Friday, December 28, 2007

My Art Class

My parents have enrolled me into a new art class. It's down the street in a tiny yellow building. I can walk in about 5 minutes. The other art class I was taking at the International Academy was just crafts, and it was a Metro stop away and then 20-minute walk. I wanted a real painting art class, and I've found it just down the street. I had to buy a popka, which is a small suitcase that is very flat, and I put my painting in it so they won't get crumpled.

My teacher is Victoria Alexandrovna, a woman with long blonde hair in her 30's, I'd say. She usually wears a brown shirt and speaks a little English. She does not speak a lot with me though unless I really need it. She taught me how to use dark paints and make them look lighter without using white -- spread it around is the trick.

When I went there the first day, the teacher told my dad that the students had already wanted to be my friend. So when I got there, the students helped me and smiled at me and stood over me when I started painting. Even during the class a girl did not draw what she was supposed to, but used her pastels to draw a picture of me. Their attitudes towards me made me feel like I was appreciated. (see picture at right.)

My friends are Liza and Lyuba. Lyuba is 9, and on the first day she walked up to me and used her English. She said "Hello" and "What's your name?" and asked my age. I speak to her and everybody else in Russian.

I have painted fruit on a plate (see below), the Russian Santa Claus "Dyed Morozh" (Grandfather Frost) with his helper "Snegulyechka", and a pitcher with a cloth coming out of it and fruit around it (see top).

The session ended for break and will not come back for a couple of weeks. I am looking forward to the day when I return.

For my mom's perspective on this class, click here.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

My feelings, part 2. An interview with mom

Mom: Lydia, it's been two months since your blog entry on your feelings. Are your feelings about Russia different now?

Lydia: They are getting better -- very much better actually. My language is getting better, and I'm happy about that.

Mom: Before, you could only say "I do not understand". What kinds of things can you say now?

Lydia: Oh, lots. I can discuss where I live and what Metro station I'm at. I'm learning words for clothing and furniture. You might even say I can talk with other kids now. Better than before.

Mom: What do you think is helping you the most in your language?

Lydia: Well, for one thing, I take a dance class. Even though an American is teaching it, she does speak Russian sometimes, and going to church and listening to Russians speaking also helps my language. Today at church I was walking from one class to another, and I got to talk with a girl. I'm pleased to say that I understood almost everything she said.

Mom: Dad and I invited somebody each week to help you. Can you describe those experiences?

Lydia: My teacher is called Nastya. Every Monday night she comes. I get to go out on walks with her, and we talk and draw, which she likes to do and so do I. When she comes, she doesn't bring a workbook; we talk and play. No sweat.

Mom: What kind of games do you play with Nastya?

Lydia: We play games like Uno, only I have to do it by saying the colors and numbers in Russian. Every time we play hide and seek. I have to count in Russian too. We always count to 40 or something like that. Most of the time we get to draw, which is what I like the best. It's kind of like a double class -- art and Russian.

Lydia with Nastya at our computer. Nastya is a Harbor graduate. See our newsletters for more about The Harbor.

Mom: What are some of your frustrations?

Lydia: Sometimes my frustrations are being in crowded places, which I'm not used to, like in the Metro. And it is also tough to get from one place to another when the snow blows in your face. I guess you could say that even though my language gets better, my feelings do not. Some days are good; some days are not.

Mom: What's a bad day like?

Lydia: On a bad day, I feel gloomy and mopey. It feels like my room is crowded with thoughts of home. It's very hard sometimes.

My dance class

Recently I joined a liturgical dance class. If you're wondering what "liturgical dance" means, I will explain. "Liturgical dance" praises God with movement. Back in the States I used to perform with any group called His Handmaids. I feel very grateful that I'm able to participate in this dance class because I miss my old dance.

The group is practicing for a Christmas program at my church and another one at the school where my brothers attend, which is also run by my church. Dance class meets every Wednesday and Friday on the first floor of the school at the end of the hall. It's an hour long, but it seems very short. The class has girls from age seven to twelve and a little older. It includes some boys, but they are usually from seven and younger.

