Sunday, July 27, 2008


I woke up yesterday morning to a stunningly beautiful day, a lot of energy, and a complete lack of desire to do homework. After finishing my reading assignment, I decided to see if there was any hiking to be had around Middlebury. Turns out, there's a 16-mile trail around Middlebury called, appropriately, the Trail Around Middlebury (TAM). It's possible to hike smaller sections of it and start in at different locations. I decided to give it a go. Here's the route I took (click to see a larger version):

After lunch I packed Stephanie's backpack with water, a PB&J sandwich, and a map and set off. The trail head I chose comes out very near the Middlebury gym, so it didn't take long to find on foot. My journey began in the woods as I followed a path that was fairly swampy for long sections, probably due to the heavy rains we've had lately. As it turned out, a LOT of my path was to be covered in water, so when my feet finally got soaked through about a mile in, it was actually a bit of a relief; getting them wet a second, third, or twentieth time isn't so bad.

I came out of the woods into a field, which was to be a pattern for much of the hike. Large sections of the TAM are on private property, so I was as likely to see cows as deer (more likely, in fact. I saw many cows, and no deer). Most of the trail was very well marked with little yellow tags to let me know I was still on the path. Only once did a sign confuse me: "Trail follow north side of ditch." Oh dear, which way is north?? With no compass and a shaky sense of direction (wish I'd inherited dad's uncanny human GPS abilities), I used the sun to guide me to the next little yellow sign. Whew.

I thought I'd meet other hikers on the trail on such a beautiful day, but the only other person I met was a runner who overtook me within the first hour and a half, who also happened to be from the Russian school (what's the likelihood?). I was actually quite surprised that he was running on that trail. Not only was it muddy and gross, but there were lots of tree roots and other things to trip on. I wouldn't have trusted myself to run it. But since I didn't come across him later with a broken leg or anything, he must have been sure-footed enough to get home alright.

Even though my path took me through some very typical fields and woods, I was quite taken with the beauty of my surroundings. To see such fields with the mountains in the backdrop-- simply fantastic. The sun shone all day and it was fairly humid, but a steady breeze kept me pretty cool all day.

The third leg of my hike took me through a nature reserve. I wanted to find the trail that followed the river, but I couldn't find the trailhead, so I ended up walking through the middle of the park (which was also pleasant, though mosquito-y). There were two trailheads, one for bikes and one for no bikes; I took the one for bikes, thinking it might be wider. It turned out to be very lakey, which was no fun to get around, but I managed.

The last leg of my journey was not as interesting, as the "trail" was the sidewalk along the streets of Middlebury. By that point my feet were tired and covered in mud, but I felt so satisfied having walked non-stop for four hours!

As I walked I photographed the flora and fauna I encountered. If you're interested (and there's lots of pictures of mushrooms), click here.

Oh yeah, and then after dinner I watched a stunningly beautiful but depressing movie called "The Banishment." Highly recommended. Then I went to the disco and danced for three or four hours before collapsing into bed at 3 AM. I love active days!

Saturday, July 26, 2008


I've got a treat for you: it's Level 7 singing karaoke!

We're such dorks!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


Понедельник-- тяжёлый день. Russians call Monday the "heavy/difficult/severe/grave" day. They aren't kidding. In normal life back home, Mondays were never really much of a problem for me. But now that I'm studying Russian all the time, Monday truly is the hardest day of the week. I can't seem to wake up, so I can't get anything done, so I'm up later than usual.... it's an unfortunate predicament.

The other thing I've noticed the past few days has to do with food. Maybe it's because I'm not making my own food anymore, maybe it's because I'm tired of what they serve at the cafeteria, but I can't seem to get satisfied lately. Sure, I get full. But I feel like something's missing, like I haven't had enough of something, and I can't figure out what it is. I eat a good variety of foods every day, including lots and lots of fruits and veggies, but there must be something I eat more at home that simply is lacking here. That, or it's stress. Probably it's stress.

And while I'm complaining: my back really, really hurts here. The mattresses are terrible, and even though I walk everywhere, everything is so close together that I don't get much exercise between sitting in class and sitting in the library. Even when I sat a lot at home, I always got at least a good 20-40 minutes of walking in every day.

