Friday, April 28, 2017

Cathedral of the Nativity of the Virgin

ul. Kirova, 102, Ufa, Respublika Bashkortostan, Russia, 450078
This is one of my favorite buildings in the city, and I go past it almost every single day. I go past it on my way to work, and it's also between my and A's apartment. Can you believe that I see it almost every single day and this is the first time I've taken a picture of it? Actually, I remember one time last year the road in front of this church was blocked off and I was so mad that I never went back to take advantage of it. Then the day before Easter A mentioned that the road was closed again, and I was so excited, like I knew I waited for a reason. Unfortunately, even on my way to my individual lesson early on Easter morning, the road was open again. I still decided it was an excuse to finally get over there and take pictures.
One of my favorite aspects of this church, besides it's amazing color, is that you can see it from the end of Kirova street. I love a good distant view, which is probably why I love mountains. I posted a photo of this church on my Instagram and a friend mentioned that it used to be a movie theater in Soviet times! How cool is that? If you aren't familiar with Soviet history or communism then it doesn't make sense why this church would be converted into a movie theater, but practicing any religion was illegal during that time. Only recently has the Russian Orthodox church been working to reclaim its confiscated churches. I did a little research in order to find out more and found this article (in Russian) and I came across this picture of the church before there were apartments next to it. You can see the apartments in the second to last photo.
I love the diverse history of this church. It's why I am drawn to abandoned buildings. I try to imagine what it was like to be in that place in the past. It was cold that day, and it was Easter so there were a lot of people walking around. I felt kind of weird being there, so I didn't manage to get my close-up photos of it. Maybe before I leave I'll take a look inside. It's unfortunate that many churches don't allow you to take photos inside.
 If you could go back in time, where would you go?

Monday, April 24, 2017

Birthday Celebration

The last two years for my birthday I made it a point to go somewhere I'd never been before. This year it was kind of hard to do that. First, it was because I had a lot to do on my actual birthday. Second, my birthday snuck up on me. I'm one of those people who will annoy you and tell you my birthday is a month away. I think I was so focused on spring weather this year that my birthday felt so far away. Either winter lasted way too long or I am just old and forgetful. Both are quite possible.
I had just a small get together this year. I told everyone not to get me anything because I don't need anything, and after living here for two years and understanding that the Russian salary is nothing (like I make less than $400 a month), I really didn't want people spending money on me. Against my wishes, I was given gifts. According to Russian tradition, if someone invites a group of people out for the celebration they are responsible for paying for everyone's food and drinks. Apparently I forgot about this because I just looked back at this post and saw that I had written about this very thing. I bought tea for everyone but not the food. I felt really guilty when Anton brought it up later, and I still feel guilty now because of the fact that everyone got me a gift. I'll file this under "Awkward Cultural Differences."
All-in-all it was a great birthday. I'm looking forward to many more! :)

Friday, April 21, 2017

April 13, 2017

If you read this post from last week then you know that I celebrated my 28th birthday. Can you believe I graduated from high school and started college 10 years ago? Anyways, it was a pretty simple day. I didn't get any sleep the night before because I was mulling over my decision for next year. I said it wasn't an easy decision, and it really wasn't.

I had an individual lesson and then a work meeting. I walked in late to the work meeting and my director and everyone started singing "Happy Birthday," and they presented me with chocolates and a rose with an abnormally long stem. I hate having attention drawn on me in that way but I was grateful for everyone who celebrated with me. After our meeting I sat in the office in the office and talked with one of my colleagues for a while. Around 5 I met A and we went to one of our most frequented cafes for dinner.
After dinner we picked up a cake. I took a picture of A holding all my gifts and cake, but in reality I carried all my stuff back to my house. :) I had an interview that night, which I should have cancelled since I had accepted another job beforehand but decided to keep it because I'm the world's worst interviewee so I figured the extra practice couldn't hurt. Then A and I had some cake with tea to finish the night.
Thank you to all who wished me a happy birthday!

Monday, April 17, 2017

Where Will I Be Next Year?

My blog is about to get a lot less exciting.

I'm moving back to the United States.