The teacher is an American lady who cannot speak a lot of Russian. For once I get to understand better than any of the other students. The lady is named Pam, and she is in Russia to visit her daughter who is expecting a baby. In the meantime, she started the dance class. My Russian is growing there because Russian is being spoken all around me.

At the beginning of dance class, we warm up by doing dance moves like sitting on the ground with our feet together and fluttering them or we lying our bellies and reaching around to grab our ankles. Dancing the songs and practicing them comes after the warm up. We stop and start frequently to get the moves perfect. I enjoy this dance class. I'm looking forward to the performances because I have enjoyed dancing in front of other people and in the class.

My Thanksgiving

For Thanksgiving, which most of you enjoy, we went my teammates' apartment -- the O'Byrnes. Mrs. O'Byrne had told us that the kids enjoyed dressing up, and I wanted to also. So imagine my surprise when they called and said, "Would Lydia like to be a Pilgrim?" My answer was, "Yes, of course!"

On Thanksgiving morning, I helped my mom prepare some foods, and they were all wonderful. We cooked apple/whortleberry relish, corn casserole, gravy, and muffins. We packed up the ingredients for glazed onions, raw carrot and apple salad and got ready to go the Metro. The backpack was heavy, and the Metro crowded. I was thankful to get a seat. Most of the foods did not get crushed, the muffins were a tinsy, winsy bit mushed.

When we arrived at the O'Byrne's apartment, immediately after I had removed my coat, mittens, scarf, and hat, the O'Byrne girls, Gillian and Karina, pulled me straight into their Plimouth Plantation makeover in the playroom. There was sheets hanging from the bunkbed acting like a cabin/tent with cardboard walls.
Inside the tent was a table with a platter on it, with stuffed animal rabbit acting "dead". Beside the rabbit were some other bowls and platters. Most of them had little beads in it acting as nuts. A fire made of playbricks was in the corner and roasting over it were empty ice cream buckets acting as pots with meat in it.

Outside of the tent was a table, and it had other pans. There were plastic eggs and also a pot with cotton bits and nuts beside it. In another corner was a bigger fire with a lamp in the center to make it look like a fire. Overhead hung a big red bag supposedly "meat".

Well, the O'Byrnes then fished me out of there and got me dressed into Pilgrim clothes. Karina, 11, and Liam, 8, dressed as Indians. My brothers also dressed as Indians. Gillian, 13, and I wore Pilgrim outfits. There were more Indians because at the first Thanksgiving it is said that the Indians outnumbered the Pilgrims. I had a very good time dressing up and playing in the Plimouth Plantation.

We gathered around the table. Boy, was I hungry, but I could only eat one plateful. That was unusual. We got to eat whortleberrry sauce. I sampled my first bit of turkey. I had never had turkey in my life. I did not like it, sadly. We ate corn casserole, muffins, carrot salads, mashed potatoes, and green beans with almonds.

l to r: Gillian, Liam, Lydia, Karina, Kerith, Lyle, Simon

After that we sang songs. First we sang hymns, then we did silly songs. After singing, we went back for dessert -- apple pie, pumpkin pie, and nut pie with ice cream. Then we played games.

My first Thanksgiving in Russia wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. It had a glamorous effect in my stomach. I missed all the things back at home that we used to do, but at least I had a good time here.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

My Hermitage Visit

For a field trip, my mom took me to the Hermitage that was the Winter Palace for the tsars in St. Petersburg. Now it is an art museum. We were going to look at the paintings. From the outside the Hermitage is green and designed with gold patterns. Inside the courtyard was a tiny park surrounded by gravel. When I walked into the courtyard, I felt like I was exploding with excitement.

Inside I walked up a luxurious staircase after I got my ticket. Red carpets on the stairs made the stairs grand. The railing had been created of the finest wood and were just as magnificent as the steps that were made of marble. I felt like a queen. I loved going up the stairs.

