Monday, November 9, 2009

Halloween Costume

So for halloween I was Yelena Prikrassnaya from the Russian fairytale the Firebird. My costume was made from a sheet I got at a DI. I borrowed a sewing machine and sewed it. It's based on the traditional Russian sarafan. It went together really quickly so it's not that great--example...the hem. But oh well. Then I embroidered firebirdish things on the front. I think they're pretty cool though the silver thread was a pain to use. Then I sewed ribbon on the straps. The crown (kokoshnik) was made out of craft foam and bead that I sewed on with the wire I took out of the ribbon. Total cost of my costume...$5...and I look oh so cool!

Cabbage Magic!!!!

Have you ever wished you could make magic color-changing potions like Harry Potter? Well, now you can with one magical vegetable—cabbage. We’ve likely all turned up our nose at this vegetable in our food. It’s the star ingredient in dishes from coleslaw to sauerkraut and kimchi to cabbage rolls. In fact, cabbage was one of the first plants cultivated by humans beginning in Greece and Italy. Conquering Roman armies believed cabbage could cure wounds, so they took cabbage with them as medicine as they marched across Europe and Asia.

Wherever cabbage spread, people came up with legends and myths about the cabbage. Greeks believed that cabbages sprung from the tears of a king who killed his son. Scottish people believed that on Halloween a girl should pick the first cabbage she saw; the shape of its root would tell her what her future husband would look like. Germans said it was impolite to talk about cabbages while looking at the moon because the man in the moon was put there for stealing cabbage on Christmas Eve. Everyone believed that somehow or other cabbage was a magical plant.

And now you can try your own hand at cabbage magic. First, collect your materials: five see-through glasses, measuring spoons, some powder laundry detergent, baking soda, vinegar and most importantly—cabbage.

But you’ve got to make sure you get the right type of cabbage. There are hundreds of types of cabbage from the tall, Chinese bok choy to the tiny, little Brussels Sprout. Our potion calls for the red variety. Red cabbage is a tight, ball of purple leaves a bit smaller than a volleyball.

Take a few leaves and rip them up into pieces. Put them in a clear glass or plastic cup. Make sure its clear and colorless so you will be able see the magic. Fill the cup with water like you were pouring yourself a drink. If you leave this cup for a while the water will start to turn purple as the cabbage juice seeps into the water.

But if you’re not feeling very patient and want to see something truly amazing, put the cup in the microwave for a couple minutes. Be careful; when it comes out the water will be very hot and purple. There are chemicals in the cabbage called anthocyanins that give red cabbage its purple color. When the water is heated, theses chemicals that make the cabbage purple are released into the water, turning the water purple. But if the water is purple what color is the cabbage? If you leave the cabbage to soak, after about an hour, you’ll see that the edges of your cabbage pieces turn a ghostly blue-grey as the anthocyanins sneak out into the water. If you left it all day long, you’d have ghost cabbage.

Now that you have your cabbage juice, pour a half-cup of water into each of the other four cups. Into the first cup, mix two tablespoons vinegar. To the next one, add ½ tablespoon baking soda. Put a tablespoon of powder laundry detergent in the third. Make sure you wash the spoon in between each measurement! Leave the last glass as a control. The control will show you what the mixture would look like if you just added the cabbage solution to regular water, so you can get a good scientific comparison. Mix the solutions until the additions are mostly dissolved.

Add two tablespoons cabbage juice to each cup. You will notice that each one changes a different color. Wow, you’re a real wizard! Want to know how we did it? It goes back to the real potion masters of the world, chemists. Remember how I told you there was a chemical called anthocyanins in the cabbage that made it purple? Well, this chemical changes color based on the pH of a solution.

What’s pH? Nearly every solution is either acidic or basic. The pH scale goes from close to 0 up to 14 and we use it to explain how acidic or basic something is. Distilled, perfectly pure, water would fall at 7 on the pH scale, meaning it is neutral, neither acid nor base. If a solution’s pH is less than 7, it is acidic; the lower the number is the more acidic it is. However, if a number is higher than 7 it’s a base; the higher it is the more basic it is.

Believe it or not, you have acids and bases all around you. Every time you wash you hands, you’re using a base. You can tell soap is a base, because like most basic solutions, it’s slippery. Acids on the other hand can be identified by a sour taste; lemon juice is a great example of an acid. Can you think of other acids or bases?

Our cabbage solution starts close to neutral. The laundry soap is slippery and it changes our solution to green, so bases make our cabbage solution green! Vinegar is a solution of water and a chemical called acetic acid—that’s right it’s an acid. So will it make our solution green? No, the vinegar mixture turns pink.

Now are you ready for the real magic? Take the cup containing the baking soda solution. It should be a blue color, showing that it’s slightly basic. Add your pink vinegar solution. Watch out! It fizzes and turns purple. The acidic vinegar and basic baking soda have canceled each other out and we’re back at neutral.Try adding the green solution. What do you think will happen? That’s right the whole thing turns blue-green because it’s basic again.

Don’t you wonder what other things in your house are acids and bases? What is milk? What about apple juice? Grab your witch’s hat and cabbage head and try your hand at some colorful brews.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Long live Swinewarts!!!

Alright so yesterday, we threw the most amazing birthday party that ever has been or ever will be. Let me give you a brief run down so you can all be jealous jealous jealous!!!

So it all began with our amazing owl invitations. We blew up balloons and taped ears and feet to them and drew an owl face and wings on them. Then we got fishing wire and taped them to people's porches, rang the door bell, and ran. Of course, Aimee and I were completely dressed up so as to be unrecognizable if anyone actually saw us. It was really fun.

Then Emily and I spent the last week making preparations. We planned some pretty amazing stuff. My dad built an amazing Quidditch pitch. And we gathered up some costumes.

The party started off badly. The kids didn't show up on time so we did some practice Quidditch and I was starting to freak because we'd had it planned to the minute. Finally we decided to just start. We took the kids inside and we helped them pick out a wand. We had gathered, cut, and sanded sticks into wands. My mom, who was playing the French witch assistant headmistress of Swinewarts, Eleanore La Fee, helped them pick wands to try. They took turns trying wands. On the right wand, suddenly there was a magical sound. After all the wand chooses the wizard.

Then we had them all sit down to be sorted. But this was a special year at Swinewarts for this was the year of the Biwizard Tournament. So we did the Goblet of Fire instead of the sorting hat. I lit the end of a shishkaboob thingy and then lit the goblet which was a brass amphora thing with tin foil stretched across the top and alcohol poured on top of that. It burst into beautiful big flames. Then we put the names on another skewer and passed them through the flames. They caught flame for a few seconds but didn't burn. (It's one of my new favorite magic tricks...) Then I read out which was in which class.

One group was Errius headed by the bold Australian Professor Bruce Butterbutt (he doesn't care much for formality and he really doesn't care for the name you can call him Bruce) played by my dear sister Emily.
The other group was Bolshevniki headed guessed it...ME! I was playing potions professor, Zababa Yaga, the granddaughter of the famous Baba Yaga (is not true zat she eat so many people...I sink she only eat maybe ten peoples.)

Then we went to the classes. Emily and I taught Care of Magical creatures teaching them about magical birds and making origami owls. Erin, the eccentric Professor Trilany, taught Divination reading doom and ice cream in everyone's futures. My dad, headmaster Stanley Snodgrass, taught Herbology where they planted magic corn and jelly beans. Just before Quidditch, a crop of corndogs popped up right where they had planted the corn and we ate them while mixing up some exciting potions made of Veritasirum, Dragon's Blood, Love potion, Polyjuice Potion, Mrs. Scower's Magical Mess Remover, Felix Felisis, etc. Then we played Quidditch. My team won by catching the Snitch. Then we went back to classes with Emily teaching ancient aboriginal runes. I taught my potions class in which we mixed Yozhik Juice (purple cabbage juice) with asphodel (laundry detergent) which turned bright green. Then we added juice of the erumpent horn (vinegar) and it turned pink. Then we added powdered Billywig Stingers (baking soda) and it turned blue and foamed. It was pretty cool. My mom taught Defense Against the Dark Arts where they learned how to defend from a dementor.

Then we had cake and ice cream and then the tournament began. First they got an egg. Strangely enough, they didn't figure out to crack it open very quickly. But when they did, there was a note written in code which they had to crake just as they had the egg. It lead them to the next challenge which for my team was getting a hippogriff feather. Fortunely, they had been informed that hippogriffs liked to nest under the bridge. There they found feathers and cds hung from underneath the bridge. The CD was a prophecy of where they needed to go next. My group was headed to the Quidditch pitch where they found three riddles on top of boxes. They said,
" The beginning of eternity,
The end of time and space
The beginning of every end
And the end of every place.

I am the beginning of sorrow, and then end of sickness. You cannot express happiness without me, yet I am in the midst of crosses. I am always in risk, yet never in danger. You may find me in the sun, but I am never out of darkness.

I dwell in bitterness, and accompany bliss. I evince blackness but never the light. I am found in goblets but never in a glass. I make oil boil."

Under the box was a pair of clippers and a note from Bertie Botts. We went to the bean plant where there were pods of fruit leather with jelly beans inside. Then we got a letter that sent us into the forbidden forest where we were going to decode runes. The runes went to different places where they had to make the potions to collect the foam and report back. Of course through out this whole affair, dementors kept appearing and had to be scared away. It was quite scary towards the end as it was dark and we were running through the woods.

