Monday, September 30, 2013

Peterhof & Cinderella + Fall time

Peterhof palace and gardens---absolutely gorgeous. We went there on Saturday afternoon with Sveta. It took some metro time, a 30 minute bus ride, and 250 rubles--all worth the time and money. When I walked around the corner to the entrance, it took my breath away (something that seems to happen often these days.) I was surprised to learn that this huge property and palace was reserved for "holidays"...just a vacation home.

Check out these pics!

Walking in

More trees than anyone could count

Leaves are changing colors!

The water runs out to the gulf

Beautiful fountains--all naturally powered

Standing by the gulf of Finland

"I love St. Petersburg"

Here are some with my group!

Where does "Cinderella" tie into all of this? The next day, on Sunday, we went to the Opera (I bet you can guess what production we saw.)


For only $12 we got to go to the "2nd best theater" in St Petersburg to see the Opera! The theater was so cool...beautifully decorated with gold detailing and chandeliers.
We went to a matinee show, so yes, we were outnumbered by children. But we got to dress up and enjoyed feeling so European at the Opera. It was also nice to know the storyline of Cinderella, as the whole production was in Russian, so we knew what was going on.
Well that was my weekend. :)

Fall time
The leaves are starting to change colors here. Scarfs, boots, and warm drinks are all the rage nowadays. (haha)

I've always loved Autumn. And being across the globe has made me realize those small things I miss from home in the Fall, like...

1. Our Autumn/Halloween decorations we put up in the house
2. Watching the leaves fall off our big tree and playing in the massive piles of leaves we gather
3. The crisp mornings
4. Pumpkin recipes and other yummy food (Mom, you're such a great cook)
5. Seeing the leaves change colors around town, with the red rock in the background
6. Halloween (they don't celebrate this in Russia) which, in our house, means of course watching "Hocus Pocus"
7. "Thriller"
8. My family!! (which I get all year round, but it happens to be Autumn right now, and I happen to live on the other side of the world at the moment, so...yeah)

Whew. Anyway.

Happy Monday for you all. Mine is just about to end. Right now I'm on my way to teach my Level 1 class, and afterwards will go have dinner with my host family. That's pretty much what my weekdays consist of: teaching, eating, and walking (I'm telling you this because a lot of my posts here consist of weekend activities and I want to reinforce the fact that I'm not always being a tourist, and that I do spend a lot of time preparing lessons and just doing everyday things. Haha)


Thursday, September 26, 2013

Laundry, books, and street fights

Brace yourself. This is probably going to be the most random post in history. I have a bunch of different material to share, so why not jam it all into one? Here we go.

A couple of days ago I did some laundry, with the help of my host grandma. I have done laundry before, and I thought that this time would be just the same as the last. But alas, 'twas not.

I started with a load of my white clothing, separated from my darks. It was thrown in the washer with a few different items, we set the dial, and things were going good. All the while, I was vacuuming and cleaning my room. It felt so great to pick things up...I hadn't noticed how dirty my room had gotten! Well, over an hour passed and then finally my laundry was done. Yay, clean laundry! I went and opened up the washing machine to find some of my nice, white shirts dyed a light blue/gray color. Apparently one of my blue shirts, or the blue sheets my host grandma added in, made the color change. Luckily a few of my white shirts managed to go untouched, but three of them, plus my socks, are no longer snow-white but baby-blue.

I could tell my host grandma felt bad, and she looked at me for my reaction. Inside I was saying, "Oh great! You have a limited wardrobe and now some of your clothes have been dyed!" Then I thought, "You can either have a bad attitude about it, or realize that this is part of the adventure living abroad."

I decided to laugh the whole thing off, waving my hand and smiling at my host grandma. She still looked at me with questioning eyes, and I said, "It's alright!" She couldn't understand what I said, but with my body language knew I wasn't mad.

After the clothes finished hang-drying, I laughed as I put them away, seeing the items a tinted blue. Here are some pictures showing you how we dry our clothes. This is right in the front you walk in the front door, and have to duck under the clothes lines. My host grandma will take the lines down when we are not doing laundry. Pretty funny though, don't you think? All of your laundry--shirts, pants, socks, and underwear--hung up on display.

You can see my blue tinted clothes hung up on the right 
Standing at the front door, this is what you see.
You can also see my room there.

With all the time I spend on the metro/escalators, buses, and walking, I need some entertainment. I didn't have an ipod, kindle, or any other fancy device to bring with me here. Luckily, though, I have my knowledge of the English language (good thing since I'm here to teach English...) which allows me to read.

