Saturday, November 29, 2008

Thanksgiving in Russia

Here are a few pics from our Thanksgiving. We had it on Friday night. We invite the teachers we work with to come over and enjoy a traditional American meal. It was a lot of fun!

I was so glad our librarian Marina came and brought her daughter Nastya.

Our friends from church Elizabeth and Max

Mya Krasavitsa! (My beloved one!)

Kathryn and Lydia

Polina, me and Truc

Me and my lovely Polina.
Zaitsevo English teachers, me, Truc and Lydia

Here are some MES teachers. Kathryn, Marina, Truc, me, and Larissa

Here is me and Kat about to tackle the kitchen

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Its a winter wonderland out here!

We took a few pics at 'work' today in the snow! Just having some fun with Truc and Lydia.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Its the little things in life

This afternoon showed me that its the little things in life that make me happy. It had been an incredibly long day and early this evening I just wanted to be home. My journey in that direction was still long with many tasks when I walked outside. It was snowing! Big huge flakes of snow were coming down so hard! The wind was so blustery but I didn't even try to take out my umbrella. I just walked in it with a big smile.

I have been waiting for the snow forever it seems like. Last year we had our first snow on Oct. 14th. So it is awfully late this year. I'm not sure if this is a sign that we will not have too bad of a winter?

Well if the snow wasn't enough, about a minute later I saw a Molly Dog! We used to have a absolutely gorgeous, super spotted Dalmatian named Molly. She had to be put down last spring. I always called her Molly Dog instead of just Molly. Well this Dalmatian was nearly as beautiful as her. This was bitter sweet for me but still increased the smile on my face.

For the next story, brace yourselves, it is descriptive. I already know what the reaction of my parents would be: my mom would say something exactly along the lines of: a huge burst of laughter followed by "Oh, I wish I could have been there. I bet you looked retarded!" (in love of course). Dad would have said: "Oh my goodness that sounds rough. Are you okay. Did you make it through. Tell me all about it." (said in a very worried tone). You have to love them, they balance each other out quite nicely. So here it is:

After an incredibly long day, (which I will share with you later) I got off the metro and headed to the grocery store. It was my night to cook and I am making breakfast tacos with eggs, bacon, and potatoes in a tortilla. It was yummy. By now we are borderline small snow storm. I get my groceries very quickly and attempt to get home quickly to cook before everyone gets home.

I leave the grocery story with 4 heavy, heavy bags of groceries. I am all bundled up, scarf wrapped tightly around my neck, ipod in the ears, gloves on, etc. I head out the door and feel a huge gust of coldness. The temperature has defiantly continued dropping, the wind is against my face, piercing me with snow, but I start walking.

Now just picture: a South Texas raised girl + Oklahoma wind + Moscow snow + hands full of heavy groceries

So after I walk through the crowds at the bus stop I have to begin walking uphill. The snow has now formed a layer of slushy ice on the cement from people walking. The wind is so strong that I can barely move forward. It is so slick that I am taking tiny baby steps. I can't look up because the snow gets in my eyes and I can't see. My hair is going crazy! It is flying everywhere, getting caught allover my face, standing straight up and who knows what else. At this point I cannot feel what used to be my throbbing fingers. I don't know if this is from numbness from the cold or from the heavy bags. Maybe a mixture of both. Just when I think I am not gonna make it, I get to the park. The sidewalk is very icy but it is completely white now and over it is an arch of tree. It just looks so beautiful that I start to smile again. Well this crazy snow scene continues as I walk home. When I get into the elevator I have these massive ringlets that are all over my head in all different directions, snow all over my coat, my face is so red it is almost purple, and it is all white with a little black from my mascara around my eyes so I look like a red raccoon! It is quite a sight to see!

I think it is about time for the big coat. Right now I am wearing the knee length pea coat with a scarf that can double as a shawl but is so big you can wrap it around so it is nice and cozy. It is time to bust out the knit scarves with the down coat that goes mid calf and is good for -40*. I have a rule that I can't bust that out before it is consistently freezing or below. I have to at least try to toughin myself up a little for the winter.

So I hope you got a good laugh in. Now I thought I would give you a glimpse into my life today. Not all days are this crazy, but the last two weeks, they have been.

