Tuesday, July 14, 2009

At the Language School

I owe you a blog post. Honestly I was planning on writing a lot more about the Language School, but then I got here, and I've been busy and have been working on writing other things and so I am only just now, in our last week getting a chance to write about it. Although you probably wouldn't have wanted to hear me complain throughout the last couple of weeks.

I dislike this job. Only now am I coming to terms with and accepting it. What do I do? Well, I sit in class while the kids learn Russian. I answer ridiculous questions. I speak Russian. I second guess myself. Yup that's it in a nutshell. Personally, I feel that there are entirely too many people working with the Russian class. There are three teachers and four Peer Mentor/Teaching Assistants. But enough about that. The language school itself is a cool idea.

It's a four week intensive immersion thing and then they have sessions where they meet throughout the following school year. Technology plays a big role, as the kids do a lot of Skypeing over the school year part. Basically, the kids are here to learn Russian, or one of four other languages (Hindi, Arabic, Chinese, Japanese). As a result they spend pretty much all of their time in class and with their class. A typical day in the Russian class is as follows:

Class starts everyday at nine a.m. During the morning session, Mister Doctor teaches them. They go over grammar points and new vocabulary and do a lot of speaking activities. At noon, they have Lunch for an hour. Lunch is eaten all together at long Tables in the SPU Student Center. They kids are only supposed to speak Russian, and so it is the job of us, the Peer Mentors to speak Russian with them. A lot of times, new vocabulary is introduced here too. After lunch, the kids have class again from about one until three. This session is taught by a Russian grad student who is a Native speaker. Generally, at the afternoon session, the kids go over dialogs and perform them for each other. They also go over new vocabulary and occasionally watch cartoons.

By three p.m. The kids (And teachers) are ready for a break. So they get two hours of free time. Dinner is at five and is eaten in our Russian lounge. Then comes culture time. Culture is taught by a Russian woman who lives in the area. Generally, culture is anything from making Chai, to watching movies, to working on projects, to singing. On the last day of camp, there is a closing ceremony where each language shows off what it has learned, generally by singing. So the kids practice that pretty much every night. A lot of times the kids will get to go outside and play Russian games during culture time as well. The day is not over yet though, because at 9 p.m. It's study time. This is where we PMs are used the most. During study time, the kids do their homework, practice dialogs and pronunciation and get ready for tests and so on. It is our job to help check their work and answer questions. They kids head up to their rooms for bedtime at 11.

So their days are long, but they are learning a lot. It's amazing actually, how three weeks ago they all showed up here, many of them leaving home for the first time. They came and they couldn't speak a word of Russian. Now here we are three weeks later and they can understand much more and can speak. The other day I sat at lunch with one of the kids and we had a good solid conversation about music for ten minutes or so. It was really cool.

It isn't all bad. It has it's good moments. Like what I just said above, or silly things the kids, or we do. Writing stupid fairy tales across the whiteboards, walking to acme, and good times at the red light. The kids are really great, and I'm going to miss them when it's over. I mean, we've got kind of this family thing going on. Which is really fun, and fascinating from a social standpoint. The job has some weird stresses though, and I'm not sure it's really my thing.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

New Blogs

I've started collecting blogs of various people who are going out. Time to swap some things out and whatnot.

The first blog is called Islands of Adventure. Cameron is a student from out district who is going to be spending his exchange in Japan. Cameron is a cool guy, and he's got posts and pictures. You can follow the link from this post or the one on the left hand side of the page.

The second blog Belongs to Bridget. Bridget is also from our district. I met her first at our Outbound Interviews and sort of became her mentor. She's really excited about going on exchange to Austria. She has some intersting things to say so I hope you all check out her blog too!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

News of School

The other day, I was standing in the shower, wondering why I hadn't heard any details about when I was supposed to be at the Language School. I was standing there thinking "Well, I could Facebook Puppy and see if he knows anything," Puppy got a job there too. As a tech person I think. But then I thought "No, because the Language School runs on Russian time because Mister Doctor is in charge of it." So I finished my shower, and went about my business. Later that afternoon, I logged onto Facebook, only to see that Puppy had asked me if I had heard anything about Language School. I found that rather ironic.

