Sunday, September 25, 2011

Wait... I've been here a month...

Greetings from Воронеж, Россия!!
I have officially been in Russia for a month and I am 25% done with teaching... THAT IS CRAZY TALK!
I heard a lot of things about Russia being ugly and dirty, and all those things. Sure I have seen some very bad roads and lots of trash, but there are many beautiful things about Russia!
For example: My view out my bedroom window!

I have such a beautiful view! The sunsets here are very beautiful. Also since I live right nearby the edge of the river, it is so beautiful to just look out and to be able to see the water!  Sometimes you can see sailboats or rowboats! :) It makes me smile!
Yes folks, that is the view from my window! :) (I'm surprised there is no spider in the pic ;) )

Well this week has been crazy with teaching! One of our kindergarten teachers got sick and one of our basic reading teachers also got sick so normally out head teacher would teach, but she was sick took- she probably had the worst of it! She was throwing up and not even feeling well enough to get up!! 
So there was a lot of covering and I seriously have the best group ever! Everyone was so willing to help and wanted to do everything and I just thought it was SO sweet that everyone was willing to help. I especially owe a huge thanks for Alix for her willing attitude and the BIGGEST thanks to Jallyn! The first shift is easy to split into 2 groups, but the 2nd group has SO MANY KIDS! If Jallyn wasn't there, we would have had classes of about 8 or 9 between me and Sami! Какой ужас!!!
But Jallyn stepped in after teaching 3 hours of her own classes and taught another 4. She went from teaching about 18 hours a week to probably about 26! I AM SO THANKFUL FOR HER!
Here she is! :) She was my angel!

So I needed flour for a kitchen activity- Bahahah check with bag out!
 weird-looking dude + Pie = Love!
Things you can learn from Russian flour....

Luckily on Friday things were back to normal! We were all pretty much restored back to health and Friday went normally, besides the fact that we were all certainly pooped! I was so done with teaching for the week! But we decided to go to volleyball at the church.
So like i said before, the church used to be an old movie theater that was run down and forgotten. The church bought it and turned it into a BEAUTIFUL building!
 here are 2 short little articles about the building and branch

So in Monday night we now attend FHE right after work and it was a lot of fun! We had an enjoyable time honestly! It is all the missionaries, a few Russian investigators, and then us ILP people. We had a lesson, games, and of course refreshments! The elders are so nice and they make us feel so welcome and include us, and then of course the Frosts are just a beacon of love and warmth! Basically the church and the branch makes me so happy!
But like i said, we went to Volleyball. Anyone that knows me well know that I am not good at any sports. Pretty sure I made my team do very bad! :( But everyone was very nice! There was this legit old guy in a blue sweatsuit that kept on trying to tell me tips because I was failing so bad, but remember that I don't speak nor understand much Russian, so it was pointless :( I felt so bad for him, because he really wanted to play and I was really really bad. But the experience was fun and I think we are going to try and go often, so practice is very good!

Me, Mikaela, and Alix chillin in the gym!
This is their cute little gym! The chapel in the building is in the room right next to it.

Then this Saturday we had another epic day!
It started off getting on a bus and heading across the river to the center of the city. 
I have never been to the circus, so I was very excited! This is what the building looked like:
Nothing like an awesome circular building for a circus!
Both Mine and Tessa's first circus experience.
This is how I would summarize the entire event....
WEIRD! Probably one of the craziest events I have ever attended. The whole building smelled like animal poop haha but it is the circus! We were probably one of the few young adults there. It was pretty much all kids and their parents! Let me just show you some pics to let you experience the weirdness of it!
The awesome show ring!
The show started off with clowns (of course) and also cool jump roping stunts
We all really liked the monkey show. They are very talented at juggling and catching stuff!
There was also this incredible acrobat stunt done by a girl that was probably about 11 and a guy. She would do insane flips and stunts and he would hold her up by her feet. I swear she didn't have a backbone!
randomly spiderman comes out of nowhere! He was very talented and did cool acrobat tricks! But it was very random...
Then there was snakes, alligators, and dancers
Then it got very sad :( I didn't know I was an animal activist until I watched the crazy things they had animals do :( It made me so sad! I couldn't enjoy my time because it was so sad!
First they made this elephant balance on 1 foot while lifting a lady up and the elephant looked so miserable and it was so sad!!!!
Then they had all these bears and they played music

Yes this bear is on roller skates... Yes you understand why I feel bad.
They also had bears riding bikes and boxing each other. 
Then being the lame person I am, looked up online and in Russia there aren't really any animal laws, so I can only imagine what these animals go through and suffer. Especially their living conditions.
Okay enough of Debbie Downer--- the circus really was awesome and the magic was cool with all the doves and the dogs did cool tricks, but I just love animals and I hate to see them do stuff they don't like... that is all
Wow.... that was a depressing story...
On to something HAPPY :)
We then went to the mall and ate! :) I am getting better at ordering in Russian, but still give them the blank look when they ask me something I can't translate!
We then went shopping and browsing.
A Russian Ballet in Russia..... doesn't get more Russian than that!

