Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Emotions. . .

and other unnecessary things. Last night Wes and I had a talk. He wants to know why I won't just jump him all the time. Or why I don't enjoy him hanging all over me all the time. I tried to explain that first, I am a woman and I need a little bit of time to realize he is a real person, not just a voice on the telephone. And second, unfortunately, I don't feel the same way about him as he does me. I tried to tell him that part of that is because we live apart and I just need time to get used to him, and that since he is the one who pursued the relationship, he is a little bit ahead of me there too. And, I am a commitment phobe, and this would be to surrender entirely to the relationship. I have thought a lot about this, and I do think that if we were in the same place together for a while that it wouldn't be an issue. But he does. He thinks this isn't natural (#1) and that I won't feel differently later (#2). Part of the problem is that he is all over me. I haven't been in a relationship for a long time, and him invading my personal space all the time can be a little irritating. I understand: he's a guy, and he's madly in love with me. It's just not my style. So, when he gets up this morning, we're going to have another talk. I do want to make this work. And I don't want to hurt Wes. He says he'll wait (he's pushing to get married next summer, right before I leave for Russia for a year, and before we've actually lived in the same place at the same time), but he feels pushy. I've already tried explaining to him that that makes me uncomfortable. I guess we'll just try again.

And, of course, it's the beginning of the semester, so I have that stress. I hope everything works out. I really would like it to.


Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Why and why?

Yesterday was the first day Wes was here. And it went rather well. When he's not here, I'm able to banter and joke with him on the phone (you know what I mean) but when he's here, I get really weirded out when he tries to touch me. I think I'm just scared to make that last bit of commitment. I don't know. It's just still so weird and unexpected.

Speaking of weird and unexpected. I told Wes that I thought he should have the courtesy to tell Charley we were together, instead of avoiding things. I just thought it would be polite. So, Wes called Charley yesterday. Charley has a very deep (and yes, incredibly sexy) voice, and since I was sitting next to Wes, I was able to hear a large part of the conversation. Charley is ok with us dating. Ok, maybe I should rephrase: Charley isn't going to kill us. He seemed quite understanding about it, but he did tell Wes that if he treated me bad, he would have to answer to him. And he didn't say anything bad about me. I thought that was very nice. And he and Wes will remain friends. Wes told him he should give me a call, but Charley said he wasn't ready for that yet. We were both very relieved that things went so well.

But. . . . hearing Charley's voice made me really miss him. I can't explain my feelings for Charley, mostly because they make no logical sense. But it makes me feel bad about Wes. Wes loves me so much and he treats me so good, and he feels passionately about me. I don't feel that way about Wes. When I think about spending the rest of my life with Wes I'm happy and content. I want to adopt children with him and be a step-mom to his children. It's a stable situation. But, he doesn't inspire desire, lust and passion in me. He is a very good looking guy, so it's not that. It's just that there's not the same chemistry between he and I that is there between Charley and I. I would never leave Wes for Charley, ever. I do love Wes. It's just different. Maybe a bit more realistic. Wes knows, and seems to understand, that I still love Charley too. I just don't want to do wrong by Wes. He's too good for that. And he does make me happy. I just wish feelings weren't so complicated. I'm glad Charley said he wasn't ready to talk to me: I don't know if I'm ready to talk to him either.

Today, I think I may be swimming and meeting with my advisor. I checked my student roster for the class I'm TAing for in the fall, and I'm a little worried. Supposedly you have to have a certain amount of students signed up for a class in order to have a TA. I'm still listed as the TA, but the class number is a little low. I haven't received anything that says I'm not a TA. Since school starts on Friday, I guess I'll find out then.

I hope everyone is doing well,

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Don't freak out!!!

My mom left today. We had a great time this weekend. We went hiking and we went to the farmer's market and the Wisconsin Historical Museum and my church. And we talked a lot. I'm really glad she came.

But. . . . Wes is going to be here tonight!!! I'm scared and nervous and really kind of want a couple of days to myself. He's actually really nervous too. But he won't get here until midnight, so I'll probably actually already be asleep. If you don't hear from me for a few days, you know why.

hope everything is going well for everyone,

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Guess what I'm typing on?

That's right! It's my new computer. It came yesterday. And I was afraid to touch it, because I was afraid to break it. It's very cute and I really like it. Especially since my desktop crashed yesterday, and I haven't been able to get it back. Perfect timing.

Ok, I don't really have time to type anything, even though there is plenty to type. I need to clean the kitchen and bathroom before I go pick up my mom. If you don't hear from me until next week, don't worry, it's just because mom is here.

I hope everyone has a great weekend,

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

1 million things to do

and only 2 weeks to do them. And my mom is coming this weekend. School starts on Sep. 2nd and Wes comes that day (hopefully he'll make it a couple of days sooner, but who knows). Let the fun begin!!! I'm feeling good and alive and thrive on stress. Thank god, because that's the only way I'm going to get through the next year.

So, weekend at my grandparent's. It went well. I actually think my grandpa looks good. I think my grandma just gets worried (and hopeful?) about my grandpa. He is, however, ordering crap out of magazines and not paying for it. Grandma isn't sure what to do about that, except read all the mail before he does and pay the stuff, and cancel some of his subscriptions. At least they actually have the money to pay: I know these type of places prey on older people who don't always understand how it works (the type of place that sends stuff for "your inspection" and then you send it back if you don't want it). I also feel bad for my grandma: she has always been a caretaker to grandpa (disabled WWII vet), but as he's gotten older, it's put more and more stress on her. And I know sometimes she feels like no one worries about her and her health. And, she feels guilty because she wants to do things that grandpa can't do, like: take a walk, travel, dance. You know, everyday stuff for the rest of us. I don't know what's going to happen, but I hope that . . . well, let's just say I hope grandma is still around after he goes, so she can enjoy some of the things she never had an opportunity to enjoy before.

