Friday, July 30, 2010

Sara goes to Siberia

As I exited the plane I felt a really cool breeze blowing. Actually at that time it felt COLD to me:) I walked into the airport and I was looking for Anastasia. At that moment I was overwhelmed with emotions. I saw Anastasia and we hugged and were both CRYING. It was so cool to actually be in her city and country after she had experienced mine. After we stopped crying we went to get my luggage. Her friend Julia drove her to the airport...she left work to drive and pick me up. It was so nice of her. Anastasia and I talked the whole way to Deevnogorsk which is a town outside of Krasnoarysk where she lives. We stayed with Julia and her daughter, Dasha. We ate and then walked around some. Later we went to see the hydropower station on the Yenesei River. They had one of the gates open draining the water which was like a HUGE waterfall :) It was so beautiful and the water was very loud. We also went to a lake above the Yenesei and took some pictures. On that same day, I had my first experience at a banya. This banya had a sauna and a pool and then a table to eat. This was a birthday party for Julia's friend. We enjoyed meeting several of her friends there and relaxing in the sauna and then jumping in the pool. We even had wet eucylyptus leaves and hit ourselves with those in the sauna. Very refreshing! That night I slept so good. I slept until about 10 the next morning which may be a first in my life ;) While we were in Deevnogorsk...I was able to meet so many nice people. I met a family who had two wonderful boys. They were very talented. One played the piano very well. He practices around 3 hours a day (maybe more). The other boy did karate/martial arts and so we watched videos of his performances. The family all spoke English and so they practice there English with me. The food was wonderful there. We had tea and many things to munch on...cherries, pastries, sausage, cheese, apricots...etc. Yummy! Another family I met was Vanya's family. He is a friend of Anastasia's who teaches guitar and English so kids in their town. His father made shashleek on and outdoor grill. We had homemade pumpkin juice and tea, tomatoes, cucumbers, torte, homemade mushroom soup (from mushrooms they had gathered). His mother was so kind and hospitable. His neices were there and one of them sang to us. His wife came later in the evening. It was a nice time. We walked around the city again and listened to music. At the end of the night, Anastasia went into the store and I said I would like to buy some sunflower seeds. Vanya's dad (who had been offering us ice cream the whole night) bought me 3 HUGE things of sunflower seeds. It was wonderful and the seeds lasted us on the train and then I even brought one bag back to the States with me :) Another day some girls and guys gave a concert "for" me. Actually they play every week but I was invited. They were so talented. They sang, some played the guitar and one played the piano. It was such a special time. I even sang along to one English song they were playing. They were so focused and you could tell practiced very hard and long hours. Dasha, the girl we stayed with was one of these who gave the concert. She plays the guitar and is an artist too! She is such a talented person. I really enjoyed getting to know her. Another day Anastasia and I went to Krasnoarysk on a bus. We walked around and asked people in English to take our picture. It was our experiment. Everyone we asked did take our picture but no one asked any questions very few said anything at all. They took our picture and walked away. Until we got to one couple, they were from Germany (I think). They tried to talk to us and ask questions and tell us about themselves. It was so funny and another guy standing nearby said...I speak name is ...but he was kind of strange so we walked away from him. One night we went to the ballet. It was Swan Lake which was written by Tchaikovsky. It was unbelievable to actually be in Russia watching a ballet written by such a famous musician was truly PREMIUM. That night we were under dressed...we had spent the whole day trying to register me with the passport people. It seriously too the whole day. We wore capris, sandles and t-shirts. Most of the other people had really nice dresses and heels. There was even a little kid (maybe 4 or 5) behind us who had a bow tie. He was also very horrible through the whole ballet. He shook my chair and talked the whole time and eventually was cussed out by a lady sitting next to him. After the ballet we went to meet a friend of Anastasia's. She lived in a wonderful apartment. She had just remodeled everything it was awesome and the view was so cool of the river. She took us to a view overlooking the city...I don't remember the name of the place but we watched the sunset around 10:30 pm. She also surprised us by making Starbucks and bringing it in a thermos. She also took us to the train station on the day we left on the transiberian train. Another day we went to the zoo with Julia. It was drizzling rain that day but it wasn't anything we couldn't handle. The zoo had so many varieties of animals. That day we went to see where Anastasia went to school too. We also went to a cool restaurant overlooking the river and so other sites with beautiful views and photo opportunities. I saw fireworks while in Deevnogorsk. I was so blessed to meet so many people who are now my friends. They took me into their homes and showed me their lives and for that I am truly greatful to have had such an opportunity. I was able to truly experience Siberia and ALL its BEAUTY! On the last day I was in Krasnoarysk, I was able to meet a special person...Anastasia's mom. It was truly a surreal experience because she had the chance to meet all my family while in America and I was getting that chance too. Once again I was crying and her mom was crying. Her mom and sister prepared a wonderful meal for us with beautiful decorations...candles and flowers. The food was yummy. Anastasia and I teased saying it was Thanksgiving in Russia because we had turkey. Her mom made something similar to fried zucchini which is one of my favorites. We had tomatoes and cucumbers and tea and blinis. Her sister was so kind and helpful. Vita, her sister has such a caring and compassionate spirit. I love them both very much. Her mom has done a wonderful job raising two beautiful and talented girls. It was a shame we only had a few hours together but we felt we already knew each other through lots of stories. Anastasia and I were off to the train station to leave on our BIG adventure on the transiberian railroad...we left at 6:00 on Sunday evening and arrived in Moscow on Wednesday.

