Wednesday, September 29, 2010

About picaso

If you guys want the links to albums I am sending out, give me a shout! (ie - leave a comment) 

I'll still post some pictures, but the process is soooo slow.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Quickie about the dacha

So it was freezing and slightly wet.  And awesome.  I now know how to gather mushrooms (at least some types).  I also ate blueberries and this red Finnish berry straight off of the ground.  I felt very man vs. wild.  We also picked berries her garden.  I have some cool pictures that I'll post at some point.

Btw, it's almost midnight here.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Teaching English

This was seriously one of the best experiences I've had in Russia yet.  A group of the kids picked us up at the train station and led us on foot to their school,apparently, taking us that we had to go the safe way in order to avoid "bad drunk men".  So we get there and the rest of the kids are all standing in a semi-circle and greet us in unison.  Behind them, we see that they have laid us out a mini-banquet.  They seat us so we each get a group of about six or seven students.  They start out a little shy, but before long it becomes a fight to speak.  Every so often, the teacher randomly interupts in order to ask us for a new word or a new phrase (you know, important things like "lumbering along" or "to strut" or "get away from me").

Seriously, I've never felt so appreciated.

They are all so amazing.  I can't wait until next Friday.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Russia - the land of milk and honey .... and prisons.

So it happened.  I got sick.  We all knew it would happen sooner or later.  Here is how Russians apparently deal with illness:

Step one: Freak out.  Find out the cause (aka a person to blame).  In this case, it was my grammar teacher.

Step two: Freak out some more.  Describe all of the worst possible scenarios.  Describe how quickly and terribly this sickness will spread to those around the ill person and how awful it will make their lives.

Step three: Tea.  Like the English, this apparenlty is the solution to all of life's problems.

Step four: Sleep rediculous amounts.  Like 14 hour in one night amounts.  This is not as outrageous as it sounds because you will be putt in solitary confinement and only let out to eat and use the bathroom.

Solitary confinement prison at Крепость Орешек.
Or my room.  Hard to tell.
Step five: Drink boiled milk and honey.  Yum.  I had a deprived childhood.

Step six: (which can ben done simultaneously with steps four and five) Force the ill person to wear a scarf.  In the house.  ALL the time.

Step seven: Freak out some more.  If the ill person hasn't gotten better in a day, it's obvious they are nearing death's door - no doubt by some mischief of their own doing (in my case, not wearing socks with my topachki for dinner)

Step eight: Go to the drug store and by some amazing drugs that you'd need a perscription for in America for about 10$.

Step eight is probably the most affective.

Besides getting sick, I've worked some more on the internship project of updating and translating the handbook and gone on an excursion to Крепость Орешек.  Which translates roughly to "Fort Nut".  Yeah, sounds better in Russian.  It was a fort that was passed back and forth between the Swedes and the Russians, that protected Russia during WWII and also served as a prison for political prisoners (including the Decemberists)

Here are some pics:
Super cool shot with two memorials juxtaposed.

Cloudy morning and a bombed chapel.

Memorial to the peace treaty between Russia and Sweden

Saturday, September 18, 2010

More Gatchina

Island of looooove

I guess you have to pay more if you don't speak Russian....

Friday, September 17, 2010

Гатчина - наша первая экскурсия

Гатчина - это старый замок с замечательным парком и даже "Остров Любви".  Да, это место для свиданий.  Наш тургид был очень скучным и никто не обратил внимание на нее.  Ничего страшного - еще красивое место несмотря на тургида.
Да, солнце светит в России.

Комната без ремонта

I'll post some more later when I have free internet.  Consider this the preview.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Yeah. I live near here. I'm kind of a big deal.

I think this is a theater....not sure.  The sun looks pretty cool, though.

Nina and the Hermitage

By the River

Me with the Bronze Horseman

The Bronze Horseman

Church on Spilled Blood

Church on Spilled Blood
Artwork on the Street

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Some pictures and some info

So this post was going to be basically all pictures, but blogger is being fussy so we'll just have to space things out I guess....  I'll put up a few and some info.

Alexander Nevski Lavra - garden - aka the place where we buy amazing bread

Yep.  I live near here.
So, as part of the internship program, I'm working with a Russian student to update the handbook that they give us and to translate it into Russian and English.  It looks pretty intensive: we just receieved the work today and already we have a "deliverable" due on Thursday.  By the way, the term "deliverable" might be the lamest piece of beuracratic jargon EVER.  I'll keep you posted.

Tomorrow, we're going to Gatchina (this fortress thingy about 2 hours outside of Piter).  Actually, I should post my list of excursions for those who don't speak Russian:
Fortress Oreshek
The Museum of the Blockade of Leningrad
A week-long excursion down the Volga
Ballet (Anna Karenina)
Hockey match
Pushkin (the place)
A tour of the Baltika beer factory
Museum of Dostoevski's appartment etc.
The Opera/Classical Music concert
Lomonovski factory
Banya (Bathhouse)

Monday, September 13, 2010


Расписание классов/пар
Первая пара -  940 до 1110
Вторая пара - 1120 до 1250
Третая пара - 1340 до 1510

Понедельник - разговорная практика, грамматика, фонетика
Вторник - разговорная практика, политология 1, политология 2
Среда - экскурсия/сводное время
Четверг - фонетика, грамматика, комментированное чтение
Пятница - грамматика, разговорная практика, комментированое чтение