Then I saw a room that had red walls. Hung on them were pictures of Catherine's generals. Catherine the Great knew all her generals by name. And in that room were hundreds of portraits -- one for each general. I think that it would have been hard for her to remember their names. They all looked the same because most had the same sideburns and short hair. Most of them wore a grumpy expressions. The room was as big as three big playgrounds.

At the end of my stay, I was overwhelmed with the beauty of the entire Hermitage. When I go again, I want to see the Egyptian part because the mummies and coffins are there. As I left, my eyes were round with seeing so many pretty things.

Friday, October 5, 2007


I've only been here a couple months, and I still feel that things are hard on me. I don't know the language very well, and so it's very hard on me when some Russian kids comes up to me and says something. "Ya nee ponimayu" is the only way I can answer ("I don't understand"), but little kids don't even understand what I mean. They just keep repeating themselves. It's tiring because they don't understand that I can't speak their language. When that happens, I can't do much. I have to just give up sometimes. The help I need is for me to learn the language fast, to speak like them. That's my only prayer - that someday I will be able to understand. So please be praying for me.

My neighborhood is more quiet than where we were when we first arrived, but it's not like what I really miss in Virginia. Tramvais (street cars) and cars just rush by my window. Bright lights shine in my room. I don't like it. Sometimes I hate Russia. When two people speaking in Russian walk by, I want to say, "be quiet." When babushkas tell me things and scold me, I want to say, "buzz off." The other day at a museum when me and my friend were looking at a mosaic and doing nothing wrong, a lady who is a guard came by and said something in Russian, and I had no idea what she said. We were doing what everybody else was. We weren't stepping on it or hurting the mosaic. I didn't like it. For the rest of our time in that room, she watched us like an owl and a hawk. I was angry. I wanted to shout in Russian, "What did we do? We did nothing!" She watched us like we were uncontrolled little babies let loose. I wish I could understand the Russians.

My feelings here and on and off. I wish some things were easy. When I first got here, I was happy and excited. I wanted to try new foods. Now it's just plain boring, sad, and gloomy, and I don't feel at home. It's frustrating also because I can't read; I can't speak, and I can't understand their traditions. Do you know what they believe? When I tell you this, you will be in utter shock. To those of you who have had babies, please don't take this personally, but they believe that if you sit on the floor either in a house or outside on the ground, or in a car or anything, you will not have a baby. Isn't it amazing what they believe? That's a really really weird thing to believe, and I don't get it.

Down near the Neva river, you see lots of brides and limousines everywhere, because there is a statue of Peter the Great, and their tradition is to go see it on their wedding day in their nice clothes and everything. I don't get why they have to go see him, of all people.

Please pray for me that I will feel at home and be able to learn and speak the language.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Food I've had

Food here is very tasty. I enjoy the food for breakfast. Let me tell you about breakfast. Some people enjoy eating leftover dinner for breakfast. Do you? I myself personally think it's weird. For breakfast I often have muesli with milk. Let me explain muesli if you've never had it. it is sooo good.
One of my favorite dinner foods is Russian ravioli called "vareniki." Filled with potato and the slightest taste of mushoom, it's really, really, really good. For dessert we have my favorite "blini," a very thin pancake that you might call a crepe. They are filled with Russian jelly "varenya" - which is also very tasty. You take them from the store frozen and bake them. Believe me, you'll want fifths by the time you've had seconds. "Tvorog" is what I like too. This is like cottage cheese; in fact it's very similar to cottage cheese; only it's a little drier and it can come in different flavors. It's sweet and sour, and the lumps in it are not as big. I myself find myself to like it.