A week and a half. That's when Mister Doctor decided to tell us when we should be up there. A week and a half before we are supposed to be there. That's not so bad. I figured if I didn't hear Wednesday, I would hear either Friday or Monday. And if I didn't hear then, I had already decided that I would be sending Mister Doctor an e-mail.

The best thing ever is that I get a free parking pass. But that's really not important to my story. I'm just excited because I'm getting free room and board, I'm getting a free parking pass, I get to spend four weeks surrounded by Russian AND I'm getting paid for it. It gives me a warm and fuzzy feeling inside.

Essentially, I have to be back up at SPU on the morning of June 21st. Which is father's day, but I'm not even sure that Father will be here as he is going to be helping Brother move back home from several states away. We have an hour to move in, then we are going to be having a meeting of some sort and then finally, we are going to be helping the students move in. And that's basically all I know about the whole thing. Which makes me laugh. I was expecting an e-mail with lots of details, but nope. It just had what time and where I check in, and a vague idea of what we are going to be doing during the day on Sunday. Oh well, it'll be another adventure. A very welcome adventure.

Friday, May 29, 2009

A job, A chance, an E-mail, and Why Exchange Messed Up My Life

I almost died the last week of school. Not really. But there were a couple of days there where I wasn't sure that I was going to make it. The stress was absolutely insane! The good news, however is that I made it out alive and mostly intact and brought some interesting memories out with me. Which is all good.

The most exciting news during the last week of the semester was that I finally heard from the people in charge of the Language School. I got the job as a Teaching Assistant! I'm pretty excited about this although I haven't heard anymore details. I do know however that the camp runs from the middle of June to the middle of July. My guess is that I will be hearing all the details of what I'm supposed to be doing, two days before I'm supposed to be back up at SPU. But hey, I'm not complaining. Rather, I am very much forward to beating Russian into those little high schoolers. No, I'm just kidding. I'm not really that mean :P

It's ironic. I was writing a letter to Elena Ivanovna the other day. It's mostly done, just have to finish it up, put a picture with it, stamp and send it. This is ironic because today I checked my e-mail and there was a short note from Nina in it. I had gotten back in touch with her several months ago and she e-mailed me, but I never replied back because (My excuses were) my computer was having issues and then I got really busy at the end of the semester. But really there's no excuse. I'm planning on e-mailing her back within the next few days. It's just so hard sometimes. It's like there's a part of me that doesn't want to be in touch and I don't know why I should even feel that way...

In other news, there is a slight chance that I might be able to get a scholarship to go back to Russia and study in a university there for a year. I don't want to say too much about it at the moment, because I may not even get it, but hopefully there will be more details to follow.

Which brings me to the thing I've been thinking about lately. Namely, How Going on Exchange Has Screwed Up My Life. When I found out about, and got the application for this scholarship, I was pretty excited, but at the same time, I was hesitant. There was a part of me that definitely didn't want to apply for the scholarship (Perhaps that is related to the staying in touch thing?). I was like "yeah, I should apply for this" but it was like something within me said. "but you don't really want to." and I thought about it for a while. Exchange was a fascinating experience. It was filled with some amazing moments and experiences. So why did a part of me not want to take the opportunity to do it again? Then suddenly, it hit me. I realized that I was scared.

Though most of the bad things about exchange have been outweighed by the good, there was a part of me that still remembered it. Remembered how hard it was, how scary, how difficult, how lonely it could be. This part of me was projecting. I didn't want to go back to Russia because I didn't want to have to deal with those things. The Beauraucracy, the visas, breaking down the Russian facade. A part of me was going "NO! NO! NO!" while the sensible part of me was saying "Get back on the horse." And then, God stepped in. I had decided to apply, but wasn't as enthusiastic about it as I could have been. I was going over some paperwork with my mom and we were discussing things when I found something significant on the website for the scholarship. Basically what it sounded like was that the scholarship was going to be discontinued starting this next year. The wave of disappointment that washed over me was undescribable. I e-mailed my contact about the scholarship, asking for clarification and asking whether or not I should go ahead and reply.

