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.