Sunday, November 20, 2011

Questions Answered!

Well Tuesday marks only a month left here! I can’t believe that! So in honor of there only being a month left, this blog is going to be set up a little different, more like a question and answer session!

Q: So tell me Kelsee, how are you doing? Homesick?
A: I am doing so good! :) In the words of my friend Jallyn “I am anxious to be home, but I am not homesick”. As the holidays are getting closer it is getting harder, but I know that I am going to be here only once in my life, and so I really need to treasure every moment. On the days that I want to go home, I just remember that this opportunity will never happen again and so I need to enjoy every moment! That usually helps!
Also I have goals that I have made, and so now that there is a month left, for some of them I feel as if there is not enough time to accomplish them and I need more! So that is a really good distraction!
Q: Is your host family working out for you? How is that like to live with a Russian family?
A: My host family is sersiouly the best! I have been so so so blessed in this area! Alina is a doll! I don’t see her that much, but she is always so kind and is such a hard worker. She speaks quite a lot of English and understands me if I speak slowly!

My host brother Daniel hardly speaks any English but he is a student at the school, this is his second semester so he is learning. He likes to quote movies and call everything “dis” (Russians have a very hard time saying “TH” this is an example of Daniel’s sentences “Wherds dis?” which means ”What is this?” or “You go to eating?” which means “Have you ate dinner already?”

Then I have my host mother! She is the front lady at the desk at the school, so I see her a lot! She is very feisty and only expects the best from her kids and they get in trouble if they get low marks in school or don’t do their chores, but you can tell that she loves them very much! She is always so kind to me and does so much for me, I feel so spoiled! She does my laundry, she cooks me meals, she washes the dishes, and is so kind! Definitely a mother! Some of the other people in my groups host families are carefree and don’t really  care to much about what you do, but my host mother always wants to know where I am, and what I did and her biggest thing is dressing warm! Since she works at the school, she sees all of us teachers come in and tells us if we are not dressed appropriately enough. Sometimes she approves and sometimes she doesn’t. I cannot leave the building unless I am all dressed warmly. She speaks about as much English as I do Russian, and so we do a lot of charades! Thank goodness for dictionaries too!

Me and my host mom- Yes she hand knitted the hat and mittens- yes it is my favorite souvenir!  Ps- that is her coat that she is letting me borrow! She takes care of me!

Q: What is the food like in Russia? Where do you eat at? Is it the stereotypical potatoes? What is the grossest thing you have eaten? What do you drink?
A:  Well for breakfast I usually go out of my room to eat after my host mom has already left for the school. So she either makes Blini, French toast, eggs, or if she doesn’t make anything then I eat corn flakes in milk. Breakfast is always so good! I have eaten a lot of other delicious things too! Each breakfast there is always the “main” dish. And then it is paired with either yogurt or this delicious cheese cake chocolate treat, and then a tall glass of whole milk! Haha back home all I ever drank was skim- I had no idea what I was missing, and now, man, I feel like skim milk will taste like water!
Then we eat lunch at the school. The food is pretty much the same every day it is as such:
1)      There is always soup. Either sauerkraut or some potato noodly soup.
2)      There is always some potato concoction, whether it be mashed potatoes or wedges or something else, there are always potatoes. I can think of only one day there wasn’t!
3)      There is most likely going to be a bread thing too! Either rolls, or raisen filled bread, or pancakes, always bread
4)      Then there will be something random sometimes.
When we eat lunch we don’t count carbs- there is no point! :) haha
We all eat lunch together- it is a party!

