Sunday, June 12, 2016

Travel Log: Days Twenty-Two and Twenty-Three

Vladimir, Russia 6/6/2016

Miah and her favorite snack, Suchki
              Today marked the beginning of the last two days in Vladimir. Our penultimate day was a pretty normal one, about as normal as it gets here: we spent some time in master classes, tours, and excursions, made some cool crafts, met some cool people. We visited a spoon museum (yes, that's a thing that exists) and got to paint our own enormous wooden spoons in the Vladimir style (also a thing that exists), stopped by a blacksmith's workshop and got to make our own nails (mine probably won't actually work for nailing anything but that's neither here nor there), and hung out with the congregation of one of the Orthodox churches in town. They were lovely people, many of whom we'd worked with at the cemetery, and they gave us a quick tour and sang some religious folk music for us (as could've been predicted, Alexei had me get up and sing a quick hymn for them as well). One highlight was getting to climb the precariously-steep stairs of the bell tower and try our hands at bell-ringing in the freezing cold; another was playing a bunch of random games with the congregation that Alexei talked us through (and by talked us through I mean he announced a game and then just kind of started playing, and we all had to do our best to catch on). It was a good time! Orthodox Christianity tends not appeal as strongly to youth, but this particular church had a relatively large youth outreach program (and wasn't quite as conservative) so many of the people with us were younger. That was most of the day, I went home and had a nice evening with Vera and Polly. I can already tell I'm gonna miss the crap out of them when I leave.
Chocolate and cherry blini

Vladimir, Russia 6/7/2016

                   Our last day in Vladimir. It's strange: while I feel like I've been out of the US for a very long time, it also seems like very little time has passed since we got here on the first week.
                  We didn't have much of a Russian lesson this morning, it was more of a quick review and then a cute little singing party in one of the lecture rooms. Alexei brought out his guitar and all the students and teachers sang along to some popular Russian songs we'd all learned (I'm definitely singing them to my kids at camp), and we all had a good time laughing at each others' pronunciations. From there we just had a few lectures, and finally got around to going to Blinchiki for lunch, a blini restaurant I was told about the first week and have been dying to go to since (blini are Russian pancakes that look sort of like crepes, and are often filled with delicious/sweet things). It was all-in-all a pretty low-key last day, that is until the final goodbye party.
The sweet babushkas that performed for us
                  The American Home has been wonderful to us for the entirety of our trip, and was wonderful a final time in the goodbye party. They arranged for a bunch of women from the veteran's home to come sing for us, and then played a slide show of David's many (often embarrassing) photos from our trip. They gave us all key chains and personalized posters, and if we weren't near tears by the end of all that, we certainly were when we had to say goodbye to Sasha and Olia. Sasha and Olia, I'm sure I've mentioned, are the two students in the American Home that spent the most time with us throughout our stay in Vladimir, and we all got very close with them. They were sobbing and then we were crying and it all got very emotional very fast (despite the fact that we're seeing them briefly tomorrow and Friday); it amazes me how close of a bond we made with them in such little time. We made them promise to keep in contact, and to let us know if they ever wanted to/were planning on studying in or coming to America.
                     After a while I couldn't take all the feelings anymore (plus the party began to simmer down) so I ducked out to go home. I spent the last night packing and hanging out with Polly and it was blessedly free of any "this is our last night" kind of things; I know it'll be hardest leaving this family so I am fine saving all of that for Friday.

Group picture at the American Home

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