6 am- wake up and get ready
7.20 ish leave for work
7.50 am- arrive at Presnya to catch the bus to Zaitsevo (the campus I work at)
8.35 am- arrive at Zaitsevo
9-930- 1st grade science lesson
9.30-9.50 second breakfast (yummy baked apple)
10-10.40 4th grade science
11.10-1140- 1st grade conversational English
11.40-12.20 4th grade science
12.30-1.10- 3rd grade conversational English
1.20-2pm- 5th native English
2-215- scarf down some lunch
2.15-240 get things ready for tomorrows lessons
2.50-3.15- take bus to Kuntsevkya metro
3.15-3.45 take metro to Krasnapresnanskya metro to the lab/ clinic
3.45-4.15- attempt to communicate with the nurse explaining the test I need. Not knowing which of the 5 I need. Complete nightmare!
4.15-4.30- travel on metro to my private lesson
4.30-445- walk from metro to lesson
4.50-5.50- do a private lesson for Alex at his apartment
5.50-6.30- travel home on the metro
6.30-6.45- do some intensely fast grocery shopping
6.45-710- walk home what normally takes 10-15 minutes
7.15-7.45 cook an amazing dinner
7.45-8.15- eat and watch TV with Kathryn
8-15-9.30-write an article with Kat and Truc for the MES magazine.

Yea that is what you call a long day! I feel like I never stop running around. My legs are soooo sore and tired. I still am not sleeping through the night so that doesn't help.

Anyways, I got some blood work done today for what the doctor thinks I have. He thinks I have H.pylori bacteria in my stomach. This kind of bacteria causes ulcers. You get it from food and drinks. This explains why I got the pain very suddenly and it hasn't gone away. Good news, if it is this bacteria, then it is treatable with an antibiotic. If not, then they have to put a scope down my throat to see what is there causing so much pain. Lets hope for option #1!

Lets end this incredibly long post with ridiculously hilarious blond Dana quotes from this week:
"How long do you think it takes to dethaw a turkey?"
"Your ruining my buzzkill"

Monday, November 17, 2008

A happier note!

Thank you to all my sweet girls who joined me in crying! It makes me feel much better! Looking back on that day I feel kind of silly for crying but I just couldn't take it anymore. Plus I forget to mention an important feeling I have been having the last few days...sadness.

Well it is the holidays and this is the time of year that I get sad. I am usually not one to get homesick, ask my parents. But that changed during one time of year when I moved to Russia, Thanksgiving. Last year I would randomly just burst into tears and call my mom telling her that I wanted to be home for Thanksgiving. I think this year will not be to bad. I will have a wonderful celebration here with dear friends and collegues!

So if you add the Thanksgiving approaching sadness plus all the events of Friday afternoon, you get some tears. (And yes, people stare at you weird here if you cry in public. Its almost as if they want to ask you if your okay but they just can't bring themselves to it.)

Random piece of info: We bought turkeys this weekend. 3.2 kilos a piece and 1000 rubles a piece (about $40 ish) We bought two, and still have to buy some ham. Thankfully the cost is split among 5 of us so it isn't too bad.

On to happier things! I think it is okay to post this story because I don't think my friend even knows I have a blog. But to be safe I will leave out her name.

I have a new co-worker. She started here in September. She is American, raised in Canada. Very sweet girl but unfortunately not a believer. But she is a seeker.

The first day we met I showed her around the school and we rode on the bus back to the city together. We began talking and getting to know eachother. I really dont' think I said anything inparticular that would make her think this, but I guess this is how God works. She said "You are religious aren't you. I mean you have faith and stuff like that?" So I proceed to tell her that I don't really care much for religion outside of academia but I do have a special relationship in my life and yes I have faith.

Well that began it. Now everytime we are toghether are conversations are one 1 of 4 topics: her boyfriend, my boyfiend, love or "religion". She uses this word 'religion' for everything, but I don't like it. I don't consider myself and what I have to be just another religion. Most days the conversation atleast hits on this topic. Which is great!

Well I thought I would tell you about last Wednesday morning. I honestly don't remember how the conversation began but I do remember how it ended. She asked me something like this, "So you say you believe in God. Well what do you mean you believe in God, I mean what does that mean to you? How does that affect your life?" (Seriously, What a great question) So I proceeded to give her my honest take on it. I told her how I can see God in everything and described that. I told her how I know that I probably wouldn't still be alive if I didn't have God in my life and I described that. I also told her what he means to me and how having God in my life affects every aspect of my life. ( Now we are talking about God, not Christ, that is next)

Through talking aobut God and Him in my life, I had mentioned that I believe that God sent His only Son to Earth in the form of a human to die for our sins. So now comes in the discussion of Christ. She asked me why I think that I need Christ, what does that relationship mean in my life, what does it mean to have a relationship with someone who people say are dead.

