1. Final post

    Well we’ve just come back from St. Petersburg. I enjoyed sightseeing, especially when they let us off our leashes to view the city at our own pace. There were many beautiful things to see in the city, many of which I have taken pictures of. Unfortunately, seeing as we only stayed four days and many places of interest closed early in the afternoon, I did not get to see most of the exhibitions I was interested, particularly the war museums. In any case, here are the pictures I have taken of St. Petersburg.

     

  2. This past week was another slow week. It’s coming down to crunch time for the final assignment of this last class. One of the only note-worthy things I took part in this week was a short trip to Victory Park on Polonnaya Gora. This site marks the hill where Napoleon waited while his troops surrounded Moscow. We were supposed to get some pictures to demonstrate what we had learned about photography during that morning’s lecture. Have a look.

    The camera on my phone is rather limited, but I think these turned out to  be fairly decent shots.image

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    We also visited a language school early in the week where each of the American’s gave a short presentation about our life in America. We also had some entertaining conversations with the Russian students there.

     

  3. Adventure packed weekends

    First off, let me apologize for not posting last weekend. The Internet was entirely down. Contrary to popular belief, though, it did not make us more productive. Some of us, including me, did go to Izmylovski Park for some souvenir shopping and general sight-seeing. While there, I finally picked up the last of the souvenirs I need for friends and family, and can now focus on getting souvenirs for myself.

    This weekend was considerably more fun. We went to the zoo on Saturday. Seeing the animals was neat, but it was fairly sad to see how bored and underfed they were. Sunday we went by train to the monastery Sergei Placad. We didn’t stay very long, because most of the buildings were under renovation. What we did see were some beautiful examples of Russian architecture.

     

  4. A day at the embassy

    This week was educational. As the title indicates, we went to the American Embassy. While there we had an hour and a half meeting with the people in the Agricultural Department. We learned the details about some of the recent struggles in Russia’s agricultural economy after the collapse of the Soviet Union. We also learned that the work done by the Agricultural Department in the US Embassy centers around educating the Russian farmers about energy efficiency and management of a farm’s resources. All in all, it was a very interesting day.

     

  5. Food Week

    As the title implies, most of my experiences of this past week have revolved around food. Early in the week we went to a Starlite diner. The milkshakes here are definitely the best I’ve ever had and the burger was the most interesting creation I’ve ever seen. There is a picture of it attached to this post. I also took a picture of the meal I had at Goodman’s Steakhouse. The restaurant itself is modeled after what the Russian owners thought an American steakhouse would look like. As near as I can tell, they did a good job of it. The food, on the other hand, almost achieved an American look, but didn’t quite make it. For example, I ordered their American style fried chicken, to see what they thought American style fried chicken was. As I found out, the Russians are hazy on the difference between frying…and grilling. I have a picture of that meal attached as well. As a side note, I have never seen an American dish smothered with that kind of sauce before, especially with the peppers added in.

     

  6. Maslenitza

    This weekend, we had the opportunity to be exposed to a major part of Russian culture. I am talking about the holiday called Maslenitza. At first glance, it appears to be a holiday dedicated entirely to the pancake. There were pancakes a-plenty. But, in point of fact, Maslenitza is the celebration of the approach of Spring. Most Russians dressed up in colorful outfits, adorned flowers to their hair and clothes, and took part in singing and folk dances. I kept an eye out for alcohol and saw none, because as my mother says, “If there are flowers, dancing, and wine, someone is getting married, and you’d better check to make sure it isn’t you.” So that was a fun Russian experience.

     

  7. A night on the town

    Well this weekend was very fun. I didn’t participate in the walking around tourist activities that some of the others went on because these beds are giving me problems with my back. However, I did go to the bar with everyone else. A small number of the group, including me, chose to stay out all night, first at the bar, then at a 24 hour coffee house while we waited for the metro to open up and take us back to the hostel.

    While we were waiting for the tram, we experienced one of the dangers of being a tourist abroad. A small group of Russian teenagers got to talking with us, but it quickly got to the point of harassment. It eventually got so that it started feeling dangerous. Quite the downer for the evening but we did make it back to the hostel safe, and it reminded us to be careful and mindful of our surroundings.

     

  8. It’s been a rather slow week. We’ve started our second class, the energy management class. This one involves a lot of math, which I am very excited about. It’s been awhile since I could lord my superiority over the common plebs. We also went to the kvass factory and got to try some free samples. Kvass is still a pretty good drink, but I’m absolutely dying for some Guinness. The best beer I’ve had so far was a Czech Republic import called Kozel. It’s a very sweet tasting beer, I like it a lot, but I miss drinking stouts and ales. I’ve decided that the first thing I’m going to do when I get back home is make myself a meal of bacon and beer. In any case, here are a couple photos from the kvass factory.

     

  9. Writing…Writing never changes

    Last week was a mess. Two different agricultural seminar papers to write, plus the end of class leadership paper. The latter wasn’t so bad. 3 pages, research a leader in history and compare ourselves to said leader. It appears to be much more work than the seminar papers. Why, then, was it so much easier to write? Because I felt intellectually stimulated. I had to think about the information I was taking in, I had to understand it, and it was easier to relate to. I knocked out 3 pages in the snap of my fingers, and if I had taken more time to organize it better, I would’ve had more. The seminar papers dull. All I see are facts, of which I have less than minimal understanding. Knowing what anyone was talking about would require a background education that I simply do not have, and to be honest I’m simply not interested in it. So I got to thinking, we already replace the newsletter with the blog, and the seminar papers serve basically the same function as the blog. So why not do away with the weekly papers, and simply require two blog posts a week, without worrying about length or format? One post would be about the fun times we have in Russia, the other post would be about the agricultural field trips. Just a thought. Something I’ll put in the suggestions paragraph in the inevitable program review.

    This past week we went to a mushroom farm. Thus far I have been unable to find a website, so my paper about it may be a little thin. I also went to a hockey game, but found it a bit of a disappointment. I guess any game will seem boring if it is obviously one-sided. Seriously, I know very little about hockey, but even I could tell that the home team was not at all cohesive. Everyone else went to a second, and apparently more exciting, hockey game later in the week. I did not attend this one, because I will not let studying abroad be an excuse for me to fall down on my homework. I am more willing to miss fun times than I am to turn in a late assignment.

    Just yesterday, our teacher Marcus decided that he wanted to go to Hard Rock Cafe since he is going back to the States very soon. I and a few others went with him, while the majority of the students attended a concert. The Hard Rock Cafe was on Arbat Street. This was only my second time going that way, and it was much more lively this time. When someone asks me what I think of most when thinking of Moscow, it will be Arbat Street. We saw women with the most beautiful face paint. I thought they were wearing masks until I saw one smile. A little further down, we saw a group of what I thought were Scandinavians dressed in black leather, and dueling with swords. Street musicians and other performers were everywhere. I would most certainly enjoy going back on a less chilly night. Regrettably, I did not think to take pictures.

     

  10. New meaning to “strangely familiar”

    Potato chips are a common staple of American life (and if you’re from someplace other than America, I am referring to crisps). You can find them in every commissary, drugstore, and gas station in the US. We all recognize the flavors; sour cream and onion, barbecue, salt and vinegar, and, of course, original. I came to Russia and found many of the same flavors, though not all. Salt and vinegar was conspicuously absent, as was barbecue. However, I did see bacon flavored chips right away, and just today, my eye happened to fall on crab flavored Lays. This blew my mind, because something that was so familiar to me had just taken a twist for the strange.