I was in a mood the rest of the evening. I didn't even know for sure if I could still apply or not, but already I was really disappointed. Just the thought of not even having the slightest chance of getting to go back was heavy on my chest. I spent the rest of the evening playing all the Russian songs I know on my guitar and feeling rather down.

You may have guessed by now, what my contact's answer to the inquiry was. The next morning, I checked my e-mail the first thing and was overjoyed to see that I could still go ahead and apply. And that set it. I am applying. But I think it was necessary for me to have that moment of doubt. Because in that one moment, I realized that the overwhelming disappointment of not being able to go, completely outweighed the nervousness I felt about going back for a second round.

And this is how exchanged messed me up. I am forever tied to Russia. To the World. There will always be a part of me that takes great interest in what the Motherland is doing, a part of me that still lives there. A part of me that is always longing to go back. I am forever tied to the Global community, forever hungering to see and experience more. But is that necesarily a bad thing? I dreamed in Russian last night, and in the light of day, I cannot remember what the dream was about, but it was full of good feelings.

Monday, May 04, 2009

May 4th

So much for anonimity, but this is something that weighs on me. May 4th is an important day in the history of SPU. It was on this day, 39 years ago that some students were protesting. The National Guard was called in and shots were fired. As a result, four students were killed and 9 other were wounded.

I like to see events. Last fall I went and watched a protest against the Iraq war. May 4th is kind of a big deal here, so I decided that I would observe some of the events of the commemoration. I'm not sure what I was expecting, but it wasn't this. I thought that if I went and listened to the speeches given by those who were there and those whose lives were forever affected, I would learn something. Maybe something about the events. I'm big into listening to people's stories. So I went and stood on the hill where the guardsmen chased the students all those years ago and I learned, but I didn't learn what I thought I would.

It didn't take me long to realize that what I thought was going to be a memorial, a rememberance of those tragic events actually wasn't. I listened to two and a half speeches before I couldn't stand it anymore. The first guy, talked about zombies and how the guardsmen that day were zombies, and how the University President is a zombie and how our former president was a zombie and how if you stood by and let things like may fourth happen you were a zombie too. I wouldn't have a problem with this, except he was so venemous about it. The next person I heard speak was a woman whose sister died that day. I was expecting a celebration of life. Of a cause, a speech about how this tragedy should not be repeated. Instead I heard about how evil the government and guardsmen were, how wrong they were, how right the protesters were, after all they were "Burning down the ROTC building in response to Police brutality" Does anyone else find something wrong with that sentence? Two wrongs do not make a right people... This woman also went on to talk about all of the social protesting she's done because she was inspired by her sister. Perhaps I would've been able to relate to her better if she hadn't been so much about "Stick it to the man!" The last speech I listened to was a very loud, angry man. He basically spent a long time talking about the "May 4th Conspiricy" the "cover-up" and how a new tape had been found in which the order of the national guardsmen to shoot had been revealed. He also talked a lot about people who had mentioned hearing the order to shoot.

It was at this point I decided to leave. I waited for the man to finish, and as I began to head back to my room, there was a campus police officer standing there. I went up to him and I said "Sir, I'd just like to thank you for every thing you do," He kind of laughed. "It must be hard some times to be a police officer here." He said "thanks" and I left. I started crying when I got inside and couldn't figure out why. It wasn't the speeches. I mean they didn't move anything in me. I thought maybe it had something to do with the police officer? No, not really, other than the need to thank him, he really had nothing to do with it. I just felt really upset and I couldn't figure out why. And then I realized.

SPU is a liberal campus. Everyone is always going around talking about how you can't trust the conservatives, how they use people to push their agendas. They are preaching the purity of the left. How they aren't like that, they just want peace and love and all that. I realized they are hypocrites. They preach peace and love, while all the while, trying to stir people into violent action. "Down with the Iraq war!" They talk about the tragedy of four dead students, yet they place them on the pedestal of political martyrdom, and use them to focus their own agendas, to push their propaganda. Because that's what today was. It was a liberal propaganda fest, and that's what bothered me the most.

It's not that I hate liberals. Please don't think that I'm just a stuffy conservative. Understand that I am a people watcher and if it had been conservatives up on the stage today doing the same thing, please believe I would be condemning them just as much. It bothered me that what I saw as a time of rememberance was being manipulated to push a political agenda.

