place Ukraine in the dust. If you would like to see the song that won him the title and Russia the right to host next year's contest here it is. I have no idea of the quality of this video because I'm at the computer center and the flash player isn't working so I can't watch it, just imbed it. Oh and be sure to watch for the unneccesary ripping open of Dima's shirt. What is that anyway?

By the way, wondering about the random violin player and skater? Well, they aren't just background dancers. They're famous too. It was a big deal because they hauled in the little ice thingy for them.

Personally, I have mixed feelings about this victory. On the one hand I'm happy because this contest has been going on for fifty years and this is the first time Russia's won. They came pretty close two years ago. Dima Bilan got beat out by "Some guys in scary masks" as my host sister put it. So I'm glad for Russia.

However that fact that it's Dima Bilan is eh...

Personally I didn't like his song as well as the song from say, Armenia. Personally, if I'd been casting a vote, I would've done so for Latvia The group was called "Pirates of the Sea" and the song "Wolves of the Sea." I basically laughed my head off when they performed yet at the same time loved the addictiveness of the song, and I really want to cough up two euros and download it. Unfortunately, they were a little to "odd" for the rest of the countries' tastes and in the final they took 12th place out of 25 with 86 points.

The Greek team got a lot of votes with a Britney Spears wanna-be singing an obnoxious song about her "Secret Combination." The Greek team was giving good ol' Dima a run for his money for a while. Okay, so maybe him winning was preferable to the Greeks. Though his song is only slightly less obnoxious than hers was.

I basically enjoyed watching the Eurovision Final. I think it's an awesome thing that brings this side of the world together. Actually, I really want to save up some money and come to Moscow for it next year. How cool would that be.

Through watching this, I came to realize, once again how much English is an international language. Though the competition was being held in Serbia, The entire broadcast was done in English. There were some parts done in French, but it was basically all English which was cool.

If I can't make it to Moscow next year, I'm planning on at least finding a way to watch the finals. Because Eurovision is just so cool!

If you want to know more about Eurovison, you can check out their website at

If you have the time and inclination and would like to watch the entire broadcast of the Final, you can do so at This Link. It really is worth the watch. Eurovision also has its own Youtube Channel

Saturday, May 24, 2008

50 Things I'm Looking Forward to Doing When I get Home

In no particular order

1. hug my parents
2. Hug the rest of my family
3. Taco bell
4. Swimming in my Cousin's pool
5. getting ready for college
6. Starbucks
7. Free Refills
8. Slushies
9. Those giant sized drinks for cheap at gas stations
10. McDonalds
11. Chinese take out
12. American Pizza
13. Ice in Glasses
14. sharing my silly exchange stories
15. sleeping in minimal clothing
16. Wal-mart
17. Taco Bell
18. Talking with fellow rebounders
19. Mexican food
20. Playing my dulcimer
21. Herding goats
22. Chilling for the summer
23. Seeing my redecorated room
24. Church
25. Seeing the new church building
26. Reconnecting
27. Teaching people cool russian words
28. Yelling at obnoxious drivers in Russian
29. Being able to drive again
30. pet the dog
31. decompress
32. General Fast food
33. the fact that there's stuff around.
34. going to the library and catching up on reading in English
35. sleeping in my bed, in my room
36. Being part of my family
37. Trips to the grocery store
38. All of our convenience food
39. People not making up their own driving rules
40. Steady water
41. Movies being in English
42. Catching up on my TV series
43. seeing if and how I've changed compared to home
44. Steak and Shake
45. Chili
46. The farm
47. Going to see my brother
48. Did I mention Taco Bell?
49. Going to anyplace with an all-you-can-eat buffet
50. Breakfast out with the family

What I Do

I had a dream last night that I had just gotten home, and I mean just. That was so real. It was like the changes that had happened at home, that people've been telling me about happened, but deep down everything was still the same. Unfortunately real life doesn't work that way. hee hee. Or does it? I suppose I'll find out when I get home.

Anyway, the most common question I get, now that I'm done with school is what do I do? I mean I thought I had free time before but now it's gotta be really bad right? Actually to tell you the truth, I'm enjoying myself more now, than ever before. I'm also actually less bored because I don't have to sit through school.