I will tell about this another day...

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Traveling to Kiev...Sumy...and on to Siberia

I know it has been over a month since I last blogged. Some of this was because I had rare internet access on my trip and the other is since I returned home I have been adjusting to being back. I will pick up where I left off talking about my trip...

After leaving Sochi...I flew to Kiev. I had to fly to Moscow first and then change terminals. The airport in Moscow was overwhelming but I survived. I arrived to Kiev went through Passport Control...claimed my luggage...and was met there by my friend...Tanya. For those of you who don't know...I met Tanya on my first trip to Ukraine in 2005. {She and I have been corresponding ever since. At that time she showed me pictures of her family and told all about her children. She also told me about her granddaugter who was due soon after we met her in 2005. Since then she has talked of me to her family and I have heard about her family but I had never met anyone from her family.} We left Kiev on a bus to was about 6 hours and it was packed. We sat in the front of the bus and talked the whole way. We arrived late at night...I think it was about 11:00 or later at night. A friend of their family met us to take us to Neezi...this was the name of the village where she lives. After about 25 minutes we were there. We had tea and cookies and went to bed. In the morning, I was going to help milk the cow but they wanted me to sleep instead. I woke at 5:30 because I was so excited. I went back to sleep when they said I would milk the cow later. It was wonderful being in their home. They had all kinds of animals. It was like a farm :) I enjoyed their peaceful village. I enjoyed so much meeting Ksusha, Sasha, Olya and Seroyzha!! I made several dresses for her granddaughters. Ksusha loved her dresses so much!! She modeled them for everyone. Sasha loved hers too but she is just a few months old. Sasha smiled ALL the time :) They were both adorable. Olya was so kind and is such a good mother. She had me in her home and the meal was wonderful. She made homemade tomato juice. Yummy!! We also had so many things from their garden...tomatoes...peppers...mushroom they had gathered. We had so much food and it was so tasty! Olya's husband, Seroyzha (Tanya's son) made shashleek (meat on a stick). It is one of my favorite Ukrainian meals!!! LOVE IT!! Seroyzha also took Tanya and I out on a beautiful boat ride. A little wooden was so much fun...we saw water lillies....we caught a fish and crawfish. Another day we spent in the town of Sumy. I was able to see the President of Ukraine. He was in their town for the day. I was able to get really close on the front row because Tanya and her friends worked for his party during the election :) It was a neat experience. After this Tanya, Ksusha and I walked around the city and later met with her other son, Yura. Yura took us for lunch at a pizza place. We enjoyed walking with him and talking. He spent the day with us in Neezi too. I enjoyed talking with Yura. His mom, Tanya speaks wonderful English and he has listened to her talk so he understood much of what I was saying. We would mix English and Russian together and then ask Tanya if there was something we couldn't figure out. I also met two of Tanya's good friends and Tanya fixed a wonderful dinner. We also had a picnic at the river one day too!! I also had the chance to see and have dessert with several of our previous interpreters. Dasha, Dasha, and Lena met me for dessert and we had a great time visiting with each other. Tanya's husband, Slava taught me to milk a cow. It was my first time EVER milking a cow. I must say it was difficult. I tried again later with Seroyzha and he let me taste the milk in a cup right after I milked the cow. It was so cool but it would have taken me FOREVER to fill up a bucket. I did better the second time than the first ;) It was so peaceful there. I was there three days but it was such a memorable time. I loved the nature, animals and most of all her family who I felt I already knew. Tanya and I enjoyed talking so much. We talked and laughed and cried and laughed and talked...I love you...Tanya. Early Sunday morning I went to get on the train back to Kiev. Tanya and I arrived at the train station around 6 in the morning. She received a call and it was Yura and he met us at the platform to say goodbye. It was such a nice visit and I hope to go back to Neezi one day.