Okay, I'm done complaining. On a more upbeat note, we have karaoke this Friday, which is going to be a lot of fun. Every class is preparing a song, plus individuals can do songs too. It's probably going to be pretty embarrassing. Oh well, the things we do in foreign languages...

This evening I will be attending the Business Russian club. Well, they say "club," but really, it's another class. However, we learn lots of useful vocabulary, so it'll be good for me. Then I have some reading to do, and then I'm going to bed early! I'm going to try to get to the gym in the morning.

Hope all is well at home.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Street Dance!

Middlebury is having some sort of annual festival right now, and Saturday night is the street dance! Stephanie (Sasha), Gena, Vanya, and I and some other students from the Russian school joined in the fun:

Sasha and Gena start to swing. Also, that ambulance is not there because anyone needed help. They're selling refreshments out of it! Oh, small towns....

Vanya and Sasha dancing, and a little girl.

Vanya tried to talk to the little girl, but she wasn't having any of that. He said, "Girls always seem to know to run away from me."

Me and Vanya dancing. It was a lot of fun, but I was concentrating too hard to smile!

Also, do you like my new dress? Sasha calls it my bee dress.

Other than dancing, I've mostly been doing homework so far this weekend. It's nice to have an extra day, though. I was able to sleep in this morning, then go to the gym. Tomorrow I intend to repeat the process.

Just three more weeks of class, then finals. Hard to believe it's gone so fast.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

I've got one word for you: каникулы

Yep, I've somehow survived to our "break:" a glorious three day weekend. Guess what I'll be doing during that time? While I do intend to spend some time in the sun, I also have to write a midterm essay and I want to get a head start on my presentation for Conversation Practice, plus I have regular homework, so... I'll be studying! But three days is nothing to sneeze at. I think everyone needs a break from class right now, including our teachers.

Last night we watched a movie called The Cranes are Flying (Летят журавли). We didn't get to watch to the end, though, because the disc was defective! Ahhh!! I know the end is going to be horribly sad, but I have to finish it. It's a fantastic movie, and the camera work is simply beautiful. A guy goes off to war and while he's gone, his girlfriend marries his cousin, but sort of by mistake. That's as far as I got. Aleksei Batalov stars as Boris. Wow. Hot. He's older than my grandparents, perhaps even dead? But hot in 1956. I was told that they've ordered a new disc and we're going to watch the end sometime, so I'll find out soon what happens.

The food here seems to be getting worse and worse. Friday or Saturday I'm going to make dinner at home for some friends. I just need to find some kitchen stuff...

Okay, I'm going to take a long-awaited nap.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Heaven and Hell in one Weekend

The weekend started out so well. Friday we watched the movie Nezhnaya Vozrost, or A Tender Age, about teenagers in Moscow right at the fall of the Soviet Union, who get mixed up in some nasty stuff with mafia and bandits, but who turn out okay in the end. It was the last movie we watched by our visiting director, Sergey Aleksandrovich, and was particularly interesting because all the events really happened to his son, who also stars in the film. You sort of have to know what was going on in the early nineties in Russia for everything to make sense, but overall it was really good. Recommended, to anyone who's interested.

After the movie on Friday I went to a party at one of the dorms and talked to Chris from Level 2 until about 12:30, when we went home.

Saturday the weather was simply perfect: sunny, but not too hot, with a light, cool breeze. In the morning I watched our soccer team kick the Italian school's soccer team's butt, winning 3-1. In the afternoon, a whole bunch of Russian students went to Bristol Falls to go swimming. Here's a picture of me jumping off a rock into the water. I've put more pictures up here.

Saturday evening they showed a silent film from 1929 called A Man with a Movie Camera. The fantastic thing about it was that we got to watch it with live piano accompaniment, just like in the olden days! It was a really interesting movie, which attempted to document every aspect of life in a city from every angle. The only "character" is a man with a videocamera, who ends up in all sorts of strange places and positions to get his shots. All the other characters are just people in the city, from those at the wedding registration office, to workers in factories, to ladies getting facials. It was fascinating.

Saturday evening I hung out with Chris again, first going to the Grille for a couple beers then, when the Spanish school disco got too loud, to the Two Brothers, where we sat on the patio. It was lovely.