My mom's coming to visit this weekend. I'm very excited about that. We're going to go to the Farmer's Market and other stuff. Very excited.

My laptop shipped today!!!! I'm so excited about that, because now I'll have it before school starts and get at least try to figure it out before then.

Now, on to a more serious subject: Wes and Charley. For some unknown reason (ok, I know the reason and I even understand it), Wes called Charley. For those of you who don't know, Charley is my ex. A very serious ex. We lived together and we talked about getting married. Charley is also Wes's ex bestfriend. Charley was the best man in Wes's first wedding (yes, there is going to be a second). Charley quit talking to Wes when Charley and I broke up because Wes remained friend's with me and Charley just couldn't handle that. So I understand that Wes misses his friend. And like he said, he didn't expect Charley to talk to him: he hasn't in the last 5 years, so why would he now? Well, maybe because his dad just died of cancer, and he needs friends. But, the first thing Charley told Wes was that he didn't want to talk about me. So, now, Charley doesn't know about Wes and I. Wes hopes that he'll eventually get to a place where he'll be able to accept it and still be friends with Wes, but I don't know. Wes said the last conversation they had started leaning towards me, but that then Charley stopped himself. But Wes thinks that eventually Charley is going to ask for my number. He said he wasn't going to give it to him. I asked him how he was going to explain why not. He said he hadn't thought of that. So, this is the plan: for now, neither one of us will say anything. If he calls me, I'll tell him I'm in a serious relationship and don't feel comfortable talking to him (yes, I still love him: yes, Wes knows this). And Wes will just try to wait as long as possible before he tells him. Because he thinks Charley may just disappear, just like he has before, and then we don't have to worry about it. Talking about him made me want to talk to him though. I don't want to be with him. I want to be with Wes. But I started feeling sorry for him. Which really made me feel sorry for him. But I can't do anything for him. I hate this situation. I keep waiting for the phone to ring and to hear his voice. I hope that never happens.

Ok, I have a ton of stuff, as I said at the beginning.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005


ok, so these aren't my pictures, but they're pictures my friend Danny took in Russia. So there's a few of me in there, including the one of my after drinking Red Devil (see cruise blog). I'm assuming (yes, I know what they say about assuming) that you're all intelligent adults, and will know how to get to the Russian pictures after you're on his page (although, you really should check out his Alaska pictures too, they're beautiful). Although, he does have two sets of Russian pictures there. Look at the new ones, named Moscow.

Since there's the link to the pictures, I'm not writing about Russia today. I'm taking all my Russian stuff with me to my grandparents and I'll write it all down there and then type it up when I'm back. No, I didn't keep a journal while I was there. I know, I know. I am bad and evil. I tried, I just didn't ever have time. I'll do it now.

Yesterday, yesterday would have been a good day, except, I went to the doctor. And she weighed me. Why? Why does my doctor need to know how much I weigh? I mean really, it is none of her business. Apparently, I gained 10 lbs., TEN POUNDS, in Russia. TEN POUNDS. Did everyone catch that. I gained TEN FREAKING POUNDS in TWO MONTHS. That's more than a pound a week. No wonder I don't fit into any of my clothes. I weigh more now than I ever have in my entire life. And then, to top it off, I started my period. I took my pills straight through in Russia, because who really knows what their tampons are made of. So, I haven't had my period since May. So, of course, I'm not extra emotional or anything. And then, the swimming pool was closed. I just felt like such a fat pig yesterday that I came home and had banana bread and hot chocolate for dinner. Because that'll help me lose the weight. Wes is only calling me every other day, because he's afraid he'll suffocate me, and I really wanted to talk to him yesterday, but since I was all emotional and crap I didn't want to talk to him. But I called him anyway. And he said I didn't sound crabby at all (he makes me laugh, what can I say: besides, I was mad at me, not at him). And I had sent him a few pictures of me on the cruise, and he said he thought I looked hot. I told him that's because skirts hide fat thighs. He thinks I'm joking. I have 2 weeks and 2 days to try to drop at least a couple of pounds before he gets here. I'm spending 8 hours in a car tomorrow, and Monday. But I'll walk a lot when I'm at my grandparents. And then I'll swim when I get back. I actually don't have to lose all 10 lbs. Just 5. That would put me at a very acceptable weight, although one I still thought I'd never be (I'm a small person, I've always been a small person, and I guess I'm still a small person). Anyway, enough of my fat.

Today, my friend Tiffany is coming over with her brand new baby (when I was in Russia, in my grammar class, we were working on antonyms, and apparently a new person is not an antonym to an old person. It sure made my professor laugh though). This baby was born when I was in Russia and I'm very excited to see her. And my friend Tiffany. But now, I need to pick up my house and shower.


Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Week 5

I think that's right. I already did week 8, 7 and 6. Counting backwards was never my strong point (ok, counting forwards isn't my strong point either).

11-17 July. I'm sure if I skipped a few days, someone will let me know.

So, Monday-Thursday: same as last week, including margaritas.

Friday, 15th: Excursion to Gorki Leninskie. This is the home (the writer's, Gorky) where Lenin lived the last couple years of his life. It's about a half hour drive outside Moscow. Before I describe the excursion, this would be a really good place to say, Russia has the best public transportation in the world. Tokyo may have a better metro than Moscow (but only because it's newer), but every time we went into the countryside, we took either a bus or a train. And it didn't matter how small the town was, they would have public buses. So a giant shout-out to Russia for having something really, really right.

Anyway, there's a museum at Gorki Leninskie and then the two houses (the summer house and the winter house, of course). The museum was amazing. It was set up really, really well. They even had these cheesy areas, kind of like disneyland, where they would play music and movies, but there would be statues and stuff, so it would make it look like they were moving. It was so cool. I can't wait to go back. They actually had a lot of displays that could be useful for my dissertation. But, they said they don't actually have archives at the museum. It would still be fun to visit again. The houses were beautiful. These were old style nobility houses. We got to see Lenin's library and his office. It was also just really beautiful out there. Then, instead of walking all the way back to catch our original bus, we hiked for 30 minutes through fields and up hills to catch a new bus. We were joking that it was like some bad movie, with a string of American students walking through a foreign land to find transportation and shelter. We walked by a giant pond, and there were so many Russian families swimming. It was really hot, so I think most of us wanted to join them.

