Friday, June 22, 2007

Thursday Picnic

Yesterday was the last Thursday of the semester. Because we don't have lots to do in the summer on Thursdays, the Russians teamed up to make a picnic in the backyard. We exchanged a few gifts, sang some songs, and ate some good food. (As you can tell from the picture, even Gosha got fed well!) Also, despite a Russian tradition against celebrating birthdays early, we celebrated my birthday, which is actually tomorrow. I got a cool LED flashlight and Molly baked a delicious cake! It's getting hard to believe that the year is almost at an end. Even though I'm very excited to travel and then begin school, it's also hard to leave behind friends and familiar places.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007


This picture needs no explanation at all.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Blinni and a(nother) Russian Institution

Yesterday was a Saturday afternoon. We spent it, as we usually do when the weather is overcast and a little cool, at the American Home. It was a little unique because we began pulling our personal things out of our little cubbie-holes and storage spaces, only to be confronted with the fact that we either have to cart home to the States or get rid of a lot of STUFF! It's going to be interesting.

We also made a nice dinner which included Russian blinni (Thanks for cooking blinni, Molly!) and followed it up with another Russian favorite, some Cheburashka cartoons. Cheburashka is a little creature of unknown origin who cutely popped out of an orage crate and makes an appearence in four short stop-motion animation films from the Soviet '70s. He's cute; befriends an easy-going crocodile names Gena; is sometimes foiled by the quasi-evil, but strangely grandmotherly, Shapaklyak; and learns many life lessons. It's cute, and despite the fact that there is barely an hour of existing films, he is wildly popular over 30 years after his creation. (If you look closely at Olympic footage, you'll see him as a sort of mascot for Russian teams in both of the last two Olympiads.) You can read more about him here: Wikipedia, giver of knowledge.

This is also the source of one of may favorite sentences in the Russian language, which goes like this: Жил в городе крокодил. Его зовут Гена. Он работал в зоопарке крокодилом. (There lived in the city a crocodile. His name is Gena. He worked at the zoo as a crocodile.)

So, with that our semester is winding down. My parents and sister are in London now and will be here on Saturday to visit, which is still hard to believe. These next two weeks are going to be crazy!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

I'm Scary!

I'm scary. Didn't you know? I scare teenage girls! I yell at adults! I'm just SCARY!

Well, actually I don't think I'm that bad. I'd like to think of myself as a nice guy. But, then there are these little vignettes:

I. The other day we had new prospective students to test them for their level of English. Part of this is an oral interview with one of the Americans. I do this pretty often and invariable I get a 13-14 year old, usually girl, who is scared to death of this big American boy who speaks English at them. (I'm also told that I speak "very quickly," but since I'm from Indiana we all know that that ain't true!) Last week, a 13-14 year old girl didn't say a word:

Me: "My name is Aaron. How are you?" Her: Nothing.
Me: "Where do you go to school?" Her: Nothing.
Me: "What are you doing right now?" Her: You guessed it, nothing.
Me, in Russian: "That's fine. Do you have any questions you'd like to ask?" Her: Nothing.
Me: "Okay, it was nice talking to you."

II. I don't like it when people use cell phones and/or cheat on exams. Those students who do this, and persist in it, I tell them how I feel. I guess this makes me scary ;)

III. One of Molly's students used the Russian word "gul" to describe me and my voice. It means "echo" or "reverberation." When Molly asked her if I was scary, she replied: "You can't say he's scary, but on the other hand, you can't say that he's not."

There you have it: You can't say that I'm not.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Flowers of June

Last weekend when we went to Sergeev Posad, one of the things I had plenty of chance to take pictures of were flowers. Everything was in full bloom and beautiful. My pictures were helped by the fact the it was clear and sunny, without a cloub in the sky. In short a perfect day to snap some pictures.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Sunday Day-trip

I had forgotten how nice it is to be able to drive places on your own schedule! After months of public transportation we took a little trip to Sergeev Posad, by car! Natasha who works here at the AH, Joanna, Eric, Molly and I joined some of our students and friends, Larissa, Marina, her son, and a co-worker of Marina’s on a road trip. Sergeev Posad is a small town northeast of Moscow that is home to one of the most famous and beautiful monasteries in Russia, The Trinity-Sergius Monastary. We were there on Sunday during mass which was very interesting. As you can see, I took tons of pictures.

After thoroughly checking out the monastery, we drove a few miles to Abramtsevo. It is a small estate that in the late 19th and early 20th centuries was owned by a wealthy Moscow industrialist who invited artists like Repin and Vasnetsov to the estate, a sort of artists’ colony. In addition to pleasant woods, a beautiful stone church, and some pretty wooded buildings, there are museums and workshops for things like painting, woodworking, and ceramics. We spent some time wandering the grounds and, you guessed it, taking more pictures.

After Abramtsevo we drove a short while and stopped for a picnic lunch and some relaxation. On the way home, we went via the little town of Radonezh. It’s a small town with a church and a spring that is famously connected to St. Sergei of Radonezh, who was the founder of the monastery in Sergeev Posad. It’s a very pretty place and we took the chance to have a dip in the spring-fed stream and drink some of the water from the spring that is believed to have cleansing powers.

In all, it was a relaxing, beautiful day that I think we all really enjoyed. I know that I'm enjoying summer, but the time is going very fast. We have barely three weeks left to teach! Yikes!

Saturday, June 02, 2007

The Family is Coming, The Family is Coming!

As I was informed in a comment, I neglected to mention that my family is also coming to visit me in Russia at the end of the month.

After a whirlwind tour of London and Paris, Mom; Dad; my sister, and a family friend are coming to Russia! They'll be in Moscow for a few days, then to Vladimir for a short stay and then on to St. Petersburg as the last stop on the voyage.

I'm really excited that they are coming: now they can maybe understand why I've come to Russia twice! I'm going to try and be the best tour guide/interpreter that I can be, but unfortunately they're arriving right at the end of our summer semester here at the AH, which is always a crazy time.

As for that, we had midterm exams for the summer semester yesterday, so today will mostly be spent hanging out and grading them. So far they seem to be doing okay. They need to be graded today because tomorrow we're teaming up with some students and taking a trip to Sergeev Posad, which is a town famous for its monastaries and beautiful churches. I think that we're going to take a picnic lunch and make a day out of it. It will be a long day, but with the cooler weather that we're having, it should be very enjoyable.

The last part of this post is a little picture I took a while back. Can anyone figure out what it is?