Week of August 29- September 5, 2012
Dear Family and Friends,
How are you guys? I feel like I have been gone an eternity already. Not in a bad way, but it just seems my life in America was a different time. I already feel so comfortable here and I’ve been here just a week! It’s insane. It’s funny you think you want to go to another country and live there and then you get there and all you want are things that remind you of home. I’m not home sick, but I sure would take American food over Russian food any day, not that there isn’t good Russian food. Anywho you guys don’t want to here about that, you want all the fun stuff, so here I go! Sorry if this is long.
This email is incredibly long so if you don’t read it all (most of you won’t) please scroll to the bottom and find your name and respond! Thanks guys!!
Short facts about Russia in case you don’t want to read ALL of this
· No one smiles at each other in public. Okay that’s not entirely true. No one smiles at strangers in public. Yeah, try that one out. It’s awkward. So when you make eye contact you just look away. Smiling means you would like the boy that might happen to be staring at you to come flirt with you.
· Russian girls are absolutely beautiful, but they all turn into Bubshkas in the end and that is not a positive thing
· Everyone smokes. And if they’re not smoking, they are thinking about smoking
· Russians come up and start speaking Russian to you all the time and when you look confused and talk to them in English they still continue to talk to you in Russian. Sometimes they walk away and come back and speak to you in Russian again. I always want to say “In the five minutes that I last spoke to you, I still haven’t learned Russian!”
· Russian sounds like a bunch of made up sounds. I have fully given up on learning it. I know spice-see-ba (thank you), privyet ( hello), pah-cah (goodbye) and I’m sticking to that. Every time I meet someone and try to learn their name I murder it. Like Jake’s host brother Ark-e-chome. He shakes his head at me every time I say this name
· Everyone stares at us. Not because we are pretty or they think we are American, but because we speak English and they are confused. It’s weird to be the foreigners.
· Water is expensive so they usually only shower about once a week. Yeah, trust me they smell!! But they usually mask it with cologne or perfume. We on the other hand stick to our American ways and shower often. Sorry, some habits just don’t change.
· Couples are very very very intimate here. They are always macking and holding each other. This can be pretty awkward when you are like 5 inches from them in the metro
So day one of Russia was a shocker. They say you go through 4 stages when you move abroad. The first is honeymoon, then horror, and then humor, and then home. The first few days the only way to describe how I felt was culture shock. You have this idea of what it will look like or be like and then it ends up being completely different. I arrived from my 16 hour trip at 10 am. It was weird because it was 130 am my time, but the sun was up so my body felt wide awake. We lost some girls that were supposed to meet with us so we stood at the airport for about 2 hours until we found this. This was a killer! We were all so tired, but of course we couldn’t sit on the floor because Russians believe that if girls do that your ovaries freeze. We were so relieved when the bus came and picked us up. We were told that it would take about 40 minutes to get to our stop, mine was first because I lived closest to the airport. Well the 40 minute trip turned into like 2 ½ hours! Guys, traffic is INSANE here! Like I thought Dallas traffic was bad, but this place is SUICIDAL! At one point we were literally going fully sideways in traffic trying to change lanes!!! I was terrified! But no one really honks or yells here. I guess traffic is always bad so everyone is used to it. I’m not sure, but that was crazy! And we literally didn’t go over like 10 miles an hour and mostly we were stopped. It was crazy. Russia is actually not very European. They drive on the right side of the road and the drivers side is on the left just like in America. Of course it would never be polite to point that out because they hate America. Totes jelly, that’s for sure. So me and my roommate, Alicia, get dropped off after our incredibly long drive. We were all supposed to be with separate families, but I guess they couldn’t find enough so me and Alicia are with our head coordinators mom, Bubshka Ryea. She is this little old lady who is beyond cute. She is so sweet! She talks to us in Russian all the time. It’s so funny! She just sits at the dinner table and talks to us and we smile and laugh when appropriate. I really love her already, but I am so bummed to not be with a full family. Gulya (pronounced Gule-ee-ah) is working to find other families.