Then me and Zhana (host mom) drive home together and she makes something amazing! Usually chicken prepared awesomely! She also feeds me rice or vegetables with it. She uses the right seasonings and it is so delicious! I love all her pastas, pizzas, chicken dinners, everything she makes is delicious!
The only catch to that is the fact that I don’t get to pick my portions! Serisuoly, this is coming from someone who LOVES FOOD! But she gives me so so so much. I used to not eat all of it, but she would ALWAYS question why I didn’t eat it, and I hate to see her throw it away and so to not even put up a fight I eat it all. Remember- I LOVE FOOD and the portions she gives me is WAY TO MUCH FOOD FOR ONE HUMAN BEING! So my stomach has very much expanded!
What do I drink? I drink water, but very sparingly. You can’t drink out of the tap here, and so Zhana buys all of our water, but it is about 2 dollars to fill up the jugs, and so I can’t drink to my heart’s content. I usually drink only about a water bottle of water a day- tell me that is not a big change! They all drink tea and coffee here, I have had lemon tea before (without the tea part of course, but I don’t like tea). So I drink milk and water. Sometimes they will buy juice- it is very popular here!
Luckily I have been spared gross food! No holodets, no cavier, I have been blessed! Really the grossest thing I eat is tomatoes covered in mayonnaise (and I know that is not even gross to some of you!) or sometimes she will make sausage eggs where she cooks the sausage with the eggs but the sausage is really thick and the eggs are never cooked all the way, so that kind of grosses me out! She has offered me raw fish on bread before, but I turn that down! No thank you!

Q: How is your Russian coming? How do you live in a country where you know so little of the language? How do you do things?
A: Haha so I haven’t been studying Russian (I know… I already feel bad, so please don’t guilt me!) but I have picked up quite a few phrases and words just from living here and realizing what is important!

Haha How do I get by? I am sure all you return missionaries or people who have lived in a different country know that you just go for it! You go into the situation knowing that it is going to be awkward but you do what you need to do! Like riding busses, you just pay attention to what is going on and then you get the hang of it. If you need to order something at a restaurant then you do your best, or point, or look confused, or all the above! Like the other day I needed to print off pictures. So I just went into the store where the develop pictures and said “I only speak a little Russian, but I need pictures” and then held up my jumpdrive. They pointed where I needed to go, then they had me point to the size and then they always hold up a calculator with the price! Haha then I accidently said “You’re welcome” and then laughed and said “oooops! Thank you” (all in Russian) haha and they sometimes laugh but this time they just stared, and you know you have to go tell all your friends because there is never a dull moment in Russia!
It is always successful when you go to the grocery store and they don’t know you are foreign!
1)      Bring your own bag! They are not free here
2)      Pay in exact change!! Never just give them a bill because they will look at you like you are dumb and act really mad!
3)      Don’t smile or look happy! (ok so that sounds mean, but Russians really are reserved in public)
4)      Act like you know what is going on and understand what they say to you!
There are some days where I understand and then others where I look totally stupid! I do have to say though, my Russian I do know has helped a ton!

Q:I have noticed you talk about the Voronezh LDS Branch a lot, is it really that awesome?
A: YES!!! Seriously every week is so entertaining- I LOVE IT SO MUCH! I think that is one of the things I will miss the most! The people are so friendly and kind and smile and are so faith filled! :) The spirit resides there and it is my favorite place to be! The missionaries are so awesome and friendly and we love doing FHE with them! The Branch President is one strong member. He knows the scriptures so well- it is so joyus to see! So the missionaries or this one legit Russian man translates sacrament meeting for us, and then we do English Sunday school with us ILPs and then the Senior Couple (WE LOVE THE FROSTS!) This week I actually taught the lesson! Then in Sunday School we have a Russian sister translate (yes she is the one translating Jesus the Christ into Russian!).
Today the Relief Society lesson was on Israel. The patriarch is coming to Voronezh for 3 days in December and a lot of members are getting their blessing! It turns out that the patriarch said that all tribes of Israel are equally represented here in Russia! (The lost 10 tribes are lost no longer- they are here in Russia!) That was really cool! The sister teaching the lesson was from Dan!

So this Saturday the church had an open house to invite all the people on the street to come check out the church. I guess they had 5 investigators from it! But me and 2 other ILP girls went to help sing and to just be around the saints! It was so fun to get to know some even better! The people were there for 8 hours! Talk about dedication to the church! I want you all to come here and meet these people!
I love it because you can tell they are all friends! They do socials and activities together and we are all truly brothers and sisters united in the gospel! This next Saturday is their talent show! (We have other plans, but it sounds like it will be awesome!)

