Sunday, October 23, 2011

What is this, it's mom.

Well this week had been pretty mild compared to last! We officially hit our ½ way mark- which is pretty crazy to think about! 2 months in, 2 more to go. It has gone by so fast! I am just so grateful for this amazing amazing opportunity!

So it is crazy to think that in 2 months all these amazing people I have met will be gone out of my life. All the adorable kids who I teach and interact with, my host family who treats me so well, our coordinators who do so much for us, all the missionaries who speak English to us, all the ward members who have done nothing but made us feel included, and my amazing ILP friends!!

The kids:
Wow! Even though the days may be a little crazy… Bahahahaha! I laugh because I don’t know if crazy even begins to describe it… it’s one of those things you have to really experience to be able to relate. We may or may not have a kid who has no ambition to learn and so he literally will take everything and a)throw it
b) rip it
c) hit someone with it
d) eat it
e) all of the above!
He does not sit in his seat and he runs around like a wild child, it is always an experience teaching the 2nd rotation! Luckily we have just learned to laugh, and when the day is over, we shout hallelujah and laugh about how insane it was! My group is filled with very optimistic people who hardly ever complain! We just have learned to be thankful for the experience and then laugh. Laughing cures all!
There is also a kid that seriously all he says is “What is this, it’s mom”.  He doesn’t ask it like a question either, he just repeats that over and over and over and over and over and over and over in a monotone tone… “what is this, it’s mom”. It is his way of asking for his mom. There is another boy says “I want A my mom”. Like I mentioned before 14 of our 31 kids are new, and so they are still very new to the program and the routine. Second semesters Voronezh ILP group will see a lot of progress I believe!
Although some kids are easier to help and teach, really they all are amazing! We have learned which kids not to put in the same groups! :) The coolest thing about the teaching part of this Russia experience is to see the growth. We have seen some kids who came from the beginning (this being their first year), and they are learning how to answer some questions and not necessarily repeating everything that you say!
We had one student who we really didn’t see any hope for. He only spoke Russian and was kind of a pain- but he has been through a total turn around (yes he still speaks Russian, but he is speaking it a lot less, and interacting with us a lot more).
 Vova sporting camo, tights, and argyle. This kid is so cute! (Even if he loves to yell at you in Russian and spit too...) :)
 This is Vanya, he repeats everything word for word! :) He's a cutie!
This is Daniel. He has a vocabulary of a 9 year old and uses big words and speaks in big sentences! He uses words like Minimal, and separation.... who is this kid???
We all love Tessa!
no comment....
This is crazy Daniel- one of Jallyn's students!

My Host Family:
Like I have mentioned before, it really is good! Not to say that it is easy… but it is a good situation! My host mother is a single divorced mom (I know that her kids have different dads, and I know she was married to at least one of them). She just turned 40 on Tuesday. We celebrated her birthday! I made her a card and brownies, however I didn’t have any measuring cups at my house… so I really just guessed, I used a drinking glass, and went off that! They didn’t turn out 100% correct, I would say about 80% but they were edible and they did look like brownies! After school we went to Babushka and Dedushka’s (grandma and grandpa) apartment. It is the next apartment complex over so very very close. We ate delicious yogurt cake that had berries on the top and drank Champagne which, needless to say, I didn’t taste!
Russian cake!
She is a very strong independent woman and she loves Ilena and Daniel very much and is very protective. You can tell that she is a momma bear. No one messes with her or her family! She is feisty! But she is very kind to me and feeds me lots of good food! 
chicken, noodles, peppers, tomatoes, and cucumbers 

She changes my sheets, washes and hangs my clothes to dry, and vacuums my room. We try and talk to each other- but holy cow language barriers are hard things! I never realized how blessed I am to be able to communicate with everyone where I am from! Seriously at the tower of Babel, that would have been a nightmare!
It is a really good home environment! Sometimes I just wish we could speak the same language because it is hard to express a lot of feelings and it is awkward a lot of the time, and that makes it hard, but we are both trying very hard to make it work, and it is going a lot better!

Our Coordinators:
We are so grateful for them! Daniel and Natasha are amazing! She are in charge of helping us renew our visas and all those fun things ;). They also help restore order at the school, and feed us lunch every day! I am so grateful for them! They also are both bilingual. Natasha is from Voronezh and Daniel is from Utah.