Sunday the weather seemed to know that I had an essay to write: it was cloudy, windy, and rainy all day. I sat down in the library at 9:30 AM, fully intending to have my essay done by lunchtime. But as the day wore on, I struggled to express my ideas in Russian. Literary analysis comes fairly easily to me in English, and so I had lots of ideas of what to say about this story we were analyzing, but actually saying them in Russian, or quoting the text and interpreting the quote in Russian.... oh my god. It's just a completely different deal. I'm not kidding you, I sat in the library until 6:00 PM. The sad thing? The whole damn essay was only two and a half pages long. Ugh.

However, my mood lifted considerably after dinner, when one of our visiting musicians gave a lecture on Russian/Soviet bard music from the 1960s-1980s. There was much singing, which made me simply happy. Our director, Kira Ivanovna, also sang. She has a great voice!

After the lecture I went to office hours to have my essay looked at. For what it's worth, there weren't nearly as many corrections as I feared. Evgeniya Olegovna was even pretty nice about pointing out mistakes (not usually the case). I hope that doesn't mean she just didn't point out some mistakes so that she could mark them later, or to see if I'd catch them myself, because I didn't do anything else with that essay after looking it over with her other than print it. She kind of drives me crazy sometimes. I'll go to office hours and make corrections on my homework, but then when she grades that assignment, she counts all those mistakes we caught in office hours against me. I know the point of office hours is to catch mistakes before turning in assignments... so shouldn't I get some credit for having gone? If I go to office hours and everything is perfect, then isn't it pointless to go?

Well, there's lots going on this evening: a concert after dinner, and then Business/Official Russian language club, which I've never been to before, but I know I should go to, since business language is really necessary. So I'd better get crackin on my homework. Do ckoroi vstrechi!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

City of Gold by Akvarium

I wanted to share this scene/song from the movie Assa, because it's been stuck in my head, and it's a great song. Also, even in winter, Yalta looks beautiful, don't you think? I've posted my rough translation of the text below, as well as the original lyrics in Russian.

Under the blue sky there is a city of gold
Of gossamer gates and bright stars
And in the city there is a garden of grasses and flowers
Where live animals of singular beauty.

One is like a yellow firey-maned lion,
Another -- a bull with many eyes.
With them there's a celestial, golden eagle
Whose gaze burns unforgettably.

In the blue sky burns a star,
It is yours, oh my angel, always yours.
He who loves, here is loved, he who shines, here is blessed
Let your star lead you to that marvelous garden.

There the yellow firey-maned lion will greet you
And the blue ox with many eyes.
And with them the celestial, golden eagle
Whose gaze burns unforgettably.


Под небом голубым есть гоpод золотой.
С пpозpачными воpотами и яpкою звездой.
А в гоpоде том - сад, все тpавы, да цветы
Гуляют там животные невиданной кpасы.

Одно, как желтый огнегpивый лев,
Дpугое - вол исполненный очей.
С ними золотой оpел небесный
Чей так светел взоp незабываемый.

А в небе голубом гоpит одна звезда.
Она твоя, о, ангел мой, она твоя всегда.
Кто любит тот любим, кто светел тот и свят
Пускай ведет звезде тебя доpогой в дивный сад.

Тебя там встpетит огнегpивый лев
И синий вол, исполненный очей.
С ними золотой оpел небесный
Чей так светел взоp незабываемый.

Wasps, Extra-Long Movies, Etc.

A wasp just flew in through the open window of our bathroom and landed on my back. I managed to get it off and squish it before it could sting me, but now I've got the willies. I really dislike wasps.

In other news, I just watched a two and a half hour long movie called Assa, and attended the discussion with the director, Sergei Aleksandrovich Sovolyov. The movie was released in 1987, but takes place during Perestroika and involves a love triangle between a powerful Soviet bandit-type, his young girlfriend, and an underground musician they meet while vacationing in the Crimea. (Sergei Aleksandrovich explained that he essentially wanted to make a Russian-style Bollywood movie which, according to him, involves little more than a love triangle and a lot of singing and dancing). The movie is very slow paced but artistically beautiful. All the best classic Russian rock bands played the soundtrack: Akvarium, Kino, DDT. There are these weird scenes showing the assassination of Pavel I back in 1801 for some reason, and other scenes that also seem out of place. But I really enjoyed the overall effect. Especially if you like early electronic music, and especially especially if you like it Soviet style, you should rent this movie. It's been released in the US, so you can even watch it with subtitles!

