Thursday, February 6, 2014

Church, Children, Etc.

Our very first Sunday in Russia. It took us about an hour to get to church but it's not that bad.
It was cold and wet, but we entertained ourselves.

Our church building. In our ward we have 3 sets of missionaries. 1 are a pair of girls and the other 2 sets are guys. Everything is in Russian so one of the male missionaries translates for us through a headset that we get at the door. Unfortunately we're all to awkward to tell him that we don't understand him either, so we just listen to the Russian. 
That Sunday night was really stressful. We got to Russia and a lot of the books that we're supposed to teach with are missing or lost and we didn't get the week and a half that most ILP teachers do to prepare lessons. 
We had 4 days.
All of us had a long night trying to plan and trying to organize, but once we actually started teaching the next day, things got a lot better. 
I teach three classes.
On Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays I teach Primary/Kinder at a Private school to 3-6 year olds. The kids there are absolutely adorable, but it's difficult because most of them know zero English.
On Mondays and Wednesdays I teach Level 2 and another Kindergarten, but these kids are around 9 years old.

Alina, Liza, Gleb, and Yagor during their break time. 
Usually I have 6 of them and they're a handful but they're all a lot smarter than they think they are. 
The girls love to play games but the boys will turn around in their seats and refuse to play.
Our goal is to get them at an English level of an American student a grade behind them.

Hannah learned why Russian's don't wear long skirts.

Found this under an archway that I walk through to get to the Metro.
95% sure it's a Sherlock reference.

There are lots of little palaces in St. Pete. Lot's of big one's too. On Sunday, Arsini is performing in a concert at the Winter Palace and Tanya asked me if I'd like to go.
Heck yes I would.

Accidental picture I took that looks kind of artistic so I'm going with it.

Every Tuesday we have Russian class. The school arranged for us to have Igor (who's certified in teaching Russian as a foreign language) teach us Russian for 3 hours.

It's actually really interesting because instead of just assigning symbols to letters, they assign them to sounds.
I'm actually getting really good at reading Cyrillic now. I can walk down the street and translate a good amount of the signs and advertisements. Of course, once you translate them into American letters, the actual word is usually in Russian and I don't know much Russian yet.
Occasionally, there will be words like 
And we get unnaturally excited because it translates to English words.

Study sheet.

More Russian class.

"It's so warm outside!"
But really. The days where it snows are the warmest and we celebrate.

Me and Lexi.

We got to the Kindergarten a little early this morning and found they had a fort.

Miranda laughed at me.

Miranda teaching some of our Primary students: Maxime and Lisa.

I decided that I was going to make cookies today. Thank you mother for sending me the recipe so promptly. Miranda and I went to the store to buy the ingredients. 
Turns out, they don't have vanilla here, so we bought some vanilla flavored sugar instead and did a fourth cup of that in replace of some white sugar. 
Also, Russians don't have normal sized American cubes of butter, so "Three cubes" was hard to put into butter terms, especially since they measure theirs in grams. Thank heavens for google.
The sugar grains are a lot bigger here, so it's slightly crunchy.
And I forgot about the elevation so I'm pretty sure I put in too much flour.

By the way, Mother.
All of the this was about 14 bucks.
And I have a ton left over for more cookies.

In other words:
They were so good.
I don't understand what happened but these cookies turned out really good.
I think it had to do with the fact that Russian butter is phenomenal and the vanilla sugar is super good, too. Even the crunchy-ish sugar in the cookies were fantastic.
I brought a lot home to my host family for the kids to have and left them on the table. 
I didn't realize that they had never had chocolate chip cookies before (Which is a a foreign concept to me) and they came running into my room to say how amazing they were, and asking what they were.
Tanya (my host mom) asked me if I could write down the recipe so they could make them some day.
Maybe it's just the fact that in food made in Russia is good. Seriously. Almost all food is fantastic. The Kindergarten serves us food everyday and I would choose their cafeteria food over MANY restaurants in America. 
Yesterday Miranda, Kim and I went to a street vendor that was selling pastries outside the Metro and bought some cinnamon cones.
Saying that they were "so good" doesn't really seem like a good enough description.
I don't even have words to accurately describe Russian food. 
I'm going to be so spoiled by the time I have to come back.

