Saturday, March 31, 2012

My Dust Tastes Sweet

Before coming to Russia the article that most occupied my thoughts of my upcoming adventure was the teaching.  I knew I would be doing some traveling and sightseeing, and that it was going to be preposterously cold!  I knew I would be meeting new people and trying new food.  I knew I would be living in a new culture and having some different experiences of living away from home much further than little old Ephraim.  All of this came with my Russian adventure, but on the top of that list was always the teaching.  I could say it was at the top because it was what I was most excited for, or because that is why I’m here- to be a volunteer English teacher.  But, to say that would be to taste a lie.  Teaching was the thing I was most scared about.
I was so nervous having no idea really what to expect.  I had no clue what classes I would be teaching or even if I would be good at it.  Could I keep control of my kids?  Would they dislike me and think I was no fun?  Would I be too strict or too lenient?  Could I remember the BMC’s?  Was my mind capable of the creativity needed to prepare ten different activities a week?  Could I even make lesson plans?  Would I be able to understand my students or would they even understand me?  Could I really teach?  I was terrified of the job approaching me.
Now, I find myself two months into being an English teacher in a foreign country and the thing I most feared has become the easiest matter to handle and adjust to.  It was definitely difficult in the beginning, which only heightened my already anticipated stress.  But, I quickly adjusted and learned the methods of teaching, I caught onto the art of lesson planning and found I had more than a seed of creativity stowed away in my brain.  I succeeded in establishing a class who respects me as their teacher, and also knows that I want to have fun.  And we do!  :)  I love teaching.  Amazing how the thing I most feared is the thing that has really been the easiest!  I dare say the most rewarding.
All the rest of my Russian experience has come to be the hard part.  In the beginning everything was so fun, so exciting and new, so different.  The food was different and good, the new means of transportation by bus was fun, and the cold wasn’t that bad (Don’t get me wrong on that, I didn’t say it wasn’t cold I just said it wasn’t bad :)  That attitude I believe came with the excitement of the extreme I was living in!)  Now, those things are just part of the experience and I feel the new excited feeling has worn off to familiarity.  Right now I just really miss the comforts of home. 
Homesickness has really been settling in the last little while.  So, just for the record when I said, “I won’t be homesick” to some of you family and friends, yepp, I’m eatin those words now and they taste funny.  It’s a weird thing to be homesick; it’s weird to find yourself in a place so different from the usual and know that the usual is very, very far away- unattainable actually.
It’s not that bad though really.  I mean this experience is so neat!  There are so many things that have happened to me since being here that overwhelmingly outrun that thing called homesickness.  I am so grateful to be here, I am so grateful for what I have gained from this experience so far.  And, to think I’m just barely half way through it.  There is more ahead!  Much more awesomeness in store.  :)
The opponent to homesickness is in the lead by far.  Look at that!  Her testimony has grown, and her skills at interacting with different personalities and different people have been exercised and strengthened.  She has learned some Russian!  She has gained experience in teaching, and grown in her skills of interaction with children!  She’s enhanced gratitude for her blessings at home of friends, family, an incredible country, and an education.  She has experienced what it's like to have to travel more than a  five minute walk to get to church and had the opportunity to be in a branch.  She has been able to share her testimony through action and through word.  She has fed from the knowledge and testimonies of others around her.  She has learned to be friends with people whom she probably would not have chosen to be friends with if given the option.  And in that has gained some new lifelong friends!  She has visited St. Basil’s Cathedral, had Borsch, sweat like a pig in a Russian Sauna, and she’s tasted of the joy of European Chocolate after every meal!  (Yes, I said every meal :)) …….  Look at her go.  She is winning this race by a long run; Mr. H doesn’t even have chance.  

Eat my Dust Homesickness. Eat it! :)

These kids make me so Happy!  I mean just look at them! Goofy, Shy, Adorable, and Fun.  And SO ready to learn. What more could I ask for?  Oh and they bring me flowers, chocolate, pancakes :), and draw me cute notes on the board and draw me pictures.  I love these kids to no end!

