Saturday, January 28, 2006

Thank you, blog, for getting me out of looking through countless books with Vlad. Writing ‘letters’ seemed to be the only excuse he would take for me leaving all the fun and excitement that was leafing through dinosaur book and family photo albums. So here I am, telling you all about my adventurous life in Vladimir (though I’m sure all of you would rather being reading a dinosaur book instead as well).

Classes are going pretty well so far, I’ve only got one letter of the Cyrillic alphabet left to learn! My one-on-one teacher time runs from 10 to 2:30 with a little break for lunch, so about 16 hours a week plus time outside of class with my tutor. So with all that Russian love, I’m getting pretty darn good at rolling my R’s and my teacher says my tongue is becoming much more adventurous. Some of the sounds, however, I have found that I can only do when using a deep, and slightly handicapped voice. Just trying making the D, T, and L sounds by touching your tongue to you teeth, instead of the top of your mouth. Hopefully you sound as dumb as I do. (Let me know if you don’t, you will be my hero.)
As for the weather, this week a heat wave has hit Vladimir, and temperatures have soared to anywhere from –20 to –10 (and yes, we are getting ready to open the town pool in celebration!). This means that I have been to walk to and from school on most days, which is quiet a treat, seeing how many calories I now consume on a daily basis (I’ve calculated it out to about 7,500). I’ve only fallen down due to the ice once, so I’m pretty proud of myself. The walk to school takes about half an hour, during which I try my best to look ‘Russian’ i.e. looking at the ground, wearing my scarf outside my jacket, and never smiling. Crossing the streets has been something of an ordeal, as pedestrians are certainly not given the right of way (or as a friend told me, Russians do not value life). So I, of course, act as my mother taught me, and look both ways before crossing the street. But when you’re wearing 15 layers of clothing, you can’t exactly pivot your head to look the way I’ve taken for granted all these years. No, in Russia looking both ways is more of a full body pivot, doing it slowly enough so as not to slip on the ice. It takes about 5 seconds to look one-way, and another 10 to double back the other direction. This has resulted in many miscalculations and mid-road sprints. I’ve only been honked at one, another accomplishment I’m quite proud of.
Some of the other Americans and I are renting out a sauna/bana today, so I’ll let you know how that goes. Other plans include a trip to the market to get a good looking Russian fur hat, meeting some Russians on Sunday, and of course, my continued study of the most bizarre and throaty language in the world. Vlad has, in the course of writing this, naturally come into the room and is now playing Ages of Empire where a little voice with a British accent keeps saying, “Ye can’t build that there, sire.” Greeeeat

Monday, January 23, 2006

hello from russia! on the eve of my third day in vladimir, i have finally gained access to the internet and have officially entered the world of blogdom (ala nerdville). After a two-day orientation in DC and a 24-hour journey viz Frankfurt and Moscow, I arrived in vladimir around 11 at night, was greeted by my host family (Nikoli. Olga. and Vlad), given a great feast for dinner, and sent to bed. it was the best sleep ever.
according to the weather predictions, the average temperature for the moscow area until february is around -30 Celsius. as a reference point, at -40 both celcius and farenheit are exactly equal, and for all real purposes, they are also equal to zero Kelvin, the end of the eath). the russians even think this weather is extrmely cold. so basically, i'm in heaven :/. It takes me about 15 minutes to put all my layers of clothes on, which comes out to be about 15 total. after about 5 minutes outside, all the extremities of your body have basically frozen solid. there are simply not enough socks and mittens in the world to endure this weather. after about 10 minutes, your mouth beccomes numb from the wind and speech beccomes slow and impaired. but then, around minute 15, you begin to stop caring about the pain and it subsides into what is known as the last stage of frostbite - death. well not really, but according to multiple sources, if your fingers are left exposed outside for more than 20 minutes, they will freeze and fall off. i don't doubt this one bit.
perhaps because of this cold weather, my family has made it their mission to send to back to the united states as big as a bear. at every single meal, about 5 times the normal amount of food i eat is placed on the table. they expect me to eat the same amount of food that would feed the vatican, which is not as easy as it sounds. russian food is, well, interesting. regardless, around 15 minutes of every meal revolves around every member of the family telling me to eat more, that i am the size of their pinky, and that my mother will faint once she sees how small i have grown. today, i was forced to weigh myself in the kitchen at breakfast in front of the whole family. i think from now on i will have weekly weigh ins, to make sure i am attaining their goal of becoming a bear.
otherwise, the trip is going very well so far. i've walked around vladimir some, which is very beauitful when all the boring soviet architecture in covered in snow. i start classes tomorrow, and by classes, i mean me and a teacher, one on one, for the entire day learning russian. please send e-mails and messages, they warm my heart and soul, and right now, that really sounds amazing.