We mixed a last few potions, downing them with toasts to Swinewarts, the teachers, and muggles before everyone went home. It was awesome.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Alright, I admit it...I'm a loser...

So, I just spent the entire day in driver's correction school. And I have one thing to say..."I AM TERRIFIED!!!!" Not because of the stories of collisions with trains in which cars were engulfed in flames. Not because of the drunk driving stories, in which every rib in a persons body was broken. Not because of all the head on collision stories that made me want to hurl my cookies.
None of these terrors even kissed the edge of the terror of meeting people who could be driving in the car next to me...
Now, truth be told, I do live in Virginia so we have an disproportionate number of rednecks represented...but my goodness, these all people are terrifying. I don't think there were more than two people in the entire class who I would trust to drive. I mean their answer to every questionable situation was lay on the horn and flip the other driver off. Does that strike you as good judgement?
Half of these people should have failed the test given at the end of the class except that the teacher told them all the questions and gave them the answers durning the course of the day and then gave them a few minutes to study prior to taking it. And with all of that you still only had to get 80% right and you could get back on the road. Some of these kids, it was the 5th offense and all they were really interested in learning from the teacher was exactly how many drinks they could have and still legally drive without getting a DUI. (For all those of you who are interested I could have 4...possibly only 3 since I am a woman who's family hasn't drunk alcohol in the last 100 years so I might have lower resistance...I found that incredibly useful since I plan to next drink....NEVER).
Now, the teacher really does deserve credit because he did teach useful information and he was actually as interesting as he could be for 8 hours (hour 4 found me slipping out the Russian notecards...but that wasn't his fault). I do feel like I could be a safer driver now that I have taken the class, but those other folk...I'm not so sure about. I really wish someone would come up to me and tell me it was really a personal class just for me and all those other people were just actors because I'm scared to drive in Virginia now...I'm absolutely terrified to drive in Utah.

С другой стороны...I miss everyone. And I really really really miss Ukraine. I'm so glad to be back with my family, but just every once in a while I think about stupid stuff like walking to school past the tank, eating kasha and cheese, or riding the metro and I just kind of want to hold my Cheburoshka doll and pretend it's Styopa. It's hard to have left a place that you loved so much and not have anyone understand. I know I talk about Ukraine way too much. I'm really sorry and I'm working on it. But I sometimes when I talk about it; I don't miss it so much.

Anyways, sorry for the diatribe/confession. I will hopefully have something better to report after I can drive again...2 more days...

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

I'm still alive but too busy to post anything...

So, it's not that nothing has happened in the last week...far from it.  It's just that I'm much too busy to write it all out.  I've actually fallen behind in my journal writing.  But all sorts of things have happened.  I went on a vacation to the middle of nowhere Ukraine and ate and ate and slept.  My mom came.  The world celebrated the completion of the my second decade on this Earth with particularly exciting celebrations happening in all former Soviet Republics.  I met the patriarch of the Ukrainian orthodox church.  I danced with a Ukrainian in traditional costume.  It's been amazing.  But time is short so that's all I can say.  Love you all as evidenced by the fact that I'm actually coming home from Ukraine.  Seriously if I didn't love you all so much.  I'd totally stay here with Vanya...

Thursday, April 30, 2009

I'm going to really try to keep this short.  I went home with Vayna and we had some great discussions.  Volodya was waiting for me to say something in Russian all night, but I had nothing to say sadly.
The next day, Vanya was in my room really really early (probably finishing his homework).  I turned over in my sleep and scared the living daylights out of him.  Megan and I went to Lavra to paint and we walked around the side and saw some cool new parts of it.  It was really deserted because it was so early in the day and we were in a deserted area.  We walked through this forested area and came up to this church on the corner of Lavra.  I kept thinking this is unreal.  I'm walking through a forest in Ukraine.  After a bit more exploring, we settled down to paint.  Then we heard something and we saw this procession coming with crosses, icons, and stuff.  One lady stopped and talked to me and Megan.  I couldn't understand her at first but after a minute I figured out she was saying that "Stand and follow us."  We didn't have any head scarves or skirts otherwise I think we would have gone.  Then another guy came by and said "Христос Воскрес!"  I totally blanked on the answer so I just nodded and said "Да, да."  It was totally awesome.  We had a bunch of people ask us for direction or the time so we must have looked pretty Ukrainian.  I went to the school and got a bunch of letters.  Igor, Tanya, and Larissa were all drooling over my cinnamon rolls.  Which I can't blame them for since they did smell, look, and taste amazing.  
Friday, was in Natasha's words, "Today you remember always."  It started out like anyother day, playing with Stypoa.  I went to the school and found out game night was cancelled which was really sad because I'd gotten permission for Vanya and Misha to go with me.  I played Accident de Train with Maintenance.  It went pretty well.  Then I broke the news to Misha and Vanya.  They were both bummed and suggested we just stay at the school.  So we did.  We played games, looked at Misha's music videos, and I burned my whole palm.  I call it my map to the well of souls because it really covers my whole left hand.  I kept trying to play with them despite my hand though my temper was getting short towards the end because they kept getting mad at me for being slow. when I had to play cards with one hand.  We took the bus home and it took along time so I was almost crying when we got home.  I was still trying to be though and I managed pretty well until Natasha heard I had burned my hand and asked to look at it.  She freaked out at Vanya for not making me come home right away and then she got out some cream and had me put it on.  It hurt so bad I started crying.  Vanya freaked out.  He kept saying "it's okay, it's okay."  But I think it was as much for himself as me because you could tell from his face that he was freaked to see me cry.  Then he came back a few minutes later with chocolate for me and Sasha got out my bed because I couldn't do it myself.  I stayed up and worked on my Kiev movie.  I already feel homesick for Kiev when I watch it.  I'm going to miss my family so much.  I don't think it would be so bad except that I know that when I leave, I probably won't be able to go back to see them.
I woke up the next day and Styopa wanted to play albom but I couldn't really draw with my left hand so I got to pen out and started drawing with my right hand.  Natasha came in and saw what I was doing.  She said she wanted to make me something.  She made potato pancakes that we're delicious.  Then I left and went to the train station for the biggest frustration my entire time in Kiev.  Then we went to Piragova and had a great time.  It was a gorgeous day.  When I got home I was fed constantly and Volodya instructed me on how to touch hot objects.  Then Vanya tried to convince me to stay with them until Agust and go to Egypt with them.  It was really funny because he only knows his months in Ukrainian so he had to keep running in and asking what month it was in Russian and the he'd run in and tell me.  Then we watched Soviet cartoons.  My favorite was Карлсон и Малише about a man with a propeller on his butt who was fueled by jam.  It was rather incredible.  
Sunday was stake conference which was awesome because our stake is trilingual.  So one prayer was in Russian (and I understood most of it) while the other was in Ukrainian.  Half the hymns were in Ukrainian.  And all of us we listening to english translation on the headsets.  There was actually also a group watching Russian sign language.   It was pretty amazing.  We also found out that President Ukdorf and Anderson are coming to Kiev on temple business on May 28th so I'll get to see them!  Then we went to the Mellers for dinner and I got to talk to Erin and Annie on the phone which was really really fun.  When I got home, my family told me we were going out for pizza.  Styopa in a restaurant was crazy but it was really really fun.  That night Vayna was waiting for me to watch cartoons with him but my family called so he ended up just making pathetic faces at me while I talked to them.  I asked if he wanted to talk to Emily and he said, "No!"  and ran from the room.  He was afraid she would make fun of her. 
Monday, Maintenance was my best class.  We made a movie called Criminal Graffiti starring Misha.  Then I went home and wrote in my journal while Styopa drew.  
Tuesday, Natasha tried to persuade me to stay with them until July so I could go to the моря with them.   Seeing Styopa at the sea would be awesome.  Then I made fruit pizza with the kids.  It was pretty cool.  I'm totally counting down the days of Maintenance.  I finished reading Screwtape Letters and started Til We Have Faces.  C S Lewis is the man.  
Wednesday, nothing exciting happened until the evening, then I went to Taylor's house for his birthday party.  It was really fun to see where he lived and have great Ukrainian food and hang with the Pozniki teachers.  We did some crazy things like jumping over a fire and playing round the world ping pong.  It was awesome.  

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

You know you need to take a shower when your scalp starts coming off in chunks...

