Friday, October 28, 2005

I’m a What?...

A professor, yes that is right. The Russian Federation has entrusted the education of their students to me… What the hell were they thinking? I cannot believe that this is what I’m actually doing. It isn’t so much that I’m teaching, but it is who I’m teaching. These poor Russian students; they’re in for it this time. In all honesty, I cannot believe that having a class of students, who are interested in what they are learning and interested in their teacher, can be so uplifting to someone. I had my first class, today. It was the first time that I meet with a group of students, who were my very own. These were the fourth year students in the Regional Studies Department –the students I’ll be working with for my entire stay here. Already, only after one class, I know this is going to be a wild, fun, and educational class. Most of the students, minus those who just showed up to see the American, are already well versed in English, but they are so devoted to their studies that they are excited about our interaction with each other. This is an awesome feeling! Having a class of students, who are not being forced into taking the class, and instantly knowing that it is going to be a fantastic group is so refreshing. Up until today, most of my lectures have been given to students who really don’t care, minus that one Law class, so having a group of students that care is excellent. Not only do they want to learn from me, but I’ve already been asked to hang out with some students. One male student, the only male student –poor, poor boy, I know what he feels like (remember my trip to England?) –has already invited me out with him and his friends. On Tuesday, his band is going to perform at a night club, and he wants me to go an watch. This is great for me because, besides Alec, I haven’t had any contact with males…I miss that. I miss hanging with the guys and just bull-shiting, so this is going to be great! My Russian Rock Friends! After only one hour, these students like me enough to invite me to hang-out –they don’t know me well at all, I’m a boar.

So the class’s subject is “Business English,” which to be honest I have no clue about, but I’m resourceful and I’ll learn. Its not like don’t have any idea about the subject, but its not my specialty. However, the students are interested in all aspects of English and America, so I think I’ll be fine. This class also consists of the three girls, Dacha, Kristina, and Julia, who were the three that took me sightseeing my first Sunday in Rostov. I’ve already told them that they are going to be my “pets” and help me out a lot. I want this class to be very fun and different than their normal classes, so I’m going to try many different styles of teaching (Yes Katherine, PBL is one of them!). I’ve asked the three girls to let me know what others think about the styles of teaching and the class in general, they are my own personal spies. Hopefully with their help and my wanting to try different styles of teaching, the class will be fun and educational for them and for me. I’m just so excited to finally begin this; its like I’m attending a Garbage concert or something, because I feel a real high when I think about the class. Probably the scariest thing for me right now is that I’ve only got six months with them –I already want more time...

P.S. Can you believe I’ve already been here a month! That went fast!

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Russian Hospitality...

Never have I been so well taken care of, or at least by so many different people. Although Americans can be quite hospitable, we're not known for it. In fact, I've been asked by many people if Russians, moving to or visiting the States, would be well taken care of by Americans. This question makes me think. Yes, we would be kind to them and offer them help at times, but at the same time we are (or think we are) so busy that we might overlook helping them just because we feel pressed for time. However, this is not the case here. Many people are worried about my well-being, not just Lucy or Galina, but practically everyone I meet here. They want to make sure I'm eating enough, which I am, and that I feel comfortable here. Everyone feels that they are somewhat responsible for me, while I'm here. Lucy, for example, goes out of her way to make sure that I'm okay. Yesterday, she went with me to the market, because I asked her to, but she ended up making me buy more food then I wanted or felt I needed. I only wanted her to help me get some lunch meat, because you have to speak with someone to get it, and instead she picked out quite a bit of groceries for me. I tried to tell her that I didn't need all that, but she wouldn't listen to me. Lucy is so funny because she is always asking my opinion on something, but then overwriting me when it comes time to make the decision. However, I didn't plan to speak about her so much in this post, but she is really a wonderful, intelligent, and very interesting person. I wanted to speak about a young woman I meet yesterday, Alina. Alina is about 20 years old and actually just returned from living in Kentucky for about 10 months. She was there studying English at a University, so she knows what its like to be in a new country. Not only does she understand how hard, at times, it can be for me to be here, but she also understands the American way of life. When I say or do something that many be seen as "American," which Lucy and Kristin are quick to point out, Alina understands. Yesterday, when we first meet, she said "what's up?" instead of "hello, how are you?" Do you have any idea how floored I was by that statement. No one, especially a Russian, has said "What's up?" to me before. Kristin and her friends do, but no Russian has until now. It was also really nice because I could speak slang with her and she understood practically everything, and she could speak slang back. Now this isn't a huge thing, but it was comforting to hear "that's bull" or "you want to hang?" coming out of a Russian's mouth. Not only is it her vocabulary, but its also how kind and understanding she is. She wants to help me get adjusted to Rostov, and not because she wants to marry me but because she knows how hard it can be to adjust some times. Living in America, she had her good and bad days, and so she knows that having someone you can call to help you is a big relief. I'm also excited because her whole family wants to help me, and they want to show me different parts of Russia. She said that they wouldn't be a "host family," but just a family who wanted to help and make me feel like Rostov was my home. With this many kind people helping me, both Russian and Norwegian, I'm sure that the next six months will go smoothly...

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

A Life Worth Living…

Living, I don’t think we every really notice that we are living until life just opens up for you and swallows you whole. I’ve never felt so completely happy and relaxed in my entire life, and with that I’ve never felt so alive. Its odd how strange, random things can cause you to feel this way, especially things that have to do with a job. As I posted earlier, as I’m now writing in my room, today has been a really great day. First off, I finally got my cell phone, which makes me feel like I’m finally home; it also helps that I’m finally figuring how to use the phone system here, it’s a bit odd in my opinion. Not only is it my phone that makes me feel okay, but I had a conversation, a real conversation, with my mother earlier and that just grounds me – I don’t feel so far away from home now. Just hearing a familiar loving voice really helps.

I then held two lectures today, and one of them really went well. For the first time ever, I feel like I’ve connected with a group of students. It is hard to explain what this feels like for those of you how’ve never experienced this before, but those of you who have know what I feel like. It was during my lecture with the second year Law department students; they just were really responsive to what I was saying and they asked good, thought provoking questions. Not only were they interested in what I had to say, but I was also interested in what they had to say and what they had to ask me. I didn’t even notice the time, so I actually let them out later than I was suppose to because it was going so well. In fact, several of the male students, which it was nice to have contact with males because I’ve been lacking that, walked with me back to the main building of the University after the class was over. We discussed everything from the American government to the Russian government and more. Just being able to communicate, with no rules or regulations, with some of the students really made me feel like this whole teaching thing is worth it. You see in Russia, I think I’ve said this before but anyway, it is not normal for students to have an outside relationship with their teachers, so there is a sort of wall built up between them, which I see as a weakness in their system. However, being able to just spend some time with students outside of class, especially since I have not done that since the first week here, was really nice and I felt like they were really interested in me. They were the ones who offered to walk with me and I was more than willing to have the company. Three males in particular were very kind and very up front with me. They spoke freely about their impressions of America and our political system, because they are law students, and I was able to do the same. Being as opinionated as I am is somewhat a hindrance here because they really don’t speak of such things, so it was nice to be able to express my opinions with them and not feel they would be upset by what I said. Also to teach them, or I should say show them, that not all Americans believe in our current administration (sorry for those of you who do, but the Europeans really think that it is a bad situation) was something that I’ve longed to do. Everyone who has been brave enough to talk to me about this seems to believe like I do that our current administration is not making things better in the world, and they are extremely shocked to find that I tend to agree with them. Don’t get me wrong, I love America and being here shows me what I have that I should be really thankful for, but it also shows me the negative aspects of America too. This experience has made me reevaluate my previous beliefs about America, both bad and good, and has given me a better understanding of the country. Anyway enough of the political thing because I don’t want to start a fight. I’m just trying to say that making this connection with students, in whatever way possible, has really made me excited about teaching and I look forward to future conversations I have with students. They are going to teach me so much more then I could ever teach them.

Yet, it wasn’t all great today, because the first lecture I gave almost turned out as bad as my lecture on resumes. The reason for this, I think, was because they were first year students and couldn’t really comprehend what I was trying to say. Then if they did comprehend it they were too immature to care. Between the two classes, I could really tell when students didn’t care, which made me not care and want to finish quicker, and when students where interested which made me more interested in what I was telling them. I’m sure that Marina, the professor, could also tell how different I acted for the second class. I’m starting to realize that not all classes are going to be good, but that those tough classes will teach you a lot more about teaching then the good ones will.

Finally, a last note is that I meet a very intriguing woman, and if you’re a writer you should be so jealous of me because I have her for material and you don’t. She is an older teacher, I’d say about sixty, in the Law department, but my god was she funny. Within a minute of meeting her, she told me her whole life story, and how when she was in the University (during the Communist period) she meet a British man, Richard. Olga, which she said very proudly was a “true Russian name,” explained to me her and Richard’s whole dynamics together. It was beautiful how open she was with me, and only after just meeting me. For about a half an hour, while I was waiting for the classes to start, I sat listening to her story, which at times jumped form one subject to another but all had something to do with her overall story. Now I have to be honest, her story didn’t really interest me as much as she did. The whole time, I sat there just looking at her and thinking how truly amazing she was. If I could paint, which I can’t worth a shit, I’d have painted her portrait, because there was just something about her that struck me as so freakin’ amazing. Yes, I’ll try and paint her in a poem, but I don’t know if I’ll do her justice because she was a very strong, individual woman. I really hope that I’m able to speak with her again –her stories remind me of my grandfather’s, which might be why I feel so close to her. My grandfather, just like her, would tell a complete stranger a story about some previous time in his life, and most of them (including myself) would blow him off. But being older now, I see life there. I see how these stories, even though they may not be relevant to my life, have a worldly quality to them that will teach me all I need to know about life in the long run…

Monday, October 24, 2005

When Life Just Seems to Work Out...

