Hello friends and family! I have survived another week here in Kirov, Russia and this week has by far gone by the quickest out of all of them. I thought last week went by fast, but this week I blinked my eye and it was already Friday! It was another week full of language classes and we are starting to really prepare and study for our final exam. Our final exam will consist of a speaking, listening, reading, and grammar portion so it’s safe to say most students are a little but nervous about it. However, our teachers are doing a great job to help us prepare so I think we will all perform fairly well on the final. I have learned so much of the language and soaked up so much culture since being with my host family. I had no idea my language skills would progress this much faster simply by living with a Russian family. You don’t realize how much Russian you know, and you think you aren’t that well equipped with the language, but then you try and listen to a dinner conversation and you can understand almost everything! I came to Russia knowing absolutely no Russian whatsoever except for small phrases and most of the alphabet and I was very worried about not picking up the language or just not understanding it at all. When I came to Russia I powered through, studied, and without really realizing it I learned to speak Russian. By that I simply mean I didn’t know how much I knew until I spoke it with Russians on the street, or ordering at restaurants, and even on public transportation. It’s a great experience to finally understand the questions Russians ask you and to be able to form answers to them. I know that I’m nowhere near fluent, but I feel as through for the most part I can get around and that was one of my goals. I really enjoy the language and definitely plan to continue when I return home from this trip. It really is a surreal experience and to anyone who’s reading this blog that is looking for a study abroad,language specific program, I highly suggest that you apply to NSLI-Y because I can hands down say it will forever be one of the best experiences of my life as well as life changing. I have grown as a person here, become more independent, and made very close friends that I hope to stay in touch with forever. I have also grown very close with my host sister and it’s going to be very sad leaving her. Having two sisters back home, I was very excited when I found out I was going to have a sister in Russia. She will always be my Russian sister and we will always stay in touch. We are soaking up every minute we have together as time goes by faster and faster every week. Now, as for how my week was…it was very busy and amazing so I will do a day by day post and I’ll start with the countryside last Sunday…
Sunday, July 20
My sister and I slept in again today which was very nice since we were both exhausted from the previous day. Once we were up and had dated breakfast we went on a walk over to South Kirov. There we met one of her friends and explored that part of the city and went into a shopping mall. A couple hours later we walked back home and had a quick lunch before heading to the grandmas dacha! For those of you that don’t know, a dacha is a house in a country that some Russian families have and sometimes there is a Banya, garden, and other things. We arrived at the dacha and it was absolutely adorable! It was situated next to this little pond and there was a huge garden and a Banya. My mom and the grandma worked on making a delicious soup while Masha showed me around the area and we are fruit off of plants and talked. It was so much fun and it was great to get some fresh air away from the busy city. Eventually, we ate soup, bread, and then we had of course tea and sweets. The soup we had is a traditional Russia dish that has Квас in it and then a lot of vegetables! It was very tasty. It started to get a little chilly so soon after eating my mom, sister and I headed back home. On the way home we stopped at the market to pick up ingredients for dinner. I noticed that the ingredients they were choosing seemed vaguely familiar….seaweed, salmon, cream cheese… And then I realized we were making sushi for dinner! If there was one thing I thought I’d never have it Russia it would definitely be sushi. We went home and my mom taught me how to roll sushi and we made a ton of rolls and at them and it was actually quite delicious! Soonafter, Masha and I were very tired so we went to bed after making our dialogue and after I finished homework.
Monday, July 21
Today after school a lot of the host siblings took us to the biggest mall in Kirov and they had us walk around for a little bit to explore the mall. I was pleasantly surprised as the fact that there was a Lush store in Kirov. It is without a doubt m favorite bath/body type of store. Then my sister, one of my friends and his host sister all walked home together. We walked through a very pretty park and there was a Ferris wheel and our Russian siblings insisted that we rode it. After the Ferris wheel we continued our walk home and it was a very relaxing, nice evening. After my sister and I wrote our dialogue and I finished my homework we watched a Russian fairytale movie with my host mom. It was very cute! It was almost a mix of all the princess movies, but mainly Cinderella.