"I Love you" -From Alisa
"Liza Love Miss Angela <3" -From Liza
"Miss Angela is lovely" -From Stefania

Wearing our Peter Pan Hats!  Dima, Dasha, and Sveta. "I'll Never Grow up. No, sir, not I!"
Life is just too much fun!! :)

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Wait, what? I'm In Russia? Yes, yes you are.

Guess it's time for another update; it's only been like... oh, three weeks.  Wow, sorry about that I didn't realize it had been so long.  But, here it comes so grab onto your britches it's gonna be a bumpy ride. ;)

So, I went on a four day trip to Moscow with the teachers about two weeks ago and that was A-maz-ing!  I can't believe I'm actually in Russia, it keeps hitting me.  What kinda moments make that fact stand out in my mind?  Let's see... 
~When I found myself at five o'clock in the morning in a cold, gray, cigarette and sweat stenched train station full of men holding flowers of every color waitin for their special woman to arrive on Woman's Day. That was pretty neat. ~When I found myself paying 20 rubles to squat over a hole in the ground in time of dire need to relieve myself of the 3 bottles of water I drank during an 8 hour, overnight bus ride. (I can't get over the fact that I had to pay to squat over a hole!)
~When I was walking through the underground metro station with marble floors, and statues of past presidents and rulers, surrounded by walls painted in the 1700's, illuminated by gold and crystal chandeliers. 
~I noticed I was in Russia when the servers at McD's went around telling people to leave so new customers could have a seat. (Crowded would be more than an understatement, and the fact that they have cheese sauce with their fries instead of ketchup... gross.)
~When I found myself buying a 30 cent candle to light and offer with the hundreds of other flickering prayers.
~I knew I was in Russia when I realized that I had seen over one hundred cathedrals in 3 days.  Needless to say, cathedrals are more prevalent than fire hydrants in the U.S..

Three Cathedrals and me :)

How many Cathedrals do you see in this one?  I spot 4.

~I realized I was in Russia when we got breakfast at Cinnabon and they started playing thriller, of all songs :) over the speakers because they knew we were American.
~When a man in a street market started throwing fur Ushonka after Ushonka on my head telling me they were real fur, offering me a price, telling me I look beautiful, tearing it off and putting on another one that makes me look "even more beautiful", offering a cheaper price, and lowering it again, and again after every attempt at me saying, "I don't want it, I don't want it."  (Sometimes you have to bargain reeeeal hard with these people, and sometimes they'll do all the bargaining for you!)  P.S. Ushonka's are the traditional Russian fur hats that have flaps to cover your ears.
~I knew I was in Russia when I lost interest in looking at Russian Nesting Dolls haha (Which when I was a kid were extremely fascinating).

The group of teachers from Moscow we toured Vladimir, and Suzdal with!

Blini For Breakfast! With Sour Cream and Home Made Plum Jam :)

~I knew I was in Russia when I found myself running up hills of snow to slide down them on my behind in attempt to warm up from a full day of walking, only to find that that makes your bum a lot more cold. Definitely still worth it though :)
~I realized I was in Russia when I had pancakes for dinner with sour cream on them :) which actually tastes really good!
~When I was walking through Christ the Savior Cathedral looking at immaculate baroque carvings, paintings and statues of gold.  When I found myself surrounded by religious people grasping the cross that hung from their neck, crying and kissing pictures of Jesus.

All of us Teachers Jumpin for joy :)  in front of Christ the Savior Cathedral.

Awesome/random ice sculpture we found.
We had SO MUCH fun at this park!! :)  Got hot enough playing that I took my coat off.  You have NO idea how nice it was to take that thing off while I was outside.  I pretty much live in it.

 ~ I also realized I was in Russia when I visited the WWII Museum and found a Long hall of Chains hanging from the ceiling leading to a huge room with more hanging chains.  Each one represents ten Russian Lives lost during the war.  I can't explain the feelings that overwhelmed me when I saw this.
Deaths: 130,000,000 Soviet Union.  420,000 American.