Then, that night, I met Elena, Illona and Natasha for dinner. We had a good time, just talking and eating.

Sat., 16th: I did homework all morning. Then, Elena and I, and the other student Kari, went to the Great Patriotic War memorial and museum. That would be WWII for you Americans. The GPW was very traumatic for Russia and the USSR. More than 26 million Russians were killed, and more than half of those were civilians. The entirety of Western Russia was completely destroyed. Of course, it didn't really help that Stalin was very paranoid and started moving around whole groups of ethnic peoples (anybody know who the Chechens are?). But the Russian people fought and they put it out there and I honestly believe that if the Russians hadn't fought like they did, Hitler would have won. Their main memorial looks like the Washington memorial, except there is an "angel" at the top, and along all the sides, are friezes of war scenes. It has the names of the cities who really fought and suffered carved on it, and various people as well. At the base, there is St. George, the Patron saint of Russia, slaying a dragon. It's very beautiful, but almost impossible to take a picture that does it justice. The building behind it is very beautiful, old style, with columns. The museum is in there. The museum has a Hall of Sorrow, recognizing all the people lost in the war. Hanging from the ceiling are 26 million chains, some with crystals on the end, to represent those who died. It is very beautiful and really reminds you how much 26 million really is. The museum also had a Hall of Glory, that lists all the people who won highest honors in the war. I think there were 4 different honors for this. Around 12,000 people were awards at least one of these. I think 4 men were awarded all four. Almost 80 women won at least one of them. The USSR had a division of women fighter pilots, and women were much more active there then they were anywhere else. Quite a few partisans (underground rebels in German occupied territory) won these honors as well. Since this year is the 60th anniversary, there were many different things going on to celebrate. Outside the Hall of Glory, there were the photos of some of the recipients, along with a large, painted portrait of them now, along with a biography. Needless to say, there were not 12,000 of these (however they were still working on it). I was pleased to see that among these recognitions were the portraits of 4 women. The actual museum itself was amazingly professional and still beautiful. It included sections on their allies (that would be us) and the help we gave them, a section on partisans, and a section on the Jews of the USSR, among many other parts. If you ever go to Moscow, demand that you be taken here. Absolutely amazing. It makes you thankful that within the last 100 years a war has never been fought on our land.

I need some sort of good transition here. That night, I made fajitas for Nina and Elena (Nina is Elena's mom: I lived with her). Nina was amazed and kept telling Elena to watch me (Elena doesn't know how to cook, and Nina does her laundry and ironing and everything else: on the other hand, Nina doesn't work and Elena does financially support her). Nina was very impressed, and thought the fajitas were just delicious (she was still talking about them when I left). It was fun, but I have to admit, I didn't light the stove (old gas stove, have to light it yourself). To be honest, I was terrified of the stove.

Sunday: 17th: Elena and I went to Novodevichii monastery and cemetery. First, I should say it's actually a convent, because it's for women, but Russian doesn't have a word for that. Second, do the cemetery first. It is beautiful, but it will also help you understand Russia. Now, this is THE "state" cemetery, but still. The graves are much closer together than they are in the states, and people plants flowers and plants on the graves. All the gravestones are monuments to the persons life. For example, this one person was a Dr. On his grave was a life-size statue of him in his dr. scrubs. This one woman was a ballerina, her statue is of her, in her ballerina custom, doing some move. They were almost all like this. There was one of a clown, and he had a monkey sitting on his shoulder on his statue. These were celebrations of the lives that these people had lived, not mourning for the lives they had lost. Now, the "regular" cemeteries are as "fancy" but even there, they usually have a picture of the deceased on the gravestone. I felt very at peace there and contented and happy. How many times have you felt like that in a cemetery? The monastery grounds were nice, but they really are all over the place in Russia.

After the monastery, we walked around this beautiful park and pond. We found these statues, of a giant mama duck and her babies following her. I guess they had been presented to Russia by Barbara Bush and represented a very famous American children's story (of which I had never heard). So I got a picture of me sitting on the mama duck.

I guess they really liked the fajitas, because that night, they asked me to make them again. They really were good.

ok, there's week 5 for you.

On a different note, I'm going to grandparent's house this weekend. I guess my grandpa's health is starting to rapidly decline, and he maybe going senile. I talked to my grandma yesterday, for the first time since I got back, and she asked me right away when I was coming to visit. When they die, I'm not going to wish I had done more homework. So, there will be no internet access from Friday until Monday night.

I hope everyone has a great day,
I have a dr.'s appointment. I'm going to ask to be put on acutane, because even though my adult acne keeps me looking young, I'm tired of looking like a 15 year old going through puberty.


Monday, August 15, 2005

Back to Russia

I found the weekly schedules we were given in Russia. Ok, it appears I'm missing the first three weeks of schedules, but since I'm moving backwards, I'll worry about that when I get there.

July 18th-July 23rd (Monday-Sat)

We had classes all week, even on Friday, which we normally don't have (it's because we're leaving on a cruise on Sat.) I don't remember if I've already told you, but when we first got to Russia, they made us take placement tests, and I tested so low, I ended up being the only person in my group. Which is probably why my Russian improved so much.

Since not too much happened this week, I'll give you a breakdown of my day to day schedule.