The Missionaries:
The missionaries are so awesome!  We have all become such good friends! We see them at church on Sunday, at FHE (family home evening) on Monday, and at volleyball on Friday- needless to say we see a lot of each other. They are so awesome! I am so grateful that they are dedicating 2 years of their life to serving the Lord and the people of Russia to bring them to a knowledge of the savior.
For FHE this week we had a lesson, and then played a crazy game of “French tomato” that involved hitting a volleyball while you were bent in half… needless to say I was not good at it, and might have been one of the first ones out! Here are some pictures:
 Yes, this game is as crazy as it looks!

Volleyball this week was again awesome! I spent most of my time talking to Sister Kuessling (a sister missionary from France who is serving there) but I love just interacting with the people there. We have made some friends with students from the US who are doing a semester of studying abroad, and it is fun to talk with them! Also this week the AP’s (assistants to the Mission President) visited the branch and they were really nice. One of them was a past ILP student who went to Ukraine, he translated sacrament meeting for us, and his translation was flawless. The other AP was a Semi-pro Russian basketball player who took time off to serve a mission! They were also playing volleyball.

The Ward Members:
Yes, I cannot quit talking about the branch. If you came here for even for just a week, you would understand why!
So this Saturday we had a Relief Society activity where every sister prepared a dish of food for the other sisters to try. It was so awesome!! It was just like an activity that you would find at my home ward! I got to try a lot of interesting Russian dishes. Mushrooms and dill are very popular here! 
Sister Frost made chips and salsa and then creamy chicken noodle soup and it was delicious. A lot of the sisters didn’t finish their salsa! It is definitely more common in North America! :) But the desserts consisted of a lot of different Blini!

I made brownies for this again and again forgot to grab the measuring cups that are at the school!!! So yes, I guessed again. And my host family doesn’t have a cake pan, so I lined the edges of a cookie sheet in foil (thanks to Tessa’s idea). These weren’t 100% either, They were probably a 81%!
But the story is funny of how I got the eggs. So I had all the ingredients for the brownies, expect I needed 3 eggs. So I walked to the nearby store (which is very very close to my apartment complex). I went in and in this particular store you have to ask for what you want and then they give it to you and you pay for it. I saw they were selling eggs individually, but I didn’t really want to deal with trying to explain what I needed, I just wanted the simple store of “yourself” picking what you need, and then going to a regular cash register, where talking is limited.
So I walked in the first store and saw that they were selling individually and so I walked out and decided that I would go to the other store which was not as close, but was still pretty close. I got there, and it was closed!! So I decided to go back to the other store, because if it all failed, I could always run away!
So I walked back, and I noticed the cleaning lady was sitting outside smoking (I pass here pretty much every day on my way to school. She is probably in her 50s and has stringy hair. When I see her she is either cleaning the floor, sweeping the sidewalk, or smoking) She recognized me as the girl that had just left a while ago and (in Russian) asked if I was just walking around. I decided that I would just go for it and explain my situation (that I needed to buy 3 eggs but I didn’t know how, and I only spoke a little Russian.) She asked me where I was from and got all excited to help me. She took me and in and helped me buy them- I was very grateful!
So then I went home and somehow miraculously made brownies again with no measuring cups or spoons! Then when I was walking out to meet up with Jallyn, I passed her and she was outside smoking again. I asked if she wanted one, and she took one, and then took a bite out of it. She then immediately grabbed into my bag and grabbed another one! Haha it made me laugh so hard! J Her name is Galiya she is awesome- it made my day!
Anywho at the Relief Society activity Alix had made cookies from a mix that she brought from home, but they don’t have cookie mixes here. So when people tried her cookies, everyone was asking her for a recipie! Baahahah so she went home and went online and found just a chocolate chip cookie recipie. Her cookies were the rave! Way to go Betty Crocker- you are popular in Russia!
The activity was so much fun! I very much enjoyed it!

 Yay for Relief Society!
Each table had something different one it. One for Salads, one for soups, one for main courses, and then one for desserts!
 Our Amazing Relief Society President (on the left) and a Russian sister explaining how she made her soup!
 The dessert table!
 Another sister explaining how she made her food!
 Alix made cookies from a mix! :) haha
these were some of the things that I tried!