I could go on forever. The questions keep coming until we get to school. It was so cool. I ended up getting to share my testimony and a whole lot of my heart with her. I couldnt' have been happier.

I tell you all of this not only to share this great story but to talk about purpose. She, among many others has asked me before what my purpose is here. I think one of my purposes is to plant seeds.

Planting seeds is plenty purpose for me!

Friday, November 14, 2008

It could have been better, but I guess it could have been worse too

Its Friday! So it is supposed to be a great day, right? Well it started out fine. I got up went to work, taught 1st grade, 2nd grade, 5th grade, and 4th grade and all of that went fine. Then I scarfed down my PB&J and apple and prepared to leave.

You see, today was a much anticipated afternoon of going to see the doctor. Yes many would not anticipate this, but if you had shooting pain everytime you ate your drank anything at all then you would want to go too.

So here is my afternoon:

I leave the school and have to walk about half a mile to the bus stop that is on the side of the highway and pray that a 442 comes by soon. I am really hoping because the doctor leaves his office at 4 pm and I have a long treck still ahead.

Well while I am walking I get attacked by a crazy dog barking and growling at me as I scream and run down the street while on the phone. Praise the Lord it decided to turn around and go back to the woods where it came from. Because I am surrounded by forrest.

Then about 30 seconds later, some Russian man in a nice SUV just stops right next to where I am walking. I look over but cannot see through the tented windows. I keep walking and talking. about 1 minute later he moves up to where I am, honks and unrolls the window. He has a creepy smile and is offering me a ride. I kindly say no thank you can keep walking. I still have at least a quarter mile to go.

I finally get to the bus stop and am getting cold, it is about 33* today.

About 30 minutes later a 442 comes. Thankfully it stops and I get on. I pay the driver, and get the last available seat in the back of the bus.

I rode the bus for about 30 minutes to Kievskya metro on the brown line. I took the circle 6 stops to the other side of the city to the light green line. Then I took the light green line 8 stops to my stop, Lublino. (It is about 3-6 minutes between each stop depending on distance and speed).

I have now been traveling since 1.20 pm. I excited the metro and it is exactly 3.20 pm.

I have directions to the doctors office from speaking with him on the phone. They are not nearly as clear as I thought they were. I walk one direction for about 30 minutes, knowing I have gone too far, never finding it. I have left his cell number at home but have the office number. After walking about 10 minutes I begin to try the office number. Each time I get a machine that says that it is not a working number.

I turn around, walking so fast I am out of breath. It is now 3.45 pm. The doctor leaves in 15 minutes. I have also been calling kathryn this whole time. She has his number and has been to the office but is teaching a lesson and not answering. I walk back to the metro and treck the other way about 10 minutes.

Finally at almost 4pm I get through to the office. Of course the lady speaks only Russian. That would be my luck, even though it is an American and a British doctor who work there. So I ask for my doctor, and she puts me on hold. After about 5 minutes it hangs up.

It is now after 4 but I call again. Of course, he is no longer in! So I turn around and get back on the metro.

Well I did a not so good job at holding back the tears at this point. I am so frustrated and all I wanted to do was to go to the doctor and figure out what this pain is all about.

I get on the train and head back into the city center. Since I am three stops from the bottom, I get a seat. This is an up right? Not so much.

At the next stop this older, bigger and apparently drunk man gets on and decides to sit in the open seat next to me. Next to him is another even bigger man. (This is very uncommon to have big people in Russia and of course the 3 of us have to be squished into a 3 person seat) Well the man falls on me when trying to sit down. As he falls on me he also elbows me in the forhead. Then he finally sits next to me. Only to cover up half of me. And he is constantly reaching over to grab the bar on the other side of me. Of course each time he does this he elbows me hard in my squishiness. I jump up to get off and see him trying to get up too. Thankfully, though upset, I am sober and can wiggle my way through the crowds very easily.