Be prepared...I think this might be even longer than the last blog life is just so amazingly me at least.  
Last week, I AIMed Annie which was wonderful and made me super happy.  Then I came home to Styopa running out to meet me with his tights slid down around his knees...the little foolagin.  Then Vanya seranaded me on the baiyan (fancy accordian).  
The next day, we got to the school early.  It was the birthday of of one of the morning kids so we got cake, crazy bees, hazelnut candi
es, and korovki (my favorite, they are these little sweetened condensed milk candies).  The morning kids were kind of on a sugar high and this one kid named Glieb was giving Audrey a hard time by running around the table.  I was in there getting something so she asked me to help.  All I did was stand up and say "Glieb!"  He stared at me in terror and backed right into Audrey.  We had lunch and the head of ILP came to visit.  He watched me teach which was interesting since we were dying Easter eggs and it was probably the lesson I've been the most scared about all semester.  But it actually went pretty well.  The kids were totally entranced by the process because it is very different from pisanki.  With maintenance, I played Clue.  It went really well until Valera, Liza, and Sasha realized they could cheat and started showing eachother their cards.  Then Misha threw a fit and wouldn't play and convinced Vanya not to play either.  Fortunately this all happened after the guy who was watching left.  But it still was one of my better lessons with them because they were all into it and it did actually take like 55 minutes so there was only a short making stuff up period.  After school, Vanya and I fed a tiny little cat and Valera's mother gave us a ride home in their really nice car.  It was crazy because I was holding some farmer's cheese and a chicken wrapped in plastic bags in my lap.  (the next day I ate that chicken...).  It was fun because the three boys were in the back chatting it up in Russian and Misha was telling them he had gotten his yellow belt in karate and I said, "Misha, you didn't tell me that!"  He got this terrified look on his face and said, "You un
derstand me?  I am sorry."    We got home and were having dinner.  By the end it was just me and Volodya staring at eachother so I th
ought, I have to speak Russian.  So 
I said,  "Мы с Меган говорили об у кого есть самая хорошая семья в Киеве.  Я сказала у меня.  Но она сказала, это я!   У меня Зина, кто готовит за меня.  Я сказала, нет, у меня Стёпа.  И она сказала, "Да, да, ладно, у вас есть самая хорошая семья в Киеве."  You could hear Vanya and Sasha wip around in their chairs in the other room.  Sasha came running in and said, "Annilyn!  You spoke Russian!  We know you can but you do not say stories in Russian.  You say very good Russian."  After that, I 
went and took a shower.  I had to trick Styopa by telling him to go find Sima in the kitchen and then closing the door really really fast.  I could hear him scratching at the door but sometimes you have to be heartless, when you haven't had a shower in 5 days it's one of those times.  
The next day, Megan and Amanda and I went to Souvenir St.  I got some plain wooden eggs to paint and a Ukrainian family doll from the guy that sold me my laquer box.  I knew he painted the dolls himself so I asked if he would sell me some plain dolls.  He didn't have any but it showed me which kind I could get if I came back and told me the prices. I also got two rings one with a firebird and the other one says, "Господи спаси и сохрани мя" which 
means Lord, save and preserve me.  We went around St. Michael's cathedral and got kerchifs for visiting churches.  Then we went to the school.  I stayed late and pulled the membrane off the egg shells so we could make mosaics the next day.  Ten I went home and had the chicken and played with Styopa.  
Friday morning I went to the Russian art museum.  It was fascinating...probably only to 
me.  Two of my favorite pieces were a painting of a holy fool walking around barefoot in the snow and this picture of this upper class girl in European dress who was running away into the servants quarters and all the servants who are all dressed like Russians are staring at her.  It was so cool to see the weird Europeanization of Russian.  After that we went to Volodimir's cathedral.  It was incredible.  It has these frescos that are a mix of high renaissance, iconography, and art nouveau.  My favorite was the picture of Christ coming inot Jerusalem and all the people laying down their clothes.  I think it was made even more powerful by the Христос Воскрес sign in the apse.  I made deviled eggs with everyone.  They were all way wierded out by them when they saw it.  But then we made it and they said, "Okay we will try it."  And then they tried it and they all loved it.  After school, Misha and Vanya took me and Megan to see some graffiti.  It was crazy because they were telling use that there were narcomen there (men on narcotics).   On the way home, I was singing to myself and Vanya started singing the Винни Пух song.  And I said, "Yes, I'm Vinni Pookh."  He was all surprised that I knew who Binni Pookh was.  So then he told his mom and they started quizzing me on all the Soviet cartoons I knew.  So then Natasha said, "When Mattvei wakes up, go into the room and get all the cartoons and educate Annilyn in our movies."  We watched 4 different cartoons.  My favorite was Левёнок и большая Черипаха (Lion cub and the big turtle).  The song was stuck in my head all weekend. 
I got up early and ate some Deviled Eggs.  I cleaned the kitchen and left to go to the meeting.  The meeting was absolutely pointless.  But we got Reese's Peanut butter cups...the only American 
candy I miss at all.  Then we went to Souvenir St.  We met up with Eugene and talked for a while.  It was awesome.  I got a picture of him finally.  Then I picked up my dolls.  I got a ten piece one and a five piece one.  They are really cute, I'm excited to paint them.  Then I went home and (this is a story I heard later from Natasha) when he heard the phone ring Styopa who was supposed to be taking a nap said, "Nanninnin?"  Then Vanya picked up and said, "Annilyn?"  And Styopa started singing "Nannininn!"  and Natasha was like, "Tikha tikha, you are supposed to be taking a nap!"  Then I came in and it got worse.  Fortunately I was smart enough to keep quiet and he did eventually fall asleep right next to Mattvei.  It was adorable.  I played Sinbad legend of the 7 seas with Vanya.  I drew on my doll.  When Styopa woke up I showed it to him and explained who everyone was.  He took the Annilyn doll and gave it a big hug.  He was also really happy that I had drawn him eating kasha.  He would forget who it was and I would ask "Кто ест кашу?" and he would smile and say, "Ты!" and point at himself.  Then we went to the forest for shashlik.  It was fun.  We cooked hot dogs and chilled around the fire.  When we got home Natasha showed me how to make meat, пасха, and кулич.  It smelled amazing.  
Sunday, I got up early and got ready.  It was good I had the nursery less
on otherwise I wouldn't have gone to church because you could see that Natasha and Styopa were really really sad to see me go and they had fun stuff planned.  It was really neat to see all the people walking down to the church with their gorgeous baskets with the cakes and eggs and stuff.  I was really really sad when I got home because they had gone to the church and gotten their basket blessed and colored eggs without me.  But Natasha had saved some of all the food for me.  It was delicious.  Each thing was better than the one before.  I played cards with Vanya and Volodya.  It was the Russian version of Bluff.  It was really fun since we were playing in Russian.  Vanya was really afraid that I wouldn't be able to understand but I beat them the first time.  Vanya was amazed.  Volodya just told him "Vanya, she's not stupid!"  Then we went to shashlik with Megan's family.  We had chicke
n that was to die for but dedooshka told me that if he'd made the sauce himself it would have been better.  It was awesome.  We played Ukrainian baseball that is my new favorite game.  I got in trouble for throwing my egg shells away because they were holy egg shells (they were blessed by the preist that morning) and they were going to feed them to their chickens for good luck.  Apparently it was alright though because mine was a weak egg so it didn't really matter.  We went home and ate Easter food.  Vanya and I played battleship.  It was a total reenactment of the Cold War.  The Russians won.  But only by a hair.
So the next day, I woke up to Sima climbing up the side of my couch and Styopa saying "Allo!  Allo!!  Allllloooooo!"  I though, "Maybe I can ignore them and keep sleeping"  and then I thought, "Maybe that will lead to me getting peed on."  So I got up.  Then Vanya came in and wanted to play Uno (Russians and their fascination with Uno I do not understand).  Natasha got mad at him because she thought he had woken me up to play cards.  He was getting a royal telling off before he could say anything to defend himself.  Then Vanya, Sasha, and I had breakfast.  It was delicious.  I was the only one who ate the eggs because the other two don't like mayonaise...I don't either except the bread, chocolate, sour cream, mayonaise is better here.  You have to make sure to get the домажний (home) kind though not the Европейский (European) because that stuff is just like ours and is nasty.  Vanya played the Байан again for me.  Then we got all packed up and r