I usually get up about 9:30 or 10. I do my morning routine and then I usually study, check my e-mail or practice my Russian typing for a while. What do I study? Grammar of course! Sometimes I'll chat with my parents and friends online. Anytime from 12-2 I get ready and leave the house (It depends on how long I'm on the computer or studying or how fast I get antsy) After leaving the house I usually just stroll up and down Prospekt Lenin for a couple of hours. I kill time in bookstores (standing there reading entire books in English. I'm bad, I know) I often will grab myself something to eat and sit on the Square. I like Ploshad Lenina because there's a fountain there that's open now and so it's always interesting to watch the people there.

I feel like I have new adventures of some sort everyday. Whether it's going to a movie by myself for the first time in Russia, talking to a scary Tadjik guy who tried to get my cell phone number, or trying to open a jar of fruit. Life here is always interesting. I've not only had these experiences the past few days, but I've also been to another Yakutian dance performance, met Raisa's downstairs neighbor, (I didn't know I'd be meeting him until I got there. Gotta love Raisa trying to hook me up with the little Yakutian boys) seen a mammoth head and made plans with my friend Jen who's also an inbound and is coming to see me in June. Oh, and I found a Foreigner in the Polar Star Hotel. So life is actually moving along quite nicely. In fact, in some ways it's going really fast.

I'm really happy though even though I'm having mixed feelings about the end of the exchange. I have friends here. I have a life here. I love the fact that my Russian is good enough to interact with people. The past few weeks, I've come to realize just how much better my russian has become. I can follow and have conversations. I can ask for help, I can buy things at kiosks and stores, I can chat with random people, and sit and listen to what their cpnversations are about. I can read. I can write. I can understand songs. Yeah, life is pretty awesome!

Friday, May 23, 2008

The Break-Up

So I told you I'd get around to it eventually. Count yourselves lucky that you didn't have to wait longer. I've just been lazy lately. hee hee hee.

Okay, so sunday afternoon we spent the whole afternoon at the dacha. We got back to the city after 7. We found out that the ice in the river had officially broken up and was moving and so we set off for the village of Tabago to see it. Incidentally, Tabago is where we had our May 9th picnic. One nice thing about the polar days is that even though we set off at like 7:30-8ish we had no need to fear the lack of street lights. It was still really light out.

When we got there, we first drove up a mountain. All over this mountain were these yello flowers that are the first of spring. In Russian they're called Podsnezhniki Literally this means "Under snow" I don't know what the english word for the flowers is. There were all these flowers and Natasha and Tolya picked bouquets while Misha took pictures for me.

From the mountain, we could just barely see the river and the ice floes so it wasn't a very good picture spot. After filling our flower and photo desires, we piled back into the car to find a more picturesque spot. actually, one of the best places to see the ice on the river was through the windshield of the car as we were driving down the mountain. It was so cool! We drove down the mountain and found a spot where there were lots of cars parked, so we got out to see what there was to see.

In Yakutsk, there's no good place to really stand on the bank and watch the ice. We were on a hill and there were trees in front of us. Behind us was a moutain that people were climbing part or all the way up to get a better view. Now, before you think I was doing some extremem mountain climbing I need to explain something.

You see, if I had to use one word to describe the landscape in Yakutsk, it would be prairie. Because that's what it really looks like. The nature around here is not mountainous. You want mountians, go to Vladivostock. That place has Mountians. We do have mountains here, but it's not a dominating landscape feature. It's not like hills all over the place. Instead, it looks like somebody walked across the plains and randomly dropped some loaves of bread. That's the shape of our mountains. They aren't rocky either. They're grassy like the appalacian mountains. So when I say that these people were climbing mountains, I don't mean extreme sports.

We kids decided to climb partway up the mountain for an improved view. Oh my gosh it was a lot harder than it looked! I was hurtin by the time I got to a level place. The upshot is that we sat there for a bit watching the ice, I took some pictures and then we headed back down.

When we got back to the car, we drove to a place on the bank, to see what we could see there, but the view wasn't very good. After that, we finally decided to head home. And that's bascially how the break-up went.

Monday, May 19, 2008

But Abigail? Why Have You Written This Post?

I know, I should update you about going to see the ice breaking up, because that's what you really want to hear. But After my last post novel, I couldn't bring myself to write about it. Mostly because it takes more concentration than I'm willing to give right now.