Every morning: get up at 7:00p. Since we don't have hot water (it went off the week before, I'll explain it then), I take a cat bath with water Nina has boiled. Dress. Eat breakfast. Usually yogurt (real yogurt) and kasha (oatmeal). Sometimes we also had fruit, sandwiches and curds (like cottage cheese, except way smaller). And of course, tea. Grab my stuff, and leave the flat at 8:15a. The metro station is practically right outside the apartment building. Ride three stops to Dinamo. Count the stray dogs sleeping in the courtyard when I exit (usually 4 or 5). Walk through park and watch the little kiosks open up. Count the dogs in the park (usually 3 or 4). Walk through the road construction site (amazing). Take the perihod (not the correct spelling: just an underground walkway) to the other side of the 10 lane street. Walk past various buildings to the university. Usually, I'm the first person there (and I mean the first, even among our professors). Classes start at 9:00am.

Monday: 9:00am, geography. The professor is young, and everyone wants to know why he pays so much attention to me in class. This is the only class I have with other students.
10:00am: literature. The literature teacher likes me because I actually know the history of the country and many of the writers.
12:00: lunch: students eat in the cafeteria of the university. Usually, the food is pretty good and pretty cheap.
1:00: conversation. I like this class and I learn how to talk alot in it.
3:00: head up to the computer lab and hope it's open and working.
And then I usually go home, do several hours of homework and eat.

Tues: Same schedule until 10:00am
10:00am: Video. One of the my favorite classes. We watched Russian movies. He had printed out the entire dialogue of the movie in Russian and we would go over it.
12:00: lunch.
1:00: Grammar and lexicon. One of my favorite classes. I really loved this professor.
3:00: weekly meetings with our RD.
3:30: check the computer lab.
Then, go home.

Wed. same until 10:00a
10:00a: Conversation
12:00: lunch
1:00: Phonetics: this class was taught by the head of the department. We usually didn't actually do any phonetics, but ended up talking about politics and/or women in society, how it was different between Russia and America.
3:00: check computer lab, go home.
This Wed, I was supposed to meet with one of Elena's English students (Elena teaches English on the side). She had SMS'd (text message) me where to meet. So I went, and waited and waited. Turns out, she had not typed it very well into English (which is weird because metro maps are shown in Russian and English), and so I went to the wrong metro stop. I was very tired that day and didn't feel very good, so I went home, even after we figured out what had happened.

Thurs. Same schedule until 10:00a
10:00: grammar and lexicon.
12:00: lunch.
1:00: media. This professor had a very dry sense of humor, which because of the language difference, I had a hard time picking up. He also tended to be very traditional when it came to male/female roles. At first I really didn't like him, but after I figured out his sense of humor, we actually had a really good time.
2:00: phonetics.
3:00: computer lab.
3:30: Pancho Villa for 2 for 1 margaritas and nachos. This place was great. The nachos were delicious. It became a Thursday habit.
6:00: went home and did homework.

Friday: we had Monday's schedule because of the cruise. Went home after classes and tried to finish up all my homework and pack.

So, that was this week. Not very exciting. The other's will be better.

I just remembered something about the cruise. There was a talent show, and we had to participate in it. This one girl in our group, who thought she was amazingly talented sang a Russian song. It was so bad that the Russians in the audience were laughing at her while she sang. Then, she had written words about our cruise to the tune of "American Pie" and the rest of us had to get up and sing with her. It was pretty bad. The really awful part, she thinks she's a really good singer, and she's taking voice lessons. Wish you could have been there to have seen it.


Sunday, August 14, 2005

Great day

Yesterday was a wonderful day. Let me tell you about it. Previously, I had decided I needed to go buy some new clothes. I also decided my apartment needed a little something new too. I started at Target. I bought several very large picture frames, because I'm going to have more than enough pictures to redecorated every apartment in this building. I also bought a new kitchen trashcan because mine was nasty. I wanted one of those pretty silver ones, but those were $60 and I just can't see paying $60 for something I put trash in. I bought a very nice, very functional and very cheap rubbermaid one.

Next, I hit old navy. I noticed when I was packing for Russia that all my pants are jeans, khaki or black and all my shirts are various shades of green (I have green eyes), red, or neutral color. I needed a shake-up. I bought 14 shirts, 2 pairs of pants and 2 belts at Old Navy for under $200. I am good. I got a pair of their new corduroy pants. I got the red ones (but they're pants!). They makes my thighs look a little heavy from the front, but they make my butt look absolutely delicious! And besides, once I start swimming, the thighs will tone down. Then I got a pair of green pants (again, pants, not shirt). I care wear both either out or to work. Then (I think this is a sign of getting old, except I've been doing it since highschool), I found 2 different shirts I liked, and bought 4 of them each. Three of them are striped (everything in my closet is solid), and the rest are colors I don't have, like blues, yellows, and lilacs. Then I could a couple of cheap T-shirts on sale, 2 long-sleeve button down shirts and a dressy, black tank top. I did good, I feel happy and I can't wait to start wearing my clothes!

Then, I cleaned my bedroom. It had still had stuff strewn all over it from when I returned. I also did some heavy duty fall cleaning. Apparently, I am a huge pack-rat. I cleaned my "study" (the dining room, except my desk is in there). I really don't need electric bills from 1998. I got rid of so much stuff. I overheated my shredder 6 times, because I had so many old bills, bank statements, ect. Those two rooms took up most of the day, but they are now spotless. I did also clean up my computer desk, so today, I just have to finish picking up the livingroom, and then dusting and vacuuming. Then the apartment will be spotless. I'm so excited!!!! I love it when things are clean. And then I can start organizing my school stuff.

I also bought a notebook computer yesterday. After talking to my brother (a computer geek) and Wes (a computer geek) I bought one I thought I would be very happy with. I also got a new printer, because you actually have to hand feed the sheets of paper through mine. That gets really old when you have to print out several long articles a week for school. The computer has a ship date of Sep. 2nd, which kind of bums me out because that is the first day of school. I kind of wanted it by then, but that's ok. I'll get it the first week of school instead. And then when Wes is here, we're going to fix my giant desk-top, so it doesn't keep freezing up and I can once again use it to play computer games.