It is a wonderful feeling, when life just seems to work out. Today, after almost a month of being here, I feel at home. I've had an amazing day. Starting with the fact that by the time I go home, my room will be clean (yeah, fresh towels!); I finally got a cell phone and a calling card, so I was able to call home and speak with my mom; and I also had a great class today, which really made me calm down in front of a class. Life just finally seems to be working for me...if only I could get that rash to clear up! Just kidding. Well I cannot write too much right now, because we are getting ready to leave but I just wanted to tell the world how great today is. I'll write more later and post it tomorrow, unless i get sidetracked! I start my own classes on Thursday, yes! I'm so pumped!

Friday, October 21, 2005

Mixed Nuts...

The title really has nothing to do with anything, I just felt like use it for some reason. Not much has really changed in the last few days, and nothing has really happened. However, I feel rather good about being here, especially when I'm not surround by a million people looking at me like I'm some sort of freak. This morning, again, I was watched as I ate breakfast by a group of students. It was extremely odd for me and I almost couldn't finish eating. They were just sitting there looking at me and making comments...I don't know what they were saying but it was still weird. Every time I could tell they were looking at me, I looked at them and smiled. Its so odd to be looked at so much, it happens everywhere. I'm walking down the street, people are looking at me; I'm typing on the computer, people are looking at me; I'm trying to eat any meal, people are looking at me -I'm getting very uncomfortable with the whole situation and its becoming a little annoying. I now know what a celebrity feels like but at least they have reasons to be looked at, I'm just some American. You all know that I don't like undeserved attention and I HATE when people stare at me, so I'm gonna break soon and just start yelling "YES, I'M AMERICAN...WHAT DO YOU WANT?" Its twice as bad when Kristin and I are walking together, because then its like 'look there are two foreigners and they even have different accents from one another.' I swear this is so odd for me, no one ever looked at me in America or if they did I gave them a dirty look back. Thankfully, I've been able to control my dirty looks, but soon I might have to break out the' look of death' on some of the people here...its really maddening. What else is new? Let me think. Not much really. I think I just wanted to rant a little about how much people are looking at me.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

A Gigantic Failure…

I knew from the moment I walked into the classroom that it would not turn out good. The students were all several years older than me, and I could tell they were not too excited about me being there. I’m talking about the class that I had tonight, with the graduate students of the University. Galina, about a week ago, asked me if I could cover for her, while she went to a friend’s birthday party. The class was a graduate level class and she asked if I could go and speak about resumes. I of course, wanting to help, said yes. However, as I tried to prepare for the class, I realized I had no real knowledge of resumes. Of course, I had learned in high school how to construct a resume and what to put in it, but I’ve never created one for myself. In preparation for the class tonight, I decided that I would do some research and create a resume for myself. After conducting this research and putting my resume together, I felt rather comfortable about my knowledge on the subject, so I went to the class prepared for the discussion. However, it turned out to be a complete failure. The students, although they’ve studied English for some time, could not understand what I was saying. They kept asking me to repeat and slow down, which is okay but even after I did so they still could not understand what I was talking about. I was trying to show them how to construct a resume and what needs to go in it; yet, to my surprise many of them knew how to create a resume but their version is quite different from ours. I just feel like the entire class was looking up at me and thinking that I was a complete idiot. They weren’t exactly rude, but several of the students answered their phones, while in class, and several of them even got up and walked out in the middle of my lesson. In America, I would not have stood for this, because it is rather rude and not the way students are to act in a classroom setting, but not knowing the rules of a Russian classroom, I had to ignore it. For me, this class is the worst I’ve ever even sat in, and I feel that it is somewhat my fault. Maybe I should’ve done more to prepare and research the Russian resume, but Galina asked me to discuss resume writing in America. Granted some of the students tried to make me feel comfortable and that they were interested but the majority of the class was rather rude. People were talking out of turn and where asking questions that did not pertain to the lesson. Now I gave the students an opportunity at the beginning of the class to ask me any general questions about myself or America, because I understand their curiosity, but some of the questions were inappropriate to me. For example, one man asked me if I believe or I should say “if I trust God?” You all know that I’m not a religious person but that I do not discriminate against those who are; yet, this question to me should NEVER be asked. At home if anyone where to ask me I’d tell them it was none of their danm business, which I’ve done on several occasions (some of you have even seen me in this position). Like I said, I understand peoples need to believe in a “higher being,” and I myself believe that there is some sort of power but I cannot name it. However, this question is of such a personal nature that it shouldn’t be asked to someone you don’t really know. Anyway off that. Another question I was asked was if I was going to get married here –how many danm times am I going to be asked this? –which I responded ‘no.’ Thinking that that was a reasonable answer, I tried to move on but couldn’t because they then asked if I like girls!!!!! These sorts of questions are NOT to be asked, and I felt very uncomfortable. As an American, I have the whole idea or belief that what I do with my life is no one’s business and that I don’t interfere with their lives, so they shouldn’t with mine. Russians on the other hand feel they need to know everything about everyone, so this is very different for me. I’m trying to be accepting and understanding of their traditions and their way of life, because I am living here, but at the same time I feel that I have to do what I believe in. This is causing me some trouble, because I don’t know how to tell them that I do not appreciate these types of questions. I guess I’ll just have to learn to deal with it. All in all though I feel the class’s disrespect is somehow my fault, and I do not know how to deal with a class like this. If I was more than a guest speaker, I think I would’ve said something, but because it isn’t my class I felt that I had no right to correct them…Urgh…it was very frustrating. I’ll chop this one up to a learning experience. I guess I did something right though, because when I dismissed class several of the students thanked me and asked if I would return. When I told them I didn’t know, they asked me to try and return because they liked speaking with me. That’s it for now; I’ll write again soon…I’m sure I’ll have some other rant or story to tell.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

I'm tired and board...

So I'm in a much better mood today; my spirits are up and I'm feeling more comfortable being here. Yet I'm very tired. I didn't sleep well last night, so it is effecting the way I'm functioning today. Right now, I should be working on some material for my lecture tomorrow, but I'm too tired to think about resume writing. Yep, that's what I'm giving a lecture on -resume writing. How fun? I really don't know a lot about resume writing; in fact, I never wrote a resume until just the other day. Its not something I studied in college, but I remember some stuff from high school and I've done a lot of research on it... Still I'm not sure why I'm speaking about it, except for the fact that I'm an American and we use resumes for everything. Resumes have just started to be used over here in Russia, so I guess they think I'll know more naturally than they do. Oh well, I'll wing it and it will be fine and very educational for them. Plus, I've already made my resume for when I return -two birds one stone ;).

What a difference a day can make. Yesterday morning, I wasn't too happy about being here and I felt really depressed, but then I made a call home and all was right. I got to speak with my mom, even though it was only for four minutes, but it meant everything to me. It made me feel better just to be able to hear another native English speaker, and especially my mom's voice. Now I'm more at peace and think that as long as I stay in contact with people from home, the bad days will always pass. I was even able to write some poems last night; I've struggled with writing poems over here so far, but last night I wrote two pretty good ones. I'm not sure if they're really good but at least I was able to put words on paper in some sort of way other than this journal. One of the poems was about the amount of enforced chaos here. What I mean by that is everything seems like chaos to me -the way they drive, the way the stand in lines, the way they do just about everything. Yet, people here understand and follow it with no problem. Its not a big deal to them if someone cuts in front of them in line or if a car cuts them off while going 80 mph, its normal and expected. Then the other poem was about Alec, my Russian brother. I don't think it turned out the way I wanted it to, but at least now the words are there and I can change and manipulate them how I want too. It was nice just finally being able to calm down enough to write some creative work. In my mind, I've been playing around with the idea of making a collection of portrait poems here. For those of you who don't know what I mean, I'll explain. I want to write one poem or several poems about people I've either meet or seen here, just sort of describe them and what I see when I look at them. So each poem will be a portrait of either a person or a situation/experience I've been in. I think it would be good to see a modern look of Russia through the eyes of a foreigner, because it is so different from America or Europe, or at least I'm told. This will also be a good way for me to try and improve my writing, and also give me a chance to commit to something bigger than one or two poems and see if I can pull it off. We'll just have to see about that though... I guess I should try and prepare for my lecture tomorrow, but I like to just sort of do things and hope they turn out good. Knowing my luck, I'll totally freeze and not have anything to say when I'm in front of the class, so I better prepare some.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Weekend Madness…

Weekend Madness…

Today has been an emotional one for me –it is Sunday right now. First off, I’ve been very depressed because I haven’t been able to speak with anyone from home. I’ve tried several times to get a phone card to call home and when I finally did, I couldn’t get it to work. Hopefully tomorrow when I’m around people who speak English, I’ll be able to have them explain how the calling card works. At which point, I’ll call my mom as soon as I know she is awake. This lack of communication with people that I know well is probably the hardest part about being here, and is almost driving me to the point of wanting to call it quits and return home. I know that I shouldn’t think this way, especially since I’ve only been here two weeks but I’m becoming very discouraged with everything. I’m not picking up the language, so it’s hard for me to even ask for help from people. Then I feel like I have no control over anything, which is hard for me because I’ve been rather independent, my whole life. Now being as shy as I am, I’m forced to try and ask strangers for help. I never had to do this in the States and if I did it wasn’t a big thing because I didn’t have to worry about them not understanding me. Yet, I’ll stick with it for a little longer and probably find that it will become easier, especially after I have some verbal contact with family and friends at home.