What I did want to tell you is something I've been meaning to for a while. And that's this. I want you all to know that there is a life after exchange. We all have to come back at some point. When I started this blog back in 2005, it was as a record of my language learning, and has evolved and grown with me. For example, right now it's a travelouge. So many students end their blogs with their exchange year. The good news (Or maybe bad for some of you) is that I will not be ending this blog in July? Why? Well mostly because the process of coming back and fitting into my "native" cultural again, is as much, if not more fascinating to me as fitting into a new culture in the first place. That's why I'm asking you readers to keep on reading, because when I get back I'm going to be talking a lot about what life is like after exchange, which is almost as unheard of blog-wise as and Exchange Student in Yakutsk.

That having been said, I've created this post to give you a brief idea of what I will be faced with when I get back to the states in 7 weeks and one day. Okay, I won't be faced with it Immediately, but fairly quickly and namely, this lurking monster is College! Or as we say here in Yakutsk University Either way, it's a little scary.

Starting in August, I will be attending a lovely urban university not too far from home. I affectionately call it Satan's Personal University or SPU for short. No, it's not because I hate the school, I actually think it's a decent school, but the name comes from a joke I have with a good friend about the fact that it's a state-run school.

I will be starting as a Freshman in the fall, but thanks to my lovely Post Secondary Courses, I will be a sophomore by December.

I'm in the honors college which, I will admit the only reason I wanted it was because they have nice dorms. Yes, I will be living on-campus, yes I'll be rooming with someone and yes, I've already tried getting in touch with Roomie. We'll see what happens. I figure if I can handle living in a foreing country, I can handle having a roomate.

I (so far) will be taking 18 credit hours I say so far because i'm not yet schedulded for a Russian class and there's no way I'm not taking a Russian class next semester.

I will be taking such mentally stimulating courses as:
-How We Came From Monkeys I
-Where In the World Are We?
-Learn to Deal With College
-Comparing Politics
-You Must Take This Since You're Honors and Need One More English

and my personal favorite (not)
-Algebra, The Final Math.

So that's where I stand. If you're like "yeah, who cares." Then fine. Don't read this post and stop reading whenever I go home, but you'll be missing out. Because I know that you really want to know what happens when a former exchange student is hit with Reverse Culture Shock.

I will now return you to your regularly scheduled Yakutsk posts...

Russian Last Bell Ceremony

I feel like I'm behind on this blog all the time. It seems like even though I'm done with school (Officially now) I've actually gotten busier in some ways. Oh well.

Before I start the main body of this post, I wanted to share a few pictures with you.

This is the view from my bedroom window. The water you see is in the dam and is actually considerably higher now. This picture was taken on May 16th at about 6:30pm.

And this is a picture of the same view on the same day. Except this was taken at about 10:30pm.

Now you know what the polar days are like. Hee hee.

We had our Last Bell Ceremony (Последний Звонок) on May 17th. It started at about 11am. We got done sometime after two. It's kind of hard to describe everything in the order it happened in because I was having emotional issues at the time. Okay, I'll admit it. I was crying. Which I found ironic because when I graduated from American High School last year, I didn't shed a tear. I was ready to get out of that place man. Get out and get to Russia. Here I cried, I think for a number of reasons. First because it was kind of depressing not having anyone i.e. Family there to support me. My parents have always been into coming to my stuff. Even when I didn't always want them too. I miss that. Secondly, It was hard because I realized that I'm leaving soon (Seven weeks and one day) and who knows if and when I'll ever see some of these people again. Let alone this city. So yeah, but enough of my emotional swamp. Let me tell you how the whole thing went.

When I first got to school, I was given a banner that said the Russian word for "Someone who's graduating." I then spent the rest of the day trying to figure out what the english word for this was, or if we even had one. I was settling on just saying "Graduator" (Though I also thought maybe "Graduee" would work) until last night I was writing in my journal and I was like "Wait, isn't the word for this "Graduate?' " I'm still not so sure about that.

Anyway so I wore my little banner along with the rest of my class and the two parallel classes and we all hung around on the second floor of the school until it was time to go into the auditorium. when entering the auditorium we walked across the stage and then to our seats. No, this was not like in American High School (From now own will be referenced as AHS) we just kind of went quickly and sat down.

The first thing that happened, is some announcer people from the 10th class announced the names of some teachers. These teachers then came up on stage and announced peoples names for various things, and you got to go up on stage and get a certificate. I was enjoying cheering for my classmates, when they called my name. Well that was a surprise, but I was very excited. I got up on stage, shook the lady's hand and recived a certificate for "Active Participation in the Artistic Life of the Gimnasium" or something like that. I call it affectionately my "I'm Foreign Award." I then went and sat back down to listen to the other awards.