The ward members don’t speak English and we don’t speak Russian, but we are one big family! :) They all smile at us (which is uncommon because Russians hardly ever smile) and we smile back and we feel of their love! They are awesome!
Today for sacrament meeting, the people who got the opportunity to go to the temple came up and bore their testimonies! It was amazing! These people have to travel more than 17 hours to get to the temple. They take a whole week and go to the temple about 3-4 times a day that week! They stay in a dormitory that is just for people visiting the temple.
Their testimonies were so pure, and they were so happy! There was a man named Yorgi who did 610 baptisims from his family! :) I tell you, these people are so dedicated and love the Lord. Their testimonies of the temple were filled with the spirit.   
Go to the temple as often as you can! :) Which, for these people, may be only once a year!

Yes I have made amazing friends with this adventure! I love spending time with all of them!
Before the activity, Jallyn, Me, and her host brother Artiom went to an awesome park and played!

 Artiom and Jallyn!
 They had these awesome exercise equiptment!
 Love the outhouse birdhouse!
This sign is self-explanatory!

On Saturday after the activity, Ryan, Luke, Mikaela, Sami, and myself walked across the walking bridge to the other side of the river. We then took fun pictures, found large mushrooms, and visited a bookstore. (At the bookstore we ran into one of our fellow ward members, Yorgi (the one who did 610 baptisims)! Then on the way out, we ran into another ward member, who wasn’t with Yorgi! So it is a small town (even though it has a population of 900,000!)
 We ran around in circles and took pictures of ourselves! Here is Luke!
 Hahaha! you know you have been in Russia when you go into a public restroom and expect something like this! hahaha! Bathrooms in restaurants are very nice and other places, but when you go to parks, or on places  on the street.... Ai yi yi!
 Me and Sami on our walk!
 my host mom braided my hair!
 I love fall!
 We had a lot of fun!
the group exploring more of Russia!
 Another one of Russia's many churches!
She makes me so happy!
Then after the bookstore, us ILPs went to McDonalds and laughed till we were sick! Who knew that McDonalds would ever be a comfort? The McDonalds here are popular places to hang! All the teenagers to, and a lot of students because it has free wi-fi! The McDonalds are usually fancy, very clean, and have cool infrastructure!
McDonalds is comfort food!

And that sums up my week!
:)  Hope everything in America is going awesome!
Thanks for you support!
:)  Love ya, Kelsee

ps- email me! kelseeg@hotmail

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Man I'm almost 1/2 way done- WHAT?!?!

Another week has come and gone! It is already the middle of October, and you can tell that the weather is getting colder and colder! Each day people seem to get bulkier and bulkier as more layers are put on! Hats, scarves, boots, and coats are the sight of every person you pass on the street- including me! My host-mom is making/letting me barrow one of her coats. It is brown and everything I own is black… so that bites, but really I am not trying to impress anyone, and I like being warm! However the leaves and colors make up for the cold weather- it is beautiful!
View from my window!

So teaching is becoming easier, but also harder. It is what our head teacher calls “expectations”. Haha When I first came here and was teaching there were no kids and only returning kids. They all spoke, but not a lot and I was so concerned that I wasn’t doing it right… but now with the new kids, (some of which never ever sit in their seats, usually scream, only speak Russian, and hit other kids) I am just so happy if there is any speaking going on at all! My expectations have been lowered, but they needed to be. I was looking at the kids not realizing how easy it was, and now that I know how hard it can be, I am just happy when no one cries, and when there is speaking going on at all!

However I never realized how much the kids could grow on you! They laugh and are silly and it is a positive experience! I just hope to be more selfless, because a lot of the time I get caught up in the ME, ME, ME aspect and this is a volunteer job!

SO teaching went normal Mon-Fri! As a kindergarten teacher I teach Every weekday from 3-7. There are good and bad things about teaching in the evening. But I love my fellow ILPs and we have a blast!
So on Monday we went to FHE with the missionaries and some of their investigators. We always have a fun time on Monday nights! The people are really great! We played a big General Conference matching game and ate yummy snacks and hot chocolate! 

Then on Wednesday a few of us took an adventure in the morning. I live really really close to the river-thingy (some body of the water ;) ) and there is a footbridge/park nearby. So we walked to the bridge. It was absolutely incredible because the leaves were all changing and it was magical! :) Never have I really paid that much attention to fall before, but man, the leaves and trees here are so incredible! It was a bit chilly, but it was so worth it! We took pictures and explored. 
 It was so picturesque!
 I love the fall colors!
 Chilly? Yes, but the kindergarten teachers are enjoying themselves! :)
 I was wearing the same color!