Anywho, back to my first day. So we move all our stuff up to the 3rd floor and walk into this apartment and I have to make myself not gasp. You guys, it is so tiny! I literally was in shock for a good 10 minutes. There entry way when you walk in. To the right is a short hallway that leads to the kitchen. Also in that hallway are two doors that lead to the bathtub and the toilet. Both rooms are a little bigger than an American closet. Straight off the entry way is a small room and then directly off the entry way to the left is another room that is larger. The larger room is ours. We share a “bed” its more like a couch that folds out, but its not a mattress more like a padding. Its very cozy actually. And now that I’ve been in it for awhile I have come to love it. I was worried that such a small space would drive me mad, but I already started calling it home, which is odd. After we brought our stuff in we just unpacked, ate, and passed out. I hadn’t slept for over 48 hours so I was ready to sleep. Every night that I’ve been here I have hit the pillow and gone straight to sleep. It’s been great!
Day 2 was a really fun day! Bubshka walked us to the metro where we met Gulya and we rode the metro to meet up with everyone. Jake brought his host brother who speaks fluent English, and April brought her host sister, Margarita, who is 11. I am extremely jealous! Margarita and April are already so close. They hook arms everywhere. Margarita is so sweet. She also wanted to hook arms with me or hold my hand. In Russia the way it works is that in public they are not very open with strangers, but when they do know you they are very very very intimate. Girls kiss on the lips or hold hands, they talk very close to your face, and they touch you often. Seeing has touch is my love language, I constantly feel loved when I’m around Margarita or another Russian I know. Perfect country for me (minus the girls kissing part)! After we met up we went to the Red Square. Guys, its beautiful! I looked awful that day because my hair was a wreck, but I still took pictures and I will attach them even though I look fat. You’re welcome. We also bought tickets to the Ballet for 350 rubels (7 American dollars) and tickets to this amazing International military band festival for 1000 rubels (32 American dollars). I can’t believe entertainment is so cheap! The ballet is in the Kremlin. I am beyond pumped! Funny story? K so we get to Red Square and Gulya pushes us into this line and takes all our bags and cameras and water. She says “You are going to see Lenin”. So we go and we start walking and we just keep following everyone else. Now, I’m not really thinking about who Lenin is. Well we get to this big black marble building and have to descend all these stairs. It extremely dark in there and we can’t see so we are tripping and some of the girls were laughing. The Russian guards (who are very serious on Red Square) shh us and so we keep walking. Well we turn the corner and guess what? It’s Lenin’s dead body in a glass case! It was the creepiest thing I have ever seen. Everyone was just starring and almost paying their respects, while I’m calculating the rate of decay and if that could really be his body or not. Gulya says its not. As I starred all I could think was “He is going to open his eyes any moment”! When we got out we all kinda looked at each other and were like well that was odd.
Red Square was very busy last weekend because its City day (Moscow’s birthday) and because the international military band show is in the middle of Red Square. There were people there practicing for the festivals this weekend and they started doing the Russian dance. It looked just like the one off of Fiddler On The Roof. It was awesome! Margarita was so excited and happy to see it and loved the Russian music. I love it too. Have no idea what they are saying, but it’s pretty cool sounding. There were also a horse arena and little boys were riding horses and standing on them. This will all be cleared out once the festivals are over.
After red square we headed to grab a snack. I have been dreading meals, but I am quickly learning that not everything is bad. We had crepes with this Carmel that was to die for. Oh and for breakfast we have hot chocolate. Guess how you make it? You put about half a can of sweet condensed milk in your cup, add hot water, and then add nestle. Best. Thing. Ever. After our snack we headed home and crashed around 8pm. I woke up wide awake at 12 and then took medicine and crashed again. I’m slowly getting on the time here.