If you could only meet one member in Voronezh, I would have you meet Yevgeny! He is the coolest craziest individual!
This is him with Ryan and with his guitar! 
He rocks awesome shoes, that great pink shirt, and a mullet!
He is always full of spunk and LOVE MUSIC
He knows little English but this is what he will always say
" Do you know Pavlovs Dogs? (the band) That beautiful music! American group American Group!! Beach Boys, I love Music!!!" hahaha! He is seriously rad! He has shown me all the pictures on his camera of him in his tanktop playing his guitar! haha he is the best! 
He picked out Ryan the first day because Ryan had a goatee and so he always talks to Ryan about Rock Bands and they are best buddies!

Q:How it teaching? Are the kids just adorable?
A: I know that it is supposed to get easier as time goes on, but it seems to have gotten harder! We have a child who is really really difficult and he takes a lot of work to handle. Then we have a perfect first group! They are angels and we love teaching them! Then our second group is really loud and full of bites, and Russian talkers, and distracters. So our first 2 hours go really well, and then our second 2 hours go by so slowly, and pretty much we feel really dead by the end! :) But I love the kids so much! The Lord has really helped me feel his love for them! They are so cute and fun and just adorable! I am going to miss them all so much (some more than others!). The kids who are 6 who have done kindergarten a lot and are pretty advanced are so much fun to talk with!
Really though like I mentioned before, we have about 17 new kids out of 33, and so we feel very proud of ourselves that we have progress! Take 17 kids who have never been to an ILP English class, only know Russian, and are between 3-6 and then teach them to sit quietly and only speak English. Needless to say we are very happy with our progress, even though it doesn’t seem like we have done anything some days! It definitely takes a lot of work- but it is worth it to see the growth!  
 Daniel is one of our top students. He has the vocabulary of an ILP 11 year old and he is only 6! He knows so much! His sister lives in Canada and he always talks about Canada and loves it so much!
He is so smart this is an example of a sentence "I don't like pizza, but I like spaghetti and in Canada I have eaten bacon and I like bacon." (HE IS BRILLIANT!)
 Even though Timosha is very loud and distracting in class- he is such a cutie and enjoy spending time with him outside of class- How could you not with a face like that!!!
 :) This is why I love my job!

 We have really seen Bogdon progress! He knew no English and now he is muttering little phrases here and there! His favorite two are "No Russian" and "Ohhhh Noooo" He is such a cutie!
 Timor is the kid in who we have seen the biggest improvement! He came about 4 weeks in and all of us teachers sersiouly wanted to give up- he was yelling in Russian and not listening to anything. Now he is one of the best in the class as far as behavior goes!! Way to go Timor!

This is Margaritta's 3rd day! So she is VERY VERY NEW!, Then Paulina is in the middle, and she is my favorite girl! She is so cute and so kind and so thoughtful! She loves talking with us, and we love talking with her! Then Sveta has only been here for about 2 or 3 weeks. She is slowly opening up and it is fun to see her not be so shy!
Hahaha this is Slavic- hahaha hahaha hahaha
Yes this is our difficult child! He is crazy and I wish you knew what that really meant!
I have learned that anything can be broken and anything can be used as a weapon.
He is cute though-just determined not to learn!

Q: We know you have been thinking about serving a mission- is that still on your mind? Or has this experience kind of cured you of it?
A: Haha This experience has really opened my eyes up to a mission. From living in a foreign place for an extended period of time and also watching how hard the missionaries are working I have really been enlightened. I don’t want to make any promises, but we will just say that if I am 21 and nothing come up in my life then I am GONE! I have always wanted to be a missionary since I was little because both my parents had served missions and it always sounded cool! Now that I have been around so many people that don’t have the gospel and not being able to say anything to them, my desire has grown even more. So if it is also the Lord’s desire for me- I really want to. I know how happy this gospel makes me, and so I want to share it with others! :)

Q:When I think of Russia, I think of COLD!!! How is the weather
A: So I have the weather updated on my IPOD everyday and so I also have Erda, Leeds, and Rexburg. To be honest it has been colder in Rexburg than here! hahaha why does that not surprise me?
It has been snowing on and off here, but usually it doesn't stick! This week the it is supposed to get down to 15 degrees and so that will be a little chilly!!! However I always dress warm! 
It is not unbearably cold! Nights are really cold, but I am never outside at night and my apartment is very warm! 
Snow in Russia!