I switched to the purple line, rode it about 8 or 9 stops to Shchukinskya where I live and went home.

I took my shoes and coat off and went straight for the ice cream. Truc and I compared afternoon stories, and though hers was not fun she decided I won.

I called the doctor, rescheduled for Monday, and he told me to eat a snickers bar.

Thankfully it was Kathryn's night to cook. She made one of my favs, on purpose. Coconut chicken on a Santa Fe salad. And then we watched Prince Caspian which I had never seen.

That was my day! How about yours?!

Oh and doctor says no more caffiene :(

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Prague. It Was Pretty Legendary!

Just got home from 4 nights and 4 days in Prague, Czech Republic. It was amazingly beautiful. The people were nice. The food was soooo good. The weather was pretty good, at least it was warmer than here. We had a really great time. I thought I would give you a brief list of what we did.

Monday: arrived in Prague and took a mini bus to the hotel at about 10.30 pm.

Tuesday: We took the hotel shuttle to the town center at 9.40 am. That put us in the center at about 10 am depending on traffic. We wanted to go to the Prague Castle first. We decided to walk there. It took us about 2 hours. But we found our way and saw abou 3/4 of the city but had no idea yet what anything was. On our way up to the castle we passed through Lesser town. It was so cute with all the old buildings, winding up hill on the cobble stone streets. We ate at a little restaurant that served traditional Czech food. It was sooo good. We spent the next 4 hours exploring the castle. It was huge and there were so many buildings to go into. That evening we had Mexican food, per a recomendation, and it was great too.

Then we decided to head back to the hotel using public transportation. Well they have trams, buses and the metro. It is a little different than our public transportation stuff here. We couldn't find anywhere to buy a ticket. We watched everyone else and they were just getting on. We decided to follow them and just hop on. We saw little ticket punchers on the tram but no one used them. Of course the Transportation Authority had to jump onto our tram to check tickets. And of course we didn't have one. So we had to get off with him at the next stop and pay a 750 Kroun fine. About $40. It sucked. Come to find out all those people had month long passes and you don't have to punch tickets except for the first time you use it. So different from here where you have to punch it every time you get on, and here they are magnetic. When I told him there were no signs saying where to buy a ticket or how much they are, he told me to buy one at the smoke shop! Oh I should have known, buy your transportation ticket at the smoke shop! Of course also at the metro, but we hadn't been on the metro yet to see that. So from then on we made sure to always get a ticket. And we were not stopped again.

Tuesday: We went to the Jewish part of town. I had really wanted to do this. We saw 6 different synagogues that had been turned into museums and a Jewish cemetary. We learned the complete history of Czech Jews beginning around 790AD and the traditions of the Jewish faith. Most of these I already knew but it was intresting reading them from a secular perspective. We had some more amazing Czech food for lunch and walked around the old part of town. We had dinner at the Bohemia Bagel, per recomendation. It was amazing as well. We ended up going there again and bringing bagels home with us. It is like Panera but way better. That night we found this little Italian place that was have live jazz music. We stopped by there and listened for a little while. It was nice.

Wednesday: We took a walk around all day. We explored different parts of the city, the old and the new town, lesser town. We walked along the river. Ate lunch at a pizza place, had tea in the center square in the sunshine. Enjoyed the evening.

Thursday: We explored Wenceles Square. It has a monument dedicated to those who fought against communism from WWII to 1991. There was also a thing set up buy some activist that we walked through. It told there story of about 50 different people. Each poster showed a picture and told the untold story of how that person tried to fight against communism and make a difference in their society. It was really moving for me to read about. There were so many people who tried to stand up for what was right and sacrificed their life because of it. Also at the square is the National History Museum. We got to read about the cultural history of Czech from the 20th century. It was facinating. It also had a bunch of Zoology stuff too. I got to see possibly every animal in the world stuff behind glass, including skeletons of how we came from apes! It was a little outrageous to say the least. The rest of that day we walked around that part of the city and explored.

Friday: We had already seen everything but decided to walk along the river and try to get some more pictures. We had lunch at the Bohemia Bagel and took home a dozen bagels. We flew out that night!

It was such a great trip and not too terribly exhausting. We got to take our time strolling through town each day. The hotel was great too. Here are some pics. Ok its alot. I tried to narrow it down. If you want to see all of them then look on my facebook!

Oh and a few funny videos at the end too!