eady to go.  We piled in the, Vanya, Volodya, Sasha, Styopa, Natasha,  Mattviechik, all the stuff for shashlik, a guitar, a baian, Easter food, chicken food, glass bottles, and cake for the present in a little 5 person car (good thing car seats aren't needed here in Ukraine  though they wouldn't let Styopa sit up with me they told him the militzia (police) would take him away if they saw).  We went to the store and Volodya bought cheese and some ketchup.  It was funny because it was just like taking a car trip with the Schills with mommy worrying if we had everything, Daddy saying let's just get on the road, Stuart poking Aimee and Aimee squealing, and Erin shhing everyone because she was trying to work on h
omework.  I was starting to worry that maybe it would be a total let down to actually meet the Grand babushka because Megan and I have imparted to her character this magical aura and maybe she would turn out to just be a regular person and it would be sad.  But when we got there...oh my image of Baba Yaga was totally rocked because she now has Baba Tanya's image.  The woman really was incredible.  She was all shrively and tiny and hunched.  She had the classic old Ukrainian face with hairy chin and moles.  And she was wearing a rainbow kerchif, a purple spotted jacket, a yellow paisily shirt, a green plaid skirt, orange tights, and black shoes that were at least twice her size but probably fit her two hundred years ago (and the outfit only got better when she put on the camo jacket on top later because it was xолодно).  And she lived in this little house in the woods with a well (a real well that Vanya and I drew water out of with a bucket and a crank and all) and a squat dunny and a whole room full of icons.  She really liked speaking with me but she was hard to understand because she asked really hard questions.  Then she started saying things like..."The Soviets said..."  and I started to get worried.  Then she asked "Ты любишь Америку?" (you like America)  I said,  "Да."  and she made a face and Volodya said,  "Она родилса и выросла там." (Well, she was born and raised there.)  It was interesting.  I couldn't tell what she really thought of me.  I did catch that she holds America responsible for all the casinos in Ukraine.  She was saying, "In the Soviet time we did not have casinos or crime or porn 
or anything bad." (Megan's response was "Or FOOD!")  But I don't know if she never really disliked me or if I won her over when she saw me playing with Styopa but she kept trying to feed me (Vanya said if we saw her coming with more food we should climb the nearest tree and hide)  and she worried about me being to cold and fussed over my sitting on the ground (according to Ukrainian superstition I can no longer have children because I have sat on the cold ground, the old woman was going to go get me a chair to save me but Volodya told her my great grandmother was an Indian and they are adapted to this so I'd be fine)  and when I left she kissed my hand a blessed me (or maybe I misunderstood her and it was a maladiction of the worst kind).  Anyways, we had fish shashlik, tea (made on a samovar I think and I think it may have actually been tea I'm afraid), cake, and butterbrod.  It was all delicious.  We played Ukrainian baseball again.  Volodya tounced me and Vanya.  Then he said I will teach you two how to play and hit the ball but I caught it on his third turn and so I instantaneously won by getting 1000 points.  Volodya shook my hand and said Молодец.  
Here, I am going to explain this game to you so you can get an idea of what I'm talking about.  You have two sticks a really short one an a bat sized one.  You dig a small trench and lay the short stick across it.  You take the other stick and flip the short one into the air.  If they catch it they get 1
00 points and your turn is over.  Where ever it lands, the other team has to throw from and try to hit the long stick that you have now laid across the trench.  If they hit it your turn is over.  If nothing happens to end your turn, you go on to the next level which is hold the short stick in one hand and hit it with the other stick from the other hand.  If you catch it now, you get 500 points.  If you don't catch it you throw it towards the other stick and the person at bat measures how many stick lengths away it is, for every length they get 10 points.  Then the third round, you throw and hit from the same hand and measure how far it goes.  If you catch the stick on this round you get 100o points and win instantly because you play to 1000.  It is really really fun.  
I also played Fox and Rabbit with Styopa where I was the rabbit and he was the fox chasing me.  He wouldn't actually catch me though so it made the game hilarious, especially to Natasha and Baba Tanya who were watching me try to slow down so he'd catch me and him slow down so he wouldn't.  We were almost running backwards.  Then Vanya, Natasha, and I harvested birch bark that I am going to paint on.  Natasha said she made a birch bark painting when she was staying with a family in Switzerland like I am staying with them.  Then I sat on the porch and listened to Vanya play the bayan (I really really like accordian music since coming prepared when I get home).  Then we got back in the car for the ride of my life.  We spent more time on the opposite side of the line than we did on the right side because the traffic was so bad going back to Kiev and Volodya had no patience so he would go into the other lane until he saw a car coming, then he would ride the bumper of the car next to us until they scooted over enough for us to straddle the line.  Natasha was screaming "MY CHILDREN!"  at him the entire time.  
And Vanya poked me and said, "Why you like this?" and made a frowny face...he didn't understand "I am in fear for my life."  Once we got back in the city it was much better.  We drove past Church, Babin Yar, Lukianivska, St. Michaels, St. Sofia's, Lavra, and Big Mama, then across the river and home.  It was awesome.  At home, Vanya and I rematched in Battleship (American numbers and Russian letters this time)...the Americans won because the Russians lost a ship in the red tape of the Soviet system had sent it into uncharted waters.  They said it had returned and I had to bomb it too but I got no clues as to where it was.  So then they won.  But being honorable folk, they did conceed that I had really won because it was their own stupidity that lost the ship.  So we tried a high five but totally missed and ended up doing a handshake because we thought there was no way to miss on that.  Then, I took a shower!!!!!  Almost a week with out a shower, I have skills.
So Tuesday, I got up and played with Styopa (I always do, I don't know why I still bother writing that).  He tore my puppet apart and spilled my paint water everywhere.  So I wasn't all that surprised that I had a feeling of impending doom as I walked to school.  But nothing bad ended 
up happening.  I worked on stuff, went to the store for kitchen stuff and actually understood and talked to the cashier.  Then I made cinnamon roll dough with the kids.  It smelled amazing.  Megan and I walked home because it was still sunshiny and beautiful.  I got Styopa to clean his room (a miracle) and then we had a riotously good time playing tip me over.  He would say, "pаз, два, три"
 and then push me and and I'd fall over and he would laugh and laugh and laugh.  Then he climbed on me and lay down
 on my legs and I'd lie down and he'd be sitting up and then I'd sit up and he'd be lying down.  It was awesome.  Then I went and ate this fried califlower with smoked cheese.  It was amazing.  I beat Vanya's egg.  Vanya called me in and wanted me to film him on the bayan.  He was being really cute.  I don't think he finished all his homework though because he kept stopping to tell me about Ninja Turtles.  
This morning, Natasha had left the last big piece of пасха for me because I'd said I liked it.  So I had that with my breakfast.  Styopa's teacher came and Mattvei was sleeping and Natasha fell asleep on the ironing board.  I felt so bad for her.  I did all the dishes.  Styopa's teacher left and
 he came and found me.  He dragged me into the kitchen to watch him eat.  Natasha wrote out the recipes for the Easter food for me in very nice Russian print so I'd actually be able to read it.  And I actually did understand it which was excellent.  Then Megan and I took Styopa outside to play at the park.  He was excited out of his head when Natasha told him.  We fed pigeons and played in the песочик (sand).  He loved it.  He was really sad though when we said we had to go to school.  