This is the beautiful building!
Waiting for it to start
So our seats were on the tippy tippy top of the theater, but nonetheless, it was very very cool to be there!
Here is the whole gang... expect unfortunately Alix is hiding behind Sami... :( And I look like a pasty ghost because the flash was on me haha) 
But I did enjoy the Ballet. They were very talented and the music was great. I didn't know the story previously though, so I was a but lost. But I absolutely loved it! :) And it was nice to not to have to worry about not understanding Russian-only music and dance! We are going to the nutcracker sometime later!
Then we all went back home! I am feeling a lot more confidant on the streets of Russia. I know very well where I live! I know the bus stop where I need to get off to walk home and how to get to the school. Also I am much better at riding the buses in Russia. You just all get on, and then you pay usually by passing your fare up, and then people will hand you change back.
I have been on empty buses 
I have been on packed full buses.
I have fallen over... (more then once!)
I have missed my stop  
I have had people talk to me in Russian and I have no idea what they are saying
I have paid a rubles worth of kopecs on the bus (They don't like that!)
I ride a bus to church every Sunday and now on Mondays and Fridays also
Buses, buses, buses!

So then on Sunday I went to church. It was "Stake Conference" but for a branch so the ward of Lipicks came as well. That ward consists of like 5 people and then an Armenian family of 5, and then the missionary is the Branch President!
Let me just say that Missionaries are so awesome!
Sami in our group got her call to the Russia Yekaterinburg Mission! She opened her call Via skype on Thursday! :) SOOOOOOOOO COOL!!!!
Anywho, the conference was very good! A member from the 5th quorum of the 70 came and spoke, He is from Salt Lake and so it was refreshing to have a talk in English translated into Russian! Instead of always the opposite, even though we have incredible translators in our branch. Like I mentioned, the lady to translated for the wife of the seventy, and also translates for us in Relief Society has been asked by the church to translate "Jesus the Christ" in Russian....only a little bit cool..... or AWESOME!!!!!
The branch presidency is very kind and we love everyone!

Here is me, Mikaela, and Ryan- it started raining when we left church, we were running to catch the bus!

Then I came home and ate delicious lunch (and snacked on my last Reeces!!! NOOO! haha)
I get in serious trouble is I don't wear socks on the "cold" floor, so this is me rockin' them in my Sunday outfit!
Oh and this is what I bought at the mall. I am sure it means nothing to any of you so let me quickly explain. Смешарики (pronounced Smishariki) is a Russian cartoon that is on television a lot. My family happens to love them and they are taped all over my room!
 This is one wall of my room!
This is another wall of my room!
Plus they are on the other wall too!
But they are everywhere! I think they have 1 form or another of all the Smishariki in stuffed animals! They also have figurines, and sometimes food with them on it! I have even watched the show! Sure I didn't understand most of it, but they have become a part of my life, since I see them everywhere and wake up to them in my room! Also they say that I am Нюшa (Nyusha)- which is the pig... interpret that how you want! Bahaha They say it is because I act like her haha -but it can have two meanings!
So that is me and her on the calendar. It will be my 2012 calendar!
Plus I know all their names! Bahaha (except I can never remember the hedgehog...)

The last thing I have to say is that I was talking to my host mom this morning (as well as we could... remember we speak the same level about) and we got on the subject of the Soviet Union because she said that she didn't like bananas. 
She used to love them when she was a kid, but if you wanted bananas, you had to go all the way to Moscow to buy them, and sometimes her parents would go and travel to Moscow and buy some and other fruits.She then said that now that they are everywhere, she doesn't like them...such is life! 
I asked her if it was hard living in the Soviet Union and she said it was very very difficult. 
If you wanted chicken, you would have to wait in line for 4 hours to buy some.
Also they only had clothing in drab colors and at the parks and places all the kids would look the same dressed in grey clothes with grey hats.
All clothing came in 1 color and 1 fit.
I then asked her is life was good now and she said that both times have pros and cons to them
the things she misses from the USSR
1. bread was only 10 kopeks (which is half a penny in America)
2. Education was free and now Ilena's college is very expensive
3. There were no beggars, everyone was equal
4. Everyone was equal
5. the roads were fixed every year compared to now where they are never fixed

I just thought that that was very interesting information coming from a true Russian. I would assume my host mom is about 40. So she born around the early 70's. Just something to think about.
Everything is Fantastic :)
Life is great! 

