понедельник, 16 марта 2009 г.

Reflection

As I was sitting on the couch of a friend last night, I tried to reflect on a trip that became one of the most unbelievable experiences of my conscious life.

People often asked me how I managed to sleep 1.5-2 hours a night on average and still smile and be full of energy, and the answer is very simple: I could not get enough of this trip, and enjoyed every single second of it. If anything, our conversations with our friends from St. Petersburg made me realize how fortunate, lucky, and privileged I was to be participating in such an adventure. From their perspective, integrating such an event into a language program is fascinating, alluring, but also somewhat incomprehensible due to the fact that they did not imagine it was possible for a school to provide its students with such a remarkable opportunity.

I vividly remember the question I received from Sasha Koustov after describing life at Conn during our formal discussion, which was: "Is is really that good?" The perspective that I gained during the trip makes me even more confident in the resounding "Yes" I was going to give as an answer. I am not quite sure what I have done to deserve such a gift, but I am forever thankful for having received it.

For that, I would like to say: THANK YOU SO MUCH, Prof. Lanoux, for providing me with the most diversified and enlightening set of experiences in addition to an additional motivation to excel in Russian, and THANK YOU, classmates and Anichka, for sharing this wonderful trip with me and for being such amazing travel companions.

суббота, 14 марта 2009 г.

До свидания, Россия!

I'm about to leave Russia for the tenth or eleventh time--enough to begin to lose count. The first time I visited Russia in 1988, I was the age of most of the students on this trip. Clearly it was a transformative experience, although I had know idea at the time how much it would shape my future life and present career. What I learned from that experience was that every assumption I had held to that time had another, "Russian" dimension: what it is to be a good friend, to have a bad day, to take a class, to encounter the police--nearly every aspect of life had another way of being, a "parallel universe" in Russia. Even the basic building blocks of daily life--bread, house, street, store--conjured up different concepts in my mind during and after my first stay. And I realized how many parallel universes there must be in different cultures, each with its own social codes, material reality, assumptions. For those better traveled than I was at age twenty, that goes without saying, but for me it was a revelation.

During this trip I've met a number of people who have asked why we're here. When I explain that this trip is a practicum for the elementary Russian sequence at our college, people smile in awe at the lavishness and logic of visiting the country of the language you are learning. And I realize what a remarkable, wonderful experience this is, and how lucky I am to be able to teach this class the way I feel it should be taught.
Especially after having gone on a bus tour of the city several days ago, we have all been having so much fun exploring the neighborhood around the apartments where we are staying. This morning, Bianca and I woke up early to go get coffee. We walked down, with our coffee, past Saint Vladimir's Church, a beautifully ornate yellow church with black onion domes that we had only seen from the window of the bus before. We also walked past another beautiful church, one with a golden dome and an immense, pillared facade, that Sergei had told us about on the tour. It feels so strange to be casually strolling past such historical buildings, but I love it. All of the buildings here, even apartment buildings, put American cities to shame. Walking down the street is sensory overload; no two buildings, it seems, are the same. Also, it is so wonderful living next to so many bakeries/cafes. Even when we don't understand what pastries we are ordering, that just means that we end up having delicious breakfasts that we never would have thought to intentionally buy.

пятница, 13 марта 2009 г.

Days in St. Petersburg

Although I am not awake at dawn, as I once was in Moscow due to jetlag, I can still hear the sounds of this magnificent city coming to life. It sounds much more like New York City to me than Moscow did, the beeps, the general buzz of cars and the occasional growl of a moped or a small angry car trying to get through the traffic.

Last night a few of us went to this rather large department store that I cannot remember the name of now, but I imagine that it is a palace turned into a department store of epic proportions - from the fur hats (which I am still wondering whether I should buy one for mum), to the neatest little lamps that they sell in the home goods that I really liked but I could hear a voice in my head telling me that only the elderly ladies here like them on their dark wood round tables, cvoered by a square of lace and daintily put into a corner to lit the tea table...so I resisted. But it was hard! But it is was a great store, if not a bit expensive.

We've been to many a palace here, and today we are going to one of the best I believe - Catherine's Palace. I have seen the amber room, but I am quite sure that some of us on the trip are not quite prepared for that room. There is nothing in the world like it. But we are also going to the Siege memorial, which will be very sad and will hold the feeling as the war memorials in Washington D.C.

Also - it's been fabulous because we haven't taken the metro here - I mean the underground subway, I think that really detracts from immersing oneself into a city. I feel like I lost a lot in Moscow because we would be metro-ing and suddenly pop up in a place that felt like it was on the other end of the world instead of just ten minutes away by metro. The tour bus was a really good choice I believe, because of the mobility but much more because of how we can see where we are going. For instance, on our trip to Novgorod yesterday, when we passed the hinterlands of the city and saw the fur factory, or the meat factory with two imposing bulls as the statues on either side of the gate. Or just seeing the signs and the people and the cars around us - when we were returning we saw a taxi whose radio consisted of what you would think the inside wiring of a large toaster would look like was sitting on it's trunk to find the best signal. Or seeing the occasional funny cognate, for hot dog, or something like that.

The apartments are also a good choice, granted I believe that a bit more lighting could be of use in the stairwell, but the kitchens are great as well as the view outside the window. But the beds are super comfortable and that is all that matters at the end of the day when my feet are tired from being subjected to icy conditions and traversing through the Russian urban life. Regardless, I would not exchange this experience for anything.

среда, 11 марта 2009 г.

Partners from St. Petersburg

I was planning to write entries about numerous famazing aspects of the trip, such as the unbelievable diversity of experiences (really - Kremlin museum with tons of golden artefacts from tzarist Russia and then the Cold War Museum which is actually a huge bunker underground) that is impossible to get in any other shape or form, but I never found the time.

There is something about which I have to write though. Our language partners from the St. Petersburg branch of the Moscow Economics University are beyond hyper amazing! They are among the funniest, most intelligent, most open, and most energetic people I have seen in my life. Andrea, partnering us up was such a haroshaya ideya! We finally went clubbing with a few of them last night which invigorated me in an unbelievable way. I am thrilled about our time here, and I am sure we are experiencing times of our lives we are going to remember for long.

Here is a moment to say one of many OGROMNOE SPASIBO to our wonderful awesome amazing creative and simply unbelievable Andrea! The way the trip is working out shows that you put in so much energy and so many ingenious ideas into it, which is such a gift to all of us.

вторник, 10 марта 2009 г.

Right now we're all chilling in one of the apartments... it's been a pretty long day and we're all mucho excited about St. Petersburg. We're taking the night train around midnight, but until then, we'll just have to party in Moscow some more. I wasn't so sure what I thought of the actual city yesterday, but after an awesome night and different explorations, I'm pretty convinced that it's a bawlin city. Totally love it. P.S. It's Valentina's bday, so HAPPY BIRTHDAY VALENTINA!!

понедельник, 9 марта 2009 г.