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


Hello from Kiev!!!!!  Here are the events of the last incredible week...there really hasn't been a normal week here yet.  Wednesday, I was supposed to go to Lavra to paint with Megan and Cassidy but Megan, and almost all the other teachers got food poisoning from the chicken at lunch so she wasn't able to go.  We went though and it was really fun, thought Lavra wasn't designed for painting because there were no benches with good views.  But it was still fun.  Then I made gingerbread with my classes.  I baked it with Maintenance and realized I was in trouble.  I did some quick math and realized the dough I had made was going to make somewhere near 250 cookies.  That's a whole lot of gingerbread, especially for Russians who don't really like ginger.  I went home and played мяч with Styopa until the мяч rolled under the piano.  
Thursday, I woke up to Styopa running in yelling "Наннин!!!  кушайте!".  Apparently, he was supposed to eat but when his mom called him he decided it was time for me to eat too.  Megan and I went back to Souvenir Street.  The prices have already shot up.  I was getting really depressed because I didn't think I'd be able to get myself a doll because it's already like 150gr ($20) for a really badly painted mass produced one.  But as we were on our way back I saw some that looked really good so I decided to stop and ask how much they were expecting to hear like $300.  But they were actually reasonably priced just like they had been earlier in the season.  I soon realized I was back in one of Eugene's shops even though it was actually Anatolli that helped me this time.  He really does have the best deals and the most artistic stuff.  I had a hard time choosing because they had real fairy tales on dolls where as the other people just have like pretty standard pictures that could go in any fairy tale.  They had the Frog Tsarevna, the Firebird, Tsar Sultan, all the classics.  I got a doll with Yemelia and the Pike on it because it's Styopa's favorite and Natasha tells it to him all the time when he is eating.  And the picture of Yemelia looks a bit like Styopa because he's walking funny.  It's beautiful and I love it.  Right as we were about to leave we saw Eugene so I asked him about plain dolls I could paint.  He said he could sell me one so I got it.  I am kind of thinking I might order more from him because I'd really like to do a couple.  I was thinking because they come in 5 pieces maybe I'll do one of me, Sasha, Vanya, Styopa, and Mattvei though Megan says I should wait and see if we can find a 7 piece one and do her and Misha too.  I'd also like to do a traditional one.  And one of the story of my adventures in Ukraine though for that I might need a 100 piece doll.  Then we went to the school and cleaned.  We got an amazing picture of me when I found these magnifying glasses and then found the head to a giraffe puppet one of the kids had hacked off.  We made a gazzilion gingerbread cookies.  We gave some to everyone.  I was really happy because we gave some to my friend the cleaning lady.  I don't know if she liked them but she was tickled that we gave them to her.  That night, my family was going crazy.  Volodya came in holding Mattvei like a butchered chicken by his feet.  Then he would flip Mattvei over and say, "Daddy is your best friend, isn't he?  Isn't he?  Yes, Daddy is your best friend."  Mattvei would just look at him with this pained expression on his face and Volodya would laugh.  It was pretty funny.  Then Sasha started telling jokes and translating them into English.  So then I told a joke and she translated it into Russian.  Everyone laughed.  Then Styopa was done eating so Volodya got him out of his highchair and was swinging him by his ears.  Natasha who was already mad that he'd been swinging Mattvei around started telling him off and said, "How would you like it if I did that to you?"  Volodya said, "I think it'd be fun."   So Natasha stood up on a stool and tried to lift Volodya off the ground by his ears.  Gosh I wish I'd had a camera.  
The next day, Megan and I went to Baban Yar, where the Natzis killed people, mostly Jews, but of course some other people, communists, gypsys, even the Kiev football team because they refused to lose to the Germans.  There was a giant Soviet monument that was really ugly in classic Soviet realist style.  But I have learned since coming here that often that style is really appropriate.  This was one of those times.  In the museum of the Great Patriotic War, they had some clips of Baban Yar and it was inhuman what was done there.  Megan and I wandered through the park until we found the actual ravine where they buried the bodies and it is really sad.  It is all full of trash either because the Ukrainians don't care or because they purposefully want to forget.  We both immediately thought that it's too bad that we couldn't make that an eagle project to clean it up.  It was a very somber experience, but really neat.  After that we went to school, made more gingerbread.  I made postcards for my family with Maintenance.  The kids were actually all really into it.  They also were really amused that I lived on Sugar Hollow and all asked why it was called that.  I told them, "Okay, you have to pay attention because this is a funny story.  Not now, but a long time ago, people used to bring in lots of sugar to the place where we lived because they were making moonshine."  Of course that confused them so when they asked "What moonshine?"  I said, "Vodka."  They all laughed and laughed and said, "You make vodka?"  I said, "No, they used too.  Now we make apple juice."  They just kept giggling and saying, "Vodka...hahahaha."  Megan and I tried to go to this play put on my the Ukrainian ward that meeting in our church building but we got lost and got there way too late so we just hung out in the institute until we got kicked out.  So then we headed to the train station and waited in McDonalds and used the bathroom.  Finally, we met up with Amanda and Audrey.  We were talking to them about all the food we'd brought and I said, "We brought bread and cheese and nutella and peanut butter and cookies and chocolate and monkeys...wait did I just say monkeys?"  They said yes and I couldn't remember what I had meant.  We laughed really hard.  Finally I remembered that it was supposed to be gingerbread cookies, I don't know why monkeys came out.  At 10:30 we got on our train to discover we were in the same car as a Ukrainian school excursion and they were all planning to get really drunk.  When they pulled out the vodka we knew we weren't going to get any sleep.  
But never the less I think the train is the best way to travel because I did sleep a little and I woke up in Odessa.  Audrey also woke up to a suprise, she was sleeping next to a drunk Ukrainian apparently they had been talking and the conductor had yelled at them so they had lay down and kept talking and had fallen asleep.  We gave her no peace about that the whole weekend.  We went to our hotel and dropped off our stuff.  Then we went to Top Sandwich for lunch.  I got a Shvarma with cheese that was delicious.  Then we went down to the pier and saw the giant golden baby and this cute little church.  Then we walked back up to got to the Archeological Museum.  We saw lots of cool Greek and Scythian stuff.  There was a whole room of gold coins and jewelry that was way cool.  I was totally geeking out over it but I think the other girls were kind of bored.  They were amused when I make this squeaking noise when I saw this one Greek face with pointy ears.  After that we went to a park and fed pigeons gingerbread crumbs.  Then we were exhausted so we went to the church to watch Conference.  I think I made it through two talks and then I was out.  I woke up at the intermediate hymn and decided I was not going to fall asleep again, but before the first talk was over I was out and very embaressingly snoring I am told.  After that we met up with the boys for dinner at Fat Moses.  Then we went back to hotel to discover our rooms were totally ghetto.  The shower was not enclosed by anything it flooded the whole bathroom and the water smelled like rotten eggs but since I had not had a shower in almost a week (remember we have had no hot water) I took one anyways.  I'm really hoping not to get some dreadful fungus!  We watched Lord of the Rings 3 in Russian because it was on.  Then the boys got back from going out clubbing with some girls they had met on the train.  They had been really into the girls until they lit up their cigarettes and then they totally lost interest so they totally ditched the girls and came back to the hotel to tell us the tale.  I lay down next to Audrey and whispered Russian in her ear so she wouldn't miss Dennis too much.  It was a really fun day.  
The next day though was even better.  I woke up all chipper and ready to go but everyone one else was still asleep.  I had a great time annoying them with my sunny attitude as they stumbled into the bathroom when they finally got up.  I also got to feed more gingerbread crumbs to the pigeons on our balcony.  We had a lot of gingerbread!  When everyone was finally ready, we all headed down to the beach.  We found this cool little cave thing that was labeled вход in graffitti so we went exploring and discovered it was an entrance to the catacombs that go all under Odessa.  We explored a little ways all holding on to eachother in a chain because only Cees had a flashlight.  It was way creepy but awesome.  Then we went back and walked down to the beach.  I rolled up my pants and took off my shoes and went for a wade in the Black Sea so that I could say I did it.  Everyone else is going to wait for Crimea when it isn't quite so cold.  It was quite an experience wading in my coat.  We walked all the way down to Arcadia, the big beach.  Because it's still so cold, there wasn't really anything going on but you could tell that in the summer it will be hoping.  We caught the tram back to the train station where we were going to catch a marshuka to the catacombs.  We were all walking single file through the market and when we got to the bus it turned out Cees and Hazhir were gone.  When they finally caught up with us they said they had almost been arrested because Cees only had a copy of his passport.  Fortunately the cops were actually really nice and let him go after searching him.  Cees is finding that his pledge not to cut his hair in Ukraine is getting him into all sorts of trouble because he totally looks like a homeless weed smoker.  So we finally got on the bus and I started to freak because I was the one leading this exhibition and I was starting to think maybe my guidebook was wrong and we were on the wrong bus or maybe I'd miss the stop.  I was way stressed out and kept looking out the window so much that my face got sunburned on one side.  But everything went perfectly.  I saw the big statue and we all got off.  We saw our friends from the train as they were leaving.  Audrey got called, "My love" and Cees and Taylor got glares from the Ukrainian chicks they had ditched.  We went into the museum and were trying to figure out where we were supposed to pay and get the guide and whatever when we saw a door going down.  No one was anywhere around so we just headed down.  It lead down a bunch of steps into the catacombs.  This part (several miles north of the original place we went in) was the headquarters of the resistance movement in Odesa when it was under Romanian control in WWII.  Because the partizans could so effectively use these catacombs, the Germans had to send a lot of extra troops to the area to maintain some kind of control.  There were lights in this part and old Soviet stuff and models of how the people had lived down there.  We didn't know if we were supposed to be there or what we were supposed to do so we just explored around and had a great time.  We never saw another living soul.  We left and went to the bathroom at this cafe.  I was just about to go in when my family called so I stayed outside with everyone's stuff and apparently missed out on some local flavor when the guys inside offered to buy everyone in our group a drink.  We got back on the marshuka and rode back to Odesa.  Amanda and I wandered the market which was huge!!!  I got some fresh squeezed pomagranite juice from this guy that looked like Tevya.  It was way way good.  We went to the train station where I paid to use a squat toilet (extra for toilet paper) with sketchy stuff on the floor.  It was quite an experience.  We were really tired so we went over to the park to sit down and enjoy some cookies and crackers.  Then we got back on the train.  This time it was a really chill train full of old people so we were the ones getting yelled at to go to bed.  
The next morning, we woke up really early back in Kiev!  Sleeper trains are totally the best mode of transportation ever.  I wish I could do a sleeper train trip with the Schill family because it would totally replace car trips as the way to travel.  Because while it is really fun it has plenty of misery built the toilets that are forever out of paper and the water that you can't drink.  Anyways, I went home and met Vanya in the elevator on his way to school.  Then I met Volodya in the entry.  He asked how my trip was and said he was on his way to Kharkiv.  Then I put my stuff down.  Styopa caught a glimpse of me  from his highchair and yelled "Nannininn!  Idi sooda!  Nanninin!  Nanninin!"  He started yelling all sorts of stuff.  He wanted me to sit down but his dad was getting something from under the bench so he started yelling at his dad and then at me and then at his dad and then at me. Volodya and Natasha were laughing so hard.  Natasha told me the day before Styopa had spent half the day going to my bedroom and knocking at the door saying my name and no matter how many times they told him I wasn't there he'd head back and do it again.  I'm going to be really sad to leave him.  We talked about Odesa and then I played with Styopa.  I was totally exhausted so I told him I was going to bed.  He said, "No, here on Sasha's bed."  So I lay down with Styopa on Sasha's bed and he lay there for about a minute before he poked me and told me to sing.  He thought we were playing sleeping bunnies.  So we did for a few minutes then I told him I really had to go and went and got in bed and pulled the covers over my head and ignored him until he went away or I was dead to the world I'm not really sure which happened.  I got up a while later and went to the school.  I had to stop to buy sixty eggs for class.  The lady gave me a really weird look and asked me if it was for Easter.  The coordinator at the school explained how they do eggs.  They boil them with onion skins to make them red to represent Christ's blood.  When I got home, I was ordered about by Styopa until I got a classic Ukrainian dinner of kasha, fried fish, cabbage, and beetroot horseradish sauce (it's way good and is coming back to the US with me).  
This morning, I helped Styopa eat his food when Mattvei pooped.  Styopa does not like eating his food so Natasha has also sorts of tricks to get him to do it.  So as soon as she left he got up to go play.  I said, "Нет! Кушай!"  (Styopa, eat!)  He said no and went to get up so I got down close to him and said, "Если ты не кушаешь кашу, Баба Яга будет кушать тебя." (if you don't eat your kasha, Baba Yaga will eat you.)  He looked at me in terror but started to eat.  When he would want to play again I would say, "Хочешь Баба Яга тебя кушать?"  (Do you want Baba Yaga to eat you?)  When he got bored and finally answered "Да", I said nibbled his hand and said,  "Я кушала тою руку, если ты не кушашь я буду кушать тою ногу" (I ate your hand, if you don't eat I will eat your leg too.)  He finished his kasha and Natasha was very impressed.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

First week back and thoughts...