I'm trying something new this week: I'm getting up at 5 every day and going to the gym in the morning instead of during the day. It's worked for me so far, although I'm only two days in. I just feel so much better when I work out in the morning, rather than during the day, and I feel less rushed to get stuff done after lunch.

Grammar is still eating me alive. I keep reminding myself that it's going to click one day, I just have to keep working at it and be patient.

The mosquitoes are also eating me alive.

I missed the Political TV Shows club this evening, because I didn't think I could stand to watch any more TV after the film, but I'm going to try to go next week. Tomorrow is the Russian Songs club, which I quite enjoyed last week. Currently we're discussing the folk singer Yuri Vizbor, who I think is awesome, and way better than Vladimir Vysotsky, who was more famous, but couldn't seem to tune his guitar (see YouTube for proof, and watch all the way to the end to get the full effect: Musical subtexts were one of the ways people were able to express their real opinions about political policies and goings-on, and it's fascinating to pick apart seemingly simple songs and learn more about what lies beneath.

Hope you're staying cool, wherever you are, because right after my birthday it got hotter than blazes here, and humid too. Ahh, reminds me of home.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Best Birthday Ever.

Fourth of July, Kerry arrived! We had a picnic, watched a movie and had a discussion with the director of the movie (very interesting, actually), then me and Kerry and John from Virginia had a few beers. Then we danced!:

How many times have we heard the song "Black Eyes"?

Jordan and I dancin.


Today's football match against the Spanish school. They kicked our butts. But we have more soul than them, so there.

Picnic on a lake! Me with a mountain.

The Muttonchops Fraternity, or Bratstva Bakenbard. They're coming along.

Pale, pale white Russian students lounge in the sun. It was fantastic.

Playing keep-away.

About to get my birthday drink on... thanks to everyone who's sent me notes and congrats. They're greatly appreciated! More tomorrow.....

Wednesday, July 2, 2008


So the Russian word for sideburns or muttonchops is "bakenbardy," which several of the guys in Level 3 found so funny that they are all now growing their own bakenbardy. Pictures will follow, I promise.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Grammar... sometimes not

I've come to the conclusion that I only love grammar when I can get it to come out of my mouth (or pen) correctly. Otherwise, I'm basically a vocabulary girl. Today was a bad grammar day. I know it's at least in part because I put off my essay to the last second and didn't get much sleep last night, plus I drank coffee at dinner yesterday, so I couldn't sleep anyway. Today just started out like one of those Mondays that is quintessentially a Monday: I sounded like an uneducated 4th grader every time I tried to say anything, I didn't seem to have an opinion about anything we discussed in class (and you all know how rare that is), and my homework was needlessly puzzling. However, things improved a little in the afternoon after I went to the gym, and then checked my mailbox to find I had two letters from home!! Thank you so much-- it made me feel so good to know you're keeping track of me, and willing to put in the time to write a note.

I thought the cooking club started tonight, but it turns out it's next weekend, since the teacher who will be leading it just got here yesterday. So next Monday I'll tell you what we make. =)

However, since I thought the cooking club met for two hours this evening, all my homework is already done. I'm going to take it all up to office hours in a little bit, because I seem to have completely forgotten how to use certain prepositions with time expressions, and our course materials assume that we already know them (as we should-- it's an inexplicably weak area for me). So I'm going to go get some help from the strict but caring Evgeniya Olegovna.

Almost every day there are moments here when I think "What the heck am I doing here? I obviously have no idea what I'm doing." I had this thought several times today. But then, after dinner, I was in the middle of a conversation with Adam and Zacch (yes, two Cs), and I realized that I'd forgotten we were speaking Russian. So, it's working, maybe not as fast as I'd like, but this immersion thing really does work. Plus, it's only been two weeks. I think I felt like this at the beginning in Russia too, like I wasn't improving fast enough. Then a couple months in, boom! My language took off. So I'm trying to be patient. Also, I'm trying to make the transition from language learning to language acquisition; that is, I'm trying to find a way to move words and grammar constructions from my passive to my active vocabulary. Haven't figured out how to do it yet, but hopefully it'll come along.

In the meantime, I'm preparing for karaoke night in a couple weeks by looking up lyrics to my favorite Russian pop songs on the internet. I'm going to own that stage! =)