However, the title of the post is “Weekend Madness” and now you’ll find out why. Yesterday, which was Saturday, was Kristin’s friend’s birthday, so they decided that they would throw her a birthday party at a local bar. I was invited and decided that it would be a lot of fun, and it would give me the chance to hang out with Kristin and her friends more. Kristin arrived at my room around 2pm, so that we could get my calling card and walk around the main streets here before heading back to her dorm (her dorm is about 30 minutes from where I live). Everything went well during this excursion and I’ve taken some more pictures to share with all of you, which you’ll see after this post. The pictures were taken in a park (I mentioned once before) and are just of the gardens and one of the statues that fill the park. While walking around this time, like always, Kristin and I were getting a lot of funny looks form the Russians –we feel that they are always staring at us and especially our shoes because they don’t wear tennis shoes here. The girls here all wear like 5inch hills, it’s a little scary, and the guys all wear dress shoes that are pointed at the toe. I don’t understand how anyone here can even walk a mile without killing over. Just another of the millions of cultural differences between us and the Russians; on an interesting note I think that Europeans and Americans are much more similar then we’d all like to admit…Kristin and her friends are exactly like all of my friends back at home, its often frightening how similar we all are.

Now to the party, because this is when the weekend really gets interesting. Kristin and I arrived at her dorm room about 5pm, which was when we had agreed to meet up with her friends. Her friends had prepared dinner, which was the best dinner I’ve ever had in my life. Why? Well because it was Mexican food and actually had a taste to it. I was in complete heave the whole time I sat there eating the fajitas. I swear that they were the best thing that I’ve ever tasted, but probably only because I haven’t had spices in a few weeks. It is possible that I scared Kristin and her friends because I kept making noises the whole time I was eating, which sounded rather naughty. Anyway, we finished eating and decided that it was time to get to the bar. In all honesty, I was already a little drunk because we had been drinking wine while we ate. Yet we got to the bar and ordered drinks…sorry, no vodka. There were around five bottles of Champaign that were being served to us, plus all of the beer and other drinks we were ordering. It was getting a little crazy, and defiantly a lot of fun was being had by all of us. In fact the whole bar was having a good time. Although there were many Russians there who we didn’t know, they started to celebrate with us. Of course they kept trying to talk to me and the only thing I could really say back to them, because of my lack of the Russian language plus I was getting drunk, was “I don’t speak Russian.” However this did not deter them from wanting to befriend me, especially one guy named Alec. At one point during the party, all of us were up dancing around Kjersti, the birthday girl, and when I went to go sit down after the dance, I was stopped by Alec. He was trying to tell me something, but I couldn’t understand what he was saying. I apologized for not being able to understand him, at which he left me alone…for the time being.

It was getting really crazy in the bar and it was full of smoke, so Kristin and I thought we’d step outside for awhile –never do this when in a foreign country, it only turns out bad! At first we were fine and no one was bothering or even talking to us, but then this guy named Sasha came up and started to speak with us. He was really nice, and could speak a little English. What neither Kristin nor I knew was that Sasha was friends with Alec and after only a few minutes of us talking with Sasha, Alec appeared. Well Alec was extremely drunk and I don’t think he knew what the hell was going on, but some how he decided that him and I were to be best friends. He came up to me and said, “I Alec, I your friend.” To this I replied, “Sure. Sounds good.” My reply didn’t satisfy him though, because he then went on to say that he and I were brothers. Now as I said, Alec couldn’t speak English, so we were having some trouble communicating but this didn’t stop him. He wanted for him and I to go for a walk…this was were I begun to panic. No matter how many ways I told him (I said ‘no,’ I said ‘net,’ and I even said ‘ni,’ which is Norwegian) that I couldn’t go with him because I was to stay with Kristin, he wouldn’t stop trying to get me to leave. After awhile of Kristin telling him no and me telling him no, he was okay with staying at the bar as long as I would have a beer with him. By this point in the evening, I was about as drunk as I’ve ever been and agreed with him only to protect myself –I really didn’t know what this guy wanted from me.

Well during this whole exchange outside, I almost lost Kristin like twenty times because random guys would come up to her and try “taking her for a walk.” You see going for a walk over here isn’t like at home, it isn’t about exercises at all. Through all of this Kristin and I just started to tell everyone that we were dating, so they would just leave us alone…it worked for the most part. The night was turning into utter chaos and I’m surprised that we lived through it. Anyway, I finally got Alec to agree that if he wanted to hang out that we’d do it in the bar, so we all went back inside. Alec bought us a round and we sat down. Well the only thing he said to me the whole night was that “James my friend. Alec your friend.” He told me this over a hundred times, I’m sure. I kept agreeing with him, even when he was being very friendly –you know what I mean, I won’t go into details. Luckily, Kristin and I were putting on that we were together, so she protected me from Alec and I protected her from all the old Russian males, who wanted her to marry them. The rest of the night Alec and I hung out at the bar, with him repeating himself over and over. So if you haven’t guessed, Alec and I are good friends, practically brothers.

Soon it was one o’clock in the morning, only about two hours after mine and Kristin’s buildings are shut up for the night. Since I’ve been here, I’ve never stayed out past curfew, but Kristin and her friends have often. In fact, the lady who watches their building won’t even let them into the building anymore after curfew, so we decided that we would try and get into my building. If we couldn’t we’d be sleeping outside, so we thought it was worth the try. She and I, after saying good-bye to everyone, left the bar. When I said good night to Alec, he wasn’t too happy but before he could even get up, we were out the door. To be honest, Kristin and I sort of ran from the bar because if we didn’t Alec probably would’ve came back to my room with us. We flagged down a car, which is the way you get a taxi here because random people do it for some extra money, and had them take us back to my room. Upon coming up to my building, it was completely dark and we didn’t know if we’d be able to get in, but we knocked anyway. The lady who is in charge of opening the building, we call them “grannies,” came to the door and let us in. Although she wasn’t too happy about me being out two hours after curfew, she didn’t fight about letting us in. It might have done something with me telling her, “ya iz Ameriki,” which you probably can translate. That sentence gives me a lot of power here. So finally, Kristin and I were safe in my room; we were away from all the crazy people who wanted to do god-knows-what to us. We soon passed out, Kristin on the couch, me on my bed –just so you don’t think anything that isn’t true…

I’ll never forget this night for the rest of my life, and Alec will always be my “Russian Brother.” This experience has got to be one of those ones I’ll always cherish, even if at times I was scared for my life. I’ve never had such an event happen in Pueblo; although, I’ve had many fun nights there –they’ll never compare with my night with Kristin and Alec. In closing, I do not endorse the use of alcoholic beverages or staying out past curfew, especially in a foreign country –you do so at your own risk!

Here are more pictures...

Okay everyone, here are some more pictures of Rostov. The scenery pictures were taken in a local park -I'm sure I spoke about it before. They are just showing the different gardens in the park and one of the main statues that are found there. Then the pictures of the people are ones that were taken at Kristin's friend's birthday party. The girl with the dark hair is Kristin, the girl with the blonde hair is her friend, and then the blonde guy with Kristin and I in the one photo is Alec -he's my best Russian friend and maybe even my Russian brother (yes, we all were a little drunk).

Friday, October 14, 2005

Strange Days…

I’ve never been this close to a terrorists attack before (in distance, I mean), but at the same time I’ve never felt so far removed from it either. This horrific act occurred not far from Rostov, but yet I feel that I know nothing about it. The news programs are of course speaking about it but since I cannot understand the language, I know nothing about it. My only source of information is the internet, which does not always provide you with all the details. What I do know is that life here didn’t even seem to pause when the news was heard. People had classes to teach and places to go, so they went. It’s not like the other events I’ve been a part of. Thinking about 9/11 or 7/7, I remember everything just stopped. Life in America, especially on 9/11, didn’t exist during those hours. Everyone stopped what they were doing and turned their televisions on, but here it is not the same thing. Galina, being from that town, was the only way I found out about it. She was speaking with the others in the department and very calmly explained the situation to me. She didn’t say more than what she had to, which was that terrorists took over her home town and that some had died. I don’t think she knew much at that point other than the basic. Whereas, when America was attacked, we watched it live. Not being from here, and especially not being able to communicate effectively with the people, it is awkward to ask questions. I’ve felt from the first day here that if I need to know something I’ll be told, so I’m not comfortable asking questions about it. I don’t know if anyone will talk or wants to talk about it, but my impression, which is often wrong, is that they don’t. Now it might be that Russians, especially those living in the south or Caucasus, are use to this type of event on their land that, while they mourn for it, they know they must continue to live. As Americans we’re not like that; as a society we must watch the pain unfold and then react, perhaps here it is different. Perhaps the pain is too much for them to bear again, so they choose to ignore it. Either way, I feel disconnected from the world right now with this. If I were home, I’d simply think to myself “oh, that sucks,” but that would be all. I wouldn’t let it sink in or effect my day, but being here it hits home more; yet, at the same time, my surroundings don’t seem to be reacting like I feel they should. Today, especially the last few hours, has been a challenging day for me –at one point I’m afraid, but at the same time I feel safe. I feel that all that is going on around me is so distant that it doesn’t affect me. For the first time in my life, I feel cut off from the physical world and completely focused on my world and existence. Is this bad? I can’t say, but all I feel or know is that the life I lived in Pueblo, before coming here, was never so much apart of me and never so much removed from me. It’s an odd feeling…

Away from that subject now, I’ll write more about it when I know more and I’ve processed it. Today, I held my first lecture in front of a class. Now this was just a guest lecture but all the same it was my first time in front of a class as a professor. I can’t really say it felt any different than just giving a presentation in class. The subject was rather boring for me (the topic was “The American Education System”), so I don’t think I was as enthused as I could’ve been. However, the students and their professors seemed at least to act like they were interested. I felt two different feelings coming off the students, and not surprisingly it was based on the students sex what feeling I got. The females, which were the majority of the class, were all well behaved and paid full attention to me, even though I’m sure at times they didn’t know what the hell I was talking about, and from most of the males I got the look of death. It’s funny because I feel that the males here are judging me more then the females. When I meet a female, she’s normally excited to meet and speak with me (as you know from previous posts) but the males seem to look me up and down –paying particular attention to my shoes, because for some reason tennis shoes are just weird for them to see. I haven’t had an opportunity to really speak with a Russian male much, but I don’t think that they so much care about me. Granted I’ve never really gotten along with males my own age, except a few, so it might just be me being paranoid. Although I feel that they are angry with me being here, because the girls are paying particular attention to me, it makes me laugh. I’ve never thought of myself as any competition for anyone, so this is quite weird as well. My finally thought about this is that if any of the males here went to America they’d probably be a hot commodity, and I’d be ignored like I normally was…how being foreign is such a good thing. Going back to my lecture, however, I think it went rather well and I look forward to taking over my own classes.