Super excited for the weekend. No lessons, just touring the city. On Saturday Svieta is taking us to the Ermitage Museum. 
Really excited!

Before we came, we kept getting told that we were all going to break down one day from homesickness and culture shock, but we're all doing really good. Our head teacher (Kim)  is really surprised at how well we've handled living in a new country and thought that we'd for sure start crying in the bathroom on the first day.
We're all loving life so far.

But we joke about who we think is going to be first in the bathroom.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Russian Faced and Snow Graced

Yesterday was the warmest day  in St. Petersburg so far. 
It was 7 below when I woke up and it snowed.
But it's been fine; you learn how to really wrap up and keep every speck of cold out.
Two days ago we went to one of the kindergartens to get our blood tested.

Afterwords they fed us Pizza and Tea. 
Tea is actually a huge thing here and I'm pretty sure I'm in love with it. The first day we went to a restaurant, our food came with big kettles of tea. My host mom makes me a cup of herbal tea every morning. 
I'm going to end up addicted a lot more than I currently am.

It did not taste like Strawberry Cake.

The view from my head teacher's apartment. 
The first day I traveled to the HT's apartment, it took me and hour and a half by metro and walking. Luckily, I've gotten a lot better at it recently and can get it done in about 40 minutes. I feel like I'm pretty successful at figuring out how the metro works now. Memorizing the Russian stop names is a must, as is "The Russian Face". 
"The Russian Face" is what happens when you detach you face of all emotion so as to blend in with the fellow Russians more effectively. If you don't, you're almost immediately pegged as an American, and therefore a pickpocket target on the metro. That, along with a few other things, you have to master to not look like an American. 
Don't stare at the metro signs; know your path before hand. 
Take your backpack off and carry it in front of you.
Don't talk. (Obviously.)
I was told that when I get back to America everyone is going to think I'm rude because I'll be so used to the Russian Face. In advance: I'm not rude. A lot.
I think that the simple fact that I don't wear heels everywhere I go is probably a big clue, though. EVERY Russian women wears heels. It doesn't matter what the weather is. Heels. 
I asked Tanya, my host mom about that and she laughed. She told me that she used to be just like that until she went to study in America and everyone told her that she should choose comfortable shoes over fashionable  ones.
"I've taken that to heart ever since."

Svieta is the woman who makes our stay here fun. On the weekends she's in charge of taking us out to explore the city. At least, when it get's warmer. Right now we're doing cooking classes. Yesterday, we learned how to make Blene. 
It's awfully similar to a crepe. 

The next few pictures are examples of what happens when you've been stuck in an apartment all day training.

Break time.

You can thank Miranda for that one.

This is what happens when you are told you have three schools, when in reality there are five, and there are actually six. And you don't have enough time to prepare.
We may or may not be exhausted.

I came home and my host family was watching Sherlock in Russian. 
That was fun.

Dinner I had last night. Something my family really likes is meat and rice rolled into a ball, "Hedgehogs" in English. 
I'm pretty sure that dessert was Flan. 
The food here is so good.

After dinner the kids taught me to play a board game called Dixit. 
I thought I had the rules down, but halfway through the game I realized I was playing it with the wrong objective.
I lost.

Arsini, Danil, and Sasha. 
They're all fantastic. 
Arsini is the youngest, so his English isn't the best, but he's really adorable. 
Danel LOVES reading and has a big Lord of the Rings poster in his room. When I was telling them about my home, I mentioned I lived in the basement once and he threw up his hands, groaned and left the room.
His mom told me he's really jealous of basements. Danil's plan is to one day live in America, Ohio specifically, (Not even his mom know's why Ohio) and own a house with a field and a basement.
Whatever floats your boat, I guess.
Sasha goes to Operas for fun. She's ten.

A little tidbit of them rocking out to American music.

Until next time.