May 4th was a tragedy in the history of my University. I am not saying that the National Guard was completely innocent, nor am I saying that the protesters were completely innocent either. There are two sides to every story. I was looking forward to today's events because I thought it would be a time of reflection. I wanted the speeches to focus on what happened, why it happened. I was expecting people to be gathered around, remembering, perhaps discussing how we can prevent such a tragedy from happening again. What could we have done? What can we do so history does not repeat itself? I felt like it should have been a quieter time, that the gaggle of high schoolers who were filling out worksheets could have been taken aside and been told "Look, this is what it was like, this shouldn't happen again..."

Our school has a really good conflict management program. Did you know that? It was started because of the events that happened 39 years ago today. That, right there is something. That right there is someone saying "Look, this didn't need to happen, this is what we are going to do to keep it from happening again." I feel like that is what May 4th is about, and today it broke my heart to see that other people don't feel the same way...

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

More Work

I think I've mentioned before that I feel that my job as a rebound is to share my experiences in Russia and on exchange in any way I can. This weekend, I will be using my knowledge to work with the outbound exchange students at our District Conference. I've been looking forward to this event for over a month. It should be a pretty good time. Especially from this end, when I know how things work.

The other thing I've done recently to help spread the word about Russia is through Roomie. Roomie is a journalism major and had a project to do. She had to interview a random person and make a multi-media thing for a website. So, one night she goes "hey, can I interview you about russia?" She had it all planned and I just did my thing. I played a Russian song I learned on Stanley, my guitar, and then she asked a couple of questions and I just talked about Russia. Finally, I gave her some pictures from my adventures and she took a bunch and when she put them all together, she had this. I definitely encourage you to go watch it, as it turned out very nicely. I felt all special and important and Roomie got her work done. In case you missed it the first time, the link can be found here! Hope you all enjoy it!

In other news, although I haven't heard anything officially about the language school, I've heard rumblings. Last week actually, it went something like this: I had asked JoJo, my russian professor if she would write me a letter of recommendation. Last Tuesday I walk into class and she goes "So, I was writing your letter and I got it half done but my computer died." And I was like "oh, okay." Because well, I still had time to turn it in. Whatever. So I go on with my life. On Thursday when I go into class, I decide to make sure that she got it done since the deadline was approaching. "Hey JoJo, did you finish my letter?" "No, actually, I talked to Mister Doctor and he said it was fine. You have a really really good chance." Basically without actually saying it, JoJo told me that I'm going to be working there this summer. Which is cool. But I'm not counting on anything because I haven't gotten the official word. I'm not stressing about it. Not officially counting on it either. I'm just biding my time, doing my school stuff and returning to everyday life until May first. Then we shall see for sure...

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

The Oddest Thing

It was the oddest thing. Last night I was laying in bed, and I was waiting to fall asleep. I do that a lot. Naturally, it's kind of boring to just lay there and wait to fall asleep, so I did what any smart person would, I started thinking. I was thinking about all kinds of random stuff and then suddenly I was thinking about how I should write Elena Ivanovna a letter, and I should e-mail Nina and maybe I should just call Elena Ivanovna, and then all of a sudden I remembered Yakutsk so clearly. It wasn't just picture memory, I remembered how it felt to be walking down the street, or standing at the crosswalk. I remembered the school, and I felt the cold, and the heat and the polar days, and the smells and the sounds. And I remembered obscure things that I hadn't thought of in months. I remembered going for Sushi after Graduation, and how they wouldn't let me into the library. I remembered sitting bored in school, and cramming on the bus. I remembered Elena Ivanovna's apartment and everything I learned from our evening chats, and then I was crying, and I couldn't stop and I'm trying to be quiet so I don't wake my roommate. I can't close my eyes because everytime I do I just remember more and my heart just aches and aches. When I woke up this morning it felt like I'd been hit by an ice cream truck.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Official Application

I have mentioned the Language School in several of my previous posts. The basic idea is that SPU has one in the summer and that I want to work there in the Russian department. The reason for this post is that I have offcially applied. In order to do so, I had to have a letter of recommendation from a language professor and write an essay about my qualifications for the position. Not to brag, but I was very proud of my essay when I got done and I sent it via e-mail to Mister Doctor, who is not only the head of the Russian department at SPU but who is also one of the head guys at the School. On Thursday I am going to check with my Russian professor and see if she sent Mister Doctor the letter of recommendation. They said I would hear in May if I got the job. I'm really hoping I do because that would pretty much make my summer.