Another event in my day today was taking a tour of the public library. I believe I posted a picture of the outside already, if not I’ll try and remember to do that, but the inside of the library is awesome. It is a rather modern “Russian” building, and it blows the Pueblo library away. Inside, you’ll find a rather large fountain and what they call “a winter garden,” which is a place for you to just sit, read, study, talk, whatever. This “study area” looks like the inside of a very posh mall though, it’s freaking amazing! The entire inside looks absolutely beautiful and makes me quite envious…if we had a library like this in Pueblo maybe I’d spend more time there. This one definitely beats the cold, sterile hospital look that the Pueblo library gives. Yet, the building is not the only part I should speak about. The library hosts what is called “America Corners: An American Center.” What this is, is simply a place where students can go and do research on America and experience a little of America’s “culture.” They have books, videos, audio, and so on in here. The biggest thing for me though is that EVERYONE working in there speaks English!!!! Of course they are not native speakers but all the same they can communicate with me, which is always nice. Well today, one of the employees there, and I feel horrible that I don’t remember her name (this has always been an issue for me and is worse here), took me on the tour and was very nice. She is about my age and just recently graduated from the University. Her specialty lies in the same area that mine does, well sort of. She’s a linguistic (boring! –sorry Ted), but she’s also studied literature. We sat and talked for about an hour on many different subjects and she’s offered to take me around Rostov more, if I’d like. I’ll probably take her up on that offer, because I’d like to see more of the city. Anyway, she is just another nice English speaker that I’ve meet here. I’ll probably see her quite often too, because they’ve asked me to come and do some activities for them, like speak with students about America and perhaps even leading some discussions in English. That’s it for now, I have to go and tutor the Rector’s son now… At least he doesn’t look at me like he wants to hurt me, but he probably does because I’m the American his father is forcing him to have lessons with.

So it’s early the morning after the previous paragraphs were written. I need to get ready soon, so I’ll make this last paragraph quick. Last night, I went with Natasha, a student of the University that I’ve hung out with before, to a British Film Festival. You see there is a British Counsel in Rostov and quite often they put on community events, and this time it was a film festival. Galina thought that it would be good for me to go to this and be able to watch a movie spoken in English, plus she thought that Natasha could benefit from it as well. Arriving at the festival, I was expecting to see at least one other person who could speak English, maybe even a native speaker, but the only two people in the entire place, and it was packed, that were speaking English were me and Natasha. Yet, I had fun waiting for the movie to begin because there served food and wine! Plus it gave Natasha and I an opportunity to talk more about everything. However, it was soon time to go into the theatre (look I’m British). Upon sitting down the movie started right away; to my surprise or disgust, the movie was in Russian! Why?! I asked myself, but I sat there and watched it anyway. Luckily, here in Russia they do such a bad job at dubbing movies that you can still kind of hear the English track in the background, and this movie was even worse because often the English track was audible more the Russian…this was good for me. I was able to watch the entire movie and follow along with the plot, because I could hear the English. It was also a little relaxing for me, because I got to hear native speakers of English (okay so they were Scottish, but I could still understand them completely). As you can tell, my day today was quite a rollercoaster…just another aspect of being foreign.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Life: When nothing works...

They say life's a bitch. Yet when you're in a foreign country and nothing that you need or want works, life's a royal pain in the ass. I've tried desperately to fit in over here and to get comfortable, but every time I try to do something that I would at home it fails. Take for example, the situation with my cell phone. I've been waiting for over a week for it and when I finally get it, it doesn't work. Does that surprise me? No. Why? Well because for the last week, everything I touch doesn't work. Last night, I tried to watch a DVD on the laptop and event though it said that it was in English, it wasn't. Okay so maybe I made a mistake. I checked the box and the store but maybe I misread it, so I look again when the only audio I was getting was Russian but the box clearly states, in both English and Russian, that it has English audio. Now I might not be able to understand Russian all that well, but when something says that it is in English, and its even written in English, what the HELL am I doing wrong? It just seems to me that everything over here is screwing up because it knows that I'm foreign. I can't take the damn DVD back because over here they are all pirated and the store isn't going to care that it doesn't work, so I'm out five dollars (okay, okay, I know that isn't a lot of money but when you want to watch STAR WARS EP. III, you should be able to. Right?). Oh and something that I've forgotten to mention up till now is that I almost was killed in my room the other night. I'm sitting on my bed after getting back from walking around with Kristin and what happens? -The cover to the light in my room comes CRASHING down! For no reason! I wasn't by it, I didn't touch it but it feel. Not only did it fall but it shattered into a hundred different pieces... Again, no big deal. Yes its a big deal! I can't even say hello to the receptionist right, so how the hell am I going to explain what happened to get a vacuum? I decided, in a very cool manner (a lot cooler than this post might lead you to believe), to pick up the broken glass myself. So with my two hands I pick up every piece of glass that I can. Then I use a plastic bag, because I don't have a broom, to sweep up the smaller pieces of glass. Luckily, I didn't cut myself at all but seriously... Oh what's the use, I feel this is how its going to be until April. All of you reading this right now are probably laughing your asses off and maybe one day I will too, but for the time being SCREW YOU, SCREW EQUIPMENT, AND SCREW NOT BEING ABLE TO SPEAK RUSSIAN!!!!

On a lighter note, I met a young man that I'm going to be torturing while I'm here. His name is Yura and he is the son of the vice-rector, who is responsible for me being here. His father helped in getting me money, my room, and the three delicious meals I have a day. Yura is sixteen years old and in the last year of schooling here (they only go till 11th grade). He is pretty fluent in English but wants to be able to speak more like native English speakers. I think that he wants to actually go to the States for college, which I think is a great idea. I've only spent an hour with him but he seems really intelligent and really devoted. I think we'll get along fine, except I don't like teenagers...I didn't even like them when I was one...and when I was sixteen I wasn't thinking about learning another language or college, I was thinking how the hell am I going to get out of going to school today. Wow! these Russians are crazy people. No in all honesty, I think it will be a good experience for him and for me as well. It will give me the opportunity to learn some new teaching styles, because I'll try them out on him, and it will also teach me a new type of patients. I' m excited about working with him and I'm sure that all will be fine.

So I have real work to do now and better stop the bitching, but it was fun and very relaxing. Wish me luck, I have my first lesson tomorrow with a class!

Monday, October 10, 2005

Dazed and Confused...

Have you ever felt completely cut off from the outside world? I don’t mean that you feel swamped with work or family issues, but where you just don’t know what is going on around you. Right now in my life, I feel that the world around me could collapse and I wouldn’t even notice or know about it. I’ve tried extremely hard to stay out of my room and go places with many different people, but over and over again I find myself locked in my room with no where to go or no one to see. During these times, my only form of release is writing, but I’m not the type of person who can write just because I want to. Writing, for me, needs to come from somewhere and I just don’t have the energy or will to write right now, which is why I think I feel so lost. I have no way to stay in touch with the outside world other then the internet and with today being Sunday, the department is closed so I cannot even check my e-mail. I think another thing that is affecting me a little is that I haven’t spoken with anyone from home, except over e-mail and it just isn’t personal enough for me. Yet, I still have been unable to get a cell phone or calling card, because I’m not a Russian citizen and Galina has to get them for me (at least the phone but without the phone a calling card is somewhat useless). Now Galina has been working on getting me the cell phone, and I’m sure I’ll get it sometime this week, but I miss being able to go somewhere and get what I need or want when I want it. Over here, I feel like a child, and that I cannot do anything without someone’s help or knowing about it. My independence has been striped away from me a little; I’ve always been a very independent person, so this is extremely hard for me. I’m trying to reclaim it here, but without knowing the language it is rather hard. Hopefully all this will pass, but until it does I think that I’m going to have some very blue days. It also doesn’t help that I have a cold and feel somewhat under the weather anyway.

The weather here changed drastically earlier in the week, which might also be adding to my frustration. When I arrived here it was warm and beautiful, and now it has became windy and cold. I wasn’t prepared for this shift in the weather to happen so quickly, so Lucy and I went to the market to buy a coat and some other items. Lucy and I spoke about what market would be the best to go shopping at, and we decided that a local Chinese market would be the best. The Chinese market is rather far away from the center of town, which is where both Lucy and I live, so we had to travel by taxi-bus. First, however, I needed to get some cash, because all I had were traveler checks. I was told that if I brought traveler’s checks, I’d be able to cash them almost anywhere but this is not the case. It took Lucy and I almost an hour to find a bank that would cash the traveler’s checks, and then the bank would only issue American dollars. Our next step was then to find a place that would exchange the dollars into rubles, but that isn’t so hard because many places here will do that –its just finding the best exchange rate. Anyway, after I had money in my hands we got the bus and headed for the market.

