*** NEW PHOTOS WILL BE UP ON THURSDAY!!! I'll try to label them before Monday!***
Apparently I have given my readers the wrong impression. Some have (wrongly) assumed that life in Russia (or at least Vladimir) is always exciting... I assure you its not. I do not post blogs frequently, because of the lack of material to post blogs about!
Most days are incredibly hum-drum. On top of that, we have not had sunlight in more than a month. The sun rises at around 0830 and sets around 1545 (3:45 pm). Everyday is as equally bleak and grey as the day before. Though the weather has been hanging around 35 degrees (F). The monotony typically runs like this:
Around 0745 I wake up and shower. I then get to hear my hozaika (host) complain about something (usually: 1 That she didn't sleep well, 2 That she is poor). As soon as I have finished eating breakfast, my hozaika typically feels compelled to yell at me... Usually that I need to go, lest I be late to class.
I then set-off for class around 0840, and arrive at about 0855.
Classes run in 50 minute blocks (with 10 minute breaks) until 1150, when when have lunch. We at lunch in a cafeteria in the basement of the school. After our 40 minute lunch we have two more classes.
Classes release at 1420. After classes, I might make the 10 minute hike to the internet cafe. If not, I go home.
As there is almost nothing to do at home, I try to go out as often as possible. One of the services provided with the program, is that we all have free tutors. If I go out with my tutor (she is 21, and a student) we might go sit in a cafe and talk for a couple of hours. We, of course, only speak Russian.
Barring the exception that I go out, I typically sit in my room. I can read either read grammar or practice phonetic transcriptions. As I said, we have 3 TV channels, so that is not a great option. My hozaika is usually busy watching her soap operas, or gossiping on the phone.
I have dinner when she feels like cooking. In the last week this time has varied from 1545-2000.
Taking a nap can be a real hi-light of my afternoon.
I usually get to bed at about 2300, and the day ends.
Now, to be honest, I go out probably about 4-5 days of the week. I do not have time enough for all of the social obligations that I have made! So I cannot say that the above is too typical for me.
Not all of my twelve colleagues have been so fortunate. Many of them spend day-after-day in their rooms. Some listen to music, watch TV, or sleep. Russia can really become tremendously depressing if you don't find hobbies. If you enjoy soccer, art or basketweaving in the States, find people with like interests here in Russia!
It is simply impossible to spend all of your free time studying. A lot of my colleagues are really, really homesick. Some have become rather disenchanted with Russia. Some have discovered why Russians drink so much. A couple have began smoking in order to have something to do, to kill time (seriously). It is remarkable what Russia does to people.
What advice would I give to other students coming to Russia? "Make hay while the sunshines!" When I first got here I went out as often as I got the chance. I wanted to meet as many people as possible before the winter and darkness set-in. This has greatly improved my experience in Russia.
I have to say that the Catholics in Vladimir have been really nice. They invite me to things all the time. I spend every Friday night with the youth group. I can be sure that for four hours, I will speak/read nothing but Russian. The three (practicing) Protestants in my group also spend a ton of time with their church groups. They have also had a really good experience.
What else has been good to break-up the monotony? Having a girlfriend! That is probably the single best advice I can give to an American student coming to Russia: Find a girlfriend/boyfriend! Your Russian will improve more speaking to your girlfriend/boyfriend for one hour, than it would improve in four hours of studying!
More later! Remember: PICTURES on THURSDAY!!!!