At the head teachers apartment, we have a whole shelf full of books left from past volunteers. I decided on a whim to grab one and ever since have really enjoyed the time I've had to read. It is especially nice since my host grandparents don't have internet, and books give me a source of entertainment. So far I have read "A Proper Pursuit", and this morning just finished "Ann of the Wild Rose Inn." Both books were olden-time romantic novels (haha.) Now I'm searching for a new book on the shelf.

Street fights
Ah, something that probably perked your attention, right? Well here's the story.

I left the head teacher's apartment to walk home after a long day. It was past 10 pm, sprinkling, and a little chilly out. Like always I was being cautious, wearing my travel belt, and being aware of my surroundings. I got out of the apartment building and started walking down the street. I was just starting to pass the grocery store on the corner, when suddenly I heard some commotion. I think a fender-bender, or some other small accident, happened. The guy stopped his car right in the middle of the parking lot, got out, and started yelling at another guy. Then it all went down-hill, and it was like an exciting scene in a book......

"Dmitri stepped out his car and slammed the door shut, eyeing the man ten feet away who had backed into his car. He started yelling at him, asking the fool why he was so careless. The man started arguing back, blaming him for the dent in his car. Rain continued to fall, as they yelled back and forth and started closing in on the distance between them. Dmitri was the first one to strike. Slamming the other man onto the cold, wet pavement. He leapt on top of him, craving another hit with anger. The other man fought back. Their fists continued aiming for each others jaws and stomachs, going at it with all their might. Soon the noise attracted the attention of other men, who came over and tried to break up the fight. Dmitri was pulled out of the tangled mess by one of the by standing men, shocked by a hard blow to his face, but still full of anger towards the other man..."

That's all how it went down in my head (hope you enjoyed my dramatic, story-telling side of it, haha.) Never before have I seen a "real" fight. I was actually walking straight toward them, until I realized what was happening and hopped on the sidewalk to bypass them. I stared as the whole thing unfolded, but kept walking quickly on my way because the situation was scary. Haha. But you can see I came out if it just fine, and with a fun story to tell.

For the past four days it has been overcast and rainy. Streets and sidewalks are full of pot-holes, which creates a game against you and the have to constantly watch where you're walking or else you will end up in a puddle.

It has been fun walking down the street, umbrella in hand. But when the wind picks up, it starts another game of "how well can you control your umbrella as it flaps in the wind?"

Anyway. Yesterday the weather forecast said: "47 F, feels like 37 F, Cloudy." A little chilly, I'd say, for it being the end of September. Although those temperatures aren't as bad as I thought they'd be.

Random pictures

Another foggy morning, looking out my
bedroom window

Looking out my window on a cloudy night

Posing with the city lights, on the little
balcony outside the kitchen

My bed sheets/pillow case/blanket was a
blue flowery pattern before, but I now have this pink
design, upon my host grandma changing it out.
Haha. Thought it is kind of funny.
Well that is it for now. Dasvedanya.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Thoughts on walking and my future

Walking: a great form of exercise, gets you out in the fresh air, and nourishes the soul. I loved to take walks. Upon being here though, I now realize how little of it I did back home. I owned my little blue Honda accord, and with it buzzed around to work, to town, and to friends houses. Walking just wasn't in my day-to-day schedule (to the mailbox was about it most days...) Why walk when you can drive and get everywhere so much faster?

Today I spent an hour walking just to and from the metro station. I walked to the metro (going to church), walked back from the metro (to the head teachers apartment)....a couple hours later left again to the metro (to go explore the city), and walked back again. All of that walking doesn't include the time I spent walking from my apartment, and going to and from my host family's for dinner! And I still have to walk about 13 minutes to get home tonight.

All of this walking was hard at first (my feet weren't used to it) and somewhat annoying. But I am now appreciating the walking that I get to do everyday. And I specifically love going out in the crisp mornings.

For Europeans walking is something they do everyday. Don't get me wrong...tons of people own cars (including my host family) and use that for transportation, but walking and the metro are pretty darn popular as well. And I like it. As I previously said, at first is was slightly annoying (and still is sometimes when you're tired), but it makes me feel alive. And European. What a great mixture. ;)

I'm now determined to walk more once I'm home in the US. When you've got the right shoes, and the right attitude, it's guaranteed to be satisfying.

I am taking to note that I'm writing this post in September; and that by the time December rolls around and I'm dealing with wind, snow, and who knows what else on my daily walks...I might just have a different point of view. ;)

On a different some of you know, I wanted this trip to somehow inspire me in knowing where I want to take my future, and what to do with my life. While I do know the kind of person I want to be, I don't quite know yet which path I want to take. I have a vague vision of it...but as far as my plans for 2014 goes, it's still up in the air. This whole subject has been on my mind a lot for the past week. I do know that I would love to do another semester with ILP. I was originally really wanting to do Thailand in the summer of 2014, but I have found out that the Thailand school is all filled up for the next year. So what to do?