Lucy was worried about taking me to the market, because I guess it’s not a very safe place for foreigners. However, I had no trouble and people were more than nice to me. I have never really been to a Chinese market before, due to the lack of anything in Pueblo, so I had no idea of what to expect. What I did expect, however, was not what I got. Hundreds of small vendors were set up in long lines, and all of them were selling practically the same things. You could find a lot of different clothing and goods. It took Lucy and I about two hours to find and buy a coat that I liked and that she thought would be good for the weather here. Now the coat was rather cheap by American standards, but I wasn’t satisfied with just a coat. I wanted to purchase a new pair of jeans and another sweater, so we looked around for these. Soon I found a pair of jeans that I wanted but since the sizes are different here (and once again I’m considered an x-large), I had to try the pants on. Okay, I don’t know if anyone reading this has ever tried clothing on at a Chinese market but it isn’t something that I’d normally do. The reason for this is because you are in a public area with no changing stalls like at department stores. You pretty much drop your pants right in front of everyone to try on what you are trying to purchase. Well you see I’m rather shy, especially when it comes to showing off my body, so I was a little reluctant to do this. However, Lucy and the vendor kept telling me it was alright and to just do it. The vendor put up a sheet to hide me from those walking by; yet, the sheet only covered me from one side and everyone on the other side of the sheet could see everything. Yes, I had underwear on, but still… Lucy of course couldn’t see, but they both (Lucy and the vendor, who was also a woman) wanted to play my mother and make sure the pants fit me right –they wouldn’t take my word for it –so I had to stand for about five minutes while they inspected everything. I haven’t had anyone grab my belt loop and tug, to make sure there was enough room, since I was a child and I hated it then. Well after all of that, and feeling rather violated, I was of course going to buy the jeans… Hell, I felt that the jeans and I had bonded.

Once I had all that I came for and Lucy found some cloths for herself, we headed back into town. I was supposed to be back in my room by 4:30pm to go with another student, Masha, to what they call “first year welcoming.” It’s pretty much just that; a celebration with much dancing and singing to welcome the freshmen into the University. Yet even at this celebration, I noticed how different our system of education is from the Russians. All of the freshmen looked so young to me, and I mean like 16 or 17, so I asked Masha about the age of students when they enter the University. In Russia, students attend school until the age of 16 or 17 and then they go on to the University or get jobs. It is so odd for me to imagine going to a university at the age of 16; I mean I didn’t have a car at sixteen and I sure wasn’t mature enough to attend college. While I sat watching this ceremony, I was left thinking that these students are also not mature enough to handle a university. They were acting like high school students normally do; they were shouting at inappropriate times and even a few fights broke out amongst them. I’m not going to talk negatively about the Russian system of education because everything I’ve seen up to this point is well structured, even perhaps better than the States system, but I do feel that allowing such young children into a university setting may not be the best idea.

After the ceremony, Masha asked me if I wanted to get something to eat, which I agreed to because I was rather hungry. Now she mentioned McDonald’s and I caved in and said yes. I stopped eating McDonald’s over a year ago and in the states you couldn’t pay me to eat there, but I’ve been craving something with some sort of flavor to it. You see the Russian cuisine is made up of a lot of soups and fish, both not my favorite forms of food, so I’ve been needing something that was more along the lines of what I’m used to. I hope that I will not turn to McDonald’s a lot, but it is to me some of the best tasting food over here…and I feel that if I don’t eat there it will be a long six months without food that taste good to me.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Just an Update...

Life thus far seems to be in a flux. I'm still adjusting to everything over here, and I think that I'm forgetting how to speak the English language. I'm serious too; everyone keeps asking me how to say this or how to say that, and my responses most of the time are wrong. I swear that I've lost my brain. However, soon I'll be teaching; Thursday, to be exact and I cannot wait. I've felt rather useless so far and hopefully once I start teaching I'll be able to feel that I'm doing something here.

What have I been up to lately? You may ask. Well, not much. I've been running around with many different people, seeing different things, and in general not knowing where the hell I am or what the hell is going on. Each day, I've spent with different people and they have either taken me places of interest or we've just sat around and talked. The most major event in my life in the last few days was having dinner with one of the rectors, who is like a dean. He was very nice and hospitable. He kept speaking, through Galina because he only speaks Russian, about how he was happy to have me and how about how much he wanted me to help the university here. This was an honor but also a little intimidating, because I don't know if I'll be able to do what they want me to. You see they are very interested in how the American education system works, and I'm not sure if I'm the best person to ask on this subject. Yes, I was involved with the education process my whole life, but do I really know much about it. Well anyway, I'll try my best to represent the country's education program. During the dinner, with the rector, I met a man from Germany, who spoke perfect English and he and I spent the night drinking vodka and talking about our countries and Russia. This was a wonderful way for me to speak clearly and without worrying about the words I used, because as I said he spoke perfect English and we didn't have any problems understanding anything. Again, this was also a learning lesson for me; to be able to find a common ground with a German, which Americans tend to think that there sometime isn't one with the Germans, was great. The two of us shared our frustrations with our countries but also praised what is good about them. We see that even amongst all the negative aspects there is much to be proud of. I hope that I am able to meet many others from different countries and have the same type of experiences.

That is about all I can think of right now; I haven't taken any more pictures because its not always on my mind to take my camera with me -I've come to view Rostov as home, not as a foreign city that I want to film. However, do not worry there are more pictures to come, I promise...

Thursday, October 06, 2005

My personal F-bomb day…

Okay, so I’m normally a person who likes to curse a lot –probably more than I should, but I love the English language and especially our curse words. However, while I have been here in Russia, which has now been a week, I’ve really watched my language. The only time up till today that I even used one curse word was when Lucy and I were talking about the difference between what is acceptable to say in America and what is acceptable to say in Russia. For example, I received a book before I left home with many Russian curse phrases (I won’t say who I received it from, but they know…) and when Lucy came across it in my room, she freaked. Many of the sayings that are in the book are not said here or even considered acceptable in conversations amongst friends, because they can land you in prison (don’t worry, I wasn’t planning on using ANY of them, so I shouldn’t end up in prison because of them!). Yet, English curses are okay to say and everyone understands them, which means I’ve been stricken of my arsenal, but don’t worry I’m rather resourceful. So as I said, I’ve been rather good about watching what I say and have chosen my words very carefully but today I couldn’t do it anymore.

Every other word out of my mouth, like usual at home, has been the F-word along with a string of my favorite sayings. Still, though, I’ve only said them when alone or with people I know that it’s okay too. I never thought that I would miss those words so much; saying them has made me feel even more at home and comfortable here. One of the main reasons I think that today was a good day to remember them was because I finally got to meet Kristin (the girl from Norway). We’ve been trying desperately to meet since I arrived last week and every opportunity has been denied to us, so finally we chose a day and time and decided nothing would interfere with it. We met today at 5pm close to the University’s main building. Remember we’ve never really seen each other, so I wore one of my Garbage shirts to stick out in the crowd. While I was standing waiting for her to arrive, I kept trying to see if anyone was paying attention to my shirt, and then sure enough a little dark-haired female walked up to me smiling. Now you have to imagine this was a very awkward meeting at first, because unless you’re psychotic or a pedophile you don’t often meet up with people that you’ve met on the internet. Yet, it was also a very relaxed meeting, because I felt that I was meeting up with an old friend of mine. She was exactly what I imagined her to be. She and I mesh perfectly when it comes to beliefs and just general humor; in fact, she reminds me a lot of one of my good female friends from home, Julie.

Kristin and I decided that we would walk around, which we later came to realize that in Russia “going for a walk” means a lot more then it does anywhere else, and then get something to eat. We talked about everything from Rostov and the people to our own countries and what we missed or didn’t miss about them. We both feel sort of ungrateful because here we are both “well-off” in regards of money. You see in Russia, one American dollar equals about 30 rubles and everything is very cheap; take for example, in America a dinner (like the one Kristin and I had), which consist of a rather big salad and something to drink would cost between 6 to 8 dollars but here it cost me like 3.50. It is odd for me to feel that I don’t need to worry about money here, because at home, although I was making okay money and never was in need of anything, I always worried about what my checkbook said. Kristin was the same way, so we both see what is around us and appreciate where we come from and the fact that we are able to feel so comfortable here.

I have to say that now that I finally got to see Kristin and speak with her, I fell much more at home. We are going to try and get together again this week, and once I have a cell phone this should become much easier. Oh and going back to what I started this post off about, Kristin was very obliged to sit and listen to my curses and share some of her own. This was a very therapeutic experience for me, and I’m sure that she and I will share many more of these sessions…

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

American Culture?

Since I've been here, I've often asked myself to compare the Russian culture with that of the American, and in all honesty I don't think I can. The reason for this is because over here, every where you look you see their culture. From the way that they walk down the street to the way that everything has a certain type of celebration. Take for example yesterday, it was the University's 90th anniversary. They had a celebration (there word, not mine) in honor of this occasion and you could see it all over the place. When I was in the department's office working on editing their web page, I was asked if I wanted Champaign to celebrate. What??? It was so weird to be asked to partake of Champaign inside the University. In America, even for a celebration, this would not happen, especially during office hours. Then I was invited, by the University, to attend the celebration ceremony, which was a lot like an awards ceremony. Normally, I wouldn't have bothered to go, but being invited, which was somewhat an honor, I decided that I should go. The easiest way for me to explain the feel of the ceremony would be to take the "black tie" seriousness (this is not the exact saying I was looking for, but I cannot think of the wording I want and its impossible for me to get the point across to ask someone here) of the Oscars and mix it with campiness of the Miss USA pageant. At one minute, the crowd was very somber and sat quietly listening to speeches, of which I had no idea what was being said (yes, 3 1/2 hours of this), and the next minute the crowd was cheering as performers danced and sang on stage. Like I said mix the Oscars with a beauty pageant and this is what it felt like to me. Anyway, back to my point...The different dancing and singing was very traditional for the Russian people, and while watching all this I asked myself about what I would consider America's response to these dances and songs. For the longest time, I thought about individual cultures within American society, such as Hispanic, Italian, African American, ect., and their own types of cultural aspects, but to define an "American culture" was difficult. I'm not sure if America has its own culture, or if it is simply a culture mixed of many different cultures. I don't know if this is making sense or if I'm just going around in circles, but I'm just trying to show that in Russia the culture (meaning the whole society believing and acting the same way) is set in stone, but in America we have so many different cultures mixed as one that it is hard to find what is "American culture" and what is just one ethnicities, in the many that make up America, culture. I guess the main idea I'm trying to get across is that it is something else to be in a society that holds its culture at its core, while being from a country and a society that is still trying to figure out what it is. I don't think that any University in America would have made such a big deal out of its anniversary. Yes, we would've had some sort of mention and maybe a "party," but I don't think it would've been to the extent that this one was. The Russian people know and understand what it is to be Russian, and I don't think Americans do. Our culture is like our country; that is our country was founded by taking different aspects from many different sources and forming one society, and our culture is trying to do the same thing but it is impossible when so many different cultures within our society are trying to hold onto their own cultures. This probably doesn't make any sense here, but maybe one day I'll go back and revise this...Maybe I'll even be able to say what I really want too.