 Me, Sami, and Luke threw snowballs at each other! We were waiting for the post office to open back up after their lunch break so we were just killing time
Take that Luke!
Yay for SNOW!
 This is Sami with her package from home! He went to the crazy long-lined post office to get it!
Oh the excitement! A bunch of us always gather around to open packages! We love it because everyone is so excited!!! Sami got a bunch of awesome stuff! (She only had to wait 8 weeks! Bahaha)

Q:What are things you are going to miss when you go back to America? What are some things that you won’t?
A: Well obviously the people! My host family, my fellow ILPS, the kids, the missionaries, the ward members, and everyone who has helped me!
Also the entire opportunity to live among a foreign people everyday- to wake up every morning and remember that I am in Russia!
I will also miss the great food that my host mom cooks! I will miss having everything be so crazy and being able to laugh at every experience! Seriously crazy things are happening all the time!
I will also miss the nice break I have had from my normal life- this has been an experience like never before!
I will not miss the crazy dirty potholed streets and the busses (although they are very convenient sometimes, they are scary to ride! They are crazy drivers!). I will also not miss the forlorn look on everyone’s faces (I know it is just their culture, but it drives me crazy!)
I also won't miss spiders!!!
This beauty was in our kitchen on Thursday night- and yes that is a screw to the right of the spider and so yes that is how big the spider was! EWWW! And my host family will not kill them! People in Russia honestly don't kill spiders.... 
So this is Slavic- and he is still chillin somewhere in the kitchen (or maybe my bedroom....)

Q: What are some things you cannot wait for when you get home?
A:Obviously the people! :)
Also, I plan on eating a lot of Mexican food, just sayin :) Also I can’t wait to see drinking fountains and drink all water freely to my desire (I may have to camp out in the bathroom for a few days though… TMI.. sorry!) Also I can’t wait to pick my portions and pick what I want to eat!
 I can’t wait to know what is always going on and being able to ask for help in English! So many times we are so clueless here!
I like Russia a lot! It is so fascinating and interesting and has been awesome, but I can definitely say that I LOVE America! :)

Q: Any last thoughts?!
A: Thank you for all your support and advice, it helps a lot! I love getting your messages and e-mails and just hearing from you all!
This has been so awesome and I plan to finish off with a bang! An experience will never happen like this again and so I am planning on soaking it all in!  
Life is good, I am healthy (I have a cold that I haven’t been able to get over, but it is mild and that is the worst that has happened)!
I am so excited to go home but I am so excited to still have another month in Russia!
:) Happy Thanksgiving! Eat lots of ham and turkey for me! We will be celebrating it on Saturday with our coordinators- should be fun!

Thank you so much for your thoughts and prayers- they help, I always feel safe here! Keep on doing the right things and miracles will happen!
I send you my love from Russia!
:) –until next week!

Ето всё!
Keep smiling too! :) 

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Rumors in St. Petes???

Well i’m not sure how you fit a while week of St. Petersburg into one blog, but I will do a brief summary and then when I am home you can ask me more about it if you truly are interested!

So we got on a train on Friday at around 3:00pm and embarked on our adventure! I have never ever been on a train until then and so it was exciting! The entire ride there was about 23 hours and a few minutes! It was very very slow moving, but I do like to travel by train! In a plane you are very confined to a seat, and in a car you also have very little freedom, but in a train you can walk around, and sleep, and sit, and eat all comfortably!

So I don’t know if my pictures will show a good example, but basically we were in 3rd class (but it is cheaper and so we don’t really care!) and so we had 6 of us on the top bunks and 2 on the bottom. We shared the two compartments with other Russians- they were really friendly in my compartment! If only I spoke more Russian I would have been able to communicate more with them. But during the day you just sit on the bottom bunk and then when it is time for bed you climb up to the top and sleep! I slept pretty well- it is fun to fall asleep to a rocking train car! So yes, we survived 24 hours on a train! The bathroom was very scary! Hahaha it was quite the experience, but to be honest you learn to expect weird things!