It is with a heavy heart that I write this post. I accepted a job in a school district outside of Cleveland. I love Russia. I met amazing people, and I had many great experiences. I knew I would not stay in Russia forever but part of me hoped I would.

A few months back I had an interview with Innopolis. I got the job, but I was waiting for my paperwork to go through migration. It took a long time. I kept thinking, "What if the FSB doesn't like something I wrote on my blog, and, now, they aren't allowing me to stay?" My paranoia led me to e-mail one of my teacher friends to ask if she knew of any ESL positions. Within a short period of time I was applying to two different positions in the Cleveland area.

I found out  my paperwork had gone through Russian migration, but I was still waiting on their offer. Again, it took a long time. I had already interviewed with the two districts in Ohio. The first was telling me they wanted to hire me, but they couldn't formally give me an offer yet. The second said I should wait for a second interview.

So, here I was last week Skyping with one district who didn't want me to go to the other Ohio school district and waiting on my offer from Innopolis. Finally, the Innopolis offer arrived. It was much better than I expected. I liked the woman who was hiring and I liked the university. I decided I was probably going to go with Innopolis, but I would just wait until I got the official offer from Ohio. But I had to sign a three-year contract with Innopolis? Was I ready to establish my life in Ohio and give up my dream job in the USA?

Wednesday night, the eve of my 28th birthday, I Skyped with the Ohio district one last time. They gave me their official offer. It, too, was better than I expected. They gave me the night to think about it. I was a wreck.

I decided I would chose the school in Ohio.

The decision was not easy. I literally did not know where I would be right up until Thursday when I sent my acceptance e-mail to my future employer. I got less than 3 hours of sleep that night and woke up anxious the next morning.

Long term, though, the job in the USA is where I need to be, and it's the career I always wanted. Having the financial burden of student loans also played a major part in the decision.

I'll definitely return to Russia. This job will provide me the financial stability I need to continue traveling. I already have plans to visit Spain again during my winter break.

So what now? I plan on returning back to Ohio at the end of June where I will get readjusted to American culture and meet with friends and family I haven't seen in two years. I accepted a job as the ESL teacher in a school district which means I have about a month until I have to start working.

In the mean time, I have so much I still want to see and do in Russia, so May will give me more time to do that. I will miss Russia, but I do not regret my decision. This will be my love ballad to you, Russia.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Twenty-Eight

Today is my 28th birthday. I'm 28, and I still get carded for alcohol (even in Russia where the drinking age is 18). I'm 28 which means I never set foot in the USA during my 27th year. I'm 28 and still have never been married, but, honestly, I'm okay with that. I'm 28 and officially older than both my parents were when they got married and had me, which is depressing because I still don't feel like I'm ready to be an adult. I'm 28, and I have more gray hair than any 28 year old should. I'm 28, and I've already had the opportunity to travel to nine countries and live in abroad for two years. I'm 28, and I still have a lot to do to complete this list. I'm 28, and I still imagine I'll marry Leonardo DiCaprio just like my 8 year old self. Some things never change.

So, here's to the past 28 years and all the people I met and the friends I made and to the next 28 years. I can't wait to see where life takes me!

Monday, April 10, 2017

Manezhnaya Square

Manezhnaya pl., Moskva, Russia
I prided myself on not getting sick this entire winter. Then, I jinxed it. I got sick this past week. I'm not really sure what caused it. At first I thought it was bronchitis. Then I thought it was the flu. Every day I woke up with some different symptom, but I never had a fever. A few days I had body aches, but I was never sick enough to be confined to my bed. Thank goodness. I did take it easy this weekend because it's my birthday week, and I don't want to be sick for my birthday! :)

Since I didn't do much it meant I didn't have anything to blog about today. So, here are pictures from our trip to Moscow this past August. Besides the Metro I think Manezhnaya Square is one of my favorite places in Moscow. I'd like it better, though, if there weren't so many tourists and people around. Can you believe I've been to Moscow twice and I still haven't been inside the Kremlin. I'm thinking about visiting Moscow again in June, so I'll make sure I spend time there!
Have you been to Moscow? What's your favorite place?

