Saturday, November 28, 2009

"Вперед, Спартак!", Thanksgiving in Moscow, and other recent adventures

I got a taste of Russian hooliganism last night at my first professional Russian hockey game. Спартак (Spartak) played host to ЦСКА (the Red Army Team) in a match of cross-town rivals. These are two of the Moscow hockey triumvirate, the third being the esteemed (and so far in the season better) Динамо squad (Dynamo). After two lead changes, a penalty shot goal (see image below), and some really intense cheering, the game ended in 3-2 victory for the home team--my new favorite team (I bought a hat!)

While the КХЛ (Continental Hockey League of Russia and various former Soviet Republics) is the second-best in the world, there are obvious differences between the level of play here and that of the NHL. Surprisingly, it seems as though penalties are much more wont to be given over here, and therefore there is little checking. The extent of the physicality on the ice comes in the form of light shoves and swatting at each other's sticks. The real physicality, however, can be found in the bleachers.

I attended the game with my suitemate from Middlebury and fellow Fulbrighter, Thaddeus--an avid hockey player and fan from Wisconsin--and his friend Jenny (who studied with him at Midd's Russian School this past summer) and Jenny's friend Lily (studying abroad in Moscow from Tufts). We got what we thought were going to be GREAT seats--front row, rink-side just to the right of one of the goals. The presence of the opponents' bench and the low height of the glass, however, provided a little bit of an wonder the seats were left when we bought our tickets. We also happened to be one seating-section over from the 'Spartak fan' section---a riotous group with non-stop cheers, ranging from the benign "RED, WHITE!" (Spartak's colors) to more pointed chants involving insults to ЦСКА's pride (and perhaps mothers, too). We were even graced with a splendid rendition of "WE WILL, WE WILL, F*** YOU!" sung in poor English accents to the tune of Queen while flipping the bird to the opposite side of the rink where the ЦСКА fans were positioned. I was all for doing The Wave, but I don't think it would have gotten very far.

Here are a couple more shots from the game.

Even the young ones get into it.

On a completely unrelated note, I neglected to write of an earlier excursion I took to the small village of Aleksandrovskaya located about 2 hours outside of Moscow. Here is situated Aleksandrovskaya Sloboda--a small walled-in complex, that, as far as I can understand, was the capital of Ivan the Terrible's oprichnaya--his private security forces. In Russian history, the oprichnaya are feared and infamous for wearing black robes from head to toe, traveling by black horses, and sporting the symbols of a broom and a dog--one for 'cleaning' and one for 'aggression' (thanks to Prof. Corney for his unforgettable lectures). Inside the walls stand several whitewashed churches, tall spires, a nunnery that is still in use, and even a building featuring the rooms where Ivan the Terrible would sleep, eat, and torture his subjects during his stays in the Sloboda. Although I had a really hard time understanding our guide, I was nonetheless impressed by the village. It provided a great small-scale example of an old Russian medieval village--something I am sure to see much more of as I make my way around the Golden Ring in the near future.

Here are some photos from that trip:

I should note that this trip to Aleksandrovskaya Sloboda also brought good fortune. It was the first day I had seen the sun in three weeks.

And finally, I'm sure some of you may be wondering how I spent my Thanksgiving in Moscow? Well, the answer is simple: in style. I received an invitation to attend a feast at the Ambassador's House with other Americans who are currently here on study-programs, and some Russians who either studied abroad in the US or who are employed by the Fulbright office in Moscow. I think it goes without saying: the house is gorgeous. The food was spectacular. The company was lovely. The ambassador is a great guy. But I still missed home. Again, some photos:

P.S. At last, I got around to uploading almost all of the photos I have taken so far during my stay in Russia to my Picassa site. The URL is
Here you can see more from all of these events I described.


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Resurrection of Steve Prefontaine

Tonight I managed to do something for the first time since my arrival in Russia.

I exercised.

I have not had any success figuring out how to use the gym at the university. No one here seems to be of any help, whatsoever. I am beginning to wonder if anyone here uses it. Or if inside the building labeled 'спортскомплекс' is any sort of 'sports complex' at all...

Well, tonight I finished teaching at about 7pm and walked outside into the balmy 6 degree weather with just a spritz of rain. "This is it," I decided. "Now is my chance."

I speed-walked home, threw down my bag and changed into my sweats. I didn't even need to put on my beloved spandex. Six degrees is a HEATWAVE. I plugged into my iPod and ran down the five flights of stairs and out the door into the great unknown that was my path for the evening.

