Wednesday, July 06, 2005

News from the "front"

June 27, 2005

Things are going well. The classes are getting better. Easier and harder at the same time. Which is good. I feel like I'm doing much better in classes, although outside of classes I'm still too shy to talk. Although, I talk to my housemom all the time. I just need to get over it.
Saturday I finally found time to go to a museum. It's the museum that only has Russian artists. It was very nice, but I wish I had more time to browse. The girl I went with really didn't seem to have a huge appreciation for art. It was like she was only going because everyone had recommended it.
The weather has been beautiful the last couple of days, which was really nice yesterday. We went to Tolstoy's estate, which is 3 hours, by train, outside of Moscow. Considering he was a noble, the house wasn't as big as you would expect, but the grounds were beautiful. There were at 3 least ponds and lost of forest to walk through. Very peaceful. Tolstoy's grave was also there, but he didn't want a huge monument, so it's just a bump of earth with grass growing on it. I'm taking ton of pictures.
The rest of the week is classes. But Friday we're going to the Duma. That should be very exciting. Maybe I'll get a glimpse of President Putin!

June 30, 2005

Things are going well here, but busy. The weather is rainy and cold again. This week, my friend Illona came to visit, I hadn't seen her since last time I was in Russia, so it was a nice visit. Last time I was here, she was still a student, but now she actually has a real job. Tuesday, I went with my tutor and got a library card to the state library (previously the lenin library). My tutor showed me around and we tried to figure everything out. My advisor wants me to do some research for my dissertation while I'm here, but I don't know how much time I'll really have. My tutor graduated from university today (which he told me about), but he forgot to mention that he was valedictorian of his class, so he got to give a speech (which I didn't understand because the acoustics were really, really bad).
School is going better. Several of my professors have told me that my Russian is improving, but that I need to totally forget English and do everything in Russian. I wish it were that simple. But I keep at it, and hopefully when I get back to the states I'll have the desire to continue using it, otherwise, this trip will be a waste of time (ok, not really, I mean, I am in Russia). But, I have managed to have conversations with three different people, in Russian, about government, democracy, dictators, communism, ect. . . .I think that shows definite improvement.
This will be a busy weekend. Tomorrow we're going to the state Duma, which I'm very excited about. Saturday we're going to the largest 4th of July celebration outside of America. Although, it's supposed to rain (I hope not). Sunday, Monica (another student) and I are going to visit the Kremlin, its museums, see Lenin (he's basically a candle by now) and Red Square. I'm excited about that. Oh, and lots of homework.

July 6, 2005

The 4th of July celebration on Saturday kind of sucked. The weather was really bad, and we got out there at 2:30p, so within a couple of hours, we were ready to leave, even though the main band didn't start until 8:30p and then fireworks after that. We should have gone later in the day. There wasn't really anything to do besides eat food that was pretending to be american. Sunday, one of the other girls and I went to see Lenin. We waited in line for an hour, and we were next in line, and the guards told us they were closed. So, we're going to go back again next week. Instead, we just walked along the Kremlin wall, which has the tomb of the unknown soldier and several WWII memorials. We also went into St. Basil's Cathedral, which they've restored since last time I was here. It was really nice.
Sunday night Wes called and we talked for about 20 minutes. That was really nice. I really miss him. Monday, I got sick and didn't go to school. Apparently, in Russia, when you're sick, you only get dry toast and tea. I had to beg for soup and she thought I was crazy. I'm feeling much better now though. Elena and her boyfriend got in another huge fight last night, and she was asking my opinion about it, but the male/female dynamics are so different in Russia than they are in the US, that I really didn't want to give my opinion. Here, things are much more traditional (think, the Cleavers) and while domestic violence is frowned upon, it's still common. I told one of the Russian woman, who helps run this program, that I was divorced, and why, and she asked me if I provoked it. This is from a very well educated woman who has been to America several times, so just imagine what the common Russian thinks.