|Bank in Nizhy-|
Today was the day set aside for our host families. I'm not gonna lie, this has been the day I've been the most nervous about ever since we got the preliminary schedule (a whole day of unstructured socializing with people who were recently strangers that also don't really speak the same language as me sounds a lot like my nightmares) but it turned out to be one of my favorite days yet.
|The View of the|
Polly, Vera, and I all got up around 9:00 and had delicious homemade blini, thin Russian pancakes that are very similar to crepes, before hopping in the car and leaving around 10:00. Nizhny is a three-hour drive from Vladimir, so we packed the car with pillows and blankets and were off. Lera, Polly's older sister (who speaks very good English, thank God) met up with us, with her boyfriend Andrei (likely very soon fiance, if I understand correctly) driving and his mom in the back seat. All six of us packed into two cars and, after a while of Polly and I jamming out to some American music (they love that I actually know most of the words), we fell asleep for most of the road trip. I woke up once or twice over the course of the trip, once to eat a sandwich and once when Vera pointed out a course on which the military teaches people how to drive tanks on the side of the road, but otherwise it was nice to catch up on some much-needed sleep.
|The Aerial Tramway|
|One thing I didn't expect|
to see: it's hard to make
out, but this is actually a
We finally got to Nizhny around 1:00 PM, and I don't know what I expected, but a large, picturesque, somewhat tourist-y city for some reason was not it. The city is on the Volga River, Europe's largest river and the 'national river' of Russia, and it sits high; on many sides of the city you can look out and see for miles around. We parked and walked down one of the main stretches, which had restaurants and stores on every building and street performers and souvenir salesmen on every side. The buildings were old style and beautiful, and we walked past a bank that looked more like a castle than anything else. There were little stone statues everywhere, and my family insisted on taking a photo with every one of them. After stopping to eat lunch (a place called the Three Bears; I had what was essentially a Russian version of a burrito), we stopped by the city Kremlin, which had a wartime museum exhibition, behind which was a park that looked out over the Volga; the view was spectacular, it's one of the biggest rivers I've ever seen, and we were up so high that you could see countless rooftops and cupolas. We took lots of pictures and kept walking around the park. Being able to spend this time with them and Lera was wonderful because she was able to translate for me, and we were able to communicate more easily. Lera and Andrei bought me an ornate Matryoshka doll as a souvenir, which was absolutely wonderful of them; everyone is so incredibly lovely, I am continuously pleasantly surprised at how easy they are to get along with and how much they care for me. It was a great several hours of bonding, topped off by a ride on the Aerial Tramway (connects Nizhny Novgorod to Bor via tram across the Volga, its the way many people commute to work in the mornings apparently), some Russian ice cream (very much like American ice cream, sorry to disappoint), and a trip to Ikea (Vera accidentally broke Ivan's computer chair the other day, and Lera needed things for her and Andrei's apartment, so it turned into a several-hour endeavor). We left the city around 8:00 PM and finally got back, exhausted, around 11:00 PM.
Funny Moment of the Day: I realized, while singing with Polly in the car, that neither she nor her mother understand the words when I saw that the playlist included, among other similar examples, Salt 'N' Pepa's "Let's Talk About Sex" and the uncensored version of Maroon 5's "This Summer's Gonna Hurt"; Polly knew all the words to both and sang along with gusto, blissfully ignorant, and it took everything I had to keep from bursting out laughing.
|Selfie from the Tramway|