I began down Лиственничная Аллея, which is a pedestrian-only street that spans nearly the entirety of the university's campus. It is lined with trees, academic buildings, a couple of ponds, and fields where students get hands-on training for their agricultural studies. This sounds like a very picturesque scene, but trust me, it is only so in a very Soviet sense. Nonetheless, it's about as picturesque as things get around here, especially in the 'burbs.

Anyways, the 'alley' goes for about a mile, but by the time I reached the far end of the street, reality hit me like a brick to the chest. The lack of exercise since coming to Russia has really taken its toll. I haven't been on a serious run in over two months. And I could feel it in every part of my body.

Thankfully, I managed to make the return jog without collapsing, and even stopped to have a nice chat (albeit between heaving breaths) with the vice-rector of International Relations as he was on his way home.

I have since spent the last few hours making a spaghetti dinner, wasting time on YouTube finding clips of The Office to make me feel more at home, and doing my dishes in the bathtub.

Speaking of home, some strange things have been happening lately.

First, listening to my iPod on shuffle has resulted in an abnormally high proportion of Christmas songs. Hearing these songs tends to make me really sad, as I begin to realize that this will be the first Christmas that I have not been at home with my family. I usually skip the songs because I don't like the feeling they give me, but tonight I listened to a jammin' Transiberian Orchestra rendition of 'O Come All Ye Faithful.' It was nice.

Second, I gave a presentation (three times) to students studying English in the Lingva department here last week about New York City. The idea was to introduce them to an exciting part of the US, and it also gave me an excuse to play Sinatra's "Theme from New York, New York" and the new "Empire State of Mind" by Jay-Z and Alicia Keys (both of which they loved, except for the one super-long-haired boy in the 1st year who prefers heavy metal). I covered the distinct nature of each of the buroughs, the subway system, shopping in NYC, and interesting facts about the city (many thanks to my sister for all the info and photos she sent me). Of course, I could not get around talking about 9/11, the Twin Towers, Ground Zero, and the impact this had on NYC and America. In the middle of explaining what I saw when I visited Ground Zero several years after the attacks, I began to get choked up. Seriously choked up...enough to force me to pause for a few seconds. It was strange. Even on the day it happened, which I remember so well (sitting in Ms Truesdell's 9th grade World History class when we got the news and the TV was turned on...never to be turned off for the next three days), I never once cried. I don't even remember my eyes getting teary. Nor when I saw Ground Zero in person. But there was something strangely revealing and sobering about describing this event to foreigners who have no idea what it was like to watch this footage as it happened and to be an American on that day. As I attempted to describe just how horrible a day it was in our history, I nearly lost it. I suppose the strongest connections to your homeland are forged when you are thousands of miles away.
I've got a few more stories and some photos to share, but I think those can wait for another post, hopefully not too far off in the future. But I've got an early morning tomorrow.

Signing off,

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Baptism by Vodka

Well, I have at long last been officially 'Russified.' Initiated. Christened. Re-born, even.

I spent Friday night in the company of two new Russian friends, Julia and Alyosha, and a new PhD student from Slovakia, Kinga.

The plan: hand-make pelmeni (Russian meat dumplings) at Alyosha's house and watch a classic Russian comedy, "Служебный роман."

The outcome: five-and-a-half hours of making dough, pulverizing meat and vegetables, wrapping this meat/veggie concoction in little circles of dough, boiling the pelmeni, eating the pelmeni along with smoked fish from the Far East, taking 4 (or was it 5?) vodka shots, only getting through 15 minutes of the film, watching Russian comedy skits online, looking at Alyosha's photos of an expedition he took to the Russian Far East, and sprinting home through the rain to make the 1 am dormitory curfew just as security was locking the door.

Julia is a third-year Lingva student to whom I give presentations, and through her I met her friend Aleksei (Alyosha) who is quite a character. His sense of humor is right out of my own backyard, and so far we have a really great budding friendship. He also happened to take a trip to Kamchatka and the Commander Islands last summer to research the Arctic fox population, and he knows of my new-found obsession with getting to the Far East after the debacle with my university in P-K. He enthusiastically showed me photos of wildlife from his trip: pictures of brown bears taken from a distance of 20 meters, four different whale species (orca, sperm, humpback, and southern--of which there are believed to only be about 30 living in the world) that swam up to their boat and even performed jumping spectacles for them, puffins, arctic foxes, sea lions, fur seals, and more. He even showed me a video he took at the summit of a mountain on the Commander Islands where the wind was so strong that he could lean into it at a 45 degree angle and remain 'afloat'. Needless to say, I got really jealous, but spent the whole time awestruck.