So there you have it. My very boring, but productive day. Oh, wait. I forgot, I did hang my new Moscow and St. Petersburg maps on my livingroom walls. I also hung my new Lenin propaganda poster in the bedroom. In the bathroom, I hung up a multiple picture frame in which I had put pictures of various Madison flowers (I love photography, so I take pictures of everything). Ok, so that's my very good day.

Now, I have to go make banan bread (no, banana is not spelled wrong: it's just the Russian spelling).

Saturday, August 13, 2005


or something close to it, would be nice. I have not been able to sleep past 6:00am since I've returned home. And while I actually hope this continues until school starts (because it would make my life so much easier), I'm going to bed between 9 and 10p (ok, that's not really that different from my regular schedule, but I'd like to push it to at least 10:30p). So, it's Saturday morning, and I was up at 6:00a. Unfortunately, I'm one of those polite people, and I really need to clean and organize my apartment, but I don't want to wake any of the neighbors. That would just be rude. Therefore, I just spent the last half hour planning out my workout schedule for the fall.

I'm not sure how many of you know, but I have been diagnosed with Chronic mild depression. And the one thing I've found that really helps control it (without the use of medication) is exercise. For the last year, I've been swimming, but I want to add some other things to that. This next year is going to be very busy and stressful. I'm taking my pre-lim exams next April. I have four fields. That means, for two of those fields, I have to read about 100 books/articles (for each of those fields, not total). For the other two fields, that increases to about 200 books/articles (again, for each, not total). Then, 4 professors will give me 2 questions each, that I must answer in essay form, 5-10 pages for each question. I have 14 days to do this. I also have to create a syllabus for a class that I would teach (already working on it) and present a 15 page dissertation proposal (with a long bibliography). Does anyone see where the stress is coming in? This fall, I need to start applying for grants and fellowships for my dissertation research, which I want to start next fall. I also owe a professor a 25 page paper from 2 years ago (I don't even remember what the class was about), and I need to take a reading proficiency exam in German (I have to have 2 foreign languages). So, the exercise is going to be really, really important. I'm not actually taking any "official" classes in the fall. I'm doing independent studies with two of the professors I'm pre-liming with, which means I'll read what I need to and meet with them (if you do this, the pre-lims tend to be much, much easier). I've already done that with one of the other professors I'm pre-liming with and I'm also going to meet with the other professor as well. And I'm TAing this fall. And I'm in a long-distance relationship. This is going to be such a fun year!

It looks like I will be swimming MWThF and maybe Sat. as well. That's a mile each time I go. Then, I think I might take a belly dance class on Wed. nights, mostly because it sounds fun, and a Powerflow (yoga/pilates) class on Mon. and Wed. mornings and Tues. evenings. I know it sounds like a lot, but my friend Sarah, who took her pre-lims last semester, said that exercise really helped her sleep good and concentrate better when she was awake. It also helped her stress levels. Hopefully it'll help me smooth out the weight I gained in Russia. I don't mind gaining weight, I just don't like looking lumpy.

I am going to finish cleaning/organizing my apartment this weekend, so when school starts, I'm starting out ok and know where everything is. I also want to take Sundays totally off and not do any school work on those days: Sarah said that also helped quite a bit. I'm going to try it. That just means I'm going to have to be more disciplined during the rest of the week. I can do that.

Today, in addition to cleaning, I'm going to Old Navy and spending money. I wore out most of the clothes I took to Russia (Russia is really hard on clothes, and their water is so disgusting, it actually stains your clothes a rust color). Also, I don't fit very well into my old clothes. And, I noticed, I've owned most of these clothes for more than 4 years. It's time for a wardrobe update. Wes said he will also take me clothes shopping when he gets here. That's nice of him.

Ok, sorry, but no Russia update today: I can't find my Russian schedule. I'm sure I'll find it today when I'm cleaning. I think I may do a bit of redecorating also: realized nothing has changed in my apartment in 5 years. I love the way my apartment looks, but I think that may be a sign of getting old.

Hope everyone has a wonderful weekend,
I really am glad to be back,

Friday, August 12, 2005

Cruise down the Volga

Before I write about Russia today, I have a few things about the present I need to write about. First, it's my sister's birthday today. Happy 19th birthday sis!!!! Second, I don't remember if I told you, but I had 2 dozen red roses delivered to my house Wed. morning with a little "I love you" balloon. Yes, they're from Wes. And finally, I'm looking to buy a notebook and I really don't know anything about computers, except that I type papers on them, surf/blog, and play computer games. I think the Dell Inspiron 600m would be good enough for me. Does anyone have any opinions about this? I could use some help here.

Ok, now to week 7 of my summer in Russia. The cruise from Moscow to St. Pete's down the Volga River. Please feel free to be envious.

Sat. July 23rd. Did homework. Changed money, bought vodka and snacks, packed. Head to the metro where we all met at 5:00p. Went to the boat. The boat is beautiful. Most of the people on this boat have been saving for this vacation for most of their lives (between $3000 and $5000 per person). Our resident director (henceforth, RD), knows someone: we got on the boat for $500 a person (we're not supposed to tell anyone that, so please keep it to yourselves). There were approximately 350 people on the boat, and 121 crew members. That night, we had a great dinner. Oh, and I'm rooming with Kari (see previous blog). After dinner, we all go out to deck and have a little something to drink. Since we are all staying with different families in Moscow, this is actually the first time we have all drank together. Sasha (who's 18), has too much to drink. We have video of him peeing off the side of the boat, and throwing up off the side of the boat. I don't think he'll ever go into politics. Since we're up drinking late, we see some strange things. Like a group of about 10 people completely naked, waving and screaming at us. I think they were about to go swimming. Unfortunately, it was pitch dark, and we were moving really fast, so we have no photos of this (I think they were all guys, with one girl).

Day 2: The volga river is beautiful today: by the end of the week it gets boring. But, we stop at Uglich today. We see a monastery (these also get boring by the end of the week). This one is associated with Ivan the Terrible. If I remember correctly, this monastery has blue onion domes, with gold stars on it. I also buy tons of souvenirs.