The next part was the "Growing up" part. Here, the teachers from the first class got up and shared some memories of the kids in their classes and handed out little folders with some work the kids had done. Then, The Leading Teachers from fifth through ninth class got up, called up the Leading Teachers for 10th and 11th class and the five of them all made speeches. Naturally, I bawled when our Leading Teacher, Alexandra Nicholaevna, gave her little speech. One thing I learned is that we were her last class. After us, she's not going to Lead anymore. It's ironic but I've found out quite a bit about the school I've been attending the last 8 months in the last few days. For example, we are seriously listed as one of the best schools in Russia. How cool is that?

When that was finished, we had a "parents part" this was like the parents saying thanks you to the teachers and school. Flowers were given to basically every teacher, and there were a lot of them. On each Bouquet was a rhyme that included the name of the teacher it was for. Naturally every one of these had to be read. We kids stood up and clapped extra loudly for our favorite teachers.

After that, it was finally time for the part I'd been waiting for. Each of the three 11th grade classes, got up and did a little something. I'm a little prejudice, but I think ours was the best.

First up was 11А, the Mathmatics group. They had two people sing a song, while the rest did a dance thing. It was kind of boring. Sorry, but it was. Next, was us, the Humanitarian 11Б. We did a little sketch. Basically it was "The Adventures of A Foreigner" Bet you can't guess who was the Foreigner? I basically said some stuff in English which my classmate Dima, "translated". I got to say some stuff in Russian too. The rest of the class would do little things in the background. For example one thing I talked about was how the puddles around our school were so beautiful, deep, and majestic that they almost resembled Lake Baikal, my classmates all made swimming motions. It was a funny sketch and the audience laughed a lot. The only glitch we had was when it came time to sing our song at the end. We had this sentimental song about how the sun shines and the grass grows but a new door is opening and how they say we're adults now so everything's different. (Yup, that's basically the translated version of the chorus.) One girl, Anya was supposed to play the guitar for us but something happened and the guitar didn't get to her so we sang part of the song acapella. Bad Idea. It was horrible. But we made it through and got off the stage.

Then the last class, Universal 11В was up. They had two girls singing while the others came and put toys all lined up across the front of the stage. It wasn't bad, but ours was better. lol.

After all of this, it was time for the official ringing of the last bell. All the 11th graders were called up on stage. This little first classer took this bell and was carried of the stage, across the front of it and back up by two guys in my class. She rang the bell the whole way. Then, the bell was passed along the line of 11th graders who all took turns ringing it. (Unfortunately I didn't get too since I was in the back, it kind of missed me) When the last person rang it it was like "Yay!" but at the same time not.

And that's the ceremony itself.

When that got out, we were all congratulated by different teachers and parents and friends and all. Then, our class met in Alexandra Nicholaevna's room where we ate Chocolate and she presented everyone with little silly awards. I got a nomination for speaking "Rusofranglish" and was given three or four mini fairy-tale books in both Russian and English. So that was exciting. When that meeting broke up, we all headed for the park which is apparently the traditional place to go when you graduate. Our park here, isn't just a green park. There are like rides and stuff. So I Figured that's what we'd be doing. Nope. Basically a good chunk of the 11th class all showed up to stand around, drink and smoke. Now, drinking is a part of the youth culture here, and while I don't participate in it, I can often tolerate it to some extent. That day, I was really not in the mood to deal with it. So I was thinking about just going home, and relaxing when I ran into a group of girls who also didn't want to participate and were going to go get sushi. One of them was Anya from church. So I was like "hey, can I go with you guys?" And they were like "Of course! You need to!" so I went and we ate sushi and had a good time and I felt like I fulfilled my social obligation. Seriously though. I enjoyed it.

After that, I went home and crashed. And thus is the story of The Last Bell. SO I'm officially done with school here now. Basically have time until Graduation in June which I don't know anything about. I was going to write about our trip to see the ice in this post as well, but this has turned out to be really long so will have to save it.

Городская Классическая Гимназия -2008-

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

General Update

I feel like I haven't given you a real update on what I've been doing lately, so buckle up 'cause here it goes.

May 9th was a big holiday here. Vicotry day. It is a rememberance of those who perished in WWII (Like one of every two people. And I'm only slightly exaggerating) as well as a celebration of the millitary might of the motherland which successfully overcame the evil Fascists. Never mind that they originally started out on the same side.