In other news, I decided that I no longer want to be an International Relations major. It's interesting in some ways, but I'm not really into it. I still have my Russian major so it's not like I'm running around undecided, although I do consider that a secondary major. Next fall I'm going to be taking some classes that are just fun for me, and then I'm going to decide on my "Primary" major. I'm excited about my classes for next fall as I am going to be picking French back up. I'm also considering minoring in French it won't take too many classes for me to get one.

That's about all the updates for now, Look for more in the next few weeks.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

A Phone Call

I'm vising my Cousin, Aay, in Nashville for spring break. Monday we were driving back to her campus from Centennial park when my phone rang. I glanced at the caller ID. Private Number? what in the world is that? If it was one of those stupid advertisements, I was going to be pretty ticked since I have a tracphone and every minute counts. I prepared myself to give whoever it was a good browbeating in Russian and then I answered. "Allo?" An echoy voice from the other end, introuduced the speaker as a Rotarian from District 5010 who I'd met last year. "Which district?" I asked both incredulous and due to the fact that the quality of the call was not so good. "Five zero one zero." That's my Russia district! Once I realized what was going on I got into business mode. "what can I do for you?" They were calling me to ask some questions about my Experiences with the Rotary club of Yakutsk last year. Apparently the Student who is there this year is having a little trouble. A lot of trouble. And they were wondering what my experiences were. I was honest, but at the same time I felt very protected of the Rotary club in my adopted city. I mean, sure they had issues, but what club doesn't? And they did a lot for me while I was there. I couldn't just completely degrade them. So I gave a few negatives, and then reinforced the fact that other than that the club was excellent and worked really hard to help me out when I needed it. I stressed the fact that I attended the meetings and that when I had visa and registration problems, the club was really good about contacting people to get my stuff extended.

I told the Rotarian that if I could help in any other way, to feel free to get a hold of me. Through e-mail, phone or Skype. I really don't mind offering what help I can. It's part of my job as a rebound. When I got off the phone, I felt important. I don't know, it just makes me feel good, and accomplished when I can over insight and I guess, advice in a way. It's like that's my purpose now that I'm stateside. When I got off the phone and explained to my cousin that the call had come from Vladivostock, she looks at me and goes. "Only you would get a phone call from Russia."

Sunday, March 08, 2009


So I'm supposed to be studying for this huge midterm right now, but thought that I just would take a few moments to reflect since I haven't for a while (Love how I disguise my procrastination ha)I went to a Rotary overnighter last night. The first one I'd been to since I went through my own training program a year and a half ago. It was a different sort of experience. I really enjoyed hanging out but it was a little awkward at first. I did know some people who are outbounds from interviews and Facebook and a fellow rebound who went out when I did was there, but he's still in high school and in some ways seemed so young. Almost everyone did, actually. The inbounds, the outbounds, a couple of the rebounds. Did my exchange really make me that mature or is it just a matter of me being a different place in my life now? I'm not sure. I hung out a lot with two fellow rebounds. One who did his exchange the year before I did, and the other who went out with me but is a lot more mature about stuff. I don't know. It was just interesting.

I sat in on the Outbound training sessions and I was like (and I don't mean this in a bad way) "They are so young in their world views." It was like weird, because they haven't had those experiences yet and so their view on things is just different. They're all excited and full of hope about their upcoming exchanges. I just watched them and was sitting there thinking "Oh my goodness was it only a year and a half ago that I was the same way?" And I think back on it and I'm like yeah I was. Because honestly they can prepare you for exchange all they want, but are a bunch of teenagers actually going to listen? Not really. And they can listen to the inbounds and learn from them, that helps because those are their peers, but honestly, I remember in my first two months of Exchange I grew a whole new appreciation for what the inbounds were going through. It was something at the time of my training I couldn't understand.

