So a lot of things have happened since I last wrote (if you can call that last entry an entry, I mean, really).
First off IT'S SNOWING! Like honest-to-God snowing, not that mamby-pamby BS that we call snow in Virginia.
We went on our long cruise, which was quite interesting (although some of the tour-guides, not so much). We visited Нижный Новгород, Казань, Ульяновск (where Lenin was born and grew up), Самара (where one of Stalin's bunkers is), Саратов and Волгоград (Сталинград, where basically the whole city was bombed to the ground by the Nazi's).
My impressions of the cities:
Nizhny Novgorod - an ok city, but a terrible tour guide and we spent WAY too much time there
Kazan - GORGEOUS city with a really interesting blend of Tatar and Russian culture. The mosque there looks like something out of the emerald city from the wizard of OZ.
Ulyanovsk - besides Lenin, doesn't have much going for it, which explains why they are still completely obsessed with the man despite the fact that he was NOT all that and a bag of chips. They also have a monument to the letter ё.
Samara - bunker was cool, could have skipped the rest
Saratov - cute little musical city, reminded me of singing with the choir at Middlebury
Volgograd - really sad, although the monuments are a little bit overwhelming. It occasionally steps of the line of reverent remembrance into cult-like devotion.
Moscow - totally could have skipped my 4th visit there. Over-rated city. Got some Nutella though, so not a complete waste of a day.
I think the best part of it all was the fact that we shared the boat with a bunch of retired Germans and British people. A rather bizarre combination of age-groups and nationalities. It was super fun watching them dance in the bars on the boat at night. Makes me sad that I can't really dance like that. Our generation is not going to age well.....
But now I'm back :-) Apparently having lost a lot of weight (although I don't really think so....) My host mom is on the war-path and attempting to fatten me back up.