I always carry hand sanitizer and tissues around with me because you never know the state the bathroom is going to be in! Sometimes you have to pay money to use them and they are GROSS! Sometimes they are nice, sometimes they are all soiled, and sometimes they are clean. Really though you just expect things to be a weird experiences so when you do face it: you laugh, take a picture, and tell all your friends! They sketchier the better I suppose! So the bathroom was scary but I lived through it!

So we brought lots of food like bread and crackers and chocolate and then Russian version of “Cup of noodles” is very popular here for train rides, so we were just like everyone else with our “Rollaton” (They have boiling water in the back for you to cook your food, and of course for all the Russians to drink their tea and coffee- it is so popular here…like seriously!
 So these are seats and then the seat on the left turns into a bed, and the self above is a bed too!
 Our friends! :)
 Cute Mikaela made my bed! So that is our Russian neighbor in her bed (which is also our seat in the day time) and then mine and Mikaela's beds are where Mikaela is sitting!
 eating our cup of noodles!
 My nook!
Luke and Sami reading!

Well we made it to St. Petersburg (ps- when we needed help finding anything, we would always be blessed with someone to show us where to go- thank you for all your prayers, they are felt and we are always so taken care of). So the ILP teachers in St. Petes were absolute angels and let us stay in their apartment for free while they were on vacation to Finland (kind of jealous!!)
So we got to stay in St. Pete’s for free! Only the cost of travel and food and souvenirs- tell me that isn’t AWESOME!! So here is what we accomplished:
(NOTE: I realized that i messed up the days on this page, so just go with it!)
Day 1: Sunday
We went on a quest to find the church! So we had my tiny ipod touch with wifi internet at the apartment (ps- mom thank you for the wonderful Christmas gift, it has saved my life so many many times… there is even a metro app which was really handy!). We weren’t sure if the map was updated, but we decided to go with it anyways!
So we got a map and found the closest metro stop and got off and went about searching. Mikaela is ninja when it comes to directions and so she found it! We were so happy to find it! :) Church was awesome! We had it translated by the missionaries (seriously missionaries are THE BEST! I hope I can be one one day!) and then Sunday School was all in English and there were also 3 guys from Finland visiting who spoke English too! Just another thing to add to my list of why being a member of this church is awesome! I love going to church in a random country and city and realizing you are all brothers and sisters! All united in a goal to be like Christ! I have met so many wonderful members of this church from Finland, Albania and Russia- It is such a growing church!
Then we explored a little and then some of us (me included) went back because it was cold and I was in a skirt and we wanted to rest up for the upcoming awesome week!
 We found the church!
 Yay for church!
 Tessa and me and a bridge!
 Jallyn feeding the pigeons! 

Monday: We visited the Peter and Paul fortress. A way cool place, but not my best day… I accidently slid down a muddy hill because I was trying to climb down and instead of going the long way, I went the short way and it was really short because I slid down in the mud. Luckily I had my friends to laugh about it with, but still I was covered in mud! Then I also forgot my shoe inserts so my feet were dead… so a rough day, but a very cool fortress! We visited the jail where famous Russians were kept!

 Mud :(
 Peter and Paul Fortress!
Awesome cathedral that was there!

Then we saw the amazing Savior of spilled blood cathedral! Even cooler looking than St Basil’s and it was a ton bigger! We went inside and it is completely covered in mosaics! The whole inside is mosaics of Christ’s life and then all of their saints (still haven’t completely figured out why the Russian Orthodox church has so many saints,) but nonetheless it was a very remarkable building!
Then we went in the Kazan cathedral which was HUGE! It also smelled strongly of incense. I liked the outside better than the inside!
Tessa and me discussed how we better understand why other people aren’t allowed in our temples. I mean we go into an Orthodox cathedral or church and look around and are astounded at all the magnificiant of it, but we are a tourist with no understanding of the Orthodox Church so it seems a little strange to us. We don’t understand the bowing and the crossing and the candles and the incense. That is how it would be with the temple. It is something so sacred that if we were to let just anyone in, they would not understand the symbolism and the sacredness of it.

Savior of Spilled Blood!
 Cool Mosaic-ness! 
 Yes, it made me smile!
 Crazy HUGE KAZAN cathedral!
 Tessa and Alix lived in a different aprtment and somehow the door locked without the key, so this is Tessa trying to figure out what to do :( Poor girl!