It's not just the inbounds and the Rotarians who are important to training. This is something I came to realize last night. Rebounds are just as if not more important. As a Rebound, I am living proof that you can come out of exchange whole and carrying with you a new world view. I am proof that despite the experiences good or bad that happen on exchange, they have become part of me. As a Rebound I am a mentor-friend with stories and experiences to impart. The inbounds listen to us because we are peers, but we are so much more.

Not that I'm saying the Rotarians aren't important. They are the ones who do the training and the paperwork, and essentially make everything happen. The inbounds teach so much to the Outbounds about their countries; help prepare them. The Inbounds also show what happens when you are going through exchange. They are the first hand account. It's just that we rebounds have a special place in the hierarchy of exchange.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

What I've Discovered about Language

I've been very bad at keeping up with blog posts since break. Forgive me but it's a combination of very busy-ness and computer issues.(My course load is harder than I thought it would be) But anyway, I've noticed some things in regards to the Russian language, and the way it pops up that I would just like to share with you.

I have officially become known at college as "That Russian girl." apparently my friends will mention my name to people who go "Who is that?" the friend will then mention something about "The one obsessed with Russia" to which the response it "Oh okay her!" I have been called "Half-Russian" I have been called "Communist," and I have been introduced as "Russian." And I'm okay with that. I've talked to people about it and have been told that it's just a neat thing because Russia's not typical, and that it automatically makes me cool. I've never considered myself "cool" but hey, whatever floats your boat.

Not only am I known as "The Russian girl," I am also know as "That girl who yells at people in Russian." Honestly though, it was just that one time, when that person was bothering me. My point is that I wasn't even really yelling. When I seriously get ticked off with people in Russian, I actually get quieter. But I can see how the yelling thing would come in because my words also get sharper and so while I'm not actually yelling, I imagine that to anyone on the receiving end, it's a little scary.

I get scared, because even though I'm trying hard, I'm still forgetting. I'll have someone ask me a word, and more and more often I have to stop and think about what the word is in Russian. Yet at the same time, it's really interesting the way language works. For example, my friend, M.K., lived in Macedonia and the Czech Republic for most of her life. Since Eastern European culture and Russian culture are similar, we've had some interesting chats. One thing we enjoy doing is speaking English with these really thick accents. The more I do it, the more I slip into it without thinking about it. Last night, I was hanging out with Puppy randomly speaking English with a Russian accent. I was saying something and then all of a sudden, I realized that I had gone from English to Russian. I just stopped and went, wow, I was just speaking Russian. It was a good feeling.

I've had other stuff too. Puppy, as I think I've mentioned doesn't care when I babble on in Russian so I do it a lot whenever we hang out. It's resulted in several cases of "What language are you speaking?" "Russian" "Oh that's so cool!" I've also had times where I'll be speaking Russian to Puppy or M.K. and then looked at someone else, said several sentences then all of a sudden stopped and gone "Wait, you don't understand Russian." Naturally, everyone present during these happenings finds it hilarious. I do too in a way, although mostly it just makes me feel happy when stuff like that happens.

The above generally come about because I tend to forget that other people don't understand Russian. I mean, I know I'm not in Russia anymore. But I've been studying now for three or four years, and I can't remember what's it's like to not understand it. So I forget what it sounds like to those outside.

There are two other things I've come to realize about my language in the past week or so. One is that I have a horrible Russian accent. No, I don't mean in English and I don't mean when I speak Russian (The latter I know). I've thrown out a little Spanish, and a little French with a friend and her comment is "Wow, you speak with a Russian accent." Puppy likes to give me a hard time about how atrociously I pronounce German words because Russians roll their Rs. I even know a girl who takes Latin and I was reading her homework out loud and she's helping me along with pronunciation and then suddenly she starts laughing and goes "You sound so Russian!: I suppose if Sign language had an accent I'd probably have a Russian one when I do it with Chatter.

The final thing I've come to realize is that I use Russian as a shield. I'm one of those people who when I'm in a new situation I get quieter until I evaluate the situation. I've come to see that a lot of times, if I am uncomfortable in a situation and I am with someone who understands, I will use Russian and then, when I become more comfortable, I'll go back to English. Perhaps this is because not everyone understands Russian and so no one can hear my uncertainties.