Tuesday, July 22
After school today we went to another Camp Luch except this time is was with students around our age and even older. It was a camp for university students that had finished their final exams, almost like a retreat. We first had introductions and met most of the students residing there. Then there was a volleyball match and about half of the Americans played. The other half practiced our Russian skills with the Russians and it was very fun. They didn’t know a lot of English so we were bringing out out dictionaries and translators to try and hold conversation. However, with that said, I was pleasantly surprised with how much I could understand without my dictionary. After that they taught us a traditional Russian game called Lapta and I played and it was extremely fun. It is really hard to explain the game in words so I’ll attach a link so you can see what it’s like if you want. After the game we went and played another russian game where guys sat in a circle and the girls stood behind one guy. At all times one girl didn’t have a guy and this girl would wink at one if the guys sitting down (discretely) and he would try and move in front of that girl before the current girl standing behind him grabbed him. We played this for a little bit and then we switched roles. After this game we taught the Russians how to play Ninja and they really enjoyed it. Once we were finished playing games we were taken inside and drank tea and ate delicious sweets and food. We talked more with the Russians and exchanged some contact information to stay in touch. After we were full, one of the women from the camp led us Americans on a nice walk down to the Vyatka river. The camp is situated next to the river so it was a nice walk to go down and just sit/ relax on the sand before we had I head back. Eventually, around 8 we loaded the bus and were taken back to school where our host siblings or parents picked us up. My mom was there to pick me up and we went home and ate dinner. I wasn’t given any homework today since we were going to be at the camp until fairly late so I got a chance to skype my family who’s in South Africa on vacation and it was so nice to see them. They looked so great and I know someday I’ll have to go to South Africa so I can experience it too! They have been carrying around their flat Jessica so I’m sure there will be one interesting photos for them to share with me upon my return.
Wednesday, July 23
After school today almost all of the host siblings took us on a very long walk to a very big anti cafe on the other side of the river. Once we got there, however, they realized it was closed. Instead. We all went down to the beach and played games and relaxed in the sun. It felt so good to run my toes through the sand and to be somewhere that is peaceful. After having our brains fried at school it was nice to go somewhere like this and just have a chill afternoon. We were there for many hours and then my sister and I took the bus home. When we got home, to our pleasant surprise our host mom and made some homemade jam and these delicious cottage cheese pastry things called, in English, Syrniki (Сырники). Absolutely delicious! Then my sister and I took naps and a couple hours later we ate dinner. Tonight was interesting because for the first time in a long while I had something different for dinner, We ate chicken hearts. My host mom and sister refrained from telling me this until I was nearly done eating them. Although it may sound weird, I thought it was very good and didn’t think much of it even after they told me what it was. My mom also baked a delicious pie which we are with icecream after dinner. Once my sister and I finished our dialogue and I finished my homework we went to bed.
Thursday, July 24
After school we went to Hannah’s host sisters house to all watch a movie. I’d say most of the Americans came with their host siblings. It took a very long time for the movie to load so for the first hour and a half or so we all just relaxed and played cards and talked. Once the movie loaded it was quite good! It was in Russian with English subtitles and it reminded me of a Russian Monty Pithon. It was a very fun and enjoyable film! After the movie we played more cards and then finally my sister and I left. On the way home we saw two people dressed as life sized milk and cream cheese so of course I had to take a photo with them! There’s no way my host sister would have let me not take a picture with them. When my sister and I got home we ate dinner, did homework/dialogue, and then we watched a movie with my host mom. We watched “Bridget Jones’s Diary” which is one of their favorite movies. After the movie we were all tired so everyone went to bed.
Friday, July 25
Today after school we went to a beautiful apart museum in Kirov and walked through all the exhibits. The art was incredible and I really enjoyed all of the amazing painting and even sculptures I saw. It was also a very historical museum and the portraits painted of the Russians were absolutely breathtaking. The work was really well done and I’m always amazed by how much emotion a painting can capture and how much of a story a painting can tell. It really fascinates me. After the museum, my sister and her boyfriend took me to a Russian wedding which was a very enjoyable experience. It was so fun and beautiful and I love weddings to getting to see one in Russia made my day! In Russia Friday is considered the best day to get married so there are brides everywhere and cars with flowers honking all over Kirov on this day. It was a very sweet ceremony filled with lots of flowers, love, wine, and fun! It was very cool to observe all of this! Afterwards, my sister and I took the bus home and we both came home and ate some soup and bread. Then we both took very nice naps. When we woke up we came downstairs and my host dad was sitting on the couch- he had returned from his holiday to the Red Sea. He bought me a lovely picture frame and I will definitely need to frame a photo of my family and me in it to always remember how wonderful of a family I was blessed with. My mom then wanted me to teach her the ‘Cup Song’ so we spent a couple minutes or so doing that and then we played Jenga until dinner. My host dad made yummy spaghetti and meatballs. Throughout the evening we did our own activities and then late once we all were back together my sister, mom and I stayed up late watching the sequel to the movie we had watched the precious night before. It was a great Friday.
Today my sister and I are going to a friends dacha and a lot if the Americans and host siblings are going. It’s a sleepover so we will all spend the night in the countryside together and I’m very much looking forward to it. Stay posted for an update about my second weekend with my host family!