It was an interesting celebration. In the morning the family and I went out to Ploshad Pobedy i.e. Victory square. There, the street in front of the square had been closed off and turned into a pedestrian walk. There were all sorts of tents set up selling everything from toys, balloons, cakes, drinks, and the russian version of hot dogs (Can you say Kapusta(Cabbage) and lots of mayo?) We stood around for a while, and we were introduced to some Business partners of Misha's from Taiwan. The one guy spoke english really well and had an interesting chat with him.

The main reason we were standing around in the middle of the street is we were waiting for the parade to start. Now, when I say parade I don't mean like The parade we have in our city every august with the floats and the bands and the candy and all that. This is a military parade, where the ranks of Yakutsk's finest march through the street. There was no orderly queing up on the sides of the streets for this parade. Instead we all stood milling around, waiting for the parade to start and hoping to be towards the front. How did the parade get through you ask? Well...It was preceeded by a few police cars and the police themselves basically shoving us back and going "GET BACK! GET BACK!" It was a really interesting experience. Thankfully, I was in the front row which was interesting because I literally had people packed tight around me on three sides. The fourth side being where the parade was so I couldn't go forward. The parade itself lasted all of five minutes. Actually, it was probably less. There were like for or five groups of military people, including my boys. They marched past, yay, and then we went home.

The afternoon was spent having a barbecue on a mountain overlooking the still mostly frozen Lena River. It was a party thing going on with the taiwanese people, some Yakutian people and our family. I ate too much, but couldn't resist as Shashlik is just so tasty. I've seen enough made by now, and know enough about it that I may try and make it for people back home when I get there. The views were beautiful, I hung out with Natasha and did some translating between Russian and English. Learning something in the process. It was a fun afternoon.

Let's see, what else have I been doing...Well...The other day I went with Raisa to a violin concert. It turned out to be a really fun evening and we even got tasty ice cream from Buon Appetito.

The 12th was Nina's birthday. In the evening she had some friends to a restaurant called "Chicago" which is labeled (in English) as a "bar&grill" So the cheese sticks weren't exactly like America but when you haven't had cheese sticks in a while you take what you can get. Oh and we had salads. Like real salad with lettuce. Not russian salad. I was pretty excited about that. The evening was rather entertaining. There was the awkward moment when I got orderded a Martini and didn't realize it was for me until it came and I was like "uh...I don't drink..." but other than that. it was a good time.

Our last official day of school is today. We have last bell, which we've been preparing for, on Saturday morning. Then we're officially done. Oh and I have to come in tomorrow and return all my textbooks. I brought them today but forgot that the school library is closed on Wednesdays. There's no way I'm hauling them all home, so I'm leaving them in the garderobe and going to come in sometime tomorrow morning.

The weather here's been gorgeous. The puddles have basically evaporated and it's been basically hot (at least in my opinion.) The morning temperature is +11 (yeah, we're positive now) in the afternoon it ranges between 15-20 and the evening it cools down again. I've basically stopped wearing a jacket and hoodie. The other day I was leaving school and wearing just my t-shirt and Nina's like "aren't you cold?" and I'm like "are you nuts?" because if I'd worn a hoodie or jacket I would've been dying of heat stroke. The other thing is that since we've got the polar days going on, it doesn't get fully dark until almost midnight. Yeah. I mean the sun goes down, but the sky is this blue color, not black, and if you look in the west, you can see it's still light. Pretty cool, except when you try to sleep in and the sun's blaring. It comes up really early. One morning a few weeks ago, I woke up and it was already really light out. For posterity I looked at my watch. 4:30am. I've taken to closing my curtains before bed so the light doesn't blare quite so much. But honestly, I love it. Better than it being dark all the time.

Well, I feel better now that I've given you all a better update of my life. I'll shut up now and let you get back to your lives. heh heh.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Why I Love Being An Exchange Student: Part 53

The door to the Obshest room was locked. So we went to the computer room. There were practice State Exams on the desks. I was like "great, I'm going to have to sit through this." So I decided to ask if I could use the computer while my classmates suffer. (heh heh) I go up to the teacher and say "Are we taking a practice test?" And the teacher goes "No, just instruction. You don't need it so you can use the computer if you want." Ha ha ha ha! I love my life.

