Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Travel Log: Days Nine and Ten

Vladimir, Russia:  5/24/2016
Our group riding a bus

            Tuesday my immune system finally got the memo that I'd been sleep-deprived in a foreign country and decided to attack me in the form of a vicious cold; I spent a lot of the day coughing and sniffling, trying to combat symptoms with multiple different sprays graciously bought for me by David, and trying not to fall asleep (I got very little sleep from Monday into Tuesday). This entry will be pretty short, because otherwise it was a pretty relaxing day: we had a couple things cancelled and got to walk around and explore downtown Vladimir a bit. I got to walk around by myself a bit, one of my favorite things to do, and I even managed to buy something without help despite my terrible Russian, which I'm pretty proud of. Later, after a lecture on national identity (it was very funny/revealing; at the end we compared our ideas about Russian national identity with American 'national identity,' or stereotypes more like, via drawing and all of our pictures were unsurprisingly poorly-drawn fat men with guns, baseball caps, and numerous American flags), the American Home threw a little trivia game for all the students, American and Russian, which was also a blast, mostly because the trivia was so random that most of the answers were joke answers (varied from 'Obama' to 'Russian bears'). After almost winning (second place, we were robbed), I was so exhausted I went right home and fell straight asleep.

Vladimir, Russia: 5/25 /2016

                We spent most of today volunteering with LIGHT, Vladimir's Association for Handicapped Children. It is an amazing organization that provides free schooling for handicapped children in the city, seeing as there are few other options for students with any kind of disability, physical, mental, etc. According to David, 10-15 years ago school systems used to simply recommend that parents keep these children at home because they didn't know what to do with them. There are no special education programs in the public school system and the teachers are not trained in how to teach them so the kids would fall hopelessly behind. The school we painted walls in today used to be part of a tractor factory during the USSR and it was remodeled and refashioned for its new function almost entirely by parents of the children the school serves, as there is almost no money from the government.
Selfie in the park with Vandy
and Vladimir students!
                  Despite the hardships, they are amazing people. They serve over one hundred kids and administer personal care and attention to them, with different rooms for things like physical therapy, sensory stimulation, the teaching of life skills, etc. The woman who showed us around specialized in speech therapy. They also partner with a horse therapy program that operates in a nearby park. We spent several hours painting their main hallway; I got paint all over myself for the second time in Russia.
                  After painting, we had a few hours to kill (read: to go home and wash off paint and change out of dirty clothes) before meeting all the university students for pizza. We all had delicious pizza and got to know each other more. We kind of took over the back room of the pizza place; it is not just a stereotype that Americans are super loud, we were definitely the most boisterous party. We all ate, got ice cream, and then walked to the park, talking about things like differences between our countries and where we wanted to travel.
                   I had a bit of an adventure at the end of the day: they kicked me off my bus (I found out later  that it was because they had to get gas; they told me in Russian I had no idea) but I could see my building from where I was so I started to walk; I ended up getting lost and making the walk a lot longer, but I got to see some of the parks around my house and still made my way home before dark. I also found out that the Vladimir sunset is beautiful.

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