Alyosha and Julia have proven invaluable friends so far---always willing to take me out somewhere and keep me company. So far we have plans to go to museums, go bowling, to the theater, and more.

Saturday night I met up with my other new friend, Miriam, whom I met at Thaddeus' Halloween party, and who is also an English teacher at a school in another Moscow suburb. She was heading out with some other teachers on her program for drinks downtown and invited me to go along. They were all Brits (except Miriam, who has a mixed-heritage background of India, Canada, England, and Scotland and her friend Lisa from North Dakota), and I felt like I was in a proper pub for most of the night. It was great fun, and interesting to speak with people who have a similar job and who can offer me plenty of advice.

Finally, I'm feeling at home.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

"Chai chairny, brother" (or Exploring Belgorod)

"Город спитe!" ("City, sleep!")

This was the cry I heard from 11pm to 2am last Friday night, emitted from the 12-year old girl sitting on the lower bunk of the train cabin across the aisle from me.

I was on my way to Belgorod for my first out-of-Moscow experience since arriving in Russia, and I just happened to be in a train wagon FULL of young children, probably returning home from an excursion to the capital. The four-bunk enclave next to me was occupied by four young girls--obviously the ringleaders of the class--who decided to have a night-long game of Mafia with the rest of their classmates. Their teachers, of course, thought nothing of telling them to keep the noise level down after the lights were turned out just before 11pm, and I did not really have the courage to ask them to keep it down when my level of Russian would make me appear to be only half their age. So, I endured until about 2, when my bunkmate--a young man on his way between work and family--finally decided to give them an earful. The little boys of the class, who had earlier made a big show bragging about how they had just gulped down energy drinks at 11:30pm, sulked back to their camps. Finally, I could sleep.

At least, I could sleep until the train pulled into the Belgorod station at 7:32am, exactly the time advertised on the ticket. (I still can't get over the efficiency of mass-rail transit in Russia.) Belgorod, located a few dozen miles from the Ukrainian border, is a small city which contrasts sharply with Moscow. Unlike the capital, old Belgorod was demolished in WWII as a consequence of heavy armored battles between the Germans and Russians. It's current architecture is mostly that of modernity (albeit oftentimes a Soviet idea of modernity), but the numerous and humorous brass statues that make their appearances around the city and the young trees that line the sidewalks make for an entirely different atmosphere than Moscow.

I was traveling to Belgorod to visit my friend and fellow Fulbright ETA, Nicky, who is teaching at BelGU, or Belgorod State University. After meeting me at the train station (and perking my sleepy-self up with a chocolate bar and orange), we strolled along the main streets of the city toward her university. After asking me about my first impressions of her much-smaller-than-mine city, I immediately responded, "It's clean. It's really clean." And I wasn't kidding. Compared to Moscow, the Belgorod streets looked like they were hosed down and power-brushed by zamboni street-cleaners on the hour, every hour. Nicky laughed and remarked that cleanliness is what all outsiders say upon arriving in Belgorod, and it is exactly this trait of which Belgorod-ians are most proud.

Upon arriving at her super-modern university (at least when compared to mine), we began walking across a bridge located outside the front doors of her dormitory. The bridge is covered in padlocks, and on each one the names of a newly-married couple and their date of marriage is engraved. According to modern Belgorod tradition, there are 7 (I think) places in the city that each newlywed couple must visit, and on this bridge, it is good luck to leave a lock. Some say that the bridge will collapse one day soon because of all the extra weight...I wouldn't be surprised.

It was on the bridge that we ran into Igor, an IT employee at BelGU and a private English student of Nicky's. He invited us to his office for tea and snacks, and after about 3 hours of broken conversation in English and dramatic storytelling in Russian, he guided us to the 'Winter Garden,' or greenhouse on the sixth floor of the building. Not only did this garden feature plants from around the world, but also fish, birds, and reptiles (including a boa constrictor). It was pretty impressive. We also visited Nicky's departmental office and met a few of her colleagues. Naturally, I was asked my impressions of their city and university. I unashamedly pronounced: "Clean and modern." They were pleased to hear that.