Okay. So today is the second to last day of school. We come tomorrow and then for me that's it. Exams start Friday I think but I don't take them. Saturday, we have the "Last Bell" ceremony. Each 11th year class is doing something and I'm not sure what all we do, but it's basically the end. I can't believe it. Wasn't I just sitting in class thinking that may was such a long way off? Apparently not as far off as I thought.

I've been stressed lately. Called another inbounder and was just like "What's wrong with me?" Sometimes I feel like I just can't deal with being here anymore. With these people, with life in General. Lately I've just felt like I want to go home home. Sometimes I think I say that I don't want to go home, because that's what you're supposed to be saying at the end of your exchange right? "Oh I loved it and I just don't want to go home." The thing is, I think I'm ready to go home. Sure, I've still got some things to finish up, some things to see, but I think I'll be ready to get on that plane. That's not to say I'm not going to miss things about life here. For example, I think I'm really going to miss speaking Russian and some of the food. But I don't know, I'm really looking forward to seeing my family.

There goes the bell and I didn't get to finish telling you about the last couple of days. Oops. have to get to it later...

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Another Picnic

We had a picnic with Grandpa Kostenko today. It was on a mountain, overlooking the entire city of Yakutsk. Did I mention that Grandpa's dead? Okay, all joking aside. Today is some kind of memorial day. The Russian equivalent anyway. I think it goes hand in hand with victory day (which is on the 9th) but that's just my opinion. Anyway, Misha told me that they were going to be gone all day today because they were going to the cemetary. I asked if I could go along.

I felt bad once we actually got there, because I felt like I was intruding, but it really turned out to be an interestind cultural experience. First, we drove to the cemetary. The drive itself was uneventful but you could tell when we were getting close because all of a sudden there were these roadside stands with all these people selling insanely bright colored fake flowers. And I mean bright. I'm talking like flourescent flowers. Flowers that could very easily light up a darkened room. And I'm only slightly exaggerating.

City Cemetary Number Two (The Russians are very creative at naming things when they have more then one. Take Schools for example. The 8th school, the Thirty-Third school and so on...) Is located outside the city. It's actually not too far out there. It's located on a mountain. Actually it's a really good view because you can see the whole city as well as the Lena River far off in the distance. I would've taken pictures but it would've made me feel a little awkward.

So Misha dropped off me, the other kids, Oksana, and his mom and we started on the hike while Misha parked the car. The grave was really back in there. We slogged through the mud and passed many other graves on the way. Russian cemetaries are different than American cemetaries. For example, each grave is surrounded by a fence and I'm pretty sure it's the family's responsiblity to keep the grave site pretty since some of the graves were pretty overgrown with weeds. (No eternal care here lol)

Eventually, we got to the grave and that's when I started feeling awkward. I kind of stood off to the side and watched. We'd brought some food with us, and they made up a little plate of some trail bologna, blini, and a shot of vodka which they placed on the grave. Then, they poured drinks, and we poured a bit around the grave before drinking the rest and eating a blin, or some cheese and meat. It was less of a meal than a ceremony of sorts.

Other people in the cemetary were also doing the same thing, with slight variations. Some people were cleaning up gravesites, some people were toasting vodka, some people were having whole meals with their dead relatives. Some people were a little tipsy from having too many drinks with said relatives.

We didn't stay at the grave too long. Long enough for Misha's mom to wipe off the grave stone, long enough to plant the fake flowers, long enough to have two toasts. Then we cleaned up, left the rest of the food for the bums (No, I'm not making this up. Oksana was like "Misha, should we take this stuff with us?" and Misha said "no, leave it for the bums") And then we headed out. While we were at the grave, it started to snow, big huge wet flakes. I think it's something I'm never going to forget. Standing there with the snow coming down, The city spread below us, and a grieving family.

Afterwards, they brought me back home, and went to another place. I have no idea where, but I imagine it's going to be the same kind of thing and am kind of glad they brought me home. They'll be returning this evening sometime, so in the mean time. I've got the apartment to myself, which is nice for a change.

Philosophy Part 2.

I don't understand it, so when it comes, I just kind of ride with it. It's just one of those things. It seems to me that every once in a while here, I have to sit down and have myself a good cry. But it's strange because a good part of the time, I don't have any reason for being sad. It's just like I have this thing inside me and occasionally, it needs to come out. And when I cry, it's like I cry for everything. I cry because I want to see my parents, I cry because I can't believe I'm living this dream come true. I cry for my friends and their decisions, I cry for the decisions I have made and will have to make, I cry for the future and what it holds, I cry because I love it here, I cry because sometimes I feel so alone, I cry for the things back home I've missed, I cry because the beauty of just being here is absolutely overwhelming. I cry for the people here who I've met and befriended, but who I may never see again. I cry because I've grown up, and I cry because I've seen things that others would never even imagine. I cry because God is so good to me and I don't even deserve it. It's hard to describe, it's just one of those things I do here. I hardly ever cried back home. Wonder if this is a permanent thing or not.