Miss you all!!
Lots and Lots of LOVE!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Never a boring week!!

So as this week began, I was concerned that I wouldn’t really have a lot to write about... but sometimes I forget that I am Russia, and there is never a boring week in Russia!
So to start off, teaching has been going a lot better. I am doing kitchen with the kids and so we are eating lots of simple finger foods, and the kids are always so excited to do kitchen because they want to eat. So as a teacher that makes it a lot easier for me when the kids are excited! We keep getting new kids, so it is very much an experience, especially when you have kids that are very good in English and then the ones that only yell in Russian- makes for a very hard job! But I am glad for this experience, and I know that as I put more time into preparing, teaching will run a lot more smoothly!
 Me in the action- wearing an awesome smock apron!
 The little old lady who swallowed a fly also is missing an arm!

I decided to photograph my way to school! So this is how I get to the school every day. Tessa and Alix live right above the school and so it is very convenient to just go up there and crash.
This is the outside of my apartment! Say goodbye and turn around and continue walking
 After walking through some bad roads of the parking lots and passing a little park thing, I pass this building and sign. This is my landmark so I always know where I am! 

 Then I cross the street, and the Military Airforce is right there. I just found out that if I take pictures, I will be deported, No Good- so it is a mystery!!
 Then I pass this apartment complex that has a lot of trees
 There are so many of these little shops all over the streets!
 This is the school, just one more street to cross! The green roof thing on the bottom floor is where the door is. Then that complex is the apartment complex where Tessa and Alix live. They live on the 7th floor!
I made this map from google maps and paint. The circle on the bottom is my home ( I am so close to the river!) The top is the school!
 I get to the school about 11:00am every morning and then leave at 7:00 so it is quite a job… however a lot of my “planning” time is spent messing around with my friends, making each other laugh, or just relaxing! :) I really feel like I have been blessed with the perfect group! Honestly I am surrounded by wonderful, fun, entertaining people! :) It is a great experience!
So I do waste a lot of time, at the school, but I have a lot of fun! Also we always get lunch at 12:30 and it is always very scrumptious!

 Kindergarten teachers chillin in the supply closet!
Like i said... Never a dull moment!

This is me and Mikaela trying to put both our feet against the wall!
and sometimes Mikaela is ninja, and teaches us!
Needless to say that we have a good time and always can always easily entertain ourselves!

And it is true that you take off your shoes before entering the apartment. We take them off at home and at the school. However at church it is not required. It is because all the streets of Russia are very very dirty and very trashy and so they don’t want you bringing that into their clean apartments. They keep their apartments very clean and clean the wood slated floors at LEAST once a week. 

 This is the doorway at my home!
This is the doorway of the school. I teach in slippers :) I can get used to that!

I really do love my home situation! My mom Zhana is very motherly- she is the secretary at the school so I work with her. She is always concerned that I am not getting enough to eat and that I will be cold and everything (she makes me wear socks at home because "the floor is very cold and you will get sick"). The other day I was wiping my eye because sometimes my eyes just water! And she thought I was sad as tried to get me to tell her what was wrong, and then she asked our coordinator to ask me what was wrong, and then she went out and bought me chocolate- and I wasn’t even sad! :) Yes I am very taken care of us! I also love Ilena and Daniel! They are so wonderful to me! Ilena is 19 and Daniel is 9. I play a lot of balloon volleyball with Daniel and go on walks with Ilena. 
 My Russian mama!
 Daniel Daniel Daniel
Sometimes my brother is a dementor-
Me and my wonderful sister who is the BEST! I love her!

Also…I have a legit Babushka! And a Dedushka! (grandpa). My grandma came over to meet me and brought cake. She doesn’t speak any English and so we just smiled at each other, but she used informal greetings with me and kissed my cheek! She is very very friendly. I went over there twice after that. Once just for dinner- it was a very interesting experience

For dinner we had
1.       Fish soup with a hard boiled egg (luckily I have learned to like fish!)
2.       Then bread and my “favorite salad”
3.       Then yellow sausage that was completely pink on the inside
4.       And a plate of plain Buckwheat
Yes I came home and ate all my favorite candy ;)

*My "favorite" salad is not my favorite salad, but quite the opposite. It is served at my home and my babushkas! It consists of tomatoes (do not like), onions (definetly do not like), and cucumbers (didn’t like until I have been forced to eat them!), and then a plethora of dill and sometimes mint… and my mom’s is COVERED in mayonnaise. Luckily the one at my babushkas wasn’t! I hate hate hate this salad and my body does this internal cringe everytime!  *Shudder*
The real thing