Then on Tuesday: HERMITAGE! Holy Cow- REMARKABLE! So much beauty in one building! This was the winter palace where the tzars lived! It was turned into one of the biggest museums. I didn’t even see nearly all of it and I was there for about 4-5 hours! Plus I didn’t really stop at one piece of art, I just kind of walked around and around fascinated by the amazement of it! It is huge- and everyone should go there… that is all!

Whole group in front of the Hermitage! :)
Then Wednesday we went to Catherine’s Summer palace which is about a 30 min drive out of town. It was the most beautiful thing I have seen! The grounds were amazing and beautiful and there was so much to see everywhere. The inside was beautiful and I have been in the famous amber room! We walked around the ground and explored and relaxed! 
 Grand Ballroom!
 Feeding the ducks!
 cool Chinese pavilion

 weirdest statue ever!
walking around!
Then we went home and had too much fun!!

 If you feed MIkaela a banana...
 We had so much fun!

Thursday: We went to one of Dostoevsky's houses (famous Russian writer)
Also we went to St. isscac’s Cathedral and that was my very favorite part of the whole trip! The inside was HUGE HUGE HUGE HUGE HUGE! And then we got to walk all 200 stairs up to the very top and see a remarkable view!! AWESOMENESS!
Famous Statue of Peter the Great!

 Huge St. Issacs! 
 If only it could be captured on camera!
 walking up lots of stairs!
 long way down!
 So awesome!

That night we went on a boat ride! It was fun but would have been a lot more fun if I wasn’t so cold! The sunset was beautiful with the buildings! You have to realize that ever building in St. Petersburg is beautiful and picturesque! EVERY BUILDING! You look in front of you, behind, to the left, to the right, and everything is so beautiful! Seriously it was the most beautiful city I have ever been to!

 Boat ride fun!
 Little chilly!

Friday was “Unity Day” in Russia and we were told to be safe, so we dodged the main city and went and touched the GULF OF FINLAND! I even waved to FINLAND (even though you definitely couldn’t see it!) But it was so cool and fun! We had a lot of fun laughing and finding cool rocks.
Then we went to DISNEYLAND! Well not really, but it was like Disneyland- there were all these Disney rides and icons! Haha But it was free to go in, just cost money to ride the rides!  We may or may not have ridden an awesome ROLLER COASTER! Just for kicks! :)
Then we went to IKEA! I have never been to an American IKEA, but the one in St. Pete’s was really cool!

 touching the Baltic Sea! 
 This one is for you Renee and Jake! I met YODA!
The park was called Divo park... does the "D" look familiar! hahaahahaha


Then on Saturday we did some last minute shopping! We tried to visit the summer gardens where Russel M Nelson dedicated Russian to missionary work, but when we got there it was closed for construction. (I guess Summer Gardens is taken literally). But then we did everything we needed to and packed up and headed off to get back on the train. I must admit, going there was a lot more fun than coming back!

 Summer gardens are closed :(
Mikaela built an awesome fort- this is us in the fort!

We made it though!
When I got home, I was so happy to be home! (I can only imagine how that feeling will be intensified when I get to America home!) However, the whole front of my apartment was in shambles because they are redoing the kitchen! Haha so we have been doing dishes in the tub and cooking on a little campstove thingy!

I only have 5 weeks of teaching left and then I am done. My time is going by so fast!

Snow has fallen in Russia and I have learned how to dress warm!
jacket, coat, hat, long socks, boots, gloves and scarf- then you are good to go! When we came back to Voronezh there was a huge temperature difference! It was a lot warmer in St. Petersburg! It has been around 30 degrees in the daytime.

Then teaching this week went okay, kind of hard to teach after a break but we managed!
Then this Saturday we made Blini, listened to Christmas music and watch Anastasia and understood a lot more and recognized a lot of the places in St. Petersburg- Totally AWESOME!!
:) I am happy, I am eating a lot of good food, and everything is going well!
Hope that is the same way back home!
 We celebrated Elder Frost's birthday!
 My cereal which looks like horse food and tastes like chocolate!
 delicious stir fried vegetables with seasoned chicken!! :) YUM!
Learning the art of Blini!

Love you all!!!

-Kelsee :)