Day 3: Today we visit Kostroma: and another monastery. And I get pictures of the Lenin statue in town (by the end of the trip, everyone was teasing me that Lenin was my boyfriend). The towns are blending together, so I really don't remember much else about this town. I'll have to go back and look at my pictures.

Day 4: Uaraslav: another monastery. Actually, this monastery was pretty cool. Didn't get a picture of Lenin, well, at least not a good one. Also went to a book store and bought several books. I think we went dancing that night in the bar. The music was very, very lame.

Day 5: Gorits': the most beautiful monastery we went to the entire time. It was huge and right on the river front. It was very peaceful and just wonderful. It only had 2 monks living there. This was by far the smallest village we had been to (less than 10,000 people). You could tell, by the amount of wood already stacked outside of most of the houses, that they didn't have central heat, and had to use the wood. But the houses were pretty large. In Russian cities, everyone lives in apartments (there are no, and I do mean no, houses, at all, in any of the cities). Here, the statue of Lenin was silver and it wasn't on a base, so I got a picture with me and Lenin!!! (how much more exciting can life get?). We also bought a watermelon. It was really good! At the monastery, there was a place where you could dress up in traditional Russian costume and get your picture taken, and our RD's girlfriend convinced him to dress up in traditional women's clothing. Guess who has the only picture?
I think we went dancing again this night. We took in an I-pod and the DJ let us play our own music.

Day 6: Kizhi. This is a tiny little island and I don't know that anyone really lives here. But it has a very old, huge monastery, built entirely out of wood (I think they said it was built in the 1640s). Due to the water and age of the wood, the onion domes look like they've been painted silver, but they haven't. This place was really, really beautiful, and it is on the world's heritage list (I'm sure it's on a web page somewhere). Everything was also really, really expensive. But we bought two bottles of vodka. Guess who got drunk that night!!!! Apparently I'm a very happy drunk who calls everyone baby.

Day 7: For some reason, that morning we pulled over to a timber elevator thing. This place was huge and really cool. This is an area that few people live in and is thick forest area, so they harvest the wood. But they have this huge system to get the lumber to the boats: again, when I figure out how to the use the camera, I'll post pictures. But we weren't supposed to stop here. Turns out, one of the old Dutch guys (hardly anyone on this trip was Russian: they were all European) had had heart surgery, and he wasn't doing so well. So, they had an ambulance waiting for him and he and his wife left the cruise. And this really (and I mean really) hot Russian on the shore winked at me! Anyway, later that day we stopped at Mandroga. This is a town that was built to be a tourist attraction. I guess they just needed another place for the cruises to stop. The handicrafts were definitely the best I had ever seen, but the prices were really, really high. We did, however, have some of the best shashl"k (kebobs) I've ever had. Today was also Sasha's birthday. So he got really, really drunk. As did one other member of our group. We tried to go dancing, but the DJ was being a total dick (which one of the drunk guys kept pointing out). So, we sat in the hall and talked for a really long time.

Day 8: arrive in St. Petersburg. Danny and I go to the Political History Museum instead of the Hermitage. I've been to the Hermitage. I get a beautiful picture of a Lenin stained glass window. Then, we meet the others for lunch, and we go to a Blockade museum. Leningrad (St. Pete's) was blockaded by the Germans in WWII for 900 days. About 1/3 of the population starved to death: people ate their furniture and sometimes other people. The rations for children was 125grams of bread a day. And during this time, the factories in Leningrad were still producing for the war. So the museum was beautiful, but very haunting. That night, a few of us just sat around talking. Danny bought this drink called Red Devil, made by Happyland. Well, it tastes like ASS, and does not take you to happyland. Danny took a very unflattering picture of me, right after I tried this crap. If you ever see this stuff, don't do it.

Day 9: Today is Sailor Day in St. Pete's. Yes, that meant tons of sailors, from all around the world, congregating in St. Pete's. I kind of ditched the group, and walked (literally) all over St. Pete's, taking pictures of sailors and monuments and other things. I also went to the Chagall exhibit. It's the largest Chagall exhibit ever shown (and I'm probably spelling his name wrong). I didn't really know anything about him, but this was amazing. It was a good morning. Then, that afternoon, we went to the Dostoevsky museum. It was wonderful!!!! For those of you who don't know, Dostoevsky is my favorite author, ever. I bought a map of St. Pete's that showed all the places Dostoevsky lived when he was there. Then, we went to the best Indian restaurant, ever. It's called Tandori Nights, and if you're ever in St. Pete's, you have to go. Be careful though, because it's right next to a really bad Indian restaurant, called Tandora.

Day 10: Bus tour of St. Pete's. We also took all our stuff from the boat, to the dorm, because we were leaving that night. Funny story: we all were getting our own stuff off the bus and into the dorm. In comes Sasha, with just his backpack. He looks around and says "where is my stuff?" We all just look at him, and ask him where he's been for the last 5 minutes. We all brought in our own stuff. Well, he has to run after the bus, which has started leaving, and he has to hit the side of the bus to get the driver to stop, so he can get his stuff. I never get a picture of the Lenin statue. Oh well. Went to Peterhoff in the afternoon. It was so cool. We had a great time. Except, when we came back, all we wanted to do was eat at McDonald's. Only, we couldn't find McDonald's. And we walked and walked. Finally, we just ate at KFC. It was very good, but no biscuits. Then we all head to the train station. I'm exhausted, so the second I get my compartment, I fall asleep and don't get up until the next morning, to use the bathroom before they close it (the toilets on the old trains (meaning, the majority of them) flush right on the tracks, so they close the bathrooms before you get into any towns).

That is it for the cruise and week 7. Stayed tuned for Week 6 in the exciting adventures of Stacia in Russia.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Working backwards

I guess I will work my trip backwards. I was in Russia for a total of 8 weeks. Here is week 8.