I guess the next think I'd like to write about is the difference between the education systems in Russia and America. I'm not going to go into great detail with this one, but let me just say that I'm very thankful now for the education I have. Its not that it was any better than the one the students here are receiving, but it was an easier experience. Okay, so you're probably wondering what I mean. Here is my idea behind this: What I have noticed so far, and don't hold me to things because I haven't started my own classes yet, is that teachers here are very under paid. I know American teachers have it hard too, but I never want to hear one complain about how much they get paid. Teachers here are severely underpaid -I'm talking for a months amount of work they get 50 dollars. Granted the price of things over here are cheaper, but still a coat can cost 50 dollars here, so that would equal one months salary. At least in America, teachers don't have to spend one months salary on something like a coat. Another thing that teachers in America should be thankful for is the opportunity to get materials for a class without having to pay for it. Yes, some teachers have to take money out of their pockets to purchase things for class, but copies of materials that are needed is not normally among this out of pocket expense. Over here to make copies of say a homework assignment teachers must pay for them; they don't even have a certain of number they can use before they have to pay, they just have to pay. I cannot image not being able to give my students copies of something I think they need. These few aspects of the education system over here just really make me think about how much American's take for granted (even myself). Yet, even in all these difficulties the teachers I have met love what they are doing. The fact that they are preparing students for their futures is enough for them, so to every teacher out there, especially those who have it really difficult (like the Russians), I say thank you for everything you do to educate the world...

Hopefully, I want have to many rants like this from now on, but lets face it...I like to rant.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Some Photos...

These are photos I took during my excursion with the three students. The photos are of the Don River, along with just different views of the city.

The Sights of Rostov...

I spent most of the day with three of my future students, Kristina, Dacha, and Juliana. I meet them my first day in Rostov and we had planned that they would show me around Rostov today. As planned they arrived at my room at noon, and we set off for a day of sight seeing. All three of the girls are very attractive, intelligent, and caring individuals. It was a lot of fun getting to know them throughout the day, and also having them as my tour guides –I couldn’t have asked for better ones.

Our first stop was the river Don itself, which I had only seen when I flew into Rostov. The Don is massive; I myself have never seen a river so big. I’m used to rivers that are only a couple dozen feet wide. The kind if you really want to you can throw a stone across it and the stone would land on the other bank, but I don’t think anyone could do that on the Don. After a few moments of looking at the river from the dock, we decided that we would take a ferry ride up the Don. Here are some pictures of what I saw from the ferry, while it traveled down the Don.

As anyone can tell it is just a very beautiful era, and I feel very lucky to be living in such a place. The ferry ride gave me and the three girls ample time to talk about everything from Russian music to Russian cuisine. They were very happy to hear that I enjoy Japanese food, because they were hoping that we could grab some sushi for launch. Strolling along the Don, we found that we share some of the same interest in education, entertainment, and also how to spend downtime. All three girls are majoring in Russia’s political system, and I myself have thought about entering that arena when I return home. They were very interested in hearing about our political system, and I tried my best to explain it to them –I did however go off on a few political rants, but I apologized and tried to watch out for those. They would all just smile at me and say it was fine, but I felt bad and tried to watch my rants. It was a very pleasant ride up and down the Don, and we only had to pull out a dictionary once –it was when they where trying to describe what a building was supposed to be designed like. It’s this large white building that is suppose to resemble an ear of corn or a strand of wheat, but the translation from Russia to English is the word “spike” and I could not think of what the hell it was suppose to be; however, after some talking around each other, we were able to successfully get the point across.
When the boat ride was coming to an end, the girls asked if I wanted to eat sushi or a traditional Russian meal. I at first said the Russian meal but they wanted sushi more, so I agreed because I wanted sushi more too. So Juliana, who is the only one that has a car –we discussed the rules of driving and what it takes to be able to drive; let’s just say Americans have it a lot easier when it comes to driving, but we also drive a lot more carefully then the Russians do –drove us to a sushi bar called “Osaka.” For my own health, I chose just to have some vegetable rolls, which they call California rolls too, which were quite delicious. Now I know I was told not to eat vegetables unless I pilled them myself, but seriously the water as long as you don’t drink it constantly is fine. Everyone here drinks bottled water and I have a large supply in my room, but the tap water is okay in moderation. During lunch, the girls were interested in what sort of movies I like, as I was in what sort they like. It was nice because we had a conversation about the film Kill Bill, and we agreed that the first one was better than the second; even though, we all like the second one too.

When we all finished our sushi, the girls wanted to take me to a park –one of the newer ones –so we did. The park, you could tell, was rather new, since the landscaping wasn’t even finished. I was a little surprised because most of the time in the States the last thing to go up is the playground, but here the playground was up and full of children. The unfinished park was quite something special and in my opinion shows the culture of Russia. In America, we would never open a park until it was “finished,” but here as long as it’s enjoyable and people can find use out of it, they will open it. On the way to the park, the girls asked me my opinion of Russia and Rostov so far. I had to tell them that it is completely different from America, but in a good way. So far, I love the city and the country –the people couldn’t be nicer. Everyone has treated me so well, and the vibe here is wonderful. One think I spoke to them about was the fact that in Russia their traditions are set in place, but that is not the case in America. I think due to America’s large cultural difference its hard for the country to have traditions of its own, because each culture observes their own traditions but not many traditions have been set up as “American.” Yes, we have a few –the Fourth of July, baseball, being fat; whatever you want to call it –but we don’t have traditions like the Russians do. For instance, in Russia when you are walking with someone it is a bad sign if you go around something on opposite sides, because it means that you will be corralling. We have no such thing in America; if you do something like that in America you are just trying to get around the object. I also had to tell the girls that it seems so much more relaxed here. Everyone seems to enjoy their time and not worry so much about random little things, like Americans do. I guess to sum up my point here, I would just have to say that Russia seems solidified in its ways, and America doesn’t. In America, we are still trying to find out who were are and what we believe in that it’s hard to function and feel the way the Russians do.

The last thing the girls wanted to show me, besides the supermarket because James must eat a lot according to everyone over here, was what they consider to be the best view of Rostov. They took me up to this cliff that over looks the city and is the sight of a very big statue. Now I don’t remember the correct name of the statue, but the girls told me that locally it is called “The Statue of Two Drunk Men,” by the younger crowd. The view of the city was phenomenal; I’ve never seen a city view so good before. Spending just a little time up there, we went back into the city, so that they could show me the supermarket. I did need some things, but it wasn’t urgent that I went; yet, following their lead I did. They kept trying to get me more then I needed, because it seems that everyone is worried about me here…which I don’t need them to be, because I can handle food on my own. I actually prefer going to the supermarket and buying what I need instead of eating in the Cantina here, simply because I can get and eat what I want. Juliana, Kristina, and Dacha then walked me around the main center of Rostov for awhile, where I caved in and bought some CDs, which are really, and I mean really, cheap here. I’ll probably go broke from the CD shops alone. Around 6pm, I could tell the girls were getting board with me, but they would never admit to it, plus they had things to do, so we parted ways. I was glad to rest for awhile, but I had an amazing time with them, and if all my students are this good I’m going to have an amazing year with them.


Today, I did nothing but sleep almost all day. I’m serious too. I woke up early yet again, which I think is going to happen to me a lot over here, so I simply waited in my room and watched some Russian television. Thankfully Russian television is a lot like American television, except everything is dubbed over. I watched “The Simpsons” and MTV, and let me tell you watching these over here was quite funny. “The Simpsons” were dubbed over in Russian; however, if you would listen closely enough you could hear the English track underneath the Russian one. Then MTV over here is the same as over there, except that they actually play music videos –I know that’s blasphemy to play music videos on a station called Music Television. Anyway, I sat watching television waiting for Lucy to come, so that I could get something to eat and then go shopping for a coat.

When Lucy arrived at the time we had agreed on, we went up and had breakfast together. While there Lucy kept hearing the girls that work in the Cantina talk about us, and the fact that I do not know Russian. At first, they were worried about how they were going to feed me and then they started talking about how they should try and learn English, so they could assist me. Lucy found what they were saying quite humorous, because she feels that everyone in Russia needs to know English because of how it is an international language. Lucy also explained to me that Russian teachers are trying to get English classes to be taught to children in Kindergarten, and I explained that we had the same issue in America about foreign languages being taught to children at an earlier age.

I wanted to go and look about buying a coat, so Lucy said that we would use today to do that. We first were going to head down to a local Chinese Market, but being Saturday the streets were full of people and we could not catch a taxi-bus that would take us there. So instead we walked along the different shops that line the streets close to my residence hall and we looked in these for coats and other clothing items. The prices in these shops were expensive, even for American standards, but I think that in a couple weeks when I’m tired of wearing the same cloths over and over, I’m going to go and buy some cloths. While we were walking around and looking at the clothing, Lucy asked about clothing in America and what we wear. I had to tell her that the females here dress almost exactly like the girls back home; however, the majority of the men here dress better then the men in the States. Almost every young male here dress like a metro-sexual, which is common in the states but not to the degree it is here. Making our way to another market, we ran into one of Lucy’s ex-colleagues and talked with her for awhile. Then we looked around the market, but not really finding anything we left. It was around 3pm at this time and I was supposed to get my launch at two, so I went back to my room. Lucy is in the process of having her flat renovated, so we split up so she could take care of things there.