Расписание экскурсий

15.9  – Гатчина
22.9 – Крепость Орешек
29.9 – Музей блокада Ленинграда
6.10 – Большая поездка по Волге
15.10 – Балет (Анна Каренина?)
20.10 – Хоккей Матч (СКА – ЦСКА)
27.10 – Пушкин (Екатаринский дворец и янтарная комната)
10.11 – Балтика (по пивоварне)
17.11 – Музей Достоевского
24.11 – Опера/Концерт классической музыки
1.12 – Ломоновский фарфоровый завод
8.12 - Баня

Sunday, September 12, 2010

A little bit about my host mom

There really is no end to the things that you can find in Piter (St. Petersburg).  The other day, my host mom, Nina, took me to visit this thing that she kept calling (something) – island.  I, foolish American that I am, thought that this meant an actual island.  Oh no, my dear friends.  This was basically like a part of Disney land in the middle of Russia.  They had crazy rollercoasters and amusement rides everywhere.  You know the kind – the ones that would probably not pass the safety test in America.  They also had lots of little photo-op stations: characters from Beauty and the Beast, Baba Yaga and even an American Indian/Wild West station.
I’m really outrageously lucky in my host mom for a number of reasons:

  1. 1)      My previous host mom cancelled at the last second.  How on earth ACTR found a person at the last second is a mystery to me.   I guess it really says something about the relationship they have with the host families.
  2. 2)      She is an AMAZING cook.  Simply amazing.  I haven’t had the same thing to eat twice in a row yet.  It’s like she’ trying to use everything in her repertoire. 
  3. 3)      She’s very talkative and outgoing.  I can be outgoing, but, especially in Russian, it’s a lot easier for me to respond to other people’s attitude and questions than to spontaneously start conversation.
  4. 4)      She’s extremely cultured.  We have similar tastes in music (except her odd obsession with Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston*.  And the fact that her ringtone is Usher).    She’s already insisted that we go to the opera, ballet, etc.  At night we read together (right now Evegeni Onegin) or watch movies together.
  5. 5)      She’s extremely open to other cultures and doesn’t judge based on ethnicity or nationality.  She’s actually said that she really likes Americans, American language (English with an American accent) and American culture.  It’s such a welcome reprieve from the constant America-bashing one can receive in Europe.

Nina is hilarious and extremely “open”.  When I first arrived, she told me about her previous two American students.  The first had been here only for the semester, but they’d immediately formed a strong friendship.   They went to the theatre together, studied together – basically became inseparable.  I can’t tell you how many times she’s reminded me that they both cried when she left to go home or how many funny stories she’s told me about their escapades together. 

The second girl basically stayed in her room and barely spoke to Nina at all.  She’d go eat at restaurants and basically ignored Nina.  It was made extremely apparent which of the two I was meant to imitate.  But really, how anyone could manage to close themselves off around such a force of nature like Nina is beyond me.  And why on earth would you want to?

*Seriously.  She received a bonus not too long ago and spent almost all of it on a Whitney Houston concert.  Apparently the movie “The Bodyguard,” starring Kevin Costner and Whitney Houston, is (or was) extremely popular in Russia.  She had her fully grown, adult son download the file and bring it to her apartment so that we could watch it on the computer.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Photos from St. Petersburg Disneyland-type-thing

Baba Yaga's house.

Me with Vadik, my host mom's nephew.

Me with my host mom, Nina.  And Batman.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

The initial lowdown

So after many hours of flying and connecting flights (including a flight from Frankfurt to St. Petersburg on which I fell asleep next to a little Russian girl and I'm pretty sure I fell asleep).  I've read quite a lot of Гарри Поттер и Принц Полукровка (Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince in Russian).  I think I am going to do a post later on the things I found interesting in their translation (like how they did Fleur's accent!).

So, I've picked up a few traveling tips that I'm willing to share with you:
1) United is really anal about weighing baggage and will fine you $200.  To avoid this, put all the heaviest things in your carry-on.  If you want to not make friends, do this at the airport.
2) Lotion will manage to spill everywhere inside the the plastic bag you put it in, even if doesn't open or explode.  It's magic.
3) St. Petersburg really is THAT cold.  You don't think it will be, but it is.

4) Get super cheap cell phones.  All you need to do is call/text simplicity can be beautiful.  Also, the Russian way of doing cell-phones is fabulous.
5) You can get international calling cards for 1-rub per minute of international talk time.  On top of a 7 kopek rate, that's super cheap.
6) St. Petersburg is dead on Saturdays until about 9 or 10 am.   People will look at you strangely if you go out before then.

We meet our host families tomorrow. I'm so excited!  I got dumped by my first mom (ok, exaggeration, she backed out for whatever reason.  Whatever.  I got dumped.), but my second mom sounds really cool and she lives closer to school, which will be nice.   She's also a big talker and really into cultural things, according to Nathan.  I really hope it works out because host stay is my favorite part of the trip.

В конце концов мы прилетили в Россию вчера около полдня.  Мы все так устали, но нам было нельзя поспать до восьми.  На полете я читала около ста пятидесяти страниц книги "Гарри Поттер и Принц полукроквка".  Мне было интересно, как переводили французский акцент и имени многих персонажов.  Может быть я напишу об этом переводе после того, как я прочитала.

Ну, сегодня мы купили мобилники (такие дешевлие!) и снимали фотки для виз и студентских идентификаций.  Не знаю как это случилось, но все наши фотки были такими хорошими, будто бы мы были моделями.  Обычно в Америке, особенно в Виржинии, мы все виглядим преступниками в наших идентификациях.

К сожалению, моя первая русская мать не хотела житъ с мной (не правда, она просто не смогла для личных причин), но я получила новую маму сегодня.  Ее зовут Нина и она живет ближе к университете и Натан сказал, что она любит разговоривать, так что мне не очень жаль.  Переживаю.  Познакомимся завтра.  Надеюсь, что все будет хорошо.