Also on the bridge it is a Russian tradition to lock away your love.  So you and your husband take a lock and lock it on the bridge and throw the key into the river! The bridge has a few locks in locks, but I hear in Moscow there are bridges just COVERED in locks! I think it is a really cute idea! Here are some of the locks on the bridge:
 Many keys are at the bottom of the river!
 Awww Liena and Dima- Bahaha!

Um at my house I am still getting lots of delicious food! My host mom is such a chef and just never uses a recipe and everything tastes wonderful. The other night we had chicken and garlic rice and on Friday we had pizza. This pizza has sausage, cheese, spaghetti sauce, ground beef, peppers, mushrooms, and this cream cheese stuff! It is epically delicious!

So then our weekend is never dull…ever! So after teaching, 4 of us went to Volleyball. Alix and Mikaela go to English club, which is where the missionaries teach English. However, their visas are only for missionary work, so they are not allowed to write on a board or look like a teacher (hence English “club”) and we as ILP teachers cannot proselyte at all- only teach English! So Alix and Mikaela help the missionaries by writing on the board. (it works out perfectly!) It is really cool because our visas are for volunteer teaching and that is what they need help with! So we can totally write on the board! I would go, but I am teaching during English club. 

But I did go to Volleyball, but there were a lot of players there so I actually didn’t play, I sat on the sidelines and socialized! There are so many Russians that speak English, and really really well, but you wouldn’t know it. They don’t volunteer their English very freely! But it is so fun to talk with them when they do speak to you in English! I love getting to know them! I wish that I knew a lot of Russian because that would be awesome to talk to them in their native language! But we meet all kinds of people at Volleyball! They are all pretty much non-members which is cool publicity for the church!

 I think everyone has a fun time because it is not serious at all. So there are about 15 kids from the States that are doing a semester of study abroad in Voronezh and 2 of the kids heard about Volleyball and so they have been coming and they are so fun to talk to and play with! So many Americans in Voronezh! ILPs, Missionaries, and all these study abroad students! Crazy! Also at volleyball we met Max who is an ILP graduate of quite a long time. He was there when it first started, but he speaks so well, you really wouldn’t be able to tell that he wasn’t American, he doesn’t really have an accent and he speaks so clearly! So ILP WORKS! Hahaha it is so good to know that my labor won’t be in vain!

Um then on Saturday was AWESOME!
We started out with a baptism of 4 new converts! 1 is the guard at the church, his wife was a member, and then the others were a family that moved here from Armenia a while ago. The Armenian family’s conversion story is really neat and spiritual! But they are actually headed to Armenia this next week, so that is really sad :( But they are awesome members and the sisters bore their testimony in Relief Society, and it was really powerful! 

So 4 of us went to the baptism and it was so neat- I loved it! The member support was great too!
So I guess they had filled up the font last night, and when they got to the church this morning it had all drained!!! So they had to refill it with cold water! They were warming up water and dumping it in… but let’s face it… it was still freezing. They were going to cancel the baptism, but the converts said that they would be baptized no matter what! FAITH!
The 3 on the front row are the Armenian Family, then Elder Jones, then the Sergei (the guard), his wife, Elder Stegaby, and Sister Dick. On the back row is Elder Fish, Elder Wine, Elder and Sister Frost, and Sister Kuessling! :) A glorious day!

So all of them went down in the freezing water, but it really was an incredible experience for everyone watching. After the service and the meeting they had refreshments, but the people seriously pulled out the tables in the foyer and fed us sandwiches and pie-things and brownies and cream puffs! These guys do serious refreshments here too! The church is the same everywhere! 
 The elders filling up the font!
 I love Mormon gatherings!
 Me and Jallyn at the baptism!

You know you have lived in Russia for a while when you see a piece of bread with a slice of sausage and cucumber on top and you know it is a sandwich, and it actually looks kind of good….
Yes... that is what we are eating!