Since I ate breakfast, my stomach was feeling a little weird but not really bad. However when I got to my room, my stomach just started feeling really bad, so I decided that I would eat some bread I had and then take a nap. Well after eating some bread and a piece of fruit, I fell asleep. The next think I remember is waking up around 6pm feeling really sick. I wanted to go out for a walk by myself but I just couldn’t get up. I really felt like I was going to be ill and instead of risk it, I thought I would stay in of the night. As soon as I made up my mind about staying in I feel asleep again. I didn’t awake until 9pm, and by that time all of Rostov was out and about. It sounded as though a party was taking place right out my window so I did the only thing I could, which was to put ear plugs in and go back to bed. I slept until the next morning, when I was feeling better.

Pictures of Rostov...

These photos were taken my first day in Rostov; they are photos of buildings near where I live. The first photo shows Rostov at night, then the next photo is of the street that is just right out side my window, next are two photos of different buildings within the area I live, and finally the photo on the bottom is of the building I'm staying in but you really can't see it due to all the trees.


My first day in Rostov was full of some doubts but mostly it was full of a lot of ups. Although I started off the morning being very upset that I couldn’t communicate with the women who work in the Cantina, I soon felt a lot better due to the reception I was getting from people I was meeting. Never in my life have I felt so much like a celebrity then over here. The people seem to just be so worried about their “American teacher” that I actually am being too well taken care of and it’s a little annoying for someone who is such a loner. However, I am more then happy to have everyone watching out for me because it makes me feel safe.

Waking up around six in the morning was not my desire, but my body told me it was time to wake up. After getting ready and writing some, I waited for Lucy to show up at my room, so that we could go up to the Cantina. When she arrived, we headed straight up stairs, about three floors, to where I will be eating everyday while here. The women who work in the Cantina are all very kind to me even though we cannot communicate. They try to make sure I have enough to eat; even when I tell them I am full they still bring me food. While I ate my breakfast, Lucy had to go and make some calls to find out what we would be doing for the rest of the day. As I sat alone in the Cantina, I started to feel a little blue about my circumstance, mostly because of the fact that I’m in Russia but cannot speak the language well enough to communicate with anyone. However, once Lucy returned her and I finished eating and soon were off for a day of sight seeing. Lucy first wanted to show me the University’s buildings, and especially our departments, which is where I’ll be teaching most of the time. The departments are a few yards away from where I am living, so there will be no long walks for me to take and it will be really hard for me to get lost. Now the buildings are really strange for me to describe because they are a lot like how I described Moscow, they are two different worlds meeting to make one. On the outside, the buildings are beautifully colored and look like the perfect college campus; however, once inside the buildings it feels as though you have traveled to a war infested city where bombs have destroyed all that stood. Then when you pass through the corridor to the halls, which house the lecture rooms, you feel like you are at Colorado State University-Pueblo. The lecture rooms look a lot like how the classrooms at CSU-Pueblo look. These drastic changes in appearance are the only real thing so far that I have seen to make me feel that I am in a country that isn’t as well off as the US.

Lucy and I traveled from one building to the next trying to find an open computer lab so that I could e-mail home. Yet everywhere we would go, the computer rooms were closed, and Lucy was joking that they’re normally open and that it must simply because I am here that they are closed. Lucy has been very kind to me and I really like her. She is from Chechnya, but has lived in Rostov for 16 years. I have never meet someone who is so interested in learning about the correct forms of English, but who also loves to teacher –her and I should learn a lot from each other. Anyway, after looking with no luck for a computer lab, we decided that we would go and find a supermarket and other places that I might like to know about. While heading to the supermarket, we ran into another colleague of ours, who was very happy to meet me. She told me that there were many students who wanted to meet me and show me around Rostov; yet, she was in a hurry to get to class and told Lucy and I she would get in touch with us. Soon we were at the supermarket, which is a lot like our own supermarkets but just smaller. I wanted to buy more water, some yogurt, milk, juice, and beer, which our of course the major food groups. I couldn’t believe how cheep food was, and yet Lucy was trying to help me pick out the cheapest food. All that I bought, which would have come to like twenty American dollars, was only about six dollars. I was really amazed how cheap everything is here; compared to American prices everything is really inexpensive but people here still struggle to survive, so it makes me a lot more grateful of life in America.

The rest of the day, Lucy and I just wandered around campus and Rostov looking at the buildings and how people live here. Around lunch time, we returned to the Cantina and Lucy ordered me food. She then had work to do, so I was left alone again. When I got up to clear my table and head to my room for a nap, there were two girls standing in the hallway looking at me. As I walked out of the Cantina one apologized to me for no reason, in English, and when I responded she freaked out. She became very giddy, like me at a Garbage concert or while watching Buffy, and asked if I was “the American male teacher, who came here to teach.” I of course said yes, and to that again she freaked out. Her and her friend just both became very happy and started to ask me a million questions at once. I felt as though I was some celebrity and that they wanted to have my autograph and a picture with me; it was a very surreal moment. Being shy but also quite enamored I talked with the two girls for awhile. They told me how they had heard I was coming and how all the girls became very excited. It was funny though because they told me how all the girls were hoping that I wasn’t married or fat. In fact, one of the girls even said that I was really skinny, even for a European. Apparently Americans are stereotyped as being fat, because even Lucy had said that she was expecting a “bigger person.” These comments are well taken by me because I did spend a lot of time loosing all that weight, but I’m also modest and told Lucy that I used to be fat.

At six o’clock, Lucy and her husband Mustafa came to my room and the three of us went for a walk. It was a really pleasant night. We walked down one of the main streets of Rostov, which also happens to be the street I live on, and then we walked through a park that is not that far from my room. The park is really a sight to see, because it was built in two layers. Both layers of the park have different aspects from playgrounds to botanic gardens –I’ve never seen such wonderful gardens in a park (I’ll have to get pictures during day light some time to show what I mean). While in the park, we decided that we would stop at an outside café and drink some beer. The three of us sat around for about two hours and just spoke about where we were from (all of us being foreigners to Russia) and about our families. It was something really amazing because America, Chechnya, and Afghanistan as countries have horrible relationships with one another but at this table we didn’t even think about our nationalities, we only thought about the person. I learnt so much from Lucy and Mustafa that I can ever look at these countries the same. Before tonight, I thought that these two countries were not more than third world countries, whose citizens were trained to be terrorists (even being a liberal American, I have these stereotypes in mind); however, Lucy and Mustafa made me see that humanity in these countries and their people. Simply because a few individual citizens do something negative it reflects on the whole society (hmm…sound familiar?). Overall, today was just an amazing first full day in a new country. I also learned some more Russian, but I’m too scared to use it…


Finally after 28 hours of travel, including a two hour drive from Pueblo to Denver, a three hour wait in Denver for my plane, a three ½ hour flight from Denver to Atlanta, a four hour layover in Atlanta, a 10 ½ hour flight from Atlanta to Moscow, an unforgettable journey through Moscow that took about seven hours after everything, and a 1 ½ hour flight from Moscow to Rostov, I’m in Rostov and in my room. I can’t believe that I’m actually here and that my travel went smoothly, minus a few events in Moscow that I’ll write about in a minute. For the most part I had a good journey and the jetlag isn’t effecting me too bad. I was able to sleep a little on each plane and my body is adjusting to the time difference very well; I cannot say the same about my mental state. My mind is just trying to rap itself around hearing the Russian language being spoken all around me. It can’t adjust to hearing a new language constantly, trying to figure out what people are telling me, and trying to think for itself in the language its use to. So in an attempt to better grasp things, my mind keeps going to French mode and I’ve been thinking in French for the last several hours. This is surprising since I haven’t really used French for four years and I thought I had forgotten it all, but apparently I haven’t. So this natural reaction must mean that either I’m trying to compensate for not knowing the Russian language by forcing my mind to think in the only other language it knows, or I’ve just gone completely mad all ready, which would be a record time but about time for me. However, I hope soon that my mind adjusts completely and I can start trying to learn the Russian language more…I say that but I find that I am learning some due to signs being in both Russian and English and I’m memorizing the Russian equivalent. We will have to see about that though.

So now let me tell you about my stay in Moscow. We reached Moscow a little before schedule and to my relief customs and baggage claim were fairly simple. It wasn’t more than a half hour between when I got off the plane and when I was walking out of the terminal. Now the whole flight over, I was worrying that no one would be there to pick me up at the airport and that I would have to try find a phone and call Galina, or that the person picking me up would speak no Russian because Galina e-mailed me before I left Colorado and said she was looking for someone “who at least speaks survival English.” Not that I wouldn’t feel safe with a person who didn’t speak English, but when you are new to a country and don’t know your way around it is always nice to have someone to communicate with. Anyway to digress, I walked out of the terminal and my first fear was overcome because a young man about my age, maybe younger, was holding a sign that had my name and Rostov State University. He was talking on the phone and when I walked up to him he smiled and said hello. Being very helpful, which I already can say that Russians are very helpful to strangers (something maybe Americans might want to try and do every once in awhile), he offered to take my bags. We walked out of the airport and several taxi drivers tried to jump on us and ask us if we needed rides, like I said Russians might be a little too helpful, but he declined and told me he had a car. He also told me that my flight from Moscow to Rostov didn’t leave for several hours and asked me what I would like to do until then. Although we had some trouble communicating to begin with, we soon were able to understand each other and find ways to discuss things that at first we couldn’t convey to each other.