Day 3 (Friday) was a busy and hard day. We worked on the supplies room at the main school all day long. Sounds easy right? Well did I mention we had to move all the supplies from the apartment to the school. Still sound easy? Let me tell you a little bit about what its like to move things in Russia. So we go to this apartment and have to move everything to the hall way. And we probably had about 400 books to carry in these ridiculously heavy boxes. So then from the hall way we take trips down the elevator with it and on load it on the bottom floor. Of course the elevators are tiny here so it took forever. Then from the bottom floor we had to take it outside. Then had to load it in these tiny cars and make trips to the school. Then had to unload it and put it all on the main floor of the school. Then had to take it up 2 flights of stairs to the supplies room. To say the least I am sore! From there we organized everything and started getting things ready for the school year. Its crazy! I feel so young, but yet I have so much responsibility. I teach level 4 and catch up. Level four is from ages 11-15. I am super excited about them. Catch up is the 3-6 year olds. They will be so cute! I got all my information about my class at the institute. Me and Alicia and Jake are opening a new school called Phoenix and I will teach there 4 times a week. We aren’t quite sure how many kids will be in the class yet, so I don’t have a roster or any of their info. I got a letter from the teacher of the level 3 class last year who will now be my level 4 class. She said the kids are amazing and so smart. I can’t wait! But its overwhelming for sure! I have all these 4th grade teachers addition books and I made my lesson plans. I have so many manuals I had read before school starts! Yikes!
Awkward story? One of the girls started talking about her missionary and I told her that I had one too. We were kinda just talking about it and she was asking questions because her boy has only been out for like 7 months. Anywho my head teacher happens to know Daniel because they went to EFY together. So about halfway through the conversation Emily chimes in “You know I had a huge crush on Daniel! You wouldn’t think he was really hot when you first meet him, but then you see his personality and it’s just like mmmmm I want you.” Awks….
Saturday was the day of the ballet! Okay lets be real for a second, the ballet was the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. So we met up at the metro and Gulya took us into town. We went on this amazing boat ride on the Moscow river that was 90 minutes. It was amazing! We saw all the fantastic buildings in downtown Moscow! I have so many pictures, it’s not even funny. Guess what? We also met another Mormon from Pleasant Grove, Utah! Crazy huh? His name is Joel and he was here for business. We just got to talking to him and bam! He’s a Mormon and is fluent in English! It was so cool! After the boat ride we sprinted to the ballet. Btw, people are always walking fast here. It’s exhausting. I’m like I am not in shape for this crap. But, its all good. The ballet was inside the Kremlin in this BEAUTIFUL building with so many windows its not even funny! The theater is amazing and the backgrounds were the best I have ever seen. There are tons of boys in the ballets here. Mom, you would have loved it. The ballet we saw was about a Russian fairy tale. It was amazing. Most of my group fell asleep because they didn’t know how to follow a ballet. Good thing I had all that practice with mom and Lins! After the ballet it was so late and I just wanted to go home and sleep, so we did just that!
Sunday we met the senior missionaries at the metro at 7:45 am. Church is about an hour away and with such a large group we have to give ourselves plenty of time to get there. The senior missionary couple have been here for about a year, Brother and Sister Nagley from Utah. They were very sweet and showed us how to get there. It’s kinda complicated because we have to change lines on the train, but hopefully we will be able to find our way back this Sunday. On the way there on one of the trains I had these boys around my age stand by me, and when I say stand by me I mean like at one point one was like 4 inches from my face. I swear Russians have no bubbles. They were so cute and kept looking at me, but I had to keep telling myself that I can look, but I can’t touch. Stupid rules. We went to an international branch which was probably the best ward I have ever had. We met with our bishop, got records transferred, and some of us got callings all on the first day. I haven’t gotten one yet, but I was told I would and that I would be given a talk. So on top of being a new country, learning the language, and teaching, I will have a calling! Its going to be a very busy four months! I love the ward. The most amazing people are there. I was disappointed at all, because we also have 2 elders in my ward and you guys know how I love elders! One is named Elder Potter from England. I’m pretty sure he might be Harry Potter, just saying…. Everyone talked to us and told us how much they need us and how they have been praying for us to come. We have a lot of guys in the ward from Africa. Their accents are SWEET! Aldridge talked to me forever about Russia and how long it took him to get used to it. He is so funny and animated. There is no RS president right now because she moved away, I’m praying I don’t get a calling in that, but you guys know my luck. The current second consoler is great. She is so funny! She is from America and married a Russian and they moved here for awhile because it was a transfer for their company. She hates Russia so much! She seriously can’t wait to go home. I get it. If I had to actually live here for years I don’t think I could to it. Sorry, but there is just nothing like America. My friend Carter who is serving his mission in Russia wrote me and all he talked about the whole time was America. He was like I can’t wait to be back, I miss it so much. I love it here, but I get what they are saying.