The other thing is the restlessness. It was really bad right after I got back from my trip, and only recently has settled down a bit, but when it starts up, I can hardly stand it. And it tends to hit me at random moments. In the bookstore for example. I was just hanging around, looking at books, when all of a sudden I got really restless. I didn't want to be in the store, but I didn't want to go walk around the city. I didn't know what to do with myself. Sometimes it's so hard because I want to be free, and I am, but I'm not. I want to see everything, feel it, be it. But I can't. At the same time I don't. Sometimes I feel like I'm larger than life, like nothing can touch me. Other times, I feel so insignificant and that I'm just one of a billion people. Sometimes I feel like this apartment is going to suffocate me, so I go outside, but when I do, the city feels like it's going to suffocate me. I want to be here, but I don't. I want to see my friends, and my family, but at the same time, I'm afraid. Afraid of what I'll find when I get home. Afraid that I won't be able to settle down because it'll feel too small after being here with the huge sky and the river and the town that is just a tiny dot in the middle of a wilderness. And I don't know what to do with these feelings...

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Freaking Out and a Picnic

So I'm completely freaking out. I don't know what to do. I realized that last weekend was a holiday. This coming up weekend is a holidy. Victory day. Next weekend we have Poslednii Zvonok which is "Last Bell" which is where we have this little thing for the 11th graders. Then I'm done with School seriously. I am completely freaking. It wasn't that long ago that I thought May couldn't come fast enough, it seemed like I'd be stuck in this school forever. It seemed like...I don't know, but it's scary. Soon it'll be time for distrct conference, then Ysakh and then I go home. My exchange is winding down. How scary is that?

In other news, we had a three day weekend. Celebrated "Day of Spring and Work" Don't ask, it's just Russia. Yesterday was the last day of this three day weekend. Actually, can you really call it a weekend because it started on Thursday, went through Saturday and Sunday (Today) is a regular working day. I had school. Anyway, Yesterday I decided that I was tired of being lazy and chilling out at home. Which is basically what I did all weekend and really enjoyed it. So I got up, got ready and told the family I was going for a walk. I had some errands I wanted to run and figured I'd probably spend the rest of the afternoon bumming around the city as usual.

Bless his heart, my little brother Tolya said "Abigail, where are you going?" and I said "I have to go to the ATM so I'm going to the post office." I think he wanted to come with me if I were going somewhere fun. Anyway, I grabbed my stuff and headed out. I stopped at the bank and grabbed some money, put some of said money on my phone. On my way, there was a street vendor selling some cool stuff that I bought to bring to my peeps back home. lol. Having accomplished that, I was wandering up Prospekt Lenina eating an ice cream cone (Man it's gonna be hard when I can't buy 6r ice cream cones anymore!) I decided to go to a book store at the other end of town. On my way, I decided to explore a Shopping center that I'd passed many times but hadn't throughly explored. I was wandering through the toy store when Misha called.

"We're going for a drive."
"Just a drive"
"oooh, I wanna come. Can you meet me at Ploshad Lenina?"

I took off at a run, met the family, hopped in the car and off we went. We went to Buon Appetito a restaurant near the university to pick up a couple of pizzas and a couple of salads. I figured we were going to take them home and eat them, but we didn't. Instead, we drove outside the city (Not hard since this is Yaktusk after all) then, we drove off the road and across this little field thing. We found a dry spot, parked the car and unloaded. So I'm sitting there eating pizza and drinking juice and thinking "How cool is this? I'm sitting on permafrost having a picnic in the middle of Russia. Awesome!" I mean seriously, how many people can say they've done that?

Apparently the ice on the Lena has started to crack up. (Literally) Misha said in a couple weeks, we'll drive down and see it. I'm looking forward to it.

We messed around and hung out and enjoyed the really warm weather (we're positive now) and basically just had a good time. We left after a while since the baby was getting fussy. I loved it. Not just because it was so cool, but because I felt kind of like part of the family which I haven't felt for eight months. So that was awesome too.