So, my first week back was actually terribly miserable.  I got the flu with all the trappings and then gave it to my host mom for which if I could have felt more miserable I would have because she didn't need anything else to add to her stress.  But teaching actually went well, mostly because everytime anyone ticked me off I just gave them a big wet willy kiss and then they haven't been back since...hahaha (not really).  We did have an awesome April Fool's Day.  We arranged the room mirror image backwards with the chairs on the opposite side and then calendar going backwards.  The kids got really confused.  The best was when I asked what yesterday was an pointed to the sign on the left and it said Thursday.  Sasha gave me this look that just said oodles.  And then we all did the actions to the songs backwards.  Head sholders knees and toes was a riot.  Then I told my maintenance class that all games had been outlawed and we were just going to read.  They freaked.  Then I made them read my dad's finance text book that he'd sent me.  They really freaked.  They kept asking, "You say you this rule?"  And I would just just sign and say, "Tanya.  You know she's really mean."  They were so mad when I told them it was a joke.  Then I taught them magic tricks so they forgave me.
Thursday, I went to Russian class and learned to pray in Russian which was way exciting.  On the way home there was this lady that was laughing at us on the metro she thought it was so funny that we spoke English.  After we got off the metro she disappeared until I got to my building then all of a sudden she was back.  Turned out she lives in our building.  She invited me out for a coffee or a beer.  I politely declined and spent a sober night drinking pretend cok with Styopa.
Friday, I went to Petrivka and looked at books.  I bought a poster map of Ukraine with historically important people on it from this really cute old man who helped me get change for a 200 grivna note.   And I got Crime and Punishment in Russian.  It's amazing...the names make sense when they are written in Cyrillic.  That night we went to game night at the Branch Presidents.  I played Cranium and had to act out gravity and tofu and decided I should stick to the Creative Cats.  Then on the way home I tripped over a cinder block.  It went rolling and this guy in a cab by us yelled, "You break Ukraine!!!" (in English)  It was hilarious though I now have a giant scratch on my leg that sends Styopa running for the air pump every time he sees it.  (He uses the air pump to pretend to be a doctor).
Apparently, though that was a bit too much for me.  I was up all night with a fever so the next morning I was exhausted.  I also hadn't eaten anything in a few days so I could barely stand.  But it didn't stop me from going to the Museum of the Great Patriotic War (WWII).  It was fascinating.  WWII was really really awful for Ukraine.  Not only were they part of the USSR which suffered the most losses of any country (20 million people out of the 60 million lost in the war), but Ukraine was actually occupied which meant they also experienced the holocaust with the added terror that Hitler hated Slavic people and communists.  The museum was really well set up and powerful even though we couldn't understand most of it.  I could read a couple of the journals and it was just really sad.  It was really interesting to see the war from another angle.  Because I don't think we really remember that the Soviets were really on our side during WWII because the cold war started before WWII was even over and because they were fighting on the Eastern front while we were more on the Western Front with France and England.  I'm really excited for May 9th now (and not just because I will finally get fireworks on my birthday like Erin) but because apparently there are big WWII commemoration celebrations.  
Then we went to the school to learn how to make borshch and vareniki.  They were really fun and delicious.  I can't wait to make you all Ukrainian food.  Though I'm going to really miss the cheese and the smetana and with out them it won't quite be the same.
That night, Megan and I went to her house for the день рождения дедушки (our Grandpa's birthday).  He had a fun time teasing me and telling me that the rest of the food was for me.  I got a great opportunity to whine in Russian which really cracked him and the Grandma up.  They tried to make us drink martinis which was exciting.  The food was beautiful and all really interesting.  The mushrooms were probably my favorite and Yoova told me with pride that they had gathered them themselves in the forest...good think none of them were poisonous.  Then I got to help Styopa down 9 flights of stairs which was fun.  Then we went home and Vanya and I finished watching Robots.  
Monday, I learned that what my Russian book said about loosing hot water in the summer is true and apparently it's our turn.  For the next two weeks, we get to use the electric kettle for any warm water.  Vanya and I had a fun time trying to get water the right temp to wash our faces.  The cold water is really really cold.  
Tuesday, I played with Styopa all morning and I got to eat Styopa kasha.  Dang that kid eats well!  I could totally live on that stuff. It's like grains in kefir with sugar, kind of like rice pudding.  then I went to school in a jacket and capris!!!!!!  Это весна!!!!!!!  I'm so excited.  
So this morning I was working on my scholarship essays and it really struck me how much has happened to me in the last year that I would never have expected.  I can remember on my birthday last year going to breakfast with Daddy and picking out my computer and talking about how great BYU is and stuff that would happen.  I didn't know any of the people that I was going to me at Zion Ponderosa, I didn't know any Russian, I didn't know how freaking amazing my roommates were really going to be, and I didn't know I was headed to Ukraine.  I was really sad not to be 18 any more because I thought 18 had been the perfect age for me.  But 19 has been the most AMAZING year or my life.  I have met so many amazing people, done so many fun things, learned to read another alphabet, and learned another language well enough to talk to babooshki on the metro.  It's so crazy!  Those are my thoughts...that and that I LOVE UKRAINE!!!!!!!  And Styopa...  and Vanya...  and all the the Zhdanovs... and my fellow teachers...  and Aimee...  and Emily...  and Erin... and of course Stuart...  if Mommy and Daddy don't know I love them they are crazy...  and  all my other friends back at home...  I LOVE LIFE!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Eastern and Central Europe in a week continued

So we went to Hungary and drove all the way to Budapest.  We went on this tour with this guide who was one of the most monotone people ever.  But then we had free time.  We got off the bus and walked to the Hero's Square where there was a big World Peace Day demonstration going on.  Then we went to a hookah cafe for Turkish food it was really good and very in keeping with the hippy bohemian day we were having.  Then went to try to go back to our hotel but the bus we had been told we could take didn't exist so we ended up asking a million Hungarians and then taking a couple taxis.  Our driver was really cute and let us stick 5 people in the car.
The next day I had goulash for breakfast.  We got on the bus and went to Austria.  Vienna is a really beautiful clean city.  Our tour guide was really funny.  He explained why Austria developed so differently from Germany.  Because it was a catholic state so it developed with a much more philosophic approach to life.  He showed us where Hitler spoke and explained why he doesn't likes Sound of Music.  Then we went to a cafe and had apfelstrudel.  Then we got back on the bus and got lost for several hours so it was really late when we got to Prauge.
We got on the bus and went to Prague.  We met up with our tour guide who was really nice and showed us all around the city and we got to see the famous clock go off at noon.  And then he took us to a brewery for a Czech lunch.  It seemed appropriate since Prague is famous for being the beer drinking capital of the world.  The average person drinks a liter and a half a day.   Then we went to the Mucha and Dali museum and saw amazing art.  Then it started to snow/slush so we went into a chocolate shop for some shelter and tried some samples.  Yum.  Then we went to an internet cafe and I emailed home.  Then we met up with the group to go on a boat tour down the Valtava river.  It was really fun and beautiful because it was right at sunset. Then we went to the hotel and tried to play some games together but we were all so tired it didn't really work.  
Then we went to Dresden.  It is a weird ghost town like city.  But I got to see some cool buildings and eat a real German brawtwurst.  
We went back to Prauge, toured the other side of the river where the palace is.  It was beautiful.  The weather was so nice we all got sunburned.  We walked across the bridge.  Then we got back on the bus where we started to go crazy after 5 hours of Russian soap opera.  We got to the Polish boarder and I couldn't find my passport.  I thought it must be under the bus in my backpack but when I got to the hotel, it wasn't there.  People started telling me I was going to be deported, that I would have to stay in Krakow alone, that I would have to go to Warsaw for two weeks...basically Ukrainians are really mean about passports.  I really wanted to cry.
The next morning we went to figure out what to do.  We went to a police station and the police man was really nice.  He told us where the consulate was.  We went and I was able to get an emergency passport in 40 minutes.  We made it back just in time to meet up with the group and buy a Polish bagel thing and get on the bus.  I now hate Poland.  When we got to the border, we had problems filling out the forms wrong and so it took along time to cross.  We were running really late when we headed out.  So the Ukrainians told us to sing hymns and the bus driver took off.  We were flying down badly paved roads in rural Western Ukraine praying for our lives.  It was ridiculous.  But we made it to the train 3 minutes before it took off.  I was totally out on the train until the next morning.  
The next morning, we got off the train and I COULD READ SIGNS AGAIN!!  And I COULD UNDERSTAND PEOPLE TRYING TO SELL ME THINGS!  I was so happy I wanted to run and jump and skip!  I love Kiev!  We rode the metro home.  I tried to call them to tell them I was coming but no one answered so I was afraid how I would be recieved by a sleepy household.  But when I got to the door and buzzed up you could hear the heartbreaker smile in Vanya's voice when he said, "Annilyn?"  When they opened the door.  Styopa mauled me.  For the rest of the day he would not leave me alone.  He even stood outside the door when I went to the bathroom.  That night, Vanya, Misha, Volodya, Megan, Styopa, and I headed в лесу (to the forest) for shashlik (Ukrainian barbeque).  We played Volleyball, ate bootterbrod (open faced sandwiches), chopped wood, and then had the actual shashlik.  After that we had tea and chocolates and the boys sang to us and played the guitar.  It was really really fun.  Unfortutuantely we ran out of gas so we had to walk home.  I carried Styopa.  It was a beautiful night.  