Then we met Nicky's German friend Suzanne outside the university. Suzanne is also in Belgorod on a very similar program as the Fulbright ETA, although she teaches German and is in the midst of organizing a massive conference for all of her colleagues from around Russia to showcase the program and help build upon it for the future. Suzanne also speaks flawless English, and it was in her apartment that I spent Saturday night, as Nicky's dormitory was under a 'no-guest quarantine' policy thanks to the swine flu scare (as is my dorm and most others around Russia, Eastern Europe, and Central Asia from what I gather).

The rest of my more or less day-and-a-half in Belgorod was spent exploring the city sights. We strolled through the main market to pick up fruits and vegetables for dinner. We walked along and across a quaint river that runs through the city. We saw the exhibits in the Belgorod Regional Museum, which ranged from soil and stuffed-wildlife samples (my kinda thing!) to Jurassic period flint samples, all the way through to Soviet-era sport memorabilia. We took a 'night hike' up the 383 (or somewhere thereabouts) stairs that lead to the top of a hill which overlooks the city to see it lit up at night. The hill itself has fallen victim to many a construction project, so new apartment buildings and businesses line the top of it, but there is also an impressive statue of Prince Vladimir. Old Vlad's contribution to Russian history was the wholesale adoption and enforcement of Orthodox Christianity from Constantinople to Kievan Rus' in 988 A.D.---some may even consider him the man behind the Russian Empire, as his choice of Orthodoxy to reign in paganism led to the first comprehensive territory across the land.

Perhaps the querkiest thing happened within the last three hours of my departure back to Moscow on Sunday night. Nicky and I were sitting in her favorite coffee shop (the chic "Coffee Bean" attached to the Art Museum) playing a makeshift game of dominoes while Suzanne worked on her conference planning, and in walked one of Nicky's English students. She came right up to say hello and then told us that she met another American in the city, and he was on his way to the coffee shop as we spoke. Sure enough, a few minutes later a tall brown-haired (definitely non-Russian) looking man walked into the shop and introduced himself as Joe.

Joe is a hockey player, and has been traveling around the world playing in different leagues since his adolescence. Having made his way through the US (he is originally from Long Island but lived in Seattle for a time), Canada, Italy, and China (where he played in Shanghai), he had finally come to Russia. Joe had just finished a stint with a team in Samara before his agent gave him the news that he would be transfered to the Belgorod team on a possible two-year contract. He said he loved Russia so far, but he didn't speak a word of the language. Well, almost no words. He went up to the bar to order a black tea (чай черный, or 'chai chorniy'), but his variant was a nonchalant 'chai chairny.' After ordering, he came back to our table to tell us of his success at being understood by the barrista, and then remarked that those are the only two words of Russian he would ever need to speak: "Chai chairny, brother. That's all you need to know." I gave Joe my phone number in case his team ever travels up to Moscow. I hope to treat him to some more tea, just to see the reaction of a not-so-friendly Muscovite.

My time in Belgorod was super. It was great to see how another Fulbright ETA lives and the differences between cities, universities, students and friends. But I was hit hard by reality once I arrived back in Moscow early Monday morning. Cold, misty, and most visible of all after Belgorod--dirty. Classes went relatively well on Monday and Tuesday, but I struggled through class on Wednesday with my non-responsive group of professors. But, the evening picked-up, as I led an 'excursion' of Lingva students to the movies to see '500 Days of Summer,' which I found playing in English with Russian subtitles at a theater downtown. I saw this movie in September before leaving for Russia, and jumped at the chance to see it again. Thankfully, the students also really enjoyed it. We finished the evening with a midnight walk through a park before returning home just before the dormitories closed at 1am.

Needless to say, I'm a little sleepy today. Guess I need some of that chai chairny, brother.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The self-consciousness of my self-conscious self-conscience

Everyone here looks at me funny.

Is it my clothes? I don’t have a black pleather or down jacket, so maybe that’s it.

Is it my face? I’m trying my best to adopt the oft-expressionless glare, but my nodding-and-tight-lipped-smiling-upon-making-eye-contact tendency is a dead giveaway.

Is it my hair? I am devoid of a mullet or shaved head, so that may have to change. On second thought, no it doesn't.

Is it that my eyes always seem to be bloodshot? I blame my new contact lens solution, or maybe its just the dirt.

