Sunday, June 3, 2012

Buses and Potlucks

Number of Steps: 5349 (it was a bus tour… so it stayed pretty low today…I think)

So… things are starting to begin or beginning to start or whatever here in Mother Russia.  Last night we met downstairs in the rehearsal room to do a little orientation on ballet and classroom etiquette.  Let me tell you, 12 people is a much more manageable population than 20 (last year’s group).  I really think there’s going to be some good work from this group.  From there, we FINALLY got our internet access for the dorms (JT had accidentally been hoarding our login info), so I walked everyone through how to access that and we promptly sat around in a circle staring at our respective computer screens before making the decision to go out to The Темпл Вар for a while.  We did well with the ordering vodka portion of the evening, but the menu was a little difficult to manage, so the bartender teased us about ordering French fries… but after the fries had been ordered, he magically produced English menus.  Now that we know such marvelous things exist, we’ll definitely have to go back some time.  We called it a pretty early night as we ran back through the rain to the dorm about two blocks away.  The lady working the front door had been adamant about our bringing umbrellas – even giving us her umbrella – and she was definitely right to do so.  My den mother came out big time as I tsk-tsk-ed at all these adorable 20-year-old girls in their cute, going-out-in-Moscow outfits that they shouldn’t be wearing open-toed shoes in the rain.  I, of course, was severely underdressed, as I stuck with the jeans and sneakers part of life…but I’m the little old lady in the group, so I’m going for comfort, not for cute factor.  Still, it was a very fun first outing.

This morning I allowed myself the enormous pleasure of sleeping in until a little after 9:00 – that ended up giving me almost nine hours of sleep, which was delicious!  I continue to cautiously celebrate the group’s general lack of jetlag.  Go team!

At 1:00 we piled on a tour bus with the groups from Northern Illinois and Butler who are also here this month.  It was the same tour I took last year with the same tour guide, which actually ended up being kind of nice.  I didn’t feel the need to take every photo ever, I just allowed myself to listen to our guide and to really look at things.  Of course, the weather hasn’t been as warm this year as it was last year, and today has been pretty windy and overcast, so the tour involved a lot of shivering as well as a lot of running for shelter from the rain.  It seemed as if the skies opened up every time we got off the bus.  But still, it was a really good tour of the city.  We saw Red Square (St. Basil’s is still there… I think it missed me), Christ the Savior Cathedral, and the outlook at Sparrow Hill, while also driving by as many sites as humanly possible.  As for the other groups, there was the occasional crossover conversation, but more often than not, everyone seemed to stick with his or her own group.  I’m sure the fraternizing will increase as the month goes on.

The MIM Class of 2012 - note the foreboding skies...and the smiles!

Back on the home front, everyone enjoyed some much needed downtime before our Sunday night potluck.  I myself succumbed to a little jetlag (the only jetlag I am permitting on this trip, damnit!) and took a quick nap.

Things we learned at tonight’s potluck:
  • Шашлык (Shishke-bab) flavored chips… not my favorite
  • A package of pasta doesn’t feed as many people as you might think
  • Jet lag has finally arrived in a big way for a couple of our group members - one of whom fell asleep sitting up during our potluck meeting
  • So far this group is WAY more ambitious in the kitchen than last year’s
  • We’ve only been here two days, and a lot of people have had opportunities to really try to interact with some Russians – good job gang!
After the potluck we cleaned up and a few of us ventured into the hallway to look for the gym where we were stopped by a shirtless Russian student named Дима who was quite taken with some of the young ladies in the group.  We spoke in broken English and Russian for a little while as he tried to get the group to come watch a movie in his room with him.  A couple of his buddies happened along and tried to translate for him as well.  Ah… those Russian boys do love those cute young coeds… I, on the other hand, retreated from the smoke-filled stairway (Russians smoke in the stairways of buildings, so spending 30 minutes in a stairway means I now smell like I was just in a bar in the 1990s) and headed back to my room for a little bit o’ skype before bed.  Tomorrow… it begins in earnest.

On a side note, it’s definitely true what they say about teaching being the best way to learn something.  The more questions I’m asked about Moscow, the more I feel like I’m learning and retaining about Moscow.  And the more I think I should probably just come here every year…right?

Things I must admit:
  • Despite my 18 years of being a vegetarian, cooking bacon smells awesome – ahhh… dorm living.
  • I’m super glad that I don’t need coffee…it keeps this trip a lot cheaper.
  • I have no idea what to do about bringing back family souvenirs this year… since I kinda did the Russian kitsch thing to death last year.  I’ll have to get creative…

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