~And I knew I was in Russia when I was walking through St. Basil's Cathedral (The one that looks like a bunch of colorful upside down onions) and the ethereal sound of a choir of men filled the towers and spun around me.  I found myself scurrying around through hallways only to realize that the source of the perfectly beautiful harmony was Only three men-exemplifying the marvelous acoustics of the towers.

... And SO many other things.  I could go on, and on, and on..... and on!

You would think that with all of these constant reminders my head would know I was in Russia by now but still everyday it hits me just like the first.


Friday, March 2, 2012

Home Sweet Home/ Food Glorious Food

Let the picture looking begin.
Me in front of my apartment. Mine is the furthest right building, seventh floor! :)

Welcome to my humble home.  On the left you will find the bedroom. :) Don't be fooled. The bed may look comfortable but there are about 7-10 holes poking through each mattress from the springs. (Yes, it is two small twins laid side by side.)  How might we avoid being jabbed by said springs during the night?  Simple, layers of folded towels under the sheets. :)  The second two pictures are of our bathroom, inconveniently separated into two rooms.  Random fact- all Russian bathrooms have light switches on the outside of the room-no, not the inside.  If you ask me this is a recipe for disaster.  People walk by, notice the RR is occupied and decide to switch the light off on you.  Think yur pretty funny don'cha? I like how we have to move the faucet over from the sink to the bathtub to take a "shower".  If that's what you would call it.

Hello to Angela's first ever plate of sushi.  Sushi-not too bad actually!  The pink stuff in the middle of the plate.  Retched!!  It's fish flakes. Needless to say I didn't eat that. I liked the mint towel they gave us to wash our hands with. Classy touch.  My new found guilty pleasure- Banana shakes!!! :D  And for the bottom picture.  Look closely, very closely, closer. Okay.  Those orange balls, yup that's caviar. Also, disgusting!

Okay, so, now for some home cookin.  Do you see all of those bags of onions and potatoes?  Yes?  Well, enough to feed my whole family of seven right?  Well, it's all for me.  Sorry, but one person can't eat that much.  But gotta make somethin out of it anyway!  Make sure the food doesn't go bad.  So, I put together some onions (A LOT of onions), some potatoes, and some Massive carrots (pretty sure Bugs Bunny would be happy with those suckers), and boiled it all together with a lack of spices. 

Result- a big pot of bland onions, potatoes, and carrots that I have been eating for the past week for dinner.
But.  Just wait. Oh, how I love spices and leftover stew gravy from lunch at school.  I added that and some other spices to my boring concoction and Walla! A delicious Stew :) Four Tupperwares of it.  I promise I'm sharing with my wonderful roomie Renae! :)  And anyone else who may want some.  Really, you're welcome to have it, there is plenty to go around!  Then, my wonderful roommate Renae... did I already say that she's wonderful?... Yeah?  Oh, okay. Well, anyway :)  My wonderful roommate Renae, made dessert last night. Banana Cream Pudding!!! :D  I was a happy woman.  Happy, happy woman! Thanks Roomie.

Okay, so this is my breakfast every morning.  A glass of orange or apple juice, a yogurt (their yogurt is WAY better than American yogurt, so you should be jealous FYI), a fruit, whether it be a grapefruit, apple, orange, or banana, also a boiled egg, and a roll.  Well balanced meal? I think so!  Anyway, moral of this prolonged food story- Momma, I'm eating just fine out here! Don't worry :)
Okay. Two random pictures. Picture #1 is of me and my cute lady bag of flour that I got hassled into getting for "free" when I didn't even want it.  Long story, funny story, but long.  I might just add that the man who gave it to me at the store spoke some English and understood when I said I was from Utah because he knew the Jazz. Really.   Picture #2 makes me smile.  Look closely starting on the right.  No drinking on the bus, understandable.  No smoking on the bus, also understandable and very much appreciated.  Hahaha and No ice cream on the bus?? lol *tear*. The end. :)