Or am I imagining all of this? Probably not. I do give off the ‘sore thumb’ vibe here.

As far as I'm concerned, however, the real sore thumbs are those wearing surgical masks against swine flu. Check this out.

Also, I butchered a fried chicken yesterday. It became part of my 11 pm dinner.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Snowing on Halloween

Halloween morning in Moscow brought the second day of snow in a row. I woke up to see specks falling from the sky, and I bundled up against the cold (futilely) and did my best not to slip on the sheets and puddles of ice as I walked outside. It’s -1 degrees Celsius outside constantly now. And everyone keeps telling me that this is ‘summer’ weather.

I gave five presentations about Halloween to students and professors alike this last week--they seem fascinated by the whole idea of dressing up and eating candy. And the more I talked about it, the more excited I got to celebrate it. My friend and fellow Fulbrighter/Middlebury suitemate, Thaddeus, hosted a Halloween party at his apartment in downtown Moscow which he shares with two other Fulbrighters, Emily and Sasha, and I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. On Halloween morning, one of my second-year Linva students, Sveta, took me to a costume shop where I bought a Sherlock Holmes-type hat to go along with my sports coat and tie (all on top of my long underwear, of course). I even made a pipe out of paper to top the costume off. Although it was kind of sad that the only thing I had to buy to look like Sherlock Holmes was a I really dress that old-fashioned?

The party was a blast. I got to spend it with fellow English-speakers and met a few very interesting people, including another English teacher from Scotland/Canada/India/England and an American from North Dakota working for a pair of companies in Moscow. I hope to run into them again sometime and someplace in the future…it was great being able to joke around and have people laugh because they actually understand you.

Tonight, Monday night, I will be screening the classic ‘Hocus Pocus’ for all the Lingva students, and then we will have a Halloween party of our own featuring American songs (once again, the singing!) and hopefully some food. One guy, Alex, even offered to bring in a pumpkin for me to carve. It’s been a while since I’ve done that, but I’ll give it a go!

Sokolniki Park

On Friday morning I was taken on an excursion by Irina Petrovna and another professor in the Russian as a Foreign Language department, along with several other foreign students and a professor (5 ethnic Uighur Chinese and an Iranian family of 3). We rode the trolleybus and metro to Sokolniki Park (Falcon Park), which is situated on the old hunting grounds of the tsar. Of course, rather than leave the park in its most natural form, the Soviets laid down cement paths throughout the area in addition to big exhibition pavilions and funhouses/carnival attractions for children, which are of course closed down in this weather and instead give the appearance of a horror film set. As for the paths, no cement can withstand the cold conditions of Moscow unscathed, and so most of them are cracked and potholed.

But, we were not there to critique the park’s construction. We were going to see the exhibits in the pavilions. Right now, there is a special exhibit on world calligraphy, which I found fascinating. And talk about a contrast between the appearance of the park outside and the interior of this pavilion/museum. It is super modern inside. A white, minimalist design set-off by blue lights and wide open spaces between exhibit-cubes. White roses and sculptures tastefully placed throughout the pavilion, in addition to telescopes--the reasoning was as such: there was a motif that the art of calligraphy comes from the heart and travels through the soul, thus becoming a ’higher’ or ’universal’ art. In one room in the center of the first floor of the pavilion was a fireplace, above which was a work of art that consisted of a golden 3-D heart emerging from a red background. If you stood in front of this piece and looked straight ahead, you would be led to a free-standing staircase. At the top of this staircase was one small room in which was placed an example of ancient Hebrew calligraphy found near Mt. Sinai. This was supposed to represent the soul. Then, if you went up to the second floor of the pavilion you could see a few posters on the ceiling above this free-standing ’soul room’. Looking through a telescope, you could see that the posters showed Earth and the planets--a representation of the universe and our small role within it. Strange? Yes. But nonetheless done tastefully? Yes.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The Most Bonkers Week(end) Ever...and a Valuable Lesson Learned

(Written Wednesday, October 28)

This entry’s alternate title: “The Five F-sounding Things---Family, Fun, Food, Philosophy and Phillies”

On Saturday, October 17 I received a gift. The gift of a respite from Moscow. It had only been three weeks, but life in Moscow to this point had been quite oppressive. The ‘big city attitude’ is pervasive here--many people act with little regard for others, rudeness seems to be the characteristic of choice, and the weather…oh, the weather. Despite the acts of kindness I had witnessed and been a recipient of, I needed a break.