Cous cous is rare here. Last time I had it was at a furniture store, and it was very good. You must be wondering, "why don't they have cous cous there? Russia is very close to India." I don't know why, though, either. Or are you wondering about how one can eat at a furniture store? IKEA is the name of the furniture store. They also have a cafe there where you can eat if you are there for a long day of shopping. Two of the last three times we were there we ate.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Flowers and Berries

The flowers in the country are so very pretty. You wouldn't imagine how big the Queen Anne's lace is. You know, the white puffy stuff that looks like cauliflower on top of a green stalk? In the country, Queen Anne's lace is so tall, it's the size of me and taller. And the big flower part is about a foot across, and the stalks were almost an inch across. The short wildflowers are so pretty, they are a girls favorite colors: red, purple, and pink. They are beautiful - like little cups. I would love it if you could smell them. If you were there, it would take five minutes to finish your "ooos" and "aaaahs."

There are also wild berries that taste really good. Some friends of mine showed them to me. They are GREAT. I wish I could send some to all of you. If you pick them fresh here, they taste better than any in America. They have red currants which are mouth-watering.

The reason I know all this is from visiting new friends in the country. They have a cute house that is still being built. To get to the second floor, for example, you have to climb a ladder. Take a load of this: the girls have wallpaper with writing in English. And we're in Russia! My dad says it is kind of hip to write in English here.

Soon after arriving, we went outside -- just us girls. The eldest is Rada, a very pretty name. She is 11. The second eldest is 8 - Anita, a very pretty name I think, too. The youngest is three. They took me to their backyard; it is so big. At the very back, they showed us a little trail through some raspberry bushes. Then we ate the raspberries. They are juicy, delicious, anything you can imagine. Then they took me back into the woods, and they showed me a big clump of blueberries, which I also really enjoyed. When lunchtime came, I was so hungry I thought I heard someone calling us to lunch. It was just the wind; we had run all the way back to the house for nothing. I loved to the time there and was sad when we had to leave.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

My first few days

It's really hard here, because I miss my friends so much. I feel like running away and just going home in secret. I really want to see my friends again. I'm glad we have phones and blogs. When I got to Russia and I looked out through the airplane window, my heart felt as if it would sink down to my toes. I couldn't beleive I was actually in the world's biggest country. I couldn't beleive I was staying here. It was so hard to beleive that everything was Russian. As I got into the airport, it felt so hard to understand that we weren't going back. It felt as if my heart would break.

Sure, with my Russian, I was a little clumsy, and I smiled some. But I am learning to understand that Russia is not like America. The way I'm getting used to it is in our apartment. For when you walk in the building, you walk into this smelly and very dirty door. I was sure our place would be so dirty, you would not be able to sit down in comfort. So as you walk up the stairs, the stairs are very very dirty. You can't even sit down and not have a body full of dirt. The railing is chipped; the windows are filthy. The only nice thing about it is the window at our floor. It's all flowery - pictures of flowers at the top. It makes it seem a little like home. Otherwise, there is nothing about the stairway that seems like home.

As you walk into our apartment, you have to use keys. The keys are much different from America's keys. They way you walk in is different. You walk in to this very big door, and you use a key to get through it. They you see two more doors in front of you. One is our neighbors; the other is ours. It is surpising when you walk into our apartment - surprisingly furnished and very clean. It isn't like the stairs, which I am very glad for. The first thing you do when you walk into a Russian apartment is come into a tiny little mud room where you have to take off your shoes. Then you walk into (in ours) the study part. Then, if you keep going, you come to a fork. Two doors are in front of you again: my room and the boys' room. I am very glad I have a room by myself. It makes me feel like we are at home again.

My room has a broken bulb. My doorway has a chinup bar - very nice sometimes. Then you walk into my room and right beside you is a little desk, connected to a bookshelf. To your right, there is a green and white checked sofa. Then is a bunk bed. I sleep on the bottom. It is cold sometimes to fall asleep, because there are no sheets. Sometimes it is hard to wake us, because I still have jetlag. In front of the bunk bed is a TV on a sort of book shelf with tons of movies. I like my room, because it is a nice quiet area with a window; it's a good place to run away to. I spend a lot of time making it my own. My thoughts are that I will always enjoy having a room of my own for this period while we are here. I will tell you about the rest of the house later. God be with you, and I hope He is with me too.