Monday, March 30, 2009

Eastern and Central Europe in a week

So I just got back from our crazy week long tour of is the story though I'm going to have to do it in parts because it's a really long story.
It all began on Friday when I decided that Я люблю семью Жданов!  Меgan brought over her gift for the baby, a hat for the baby and a hat for Styopa she had crocheted.  We played with Styopa, he was being his adorable self.  Then we went to the пошта where the lady was actually helpful.  Then we went to school.  I made towers, DI style with spaghetti and cups and toothpicks with the kids.  I played Who am I with Maintenance and they thought it was pretty funny.  I got to trot out all of my Russian pop culture knowledge as I made up the names.  Misha was Вини Пух, Vanya was Чебурашка, Liza was Ранетки, and Valera was Taylor (their other teacher).  When we went home, Vanya annouced with glee that it was каникули! (Vacation). So he and Sasha were all excited we discussed baby names, looked at a magazine, translated a book of sayingings and had Styopa wet his pants and sit on me like 4 times.  It came time for dinner and we didn't have anything to eat because Volodya is in charge of buying food so Natasha won't have to and the man only eats apples and peanuts so he's not the best at shopping.  So we found a bag of a couple frozen plemeni and all got an apple.  We were still starving when we finished so I got out my crackers from school and we had a snack as we watched Jane Eyre in Russian.  I fell asleep in the middle because it was such hard work to listen to the Russian.  It really was a great night.  I was kind of really sad that I would be leaving the next day. 
So the next day I got up and packed and played with Styopa. We made up two new games Кастор (fire, but it sounds much more menacing in Russian).  First we had to use a two man saw of hands to saw the wood and then we had to chop it and then built the fire and lit it, blew it, and then we cooked the shashlik.  The other game was What animal am I?  Styopa or I would name an animal and I would pretend to be a лошадь, лягушка, слонь or белка.  I was impressed at my own knowledge of animals in Russian...all thanks to Styopa I think.  So then we had breakfast, oladi made of everything but flour because we didn't have any...I'm not sure Volodya doing the shopping is making anything easier.  So then I played with Styopa and then I had to go.  I got up to go and Natasha called everyone together.  Vanya said, "Sit down!"  So I sat kind of awkwardly in the entry way.  I tried to ask, "What are we...?"  but only got the response, "DON'T TALK."  (It's a Ukrainian tradition to have a moment of silence before a journey.)  After that I left and went to the Фора for supplies and then I went and met Megan.  It didn't feel real.  We lugged our чемоданы в вокзал на метро. It was not fun.  And we got there really early but we met up with Amanda and Audrey so we all went to McDonald's for some last warm food and a bathroom.  Then they gave us out our ticket in groups.  Megan and I were supposed to be together.  But when we got on the train, not only were none of the groups actually together but one girl was by herself in a room of random Ukrainians.  She was freaked and wanted to be with her friends in my cabin so I agreed to switch...and those who are kind and charitable like me are blessed, that train ride was one of my favorite things on the trip.  The lady on the bed across from me helped me put my coat and stuff away and then asked where I was going.  I said Hungary she got confused but we finally figured it out.  Then she asked, "Ты студентка?"  (are you a student?)
I answered, "Да, но сейчас я преподаватель англиского языка."  (yes, but right now I'm an English teacher).  
She said, "Oh, you speak very well in Russian!"  It really doesn't take a lot to impress these people.  She started talking to me like I really knew Russian.  It turned out she was really Ukrainian and said I should be studying Ukrainian because it's prettier.  I tried to explain it was hard to find a teacher.  She said, "I will teach you."  So randomly through the trip, she would tell me Ukrainian words and make me repeat.  I took a short break from Valentina and went and played Up the River Down the River with Taylor, Megan, Amanda, Cassidy and Megan.  I won by a hair.  Then I talked to some people.  Then I went back to my room.  Valentina and I talked about everything, Ukraine, my family, her family, the Carpathian mountains, children, icons, religion, the Book of Mormon, how I needed to get a boyfriend that was older than me and taller, how I didn't look American, really everything.  Half of it was going over my head too.  Then she got out dinner and told me to eat.  I got to try chicken on bread, pickles, eggs, and kielbasa all from her dacha.  It was awesome but I couldn't eat fast enough to please her.  It was really awesome.  Then she sent me to get tea and I didn't know where to go.  I asked the coordinator and she got all confused about how I knew I supposed to get tea and what I was doing talking to a Ukrainian lady.  She didn't know I could speak Russian.  Then I went to the bathroom which was creepy and nasty.  Then Valentina was asleep so I hung out with the obnoxious Americans.  Finally I went back to my room and all the Ukrainians were asleep.  I went to sleep too.
In the middle of the night, the train stopped suddenly and a water bottle fell on my face and I got a royal bump.  Everyone woke up.  Valentina made me watch the Carpathian mountains out the window.  I went to the bathroom and came back and saw Megan and was headed to talk to her and I heard from my room, "Елена!  Идий суда!"  (Elyena (my Russian name) Come here!) I swear Russians love to boss me around.  She showed me some classic Slavic houses.  Then she started singing in Ukrainian.  It was unreal.   Just as I was falling asleep the lady in the top bunk started sleep talking in Ukrainian, weird.  Oh, yeah I forgot to mention that they were all sleeping in their was quite an experience. 
The next morning, we woke up.  Valentina gave me some pumpkin seeds which I could not manage gracefully so I would just eat them whole when she wasn't looking.  But I had to crack some of them because everyonce in a while she'd hold out the trash bag to me for the shells.  Finally we got to Чоп and got on the bus.  We drove the boarder of Ukraine and Hungary where we waited forever and Taylor (our token male on the trip) found out his Ukrainian roommates were smugglers as we saw the boarder control tear the seats out of their car and 100 packs of cigarettes fell out.  To be continued.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Okay, I'm going to attempt to keep this short.  Basically, the big news is my host mom had a baby!!!!!!   It was really weird when it happened because Natasha finished cooking dinner, called us all in and then we started eating and she said, "It's so sad that we're all here and I have to leave but that's life.  Poka!"  I turned to Sasha and said, "Where is going?  To the store?"  She said, "No, to the hospital."  "TO THE HOSPITAL?????? As in the woman is having a baby???"  "Yeah."  I was aghast that she was in labor and finished cooking dinner and then took a marshuka to the hospital.  Vova put everyone to bed and then left in the car, I assume to meet her.  The next morning Vanya announced "We have a brother!"  That evening Natasha was home and I got to see the baby.  He's adorable.  We don't have a name for him yet.  Vova wants Valera. Natasha want Timosha.  Styopa calls it Anton.  Sasha calls it Slava.  Vanya wants Yura.  My vote is Yaroslav Vladimirovich Zhdanov though Vanya said we should name it Annilyn but I said that's not a boy's name.  
I made a quilt on a duck tape and boards frame.  All of the frame came from dumpster diving.  One piece I think might have been a hoe used by some peasant at the time of Prince Vladimir.  It turned out really well.  The baby now sleeps under it.
Styopa has been way way cute.  I'm going to be sad to leave him when we go on vacation next week.  He and I have found a new game, Баба Яга! (baba yaga) one of us is Baba Yaga and scares the other one.  His real Baba came over and he said "Baba, Baba!" and started making scared faces.  She was all confused until I said, "Baba Yaga?"  and he said, "Da".  Zina said, "Я не Баба Яга, я твоя хорошая Баба!"