Overall church was great! We left and all went back to our houses. I slept on and off the rest of the day. It was bliss. On Sundays are kinda hard. I miss you guys a lot because I actually have time to think. I wish y’all were here to experience everything with me. It’s so amazing here. The city has so much culture and history, and the people are just so much fun to watch. You guys would love it. I already feel like I belong here. Two of the girls in our RS class did the same program I’m doing here like 15 years ago. One of them went home and married a Russian she met at BYU and now they live here. She was like “So don’t think it can’t happen to you too!” I just shook my head, don’t be putting that voodoo on me!
Monday was probably one of my favorite days so far (not that that’s saying a lot). We had training meetings in the morning and afternoon. Everyone was working on lesson plans because school for some of us started on Wednesday. I on the other hand am a freaking genius and flew through my lesson plans, so I was done long before I ever came to the meetings. We had pizza for lunch which is pretty good, but nothing compared to American or Italian. They have Papa Johns here btw! But I doubt that it tastes right. Apparently no one can follow a freaking recipe in this country because the things you taste like American candy, American soda or snacks or anything we have home does not taste the same. Somebody needs to go back to culinary school, just saying.
Anywho, after we did all our training stuff we headed into down town Moscow to Red Square. First off Red Square is probably the sweetest place ever. You have the Kremlin, St. Basils, Lenin’s dead body, the Gym which is a ritzy mall, and all these other way cool buildings. In the center of it they had set up tons of bleachers for the military band thing. Before the show started we just hung around Red Square and looked at the different bands. The countries that were there were Russia (duh), China, Italy, Germany, Scotland, Poland, Czech Republic, Singapore, France, and China. Actually there might have been a few others, but I don’t remember. Those were the coolest. Okay so when I got tickets for this I was like yeah that looks pretty cool, but I had no idea how fantastic it would be. So we get in our seats and I sat by Emily and Jake and April. The show starts with Russia taking it off. Let me tell you a little bit more about how it was set up so you can get the full picture. So they set up 3 things of bleachers. Which would have made a square if there was another side, but the other side was left open for the bands to enter. The floor is just the cobbled bricks that Red Square has all over. Nothing crazy or closed off. Only the people that had tickets were let into Red Square that day so no one could just stand in watch. So Russian boys run out to start the show. They are dressed in traditional Russian clothes that the dancers wear and they start dancing, girls join them and they do this way cool dance. Almost looked like something out of Pride and Prejudice. I got a few videos so I can show you guys eventually. After their dance out came soldiers dressed in red with skeleton masks on, and soldiers on horses that had these red overlays on them. It’s hard to explain but it was awesome. The men all circled around the women to protect them and they kinda do this dance thing and then left. After that the Russian military came and did their band thing. They play songs and do cool things with swords and guns. After they were done they get in a circle facing us and start throwing there guns around in perfect harmony. It was sweet. Then at the end they point the guns at the audience and shoot!!! I freaked and took for cover! I don’t know exactly how it worked but it even had like a burst of fire come out! It was awesome! After that each country came out and did a routine! China’s was AWESOME! They brought dancers and they started off doing this dance with what looked like flowers and lily pads and then bam the flowers turned into dragons. It was amazing! Some bands had small fire crackers or puffs of light go with their routine. It always scared me! A lot of the bands would play Russian folk songs and everyone would join in and sing. It was really cool because everyone felt united. I swear they are vodka drinking songs! After the show they had a fire work show go on for about 10 minutes. The fireworks went off right by St. Basils! It was beautiful! You guys will have to look at the pictures on the real. I wish you all could have seen it, it was amazing. After the show we just went home and crashed because we didn’t get home until like 12.