I don't know, but it fascinates me, the way that even now, my exchange is a part of me. When I started college I don't know that I intentionally planned on defining myself in this manner, and I certainly never expected to learn these cool things about the way my language works, but you know what, it all makes me happy. And I'm okay with that.

Monday, January 19, 2009


Well, here I am again. Back at school and it's about time. That last week was a killer because all my friends had gone back and I had no car, and well, there just wasn't a lot to do.

Since I am back at SPU, I decided that I should update you on my life here. My course load this semester is hopefully going to not be too terribly hard. My hardest class is probably going to be the four day a week "Math Requirement." I'm not particularly looking forward to that class. Probably the second hardest class I'm going to have this semester is Soviet Lit which I'm taking with the same professor as last semester. She makes you work, I tell you what. My other classes include "Europe's Governments" "English 2" and "Leadership". The latter is a class I'm taking for fun. It's a two hour a week class that is leadership training and then you get to help next summer and over the fall with new student orientation.

Another interesting thing this semester is the addition to Roomie. See I was supposed to have a roommate last semester, but she never showed up so the entire semester I had a room to myself. This semester though, I was assigned a new roommate. Roomie seems very nice and once we get over the initial stage of awkwardness I think we'll get along all right. This isn't a long post, and wasn't intended to be, just wanted to let you know where I was at college-wise.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Cynicism, Jealousy, and Influences

So, I've been thinking a lot about Russia the past few days. Maybe it has to do with the fact that I dreamed about Moscow, maybe it's that several of our District's future outbounds have IMed me over the last several days, or maybe it's because I've been following the blogs of several inbounds from various places. Most likely it's a combination of all of them.

I think Russia did something to me. Because I came back and while I encourage exchange students no matter where they're going, there's a part of me that has an almost superior attitude that borders on being cynical. It's like a part of me is like "Oh, yeah, you're going to [Insert Country Here] but it'll never be as good/hard/worthwhile as going to Russia." which is a stupid attitude to have. No Exchange is created equal. But then Russia's not for everyone either. I've been hearing from people who are in Russia now and they are complaining. Complaining about the same things I complained about, actually. And I want to slap them and tell them to get over it because that's just Russia. Russia seriously does things to you. It's an exchange where you hate it a lot. But then suddenly you realize how much you come to love and care for it, it gets under your skin so to speak, and once it does you can never forget it. I know I've probably said this before, but maybe I feel the need to explain because maybe this time someone will understand better what I mean. Or perhaps not.

I was thinking about why I would feel this way; Why do I go around with this attitude. I thought that maybe it has something to do with the fact that surviving Russia is an accomplishment, it's a particularly hard exchange. So part of me looks at other exchanges as 'wimpy' though that's not true as each country poses its own challenges. So I think it has to do with that, but at the same time I think a part of me is jealous. "Oh this person is in Spain and isn't homesick and is having the time of their life." Perhaps I'm jealous because that wasn't my exchange.

Please don't get the wrong impression. I loved my exchange with all its crazy ups and downs. I got to see some of the coolest things in the world got to experience things, learned a cool language. But I think the jealousy stems from the fact that my exchange wasn't roses and sunshine. I had to Work at my exchange. Whereas it sometimes seems like the people who pick other countries get there exchanges handed to them on a silver platter. That's part of the jealousy. The other part is that it's really depressing to read all these interesting stories of adventures that other people are having and have your adventure already be old news. It's one of the most depressing feelings in the world.

One of the blogs I've been reading is a friend of mine who's spending her exchange in a very well known European country. She's having a great time and in one of her recent blog posts, she mentioned all of the cultural things she was going to keep doing from her host country when she came back to America. A bittersweet feeling welled up within me as I read this. She doesn't yet realize how much you are influenced by the world around you, and how hard it is to do something out of cultural context.

When I was still in Russia I had determined that I was going to bring some cultural things back with me. I was going to kiss people when I greet them, I was going to eat Sour Cream on bread with jelly, I was going to continue to drink chai all hours of the day and I was going to answer the phone with "Allo?"