Monday, March 16, 2009


Оk so the title says, "I LOVE KIEV AND RUSSIAN AND BABOOSHKAS AND EVERYTHING HERE!!!!" If you can't guess I'm really happy with life right now. Kiev pretty much is my favorite place ever and I can't remember why a month and a half ago I ever didn't like it. Oh yeah, I've been here two months which I have decided is not a reason to celebrate since it means I am a month closer to going home, not that I don't want to come home I just don't want to be done with Kiev.
So, monday I told the maintenance kids futures with the cards like the kings game. It was great. I wore my headscarf like a gypsy and we found out that Liza loves Misha. Valera is going to kill his brother and marry his sister in law. And I'm meant to marry Valera so maybe I'm the sister in law. It gave us lots to talk about and was awesome.
Tuesday, was a really happy day. I got to chat with Deidre and Sarah which was great. I played with Styopa and Vanya got ticked with me because I was singing while he was trying to do homework. His ticked voice is really cute. Then we had варенки с капустой. Maybe my favorite thing here. Then I played with Stypoa and was making different birdcalls. He did not want to go to bed but Natasha said he had to. He said, "Я спи сууууда!" (Styopian for I will sleep here) and he lay down on Sima (the cat) and waved his hand for me to continue entertaining him. Natasha and I could not contain our giggles. Finally he got off to bed and I helped Vanya with his math which was hard because Russians do everything differently so I had to translate the problems into American and then figure out what to do.
Wednesday, I woke up and the sky looked like the Ukrainian flag outside my window and it was actually warm. I went with Megan and Amanda to souvenir street. I got a Ukrainian shirt!!! I can now actually look like I'm out of a Russian fairy tale. It's way way way cool with the national pattern of Ukraine embroidered up and down the sleeves. I had a bunch of people compliment me on my taste in lacquer boxes again though I think it really annoyed them because I really liked looking but I clearly didn't have the money to buy the ones I was looking at. And I was actually thinking I might buy one so I was only pointing at the small ones. But I have a knack for picking out Soviet master miniature painters whose work cost hundreds of dollars at any size. I think I'm going to talk to Eugene about getting some blank dolls and stuff and painting my own. We wandered into St Andrew's Catherdral where they were ordaining a new priest. It was way cool to watch. After that we went down artist's alley and Megan and I were art nerds together critiquing the compositions and lauding the techniques. Then we went up through the park down to Khreshadik where we caught the metro back to the school. At the school, Megan and I freaked Audrey when we had a half Russian conversation about our plans for the next day. "Ты хочешь идти в пошта?" "Что?" "Пошта." "When?" "Зафтра." "Да, да!" "Хорошо." (Do you want to go to the post office? What? Post office. When? Tomorrow. Yes! Okay good.) Audrey just stared at us like you all are insane. That night we had shashlik that Vova had made! YUM!!!! Vanya was quizzing me on words in Russian. I knew a lot of them which frusterated him because he wanted to know more than me. So then he started asking random words he knew but I didn't like moon. I turned around and asked him 'fridge'. He said, "I do not know. But you don't know in Russian" I said, "Actually I do. Холодилник!" He was way impressed and every 5 minutes for the rest of the meal he would ask, "What is word?" And point at the fridge. And I would say, "Fridge, Vanya" And he would repeat it to himself a few times before going back to eating. He's such a funny kid. Natasha and Sasha also had a funny converstation about Lenin that night. Sasha kept trying to hold her hand out like Lenin and Natasha would say, "Нет! Это Гитлер!" (No! That's Hitler!!!) The idea of making Lenin look like Gitler (that's how they say it here) was really offensive to Natasha. She and Sasha got into a discussion of whether or not Lenin was a good guy. Sasha's vote was that he was bad, Natasha was all for him though against Stalin. It was fascinating to listen to them. I love eves dropping here.
Thursday, I almost wrote that nothing happened, but no, something happens every day here. Thursday, we were singing Old McDonald and Kyrill was choosing the animals. He's just barely started with us so he doesn't know that much English so the other kids were whispering suggestions. Igor whispered "Zombie, zombie." Megan said, "Zombie is not an animal. It has to be an animal." So Igor started saying, "Zombie cat. Zombie cat." So Kyrill turned to me and said "Zoombie Kat". I said, "Okay." The other teachers and kids and stuff made "oooooh ooooh" sounds but I threw my arms up like a zombie and proceeded to make the sound of an undead cat. It was like a howl scream totally cat thing. All of the teachers started laughing so hard we could barely make it through the rest of the songs. The story is now famous because all of the teachers have been telling everyone how I did the most amazing zombie cat noise ever. They keep asking me to recreate it but I don't think I could if I tried. Zombie animals have now been banned from Little America School.
Friday, I went to Петривка a metro station with a book market. Megan's host mom had told us about it. We wandered up and down the rows of stalls of books and dictionaries, and DVDs. I got some stickers for my kids. We wandered for a loooooong time. and finally came to the end of the stalls. We turned to go back to the metro and saw there were more ROWS of books. We went into the used book area and found all sort of amazing things. We found books in every language. I got a book of Сказки that has Little humpbacked pony, firebird, Tsar Sultana, and a bunch of others in Russian. It's awesome. And I found a book of Skazki from the Urals that has malichite casket and such in English. I got both books for less than $2 from this little old man granted they are both old Soviet age books but they are awesome. Then we went to go get Megan a purse. She wanted the one in the window so I had to ask the lady if we could see it. Then the zipper was broken. Megan showed the lady who turned to me and said, "She wants this purse? I have it in other colors." When I said she really wanted the blue one, the lady said, "Ладно, часто." She tried to fix it but it didn't work so I she came back and started talking to me about going to see this master and waiting. And I said, "Maybe tomorrow?" She said no we should just wait a few minutes. She herded everyone out of her shop and motioned for us to follow her out. She took us over to this belt fixer guys shop and we waited while he replaced the zipper completely. It was very exciting. That night, Taylor played volleyball with Maintenance, so when I came to teach them, the whole room stunk of Ukrainian boy (most of it was coming from Vanya). I could hardly breathe. That night, I went home and got in the elevator with this guy that looked like a Russian mafia boss. Right as I got in he turned to me and said "What floor?" I thought, if I answer he'll totally know I'm American and kill me! If I don't answer he'll be frusterated and kill me! I decided to go with the answering option so I said, "Шестой." He pushed the six button and the doors closed. That was when I remembered our light in the elevator is broken. I had to stand in the dark with this terrifying big man and count the flashes of light as we past the different floors praying the whole time that I would make it out alive. When the doors opened. I leapt from the elevator. I think the mafia boss dude probably just thought I was weird but I was terrified.
Saturday, I got up early, I could hear Styopa calling me through the door but I had wedged it shut with a shirt. I got up to let him in and found I couldn't open the door. I called back, "Styopa I'm coming." as I tried to fight the door open. It was really stuck. Vova came and got Styopa and I was still fighting with the door. I couldn't figure out how to tell him I needed him to push on the door so I just had to keep fighting with it. Finally I got it open and went off to the Relief Society party. It was fun. Then Megan and I went to the Украина mall. Where I found Анастасия (Anastasia!!!!!) We went tot the end of the red line to the market. We wandered for a long time in the slush. When we finally found the building, we were exhausted. We wandered through a few rows of very very very Russian coats (if I was staying here, I would totally get one but I think I'd stand out at BYU) then we found a bench and flopped down next to some babushki and people watched. We finally mustered the strength to walk and went back out to the real market and bought a kilo of cookies because we were stupid Americans and I don't know how to stay a fourth of a kilo so the lady got confused and just gave us a kilo. Fortunately they were AMAZING!!! I am currently eating a Ukrainian Tim Tam Slam (Passionate Kisses) with them and they are the best ever!!!!! I might have to bring back a kilo because they totally have even Tim Tams beat. They are thick cookies dipped in a lot of dark Roshen chocolate with little crunchies in it. YUUUUUUMMMMMMMM!!!!!! Take that with a glass of Milo...yum. Then we went to McDonald's for the free bathrooms (everywhere else here you have to pay and it's extra for toilet paper sometimes). Then we went to Palatz Ukraina where we met Anna and Misha (Megan's host family). They got in for free because some guy though Misha was cute (if only he knew...) We lucked out too and got 80hr tickets for 40 so we were sitting put close for 5 bucks. It was an awesome show, Украинский хор (Ukrainian Choir). But it wasn't just singing. They all wore traditional costumes and did dances and we got to hear a bandoora (Ukrainian national instrument). It was AWESOME!!! Megan and I were taking lots of pictures. At intermission I heard the guy next to us say, "The girls next to us are foreigners." At the end of the show we got up to leave and he cornered us in the hall on the way out and was saying something about "страна" (country). I said, "Я не понимаю" (I don't understand) which is usually enough to get them to leave you alone. He repeated, "What country are you from? Latvia? Estonia? Oh! I know you're German!" I said, "О, мы американки!" (Oh, we're American) I was tickled pink that he wouldn't immediately assume we were American, though actually a lot of people think Megan and I are German maybe because more Germans come here than Americans or maybe because we aren't your typical obnoxiously loud Americans. Anyways, this guy asked us if we like the show and I said, "Да, это очень хорошо". We went home on the metro. Misha told us this story he made up. It totally sounded like a Russian fairy tale. He and I also had a discussion about Кназь Владимир which I totally want to get ahold of. He said he'd help me understand it. So we need to get together and watch it. That night, I watched the first part of Anastasia. It's awesome!!!!!! It makes me so happy.
Sunday, I got up early so I could ride back the three stops to the beginning of the green line so I could say I rode the whole thing in one shot. When I got back to our stop, a little babooshka got on and sat down next to me. She saw my notecards for Russian and said, "Oh I have those for German! What are you doing?" I said, "Я изучаю русский язык. (I am studying Russian.)" She looked at me and said, "На каком язык, вы говорите?"(What language do you speak?) I said, English and she went off about everything. She would lean over and pat my hand and whisper conspiratorially to me in Russian as if we were best friends. She told me all about how she was going to visit her brother who had the flu. She said, "Я буду сказать ему что я познакомусь американский преподаватель англиского языка кто зовут Аннилин. И она изучает русский язык." (I am going to tell him that I met an American English teacher who was named Annilyn and she's studying Russian.) But she said, "It's hard for us to say your name what is your Russian name. You should be named Elyena. That's my granddaughters name. It sounds like Annilyn, yes?" I have now, looked that up on a Russian baby name sight (you can't find Russian names on English sites) and Tanya (that was her name) was inspired because Elyena totally describes me. The first thing it said was, "Elyena loves fairy tales." So yeah, my name is now Елена (which is the name of the princess in the Firebird). Oh yea, so when she left, Tanya leaned over and said some long farewell patted my hand again. I said, "До свидания" and she left. Then, I went to church. I actually got to go to sunday school. When I went home, I made Key Lime Pie. They all were fascinated. After I baked baked it, Vanya stuck a knife in it and then licked it and you saw his face light up. Later, when he actually got a piece he was pulling all sorts of controrted sour faces. I said, "Is it good or not?" He said, "Yes?" Sasha said, "Vanya, you dork. She said, Хорошо или плохо и ты сказал ДА" He said, "It's so sour I can't think." It's was funny. I also watched Anastasia with them in Russian with English subtitles. It was funny because we got to the "There's A Rumor in St. Petersburg" and Sasha said, "This isn't Russian, is it?" They also thought it was funny to have Rasputin sell his soul to the devil and cause the Revolution. That's giving his role way too much importance. When we finished they said, "That was...interesting."
This morning, I got to listen to Barratino (Russian Ponochio) told to Styopa. It was really fun.