Ironically enough, my thanks for this sanity-saving trip actually go out to the one thing that has angered me the most so far about my time here--the Russian bureaucracy. The bureaucracy’s way of disrupting the simplest things and making everything half as efficient as it should be actually paved the way for my return. I had been in Russia on a tourist visa after the big bureaucratic mix-up with my university in Kamchatka and the rushed decision to place me in my current Moscow university. Tourist visas only last 30 days and cannot be extended, thus forcing me to return to the US to apply for a long-term student visa (but even this can only have a maximum 90-day length, so I have to extend it for a fee once back in Moscow).

So, after three weeks of breaking-in and finally finding something resembling a rhythm in Moscow, my rhythm was disrupted by a ten-and-a-half hour flight home next to a screaming infant from Ulan-Ude (just north of the Mongolian border relatively close to Lake Baikal in Siberia) who had just been adopted by an American couple. On top of this, the terrible head-cold I picked up in Moscow was still plaguing me. I thought I would be escaping the miserable weather of Moscow, but the day I returned to the US was a day of only 45 F and rain…what happened to this world? Thankfully, this would soon change into a stretch of 75 F and sunny, a world and a half away from what I had been living with in Russia.

I spent the first few days with family (my sister Lauren even came down from NYC to visit) and sleeping off my jetlag and my cold. And of course, I took advantage of every opportunity to watch American football and baseball---as long as I could stay awake, that is. I could not have asked for a better time to come home, as I was able to watch the Phillies top the Dodgers for the second straight year to win the NL pennant. It’s just too bad that I’m not around to watch them defend their World Series title, but I receive updates every morning from my Dad! I also feasted on some great food that I had really been craving: namely, meat. It’s near impossible to cook meat in my dormitory kitchen, and any meat products I have tried in my cafeteria have been supremely disappointing and often leave me either picking bone chunks out of my teeth or questioning the actual nature of ‘said meat’. (BTW, thanks Genny for showing me Elevation Burger. That place rocks my socks.)

It also just so happened that a week after I arrived back in the US was Homecoming at W&M. Talk about good luck. Even though I received my visa just five days after returning to the US, I decided to stick around for another five so I could go down to Williamsburg and see friends and professors. The best part of it all: I only told a handful of people about my return and my intention to head down to the College. For the rest, it was a big surprise. And I got some people really good: Paige and Tim--you‘ll probably never pick up a phone call from me again. Lamonster--I wish I could have done something a little more dramatic, but your tears were enough for me. Welle--if only Clay hadn’t blown it (but I still love you, Clay). Hunt 2nd girls & Colleen--what a treat to see you at the football game. Paulie--try not to tackle me next time I see you, okay? (just kidding, it was the best tackle ever) And to everyone--it was just really darn good to see you all.

Of course, I also have to mention how lucky I was to return to the States at just the right time to see ‘Where The Wild Things Are’ with Genny and Kelley. What a treat. I had been so distraught when I first learned that I would miss its release in theaters by going to Russia, but once again, I have reason to send the omnipresent Russian bureaucracy a ‘thank you’ card and box of chocolates. Maybe with the following phrase written inside: “Aw, that was my favorite arm!” Genius.

I had an unreal time back in the US. Despite my mind still being half in Moscow thinking about (and sort of dreading) having to return, I truly enjoyed myself through and through. It was, as Paige so aptly put, a ‘bonkers’ week(end). But, while speaking with everyone about my time in Russia so far, my mind kept forming the phrase, “So far so sh*tty”. It was honestly how I felt. Being in the company of people that you love so much, realizing what you left behind, and wishing you could bring everyone back with you left me with a feeling of desperation, loneliness, and deep pessimism about the remainder of my time in Moscow. Compared to Williamsburg, my area of Moscow is a super depressing place. But I also received some great words of encouragement from everyone.

I have since returned to Moscow, once again suffering from jetlag, and have come to live by the following:


From now on, I will have more fun in my classes. From now on, I won’t put so much pressure on myself when working with the professors; after all, I’m not a professional teacher, nor is it my job to be one. From now on, I will do my best to accept every invitation from people to travel throughout Moscow and beyond. From now on, I will explore everything. And perhaps most exciting to me right now: from now on, I will try to learn as much as I can about agriculture while posted at this university. It may just lead me somewhere in the future.