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!

Saturday, June 21, 2008


I don't have long. Feel like I haven't updated in forever. I'll try to do a couple of longer more detailed updates when I can. Basically the upshot is after district conference, I got sick in a major way. Not fun. Especially since Emmaline, my lovely Canadian exchange friend was going to be showing up here. So I did my best to get better and was mostly so by the time she came.

We had many adventures. Some of which I will follow up in a later post in more detail. Some of which you may never hear. The upshot though is that I've now seen Ice in June, Drunk water straight from a creek, seen the main road out of Yaktusk, Been underground surrounded by permafrost, Seen most of a play in Yakutian and talked about various boys in English without them understanding a word. Yeah. Life it good.

Oh and we had Graduation. I'll tell you about that too in more detail when I get a chance, but honestly, it wasn't nearly that big of a deal. Last Bell was much more interesting and exciting Culture-wise. This past week went really fast thanks to our visitor. It was nice. Now, I've got twenty days left until I get home. It's weird to think that three saturdays from now I'm going to be sitting down to a home-cooked meal with my entire family. Surreal. I want it to feel like I'm going home soon but it doesn't. I have my tickets, I'm going to be packing. Why doesn't it feel real? But then, I had the same problem coming the other way too. It didn't hit me that I'd be spending ten months in Russia until I actually got here.

Anyway, that's all for now as my internet time is limited. Look for more updates in the next few days.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

One Month

I am leaving this city in One month. One month. That's four weeks, or thirty days. That's not long.

For those of you who don't know, I spent friday through monday in Khabarovsk for the district conference. In some ways it was so much fun! It was great to see my exchange buddies again and I got to meet some Rotarians that I'd heard about, but had never met.

But Khabarovsk wasn't as amazing as the trip in March. I mean, the city was beautiful and all (What I saw of it anyway,) and it gave me more funny stories, but it was different than the other trip. For one we weren't all there. For another it almost felt like the carefree days of our previous trip were over. We're leaving. Becoming rebounds. Some of us have already left, some of us are getting ready to leave, and others are stretching out the time as long as possible.

It was like there was this unspoken thing hanging above us the entire weekend. There were a lot of tears. It was the last time some of us were going to see each other. It was tough. Especially when we had a meeting as students with some guys for the district, it was great because we talked about where we'd been and exchange and where we were going, and then we started talking about going home, and I just started crying. Because I'm scared. It's so hard to explain why. I never thought going back to friends and family, the place I came from would be scary. But I'm terrified. I can't really say what I'm scared of, but I'm terrified that everything's changed and nothing has. I'm terrified that no one will understand, no one will listen. Part of me just wants to go home and hide. Yet at the same time, I want to find places to speak and people to talk to, ways I can share my experience and let people know what life here is really like.

I had another revelation while we were there. For the first time in my life I felt an age gap between myself and other exchange students. I think I'm ready to move on, but at the same time the fact that exchange is ending means that I have to go home, have to be an adult. Have to be responsible for things and deal with things such as college. In short, I'm terrified.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008


June first was my nine month anniversary. As time has been going on, I've found that the days that are my month markers have become less significant. But I remembered June first because it's my second to last month marker. Why am I writing a blog about it? Because it's frustrating in some ways. I feel like it's only been in the last month or so that I've actually gotten comfortable with my life here, and the language. I mean It's great because I'm not afraid of the language or the culture anymore, But in 38 days I'm going to be getting off a plane in Cleveland, greet my family and probably feel like a foreigner among my own country-men. Why? Well because let's be perfectly honest. I've spent the last nine months and two days trying my best to not be American. I've tried to adapt to this culture, and this life and this language, and I've finally done it. Now I'm going to be going home.

38 days. When you say it like that, it's not very long. One thing I've learned is how fast time goes. I mean really. In some ways this has felt like the longest year of my life and in others, it hasn't. I don't know. I think for the most part, I'm excited to be going home. I'm ready to see the Family. In other ways, I'm scared because even though I don't know exactly how, I know I've changed. I was reading my first journal the other day. The one that covers september to December and I laughed because I'm not that person anymore. I look back and just think "Wow, I was so Naive. I didn't know anything." And in some ways, I still don't know anything. But in some ways, I know so much more than I ever thought possible. I can't describe the feelings I've been having the past few weeks. Sometimes I just feel disconnected from this place already. Sometimes it feels like I'm living in a dream and one day I'm going to wake up and be back home. And In a sense, I guess that I am.

Esperanto Part 2

Okay, I'm sorry guys, I just have to adress this and then I'm done with this subject.

My post was intended to show that English is a current international language. As Far as I know they don't have to sing in english because many eurovison groups were not. And for the record, I'm not trying to "Force people to Learn my language" I find the fact that they learn and use English interesting. I am very much about people learning other people's languages to better communicate. I mean part of the reason I came to Russia in the first place was to learn Russian better and communicate better with people.

Okay, Having said that, I'm done now.

Monday, June 02, 2008

My First Yskah

On saturday, I got invited to go to a tiny Ysakh with Raisa and some friends and family. For those of you who don't know, Ysakh is the Yakutian New Year. It's a chance to celebrate the coming of warm weather, to meet people and generally hang out. It usually takes place in June, around the solstice. How it works, is that they start small and one weekend you have village Ysakh, the next weekend you have them for the Ulusses or counties and then the weekend after the solstice, there's a city-wide Ysakh.

Anyway, so now that you have a basic idea of what Ysakh is, here's how my first experience with it went. By the way, I'll edit with pictures when the internet at the apartment decides to work again.

So we went to this field out in the middle of nowhere. There were these flags set up in a big s

(A/N For some reason, this post was never finished...))