After several minutes of debate with himself, Renat decided that he would drive me around Moscow and show me some of the major things. Okay let me just get this statement out of the way: Everyone in the states complains about how others drive there, but until you’ve ridden in a car in Russia you have no idea what crazy drivers are. I don’t know their traffic laws here, but what I do know is that as a foreigner it looked like chaos. Cars were swerving in and out of traffic, even going off the streets to pass someone. The lines that look very much like our own street lines are pretty much ignored and people just drive randomly through the streets. On streets that look like they should only be three lanes, you would see five to six different lanes, and the cars would be so close that you would swear they were about to play bumper cars for fun. It was all quite frightening to begin with, especially since I’m such an uptight driver and passenger that I flinch at the thought of being too close to a car in front of me, but as Renat moved smoothly –almost like an artist does as they paint the perfect strokes on a canvas –through traffic I relaxed. It was a strange beautiful mess that I’ve never seen before to watch the heavy traffic start and stop. Thousands of cars on one street would all sort of move in sync and we found are way along the street that circles Moscow.

Renat drove me around all through the major square of Moscow, and I saw the Gremlin and many other beautiful buildings. We didn’t stop and get out anywhere, basically because even though we had about four hours till my plane left we wanted to grab some launch and then make our way through heavy and I mean HEAVY traffic to the airport on the other side of the city. However, while driving I couldn’t believe some of the things I was seeing…there is not really any place in America that I could compare Moscow to in the way that it looks. You have these monstrous, colorful buildings that look like they are right out of the pages of a fairly tale book right next to these slums (there is no other word that I can think of to describe some of the buildings I saw). Now I don’t know if these buildings are considered nice here or not, but to me they look like the projects we have in big cities like New York and L.A. It was strange for me to see these two very different styles (not only the conditions of the buildings but also some were very modern looking and they sat right next to a thousand year old building) mixed together so closely. I mean in America we have good sides of town and bad sides of town, so imagine if we threw those different sides together what we would get. That is what Moscow felt and looked like to me: that the upper class and lower classes mated their buildings and their spawn turned out to be Moscow. Don’t get me wrong, I think this is an amazing thing. I found it to be so liberating to blur the boarders between the “two sides” and see a city form together for better or worse into one of the major and most powerful cities in the world.

Moscow was not what I imagined it to be, but there is a certain beauty found in my preconceived notion being wrong. One think that I thought for sure would be the case was the cars. I thought you would see nothing but 70’s and 80’s model cars and that they would be driving on the “wrong side” of the road. However, the cars in Russia period are very modern. There are a lot of 2000’s models ranging from Ford Focuses to Mitsubishi, and the biggest surprise came from the fact they drive on the same side of the road that we do. Almost every car I saw had the driver seat of the car on the left, not the right. Now I know this isn’t that big of a deal but to me it was. It made me realize that Russia is not that different from America, and I will throughout my postings on this blog show that the two countries share a lot in common. But for now back to the point of this posting. Although the cars are very modern, the people in side the cars are somewhat stuck in another era; that era being the 1980’s. I was so shocked to find that Russians love American music, and mostly 80’s pop-rock. I kind of always figured that American music would be big over here, but the last bands I figured I would hear were Frankie Goes to Hollywood and Devo. Yet as I sat in Renat’s car I heard song after song from the 80’s, which really calmed me down. As many of you know some of my favorite artists are from the 80’s and I just generally love the music that was made back then. So hearing these all too familiar songs while in the midst of another culture brought me back to earth. Hearing words that I knew and could understand made me feel at home, plus being able to sing along with a Russian male you had just meet an hour before “Relax, just do it/ when you want to get to it” was something I never thought I’d do in a hundred years.

After showing me around Moscow for awhile, Renat and I decided we’d have lunch. We stopped at a really nice restaurant (the name of I cannot think of now) and ate. It was really weird because the restaurant had both a Russian menu and an English menu. Renat and I decided for the better good of both of us that we would order a simple pizza and share it. Renat also ordered us a traditional drink, which was made out of cranberry juice. We ate rather fast since time was becoming rather tight and I had to catch my flight from Moscow to Rostov. As soon as there was not food left on our plates we took off. Renat did not seem to be traveling any faster than he had before to get me to the airport on time. Yet he did not seem nervous of me being late either, until we felt a thud under the tires and the car started to swerve a little. Renat acting pretty fast, and a lot better than I would of if I were driving in Pueblo, went from the far right lane to the shoulder, which was five lanes away. He got out of the car and found that we had blown a tire. No problem right? Wrong I had an hour before check in and Renat had no spare tire, not even a doughnut.

Renat starting calling several different people trying to find help as I sat there listening to him speak in the same tone he always did. For my own part I couldn’t do anything. I had no phone, no way of communicating, and certainly had no idea of who to call or how to find help. Luckily one of Renat’s friends, Sergey, was not far from us. Within ten minutes Sergey drove up and got out of his car. Sergey looked like how I imagined a lot of Russian males to look. He had a good structured nose and light blue eyes that even I was jealous of. His messy, dirt blond hair was cut in an indie-rocker style. Without missing a beat he shook my hand, introduced himself, and got my luggage to his care all in a minute after pulling up. Sergey, Renat and I all pilled into Sergey’s Volvo and took off. Sergey was a little more cautious of his driving then Renat was but he also weaved in and out of lanes like a professional stunt driver. The time was clicking away and my flight was almost leaving. Yet we made it to the airport and rushed inside.

Security in a Russian airport is a little different than America. Before even entering the building one must go through metal detectors and be patted down. Well me being the genius I am forgot that I was wearing a wallet chain and a metal watch, so getting through the security check point took some time. Finally after putting my wallet, watch, and belt all back on I went up to the check-in counter, only to find out that the I was late for check-in and they wouldn’t let me onto the plane…

…Renat handed the money over to the clerk, who had changed my flight to another time. I had not been able to get to a bank since I landed and they would not take the fifty American dollars or my Visa for the difference in ticket prices. Here we were now having to wait another five hours before my plane would leave from Moscow. I was going to be late arriving to Rostov, Sergey had to be to work in two hours, and Renat’s car was stranded on some street with a blowout tire. Sergey and Renat were discussing what to be done next, while trying to translate to me what they were speaking about. The plan was now to go to Sergey’s house and pick up a spare tire to put onto Renat’s car, which we would then use to return me to the airport and see me off. Well that was a good theory, except that they didn’t take into account that although they had the same make of car the model and years were different, so the tire that was meant for Sergey’s car might not fit Renat’s. Yet they didn’t think of this, and me not understanding what the hell was going on was off in my own world, until the three of us tried changing the tire. The failure of the changed tire left me severely screwed because I had no way of getting to the airport to leave again, because Sergey had to run to work.

Renat, whose phone is pretty much attached to his head, was calling for a cab. The only problem was that cabs in Russia aren’t like the cabs we have in the States. There is no company that runs cabs; the cabs are pretty much all individual people who drive their own cars around until someone flags them down for a ride. The driver then haggles with the passenger over a price and a distance. However, Renat was able to get us a cab, so we stood on the side of the road until it came. For about twenty minutes we stood on the side of the road waiting for the cab, while a police car kept circling a near by lot looking at us. At home I would think that the police were just trying to make sure we were okay, but here I was beginning to get nervous. Anyone will tell you to stay away from the cops here, and after having a conversation not three hours ago with Renat about Russian police I was getting a little scared. I had all my belongings, including money, with me and I kept picturing in my head the cops coming up asking to see my documents and then taking all my belongs in order for me not to go to jail. Thankfully this did not happen. The police eventually got board watching us and took off, and the cab pulled up not too much longer after that.

I was finally dropped off at the airport by the cab, but Renat could not wait with me until I took off. He had to go and take care of his car before it would be either vandalized or towed away. So after giving me some rubles to take care of the fact that my bags would weight too much, he left. I was alone at a Moscow airport and I had to pay close attention to when they would call for my flight to check-in. I waited for about an hour and then heard that they were checking in my flight, so I went through another gate of security and checked in. Due to the fact that my bags weighted 9.5 kilograms more then it was supposed to I had to pay, but the clerk did not speak English so we could not communicate. Thankfully though a young man who spoke English well was standing behind me. He helped to translate what I was supposed to do, and eventually after all was settled him and I walked to the gate for the flight together. We sat together waiting for the plane and talked about where I was from and where he was from. He is actually from Rostov but was just in Texas before Rita hit for work. In fact, he travels to America a lot and had just spent six months there for his job. When we boarded the plane, he switched his seat so that we could sit next to each other on the flight. His name is Reynard and he was very helpful throughout the flight to help me understand the stewardesses. During the flight he would tell me to look out the window and he would explain what we were flying over, such as when we were over Rostov he pointed out where I would be living.

From the sky, Rostov looked like a very beautiful city, and it was a lot bigger then I had thought it would be. The lights all over the city were different bright colors and the main street was light up just like Times Square. After all of this I was in Rostov, and soon I would be in my room and be able to sleep. Once the plane landed, we proceeded into the airport to claim our baggage. Standing right at the door was Lucy holding a sign with my name on it. She was pretty much how I imagined her, with light brown hair and rather young. As soon as I introduced myself she took me by the arm and we walked to baggage claim. It only took a few more minutes in the airport and we were off to my room. Now in the back of my mind, I had thought that my room would be quite small and in very bad standards; however, when Lucy lead me into the room and I saw what it looked like I was very happy. It is the size of a normal dorm room in America, maybe a little bigger, and it contained a couch, a refrigerator (which they had stocked with fruits, cheeses, and a few meats for sandwiches), a television, a desk, a china cabinet, and of course a bed. I was quite relived that my room was nice and I soon felt right at home. Lucy helped me to unpack and made me some tea before she said goodnight. The next morning, we had agreed she would be here at nine in order to take me up to breakfast, which by the way all of my meals are paid for as long as I eat in the Cantina. Upon being left alone, I immediately took a shower and went to bed. Thus ended my first day in Russia, which I at times thought would be my last day because I almost gave up and came home…but I’m here now and Rostov is proving to be a great place.