Then after that Me, Mikaela, and Ryan went on a walking tour. I have "The Lonely Planet" guidebook for Russia, and there is a page for Voronezh and told us of this cool walking tour. We defintitly went at the right time of year, because the leaves were incredible! 
However, getting there was fun! We have never crossed the bridge to the right bank from the church, (because the church is south) and we always head from north to the bridge. But we found a bus and me and Mikaela got there. We then called Ryan and told him how to get there, but it was hard trying to tell him what to do, but we got it figured out. So we waited at the stop for Ryan's bus, and we see one with the same number zoom by! I jokingly say "Bye Ryan!" and Mikaela turns to me and says "No, I think he was actually on that bus!!" haha so we walked up the road which turned into a hill and rescued Ryan! I didn't think we would fund him that fast! But we found him! (or he found us...).
But anyways we took this amazing walking tour and the buildings were so colorful, and the leaves were so beautiful that it was so much fun! Here are some amazing pictures! (I actually wish the pictures did it justice)

 We walked up this insanely long "yellow brick road" :)
 Cool building!
 Everything was perfect!
 Maybe a bit run down... but beautiful
The leaves were such an awesome pattern!

So the tour took us to a church and a monastery! They were both breathtaking. I wish i had more pics but my camera was feigning death!
 So we went past this museum house thing, but we didn't know how to get in... or if it was really open, so we went behind it and took pictures! It was kind of like a backyard, so I am not sure if we were trespassing. But the balcony area and backyard area were awesome! And this random black cat jumped up on Mikaela as we were taking her picture and so when I sat down it jumped on me too! I thought of you mom! you would have really liked him!

Kitty! кошка!
 I love all the random colors in this picture!
 This was the church!
 This was the church/monastery (I always stand in this awkward position in front of things!) Talk about an awesome color!

 The roses are so tiny and beautiful!
 The flowers there were awesome! These roses are speckled with pink!

Ending our journey and headed to BARak O'Mamas

Then we met up with the missionaries! They took their P-day on Saturday this week. It is so much fun to be around them, because they all speak English and they are so friendly and they have such an amazing spirit about them! We actually both had bought tickets for the ballet and it ended up that it was the same ballet/same night, so we decided to meet up (us having invited ourselves kind of…!)

So we ate again at BARak O’mamas! I ate a cheeseburger and fries this time, and yes… it was delicious! Then a got apple juice too and it was warm (silly Russians and their no ice!) and then for dessert me Mikaela, Luke, and I inhaled a square of apple pie!! Hahaha it was probably fun to watch us eat it!
 It's a party! Speaking English and eating American food- In Russia!
 We love to eat here! (Even if it is smoke-infested)
And these are the wonderful Frosts, who... yes... paid for every single one of us... These people are so incredible... I don't even know what to think. I want to be just like them. Never to they think of themselves, they are so so so so generous!
It was so fun to be there with the missionaries. We were all inter-mingled and it was great. We then all went to go see Romeo and Juliet Ballet. Elder Wine goes home at the beginning of November, and so he needed to see a ballet before he leaves! Us ILPs were on the very tippy-top balcony- 3rd row in. The missionaries were on the tippy top balcony and the last row! Haha but we love cheap ballets! 8 bucks for that ballet! :) 
So Ryan hates ballets, so he didn't go to this one, but there was a miscommunication with the ticket , so when we split up after Barak O'Mamas, we didn't realize that Ryan had my ticket until he was long gone. So Ryan being as awesome as he is, ran all the way back so we could make it in to the ballet in time! 
And the ballet was really good, some technical difficulties (like one of the lantern holders getting stuck behind the curtain!!) But it was a lot of fun and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. 
 Jallyn and Luke having fun at the Ballet!

Waiting! Listening to Mikaela and Tessa laugh about everything was probably my favorite part!
 So Colorful!
 (L-R) Elder Wine-from Utah, Elder Jones-from Nevada, Elder Fish from Arizona, Elder Stegaby from Sweden, Elder and Sister Frost-from Utah, Sister Kuessling from Paris France, and Sister Dick from Vermont! :) Elder Stegaby and Sister Kuessling speak remarkable English- it is awesome!

Then on Sunday we just had an awesome day at church! These saints (members) here are incredible!
I am so happy to be a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints! It brings me so much joy and peace of mind! :)
I hope your Sunday is just as good! :)
Love ya'll!

Feel free to update me at kelseeg@hotmail  !!!
Bye bye! until next week!