We had just returned by overnight train from St. Petersburg, and we had to go to class that morning (it was Tuesday). We were all exhausted. I had gone home, and when I walked into the flat, I was informed that for some reason, there was no water at all (all Russians lose their hot water for at least 2 weeks during the summer, but not usually all their water). Since I hadn't taken a shower and felt gross and was tired, this was not good news. However, they had heated up water for me (the neighbors had water) and I took a cat-bath. Classes actually went better than I thought they would. It was my last day of video class, a class I really enjoyed.

That evening, we had a party at Swathi's flat. She was a student who had been in Moscow for a full year, and so she was leaving early. I really like Swathi and I hope that we will stay in touch. We had watermelon and brownies. They were very good. Also, Swathi's housemom had entirely remodeled the flat. Most Russian flats pretty much look like they were built in the 1950s (which they were) and most hadn't really had anything done to them since. Swathi's flat looked like it could have been featured in an American condo magazine. It was beautiful. With heated tiles in the bathroom and kitchen. Just amazing.

Wednesday. My last day of conversation class. That was very sad. When I got to Russia, I could barely speak Russian. Now, in Russian, I can tell you that I am adopted by my dad, about my entire family, where they live, what they do, how old they are, about my brother's drug addiction, his tattoos and body piercings, how he got cleaned up, the fact that he is now a single dad (no one in Russia understands this concept: how can a man take care of child all by himself. They all assumed he lived with my parents and that my mom took care of my nephew, and I still don't think they believed me that he didn't), about my bad marriage, about Wes's life story, and about my studies, among other things.

That evening, we had a party with the teacher's. We went to Pancho villas, where most of the food was actually Mexican (except the fajitas) and the strawberry margaritas were excellent. The program paid for the food, and it just kept coming and coming and coming. It was great. We also gave our professors gifts from all the students. We had split up the professors, and we were supposed to spend about $10 each. Ok, so side story: there was this one girl, let's call her Kari. Kari lived in a dorm, not with a family, because she's "really independent." And she was also in another program from us, so we really didn't see her that much. We had split up the gifts in St. Pete's and told her at Peterhoff that she was buying a gift for Galina. We talked about it for at least 5 minutes. Then, on the train, Danny told Kari twice that she was buying for Galina. Then, on Wed. at lunch, we were discussing all the presents and asked Kari what she had gotten for Galina (the head of the entire program), and she was like, "what, why didn't anyone tell me?" So, she went and bought a $50 coffee table book, and then asked us all (repeatedly) to give her money for it. Needless to say, when she threw herself a birthday party on Friday, no one went.

Thursday. Last day of class. Very sad. I think everyone went home and slept.

Friday. We went to a chocolate factory. It was great!!! We got to see how everything worked and we got a ton of chocolate. If I was more computer knowledgeable, I would show the pictures of me in my lab coat and lunch lady hairnet they made us wear. I will figure out how to do that and post the pictures later. Friday night, Elena, Illona and I went to dinner. They are my Russian friends, and they wouldn't let me pay. It was really, really expensive, but very good. I tried the Ukrainian dish of pig fat (it tastes like cold bacon fat without the meat), which is a really good vodka chaser, which we also drank.

Saturday. Didn't do much of anything. Went to market in the evening and bought some gifts.

Sunday. Went to the VDNKh park. It's like a giant state fair, with rides and exhibitions. It was beautiful and I took a ton of pictures. It was built to exhibit the greatness of the various peoples of the USSR. Now, the exhibits are a bunch of stores. Makes you kind of feel sorry for them. Then I met my friends and we went to the market again, and I finished up buying presents. Packed for the first time. Went out for Japanese food with Elena and her boyfriend Denis. The food was great. I'm really going to miss them. That was the last time I saw them, and it was very emotional.

Monday: went to the VDNKh with Nina (Elena's mom, who I was living with). We had a great time. Went home, packed again. Monday night, all the students moved into the dorms. Some students went out, but most of us stayed in and watched Russian movies.

Tuesday: got up at 3:30a. Got on the bus for the airport by 4:00am. I think I already wrote about the rest of this.

So, that was the last week of my life in Russia. I soon as I figure out how, I'll post some pictures.


Wednesday, August 10, 2005

I have my luggage!!!!

Today has been a very productive day. First, I went to the grocery store to get wonderful, american food. Now, I love Russian food, but I gained a ton of weight in Russia. At this point, my butt has turned into an excellent shelf on which to rest my backpack. The Russian salad is a tomato and cucumber, cut up, with a cup of sour cream or mayonnaise on top. And everything is fried in a cup of oil. I figure that just switching to my normal American diet will help me drop some of this weight.

So, I bought groceries. Then I went to the airport and my luggage was there!!!! And there was much rejoicing!!!! And nothing broke!!!! Although my sister's suitcase now looks like it's been to hell and back. Sorry sis.

When I got home from the airport, there were 2 dozen red roses waiting for me and a little balloon that says I love you. Those were from Wes, in case anyone didn't know. I'll write about that later.

I've talked to my mom and Wes on the phone. I can't get ahold of Camille though. Camille, call me!! I miss you and can't wait to talk to you.

I made a hair appointment, a dr. appointment and went through all my mail. I also took a 3 hour nap. I'm hoping to get on a regular schedule asap. I hope that works. I've kind of unpacked my suitcase. But now I have stuff sitting everywhere. And I really need to do laundry. I'll do that tomorrow.

For the rest of the day, I plan on taking it easy. Looking up a few things on the internet, maybe dying my hair. Oh, I need some serious feet work. Russia just kills the feet. I need some advise on how to get my feet presentable again. After they're presentable, I plan on getting a pedicure. Yes, they are so gross that I think I'm going to have to wait a while. HELP!!!! Think dry and scaly. What's the easiest way to take care of this?

ok, that's it for now. I think I might try to load my camera software on my computer so that I can post a few pictures. But my computer keeps dying, so you might have to be patient about the pictures. It's good to be back home.