Then we went over to my babushkas for her birthday and HOLY COW- SO MUCH FOOD!
Grandpa, Grandma, and Zhana
Let me explain what is going on in this photo:

This is a glob of mashed potatoes, with breaded chicken stuffing-like mixture, and then an entire chicken leg, eggplant, bell peppers (again eating so many vegetables I don’t like!), bread, and then if that didn’t make me full enough… CAKE for dessert. (and they tried to feed me watermelon, but you reach a point when you really can’t eat any more!) They toasted with Champaign and Ilena, Daniel, and I toasted with pineapple juice! :) My grandpa is actually my step-grandpa and he is friendly and was kind to me! I really like my entire Voronezh family! (Don’t get me wrong, I do miss my Erda Family, I just feel so blessed to have an incredible Erda family and an incredible Voronezh family!)

Also my mom is a wonderful cook. Once she made me pancakes with homemade apple jam and she made like 3 fist-sized pancakes and I told her I thought the little ones were very cute and then the next morning all the pancakes were little! :) Russians totally know the meaning of hospitality! I have had yummy pizza, carbanara, blini, pelmini, and lots of fresh fruit and a lot of candy! 
 Homemade Pizza!
The cute pancakes!

Like I mentioned before, Russian milk always makes me laugh! It is always in a different carton! Here are some more milk containers! :) Totally makes my day!
 I was half expecting pastel milk to come out!
Nothing like cat milk!

Also light switches are different here, (as well, of course, as plugs) but light switches are usually found on the outside of bathrooms and then near the about waste height on the wall, and they are very big! At the school they are ALWAYS turning off the lights. They only have the switch for the hall in the entrance of the building, so the American teachers are always turning them on, and the Russians are always turning them off!
This is the light switch in my room!

But here are some pictures of more cute kids at the school and life at work

This is Yuroslav- he has limit-less energy and is absolutely crazy, and can drive you absolutely crazy, but is so polite that you can't help but love him!
Yay for elephant ears!
My card for my babushka!

Now I must tell you about my weekend because it was one of the best I have ever had! So Saturday was city day in Voronezh! So obviously that equals a big celebration! We went out about 1:00pm and went with our 15-year old tour guide, Jane, who is very very feisty and definitely takes care of us, and then her ADORABLE 6-year old brother Artium! Artium is in level 2 and Jane is done with ILP, she speaks very well! So the only bus we could catch to take us to the center was bus 90. One bus 90 passed, and Jane flips them off! Haha- don’t mess with her! She is very independent!!! So then the next bus 90 comes. Hahaha!

Sorry I just have to laugh because this is the craziest thing I have EVER DONE! This bus was packed already- but we needed to get on. So imagine a bus that is EXPLODING with people. There is no room and all 9 of us need to get on. These other men were getting on, and Jane basically kicks them off! (Yes I am so grateful that she was there for us). So 4 were on, and they were falling out of the door and Jane yells at us to get on… I thought for sure that we were going to get left, and then have to go with plan B… nope…nope…nope

We seriously CRAMMED. Like I don’t know if I can explain this- it was so crazy! (I am honestly laughing as I type this because it is so so funny!) So please imagine 3 of us still needing to get on, and the bus is almost moving and the others are barley inside, and then us SHOVING each other into the bus- Like major shoving. We somehow miraculously fit. Hahaha! The bus doors practically shut on Ryan! We were shoulder to head, to leg, to arm. Jallyn had a Russian sitting on her lap. Then another stop would come, and some would get off, so we would all climb out of the doorway, and then fight to get back on- Oh. My. Gosh. I can’t even explain. It was Sooooooo hot and it was so sweaty and stinky and uncomfortable, and just hilarious. We totally stood out because we were laughing and taking pictures. These pictures don’t do it justice!
 view from where I was of the people in the aisle
 Us shoved together!
That lady is sitting on Jallyn! It was so crammed, I wish that the pictures could show you!
Well we got off half-way on the bridge and watched the amazing airplane show and got some fresh air, we decided to walk the rest of the way, it was a very long way, but it was fun! Cute little Artium was such a trooper! He was laughing the whole time. But the airplane show was amazing. I live right next to the air force university and it was so cool to see the planes!
 So cool!
Me and Tessa love Voronezh and airplanes!
 The crew!
Then Jane took us to the center* of the town where lots was happening! Festivals, dancers, balloons, singers, it was really cool! We ate at a nearby Café “Robin Bobbin” and me and Luke split a shish kabob and banana split- YUMMY! And we just walked and had a good time!
 SO MANY PEOPLE! we were so blessed not to get lost!
 Me, Jane, and adorable Artium!
Happy City Day Voronezh!