My thirst for travel may actually take me to China in 2014. I am considering the Fall semester, applying as a head teacher. I could go in the Spring, but that would give me 1 month in between trips...and that isn't much time to spend with my family, or to work and save up money! If I go in the Fall, I will have 8 months to hang out, work (I probably will get a second guard, anyone?), and prepare for the trip. Although I have in no way made up my mind yet! Who knows...I may end up taking a completely different route. But this is something I'm considering.

What do ya'll think? Any messages of wisdom? Suggestions? What do you think I should do with my life? All I know is that I'm young...single...and already living one of my dreams. The possibilities are endless! ;)

I want to add that while the subject of my future has been on my mind recently (and even stressed me out a bit)...I've had to say to myself, "Stop! Wait! Look around. Realize where you are. Remember how long you worked for this, and how long you waited. You are living in Eastern Europe. You are having the time of your life. Don't worry so much about the future that you miss what you have today: the present."


Monday, September 16, 2013

Thank goodness for the weekend

Friday, Saturday, Sunday. Three of my favorite days. The weekend. Ahhh.

I love weekends not only because of the break that I get, but also the opportunities to go have fun! This past weekend specifically was wonderful! Check out these awesome places I went to!

"Miracle Island" Amusement Park
This place was awesome! It was a small amusement park with rides for all ages. What's great is that it was free to get in, you just pay if you want to go on a ride. I loved their landscaping; it was very nicely kept and they had magical fairytale decorations! I went on two rides in this park. One (pictured below) with swings that went way high up, and one called "The Booster" that was crazy fun!

Walking into the park
I got myself a Russian boyfriend! 

The swings I went on

Ignore our shrills of excitement. We were high up and
had a great view! You can see the other ride I went on in this
video. It's the tall one next to the river.
Canal/river tour
Sunday afternoon I went out with my host family
on a canal/Neva river boat ride! I loved being out
on the water and taking pictures!
My host siblings and I.
Maxim, age 9. Tanya, age 3.

 Tanya. Such a cutie!

My host parents, Sveta & Anton

Out on the river

A boat with a "G20" advertisement

Posing on the boat

Maxim, who is in one of my classes

Being silly

Beautiful views

So many canals!
Saint Isaac's Cathedral
It cost us 250 rubles (a little over $7.00) to get in.
Right as I entered into it, I gasped! My jaw was on the floor!
The whole place was so magnificent. I felt like I was always
looking at something new (some many paintings, details, ect.)
and that I couldn't capture the beauty on my camera.
The outside. You can see they were renovating
on the right side.
The columns outside 

Adam & Eve


Along with this post I decided to show you some pics of the schools I teach at.
I teach at this Kindergarten four times a week! I do two beginner (Primary)
classes, and two Level 1 classes.
I just got these two shots of the outside, but I will get some
inside and with the kids soon. I would also love to snap some
pictures of the garden/playground area inside the fence. It's so fun
and pretty!
The front
The road next to the Kindergarten. I walk
up it and to the left to get to my host family.
Private 1
This school requires over an hour of travel time... which includes
hopping on the metro, changing lines, a bus ride, and a
brief walk. Whew! But this is my favorite school to teach at.
We have good students, and the lunch lady feeds us really great lunches!
This school is also the one located right next to the Gulf. Below
are pictures of us and the whole school at the park across the street
(and if you continue walking through this park you'd come to the ocean.)
After classes we go to the park for 30-40 minutes, then head back to eat lunch.
Be aware that only about 4 of these students are our English students, and
the rest just attend the Private school's Russian activities.
The school is located in the red building
At the park with all the kids and the schools
Russian directors
Vlad, me, and Motivey being silly

The pretty park
Onya and I. Her attention span is short in class!
And because she is so young, the Russian
directors at this school are flexible with her attendance
in our English classes.

Hanging out in the tree, like any normal teacher would.

Our classroom at Private 1

What we had for lunch today! Yum. I
love Russian food!
Random pictures 
My walk on the way to the metro station
My keys. The ones on top are for my host family's
apartment. The ones on the bottom are for my
host grandparents. Plus one of those magnetic black keys
for the host teachers apartment building.

This is for you, Dad! Found this stand in a random spot
in a little shopping center! NAI in Russia, standing
tall and proud.
Hope you all enjoyed the pictures!
Talk to you soon.