Tuesday wasn’t crazy exciting. There are 2 new schools opening this year and they don’t have supplies for their school so we had to go to another supplies room and get what we wanted for our schools. It was boring and long and annoying, but its over now and I never have to do it again. The supplies room was outside of Moscow in the country. It was beautiful! There are actual houses and lakes and this cool military museum. It was gorgeous. I forgot to tell you guys how green it is here. There are so many trees! They are tall with white trunks and branches going off about ¾ of the way up. I can’t wait for fall because the city is going to be beautiful. Mom, I almost filmed the trees just for you ;) After we were done we had to walk to the school in the rain! I was soaked because I had a hood and another girl didn’t so I gave her my umbrella.
When we got to the school I joined the other teachers that were preparing to teach. I don’t teach this week at the Institute until Friday and at my new school we aren’t sure when we start. So I am hanging out and in comes Gulya and starts talking to the teachers that are teaching. She say’s Connie’s name and Connie is like oh I’m not teaching today. Well guess what? Connie was teaching and guess how much of her lesson plan she had done for her 3 hour class? Zero. So who comes to the rescue? Me! I had done my lesson plans for my level four and because she teaches a level class too I knew how it worked so with 20 minutes until class, completely drenched, I grabbed her classes books and threw a lesson together. Her kids were about 5-7 and so cute! Guys, I seriously loved it! Have no idea what I’m doing but the kids were so cute! They already speak so well and they have only been in the program for 3 years! It’s absolutely amazing! I took lots of pictures with them. I wish you could hear them talk with their accents, it is so adorable! Steven was my favorite. Connie taught the last 25 minutes of class and read them a book and Steven was having a hard time listening so I asked if I could sit by him. He scooted over in his chair and as soon as I sat down he molded to my body. “Ms. Hailey, what time does your watch say in Russian?” is what he always asks me. They go by military time here so I had to convert it for him. When class was over the kids ran down to their parents and kind strutted up to them and said “Our teachers are cool!” It made me so happy! It is so rewarding to watch them learn and blossom so fast! They are able to tell me in full sentences what happens in books we read. Sometimes they have to think a little bit about what they are saying, but they really know so much. How about you guys just come over and watch me teach for a bit? Maybe we can do a skype session while I’m teaching and you guys can meet the kids! When class was done and Connie told them I won’t be there next time, Steven took my hand and looked at me so perplexed. He said “I don’t want you to leave!” I told him that I would make sure to stop by the next time he had class. To sum it up, my I’m sold, my heart belongs to Steven.
Today (Wednesday) I don’t teach at all so I have spent the whole day at my apartment being lazy! It has been great! I have been reading a lot so that is a good and bad thing. Good because I am hooked on phonics right now, and bad because my Amazon account that I buy my books for my Kindle is hooked to mom and dad’s bank account. Sorry Mom and Dad! Gulya had a meeting at the kindergarten (our new school) and afterwards she met me at the metro and showed me around the kindergarten. THEY HAVE INTERNET! I am so excited! So I was able to send out this incredibly long email! I know not all of you made it this far, but I know that Mom did! Thanks for being my number one fan Mom! I love all of you and miss you like crazy, although I do get what it’s like for missionaries now. It actually becomes much easier to be away then you thought because you don’t have the constant reminder of what or who you left behind. When I get your emails or read y’alls statis I miss you guess because it reminds me of everything I am missing, but when I am here and busy I don’t have much time to miss anything (not even American food). And it almost gets easier to stop talking to someone or to be reminded of them because it hurts to think of everything it’s missing. I have only 4 months, I can’t imagine 2 years. I see why they get distant or their letters grow short, but no worries guys, I am WAY too much of a talker for that. So I with that tad bit of info I leave you guys! I love you!