Where's my luggage?

I'm back. Thank God!!!!! It was quite an ordeal. I guess I'll start with the trip home and then work the blogs backwards.

So, Tuesday morning, 4:00am Moscow time (9 hours ahead of Central Standard Time) all the students (except the two drunk ones) move all their luggage outside and load the bus. 4:20am, drunk students show up and load their crap.

Around 5:30p we get to the Moscow airport. Our resident director has told us to check our luggage all the way through to our final destination. Unfortunately, none of the airline staff speaks English (no, we did not learn how to check our luggage), and almost all of the luggage gets screwed up. Sit around until boarding, which was at 7:00a.

Get to Frankfurt and have a 5 hour layover. Even though I have about 2 pounds of Russian candy in my bag, I realize I'm in Germany and I HAVE to get some gummy bears. I mean, I'm in Germany! Also eat at McDonald's. They do not have a Euro menu in Germany.

Finally get on a plane and fly to Washington DC, Dulles airport. This takes about 8 1/2 hours. I am the dispenser of dramamina (Russian version) so that we can sleep. By the time we land, we've been traveling for around 16 hours. We make it through customs (well, actually, this is when the group started to fall apart: we didn't even actually get to officially say goodbye to everyone). Megan has the same flight as me to Detroit, and she gets a message that the flight has been cancelled. But our bags have been checked all the way through (although, not correctly), and they're really, really heavy. I recheck my bags: Megan grabs hers.

We go to Northwest airlines and explain that we've just gotten off international flights and really want to get home today. They're very nice and schedule us for flights from Regan and give us taxi vouchures. Megan takes off (her flight was directly to Minneapolis) and I go try to find my luggage. Unsuccessfully. The person at the baggage claim is most unuseful and tells me to write down my name and information, but doesn't enter anything in the computer.

I get to Reagan and the first person I see is Megan. Her new flight has been delayed. Both our flights are now leaving at 8:10p EST. I go to the NW counter and get my luggage thing straightened out. I'm picking it up today, on the flight they had originally scheduled me to be on. I hope nothing is broken. Leave for Detroit at 8:10p.

Get to Detroit at 9:30pm. Haul ass to other side of airport, only to discover that their are some problems with my scheduled flight: there are no pilots. At this point, I had been traveling for 26 hours. I'm not exactly happy and I'm sure I don't smell all that good either. Also, since it's late, the Taco Bell in the airport is closed, as are all the other places. I'm going to Taco Bell today. Finally, we get pilots at 1:30am and take up for Madison. Due to the time change, we get into Madison at 1:30am. Beth and Ryo are waiting for me (I did call them and let them know about the delay), and they drive me home.

2:00am. Finally, I crash into bed. Wake up at 5:30am, which is actually ok. It will help me get used to the new time. Being home is weird. I have to re-orient myself to everything. And today, I have to drive to get groceries, which kind of scares me. But I'm starving now, so I will leave you.

It's good to be home, although I already miss it there. Can't wait to share my adventures with you. Missed you all much.


Monday, August 01, 2005

Last News from Russia

Stacia will be home in a couple of days, and thank God for that. I miss that girl something awful and she does a much better job at maintaining her blog than I do. But I wanted to give a little more detail before she comes back. That way she can just fill in holes in the tale and not have so much blogging to do. So, here is my last guest blog entry:

July 13, 2005

I had to give a presentation in history class this morning and the presentation had to be in Russian. The teacher had no idea what any of our language levels were. I wrote my essay and have been trying to practice it. Everyone knew I was really nervous, and that it has more to do with the fact that I hate looking stupid than anything. Hardly any of the students have ever heard me speak. So, I get up to give my presentation, the first page was pretty bad, but then it goes more smoothly. I was a little nervous too, because I put my own opinion in it. I finished it, and the entire class clapped for me. Several of them later told me that I had done good and that even though it started rough that I finished strong. So, even though it still didn't go great, I still feel really, really good. Now, I'm going to go get 2 margaritas for the price of one. I earned it!!!!

July 22, 2005

Tomorrow we leave for our cruise down the Volga river to St. Pete's. It'll take us about 6 days to get there, and then we'll be there for 3 days. We'll stop at little towns along the way for sight-seeing and shopping. In St. Pete's, we're doing the Hermitage and the Dostoevsky museum, which I am really excited about, because I've never been there before. We're taking a night train back to Moscow next monday night and then we have classes on Tues. We'll only have 3 days of classes and then we're through with them. Then the weekend and then we leave the next Tuesday. It's flying by. I really don't know if I want to come home yet, becuase I'm finally making a lot of progress and I don't want to lose everything I've learned. Guess I'll just have to practice a lot when I get home.

July 30, 2005

The cruise has been good, although it started getting a little long about two days ago. We only get to go to land, at the most, 4 hours a day, sometimes less. So I'm feeling lack of movement. But the area is beautiful, and the little towns we've stopped at have been great. I'm getting a ton of pictures, and I can't wait to show them to you. There's been a lot of partying going on too, and I think only a couple people in our group haven't gotten sick. Thankfully, I've been one of the lucky few (of course, I haven't really drank that much either). The bad thing about the cruise is that we're hardly using our Russian at all, and I already feel it slipping away. I'm going to have to work really hard to make sure this summer isn't a total waste (ok, I'm in Russia, so it could never be a total waste). I can't believe how fast the time has flown by.

Today, most of the group is going to the Hermitage. I love the Hermitage, but I've already been there twice, and there's so much in St. Pete's I haven't seen. So, those of us who have been here before are doing our own thing today. It'll be nice to see what I've missed. I think we're doing the Museum of Russian history and the WWII museum (Leningrad was blockaded by the Germans in WWII for almost 3 years and almost 1/2 of the population starved to death). Tomorrow we're going to the Dostoevsky musuem (he's my favorite writer) but I'm not sure what else we're going to do.