*Voronezh has a left bank and a right bank and I live on the left bank, and church is on the left bank, but the center of town is across the river on the right bank! 

Then we went to a scary place to use the bathroom! It was another center of Voronezh. So many places to see. This bathroom place was so disturbing The toilets were pretty much all full and there was human waste all over them.
 I had to use a piece of notebook paper… you can only imagine. However it was free, and that is not common!
suffering from the aftershocks of this terrifying situation!

Then Jane invited us over to her house (It is Jallyn’s house as well, she lives with them). We took a crowded taxi van and again sat on each other’s laps! The men on the taxi were definitely drunk and were probably saying obscene things, but Jane wouldn’t tell us what they were saying and that was 100% fine by me!
We ate cookies and chocolate and watched fireworks that were literally OUTSIDE of our window of their apartment! It was incredible! It was really fun! Then Tessa, Mikaela, Alix, and I walked home because we didn’t want to deal with all the people and hassle of catching a bus. It was about a 30 minute walk. We felt very safe and nothing bad happened! It was a very awesome Saturday!
We know all about being squished!
How many people can you fit in a small area?
We were so close!

Oh I forgot! Jane also took us to her church!!!
 So beautiful!
 Russian Orthodox
We had to wear scarves! Jane helped us put them on! 

Unfortuently we were very underdressed. It was very beautiful on the inside! The ceilings were SO HIGH There was a "mass" like type thing going on. It was very interesting and I am glad for the experience. There was way too much insense for me though, I couldn't breath.
 I am glad that people do have religion, and do believe in Christ, however I wish they could know about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Where it challenges you to become something. To be in the world, but not of it. Where you make covenants and have priesthood power and can pray to your Heavenly Father and know that he hears your prayers and loves you so much! Also to have the knowledge of Christ and his atonement, and that we can repent and live with him again. I love the unity of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints- let me give you an example:

Let’s take 8 Americans who decided to live in Voronezh and have little in common with Russia. Then let’s take them to Voronezh Branch of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I have never felt so much unity! I LOVE THE GOSPEL! I feel like family to all the members! They each have their own flavor!! Even though I don’t know them personally, they are my family and they have made us feel so loved! They all try and speak the little English they know to us! They hug us and shake our hands and include us! The spirit resonates throughout the whole building!

We all are united in the fact that we know we are all brothers and sisters even though we have very different backgrounds! These members are amazing and I hope that we all take our religion as seriously as they do! They are given lessons on eternal marriage, and family responsibilities. Sure those lessons are easy to relate to in Utah and Idaho because we have ideal situations, but only one sister has been sealed in the temple in that branch and a lot of them are not married because they can’t find a worthy spouse. Yet, they come to church and are full of faith and hope and righteousness and they do it because they love the Lord and they know he lives- it is so beautiful!  I love them all and am so grateful for what they teach me! Heavenly Father is mindful of ALL his children, I can promise you that. 
The spirit may not reside on the streets of Russia, but it does throughout the entire church as the saints of God make and keep covenants with him. I love these people! 

 This is my favorite place in Voronezh, and my favorite day of the week- SUNDAY!

Also Elder and Sister Frost are so good to us! They are the Regional Coordinators for all the humanitarian projects throughout Russia… yeah that’s kind of a big responsibility! But they are so good to us. They made us dinner tonight. NEVER HAVE I EATEN SO MUCH GOOD FOOD! They made us enchiladas, guacamole, salsa, Mexican rice, refried beans, and salad (WITH RANCH!!!!). MEXICAN FOOD! I almost started crying! Bahahaa! It was wonderful! Then we had delicious oatmeal cake, ice cream, and watermelon for dessert. I don’t think any of us have ever eaten so much. It was the best thing ever! I ate and ate and ate! 
We were SOOOO happy!
Mexican Food! 
Tortilla Chips...Can this be?? 
I can't even explain!
Then we played a very fun Russian couch name game, and talked, and mingled, and had the best Sunday ever! The church is true wherever in the world. In their apartment it was decorated with Christ pictures, and gospel sayings, and pictures of the temple, yes I can promise you, the spirit was there! :) It felt like home!
 In the middle of the couch game!
They are the best!
The whole clan!

 We are so taken care of! ALWAYS!
Everyday I can’t believe that this is my life! I am so blessed, thank you for your concern and prayers! I hope things are awesome in America! I hope that you are happy and that life is going good!
Like I keep on saying, Heavenly Father knows all and knows you. He loves you!
:) I am happy! That is all!