Since coming home I haven't eaten a single slice of bread and sour cream, I don't really kiss anyone on the cheek to greet them, I rarely drink chai. The first day I answered the phone and automatically said "hello" was rather traumatic and now when I pick up the phone if I don't consciously think about using "allo" half the time I say "hello." But these things have no context in this culture and so it's hard to keep doing them. Not doing these things is just another grim reminder that I'm not in Russia anymore and every day I'm forgetting, every day I'm losing something else.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Moscow Never Sleeps

Last night I was in Moscow. I dreamed that I was stopping there on my way home, maybe from Yakutsk, I don't really know. I do know that I was in and around Red Square. It was a particularly vivid dream. I wandered past the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and I saw a girl from my class at school in Yakutsk. We wandered around together. The worst part of my dream was that when I first opened my mouth to speak to her the Russian didn't come out smoothly. It took me a bit to get it going. It scared me, the fact that I was having trouble saying the most basic things, although it did feel really good to be in Moscow, even if it was just in my head...

Monday, January 12, 2009


I haven't updated in a while. For that I am sorry. People must actually follow this though because I started hearing rumblings about how I hadn't updated in a while and I should.

I left Russia six months ago. I know. It's weird. I can hardly believe how fast the time has gone by when it went so slowly in Russia. A lot has happened in the last six months and I think when I look back on it in the future. I am forever going to associate these six months with major changes in my life. Not just changes dealing with the people around me, but changes within myself as well.

I was decieved. Or maybe God was watching out for me, knew I wouldn't be able to handle it at first. You see, while I was still in Russia, there was a part of me that thought everything would be different when I got home. That my house would be different and my family would be different and people would have changed completely. This was true to some extent. I mean I come back and the five dollar bills are purple and McDonalds was now serving oven fresh cookies and one of my cousins turned into a tree. But I mean for all intents and purposes things were generally the same as they always were. Until recently.

The Thursday before Thanksgiving my mom called my cell phone while I was still in class. I called her back as soon as I got out. "Your Grandma isn't doing to well." Grandma had gone to live at the nursing home full time just before I got home because it was becoming too much work for my parents to take care of her themselves. "Do you want to come home?" And I didn't know if I should. "I have a class in twenty minutes. Can I think about it and call you after?" When I got out of Russian class, I called back. Mom told me she had discussed it with Dad and thought that since they were planning on getting me the next day anyway, I should just stay on campus. So I did. Just after eight the next morning my dad called to tell me that Grandma had passed away. In some ways, though it sounds odd to say it, it was good timing. My brother was coming out anyway because we hadn't seen each other in over a year. Hadn't seen each other at all since I got back from Russia. But it still made for a downer of a Thanksgiving. I mean it was really nice to be home with my family, but it was a long day, all I wanted to do was sleep because we'd been dealing with stuff for the funeral. (The funeral was the day before Thanksgiving.) At least it didn't happen while I was gone. That could've been very bad. When I left for Russia I was still unhappy with having my Grandma living with us even after two years. By the time I came back, I was okay with things, and I got to see Grandma several more times before she died.

Another thing that really hit me hard these past six months actually just happened recently. Over Christmas, my cousin, Aay, got engaged. You have to understand that neither Aay nor I have sisters. We are eleven months apart and grew up together. Lived next door and everything. She is as close to me as a sister. I'll never forget that phone call. I knew what she was going to say before she said it, and when she told me I was so excited for her. Yet at the same time I was so...weirded out. I mean we'd talked about marriage and stuff, all girls do. I knew she was pretty serious about this guy but for some reason them getting engaged always seemed like it was down the road years. Yet all of a sudden *BAM* here it is. I forget that we're adults now and capable of making adult decisions. For some reason I still think that we're 16 and 17. Sometimes it makes me sad that we're not.

I guess that's the main thing that I've come to realize the past six months. I'm not a kid anymore. Recently I read the book Little Women by Louisa May Alcott and I don't think it could've come at a better time. Jo goes through some of the same feelings and emotions that I've been going through as the things around her begin to change and she can do nothing about it. It scares me sometimes...How fast these six months have gone. It scares me that the whole rest of my life is going to go this fast. I don't want it to, but someone told me once that life just goes faster and faster. I haven't given up on my dreams yet, but I have come to understand that sometimes our dreams take a different shape than our childhood fantasies imagined.