I was on my way to Kiev on the train. It was a nice ride because there was no one sitting near me most of the trip. I laid down on the seats and slept most of the ride. It was a beautiful view as I was near the window but the trip was overall uneventful. I did have tea on the way...I arrived in Kiev after about 5 or so hours on the train. Vitaliy, my friend and translator, was meeting me at the train. I got off the train and no sign of Vitaliy. I stood for a while on the platform and then there were not many people so I went into the station. I carried my suitcase up the stairs and I had my backpack on too. I waited and waited and then I got a little worried. I thought how will I call him or find him. I asked a lady (in Russian) if I could use her phone...she just walked off. I stood against the wall and all of the sudden the man started punching another man in the head and they were right in front of me. No one did anything...I just stood there and watched. Now I was a little worried but then I saw Vitaliy. He, his cousin, Bogdan and I went to his apartment. Later we went to the lake with Tanya, his girlfriend. They made shashleek and they went swimming!! It was a fun time and the weather was beautiful. We always have so much fun together. The next day we hung out...Vitaliy made some yummy coffee...Starbucks. Later that day I met up with Big D (Dennis) and his girlfriend. We spent the rest of the day shopping and later that night we all went back to Vitaliy's ordered a pizza and watched the World Cup. The next day I had some more coffee...Yegor (another of our past translators and my friend) came over to visit :) We all talked and listened to music. Later Yegor and Big D took me to the airport. I enjoyed my visit in Kiev...seeing all my friends!! I was on to Siberia from Kiev. The flight from Kiev left around 5:35 in the landed in Moscow a few hours later. I then had to change terminals again. When I arrived to Terminal D...I had a long time before my next flight. The flight left at 1:30 am for Krasnoarysk. I enjoyed a nice myself in the airport. I ate at an Italian restaurant. I ordered in Russian...all by myself and paid and everything! The food was expensive but I was ready to eat so it didn't matter. I was exhausted by the time the plane took off. It was a four hour flight but then there was a time change. We arrived at what was 5:30 am the time I was on but it was 10:30 am in Krasnoarysk. I slept some of the flight but the guys next to me were snoring sooooooooooo LOUD. The flight was many much undeveloped LAND!! I was in SIBERIA...A GIRL FROM SOUTH GEORGIA. It was surreal and it is hard to even explain how I felt. It was like a dream come true although I had never dreamed of going to Siberia:) The whole time I was there I felt like I was so far away...and I was. It was such an interesting feeling.

I will pick up my story later because I am tired tonight. I will try to post pictures for those of you who haven't seen the ones on facebook. I am writing this mainly so I will have this written down. These are my feelings and some reflextions of my trip.