Friday, April 7, 2017

Podcasts I'm Listening To... V.2

I didn't think I'd write another post about podcasts this soon but here I am. Part of the reason I am writing this is because they are all, with the exception of one, relatively new so there aren't many episodes, and I'm able to listen to them as they come out. The other part is that I'm just obsessed with them. I wish I would have thought about it a while ago because they make my bus commute or walk so much more enjoyable. I can't imagine how many podcasts I would have gone through if I started two years ago. One benefit, though, is that my Netflix consumption has basically gone to zero.

Monday, April 3, 2017

It's Snowing in April

If you're human, you've probably looked at a calendar in the last three days and are aware that it is, in fact, April. I've been looking forward to April for months hoping, that by the time the first came around, all the snow would be gone and the temperature would finally rise. On April 1st I thought mother nature was playing a trick on me, but when I woke up on the 2nd and saw it snowing out the window I realized that it wasn't a trick. It dropped back down to the 20s the last few days, but looking at the extended forecast it's supposed to be in the 40s next week, so I remain hopeful.
Despite the cold, and despite the fact that I don't have good winter shoes anymore, I did a ton of walking. On Saturday A and I did some work then decided to go on a long walk with a stops to get lunch and get some coffee. We went to a new-to-us place called Lozhka-Vilka (Spoon-Fork). It was a nice change from our usual stop at McDonalds. That was basically our Saturday, but we did spend a large chunk of the afternoon walking around.
On Sunday I had to be in the center of the city by 11 for an individual lesson. I was actually right on time, which, for me, is late, when I realized my student hadn't arrived. I waited for an hour and fifteen minutes when she finally showed up. I love Russia, but the one thing I cannot stand is how late people are. This is an extreme example because I actually think she forgot about the meeting. I believe her father remembered when my director called them. Even so, it's not the first time I had to wait more than 15 minutes for someone.

After my lesson A and I met for lunch at Lozka-Vilka. I mentioned this before but when A likes a place he really likes it, so we end up going all the time. The lunch wasn't bad, and I was actually surprised how good it was, especially the chicken. I went back to my apartment until 5 when I met my friend, Lyaysan. I hadn't seen her in over a month even though we've been trying to get together. She's been really busy so our schedules never match up. We also walked a lot and ended up at Buffet to warm up because the walk was met with bone-chilling winds. I wanted to take pictures but it was just so cold that we didn't even want to stop walking, so I had to settle for taking pictures indoors. I've actually wanted to do more posts on restaurants around here but I always feel awkward about it. I managed to get some pictures from Buffet on Sunday.
Here is an embarrassing picture of me below. I look terrible if I don't smile in pictures (it'll cost $20,000 to fix that problem) and I have bad posture. Lyaysan was yelling at me to do different poses (hence the Russian girl pose below) and to not smile. The picture is actually the only decent one to come out because I'm the least photogenic person in the world. Also, does anyone know how Lyaysan managed to get the background behind me blurry? I try to do this with a small F stop but it just never turns out. The picture above was the exact same camera settings I used to take the photo of her. Should I have zoomed in on her more or am I just a crappy photographer?
How was your weekend?

Friday, March 31, 2017

Eating My Weight in Food and Too Many Bathroom Pictures

Ufa, Republic of Bashkortostan, Russia
If you've been following my blog since last year, you'll remember this post about the international seminar. It was one of my favorite moments from last year because I love conferences. Tuesday and Wednesday were this year's seminar. Unlike last year, this one was two days long which meant lots of food was involved. I was kind of confused on how it would work this year because my director told us it was two days, but that we would only present once.

The first day took place at the pedagogical university. I arrived pretty early, so, per usual, I told the security guards I didn't speak English and they let me in anyways. I love how people just don't want to deal with me because I don't speak Russian. I wasn't exactly sure where to go so I just headed to the auditorium we were in last year. When I got there I tried asking if anyone spoke English to make sure I was in the right place, but no one did. Luckily, I saw my schools logo and took a seat. Now, before you say, "Why didn't you just ask them in Russian?" I'll tell you that when I'm nervous all my Russian knowledge goes out the window, so I ask questions in English.

Finally, my director showed up and introduced me to Vera, one of the presenters from Moscow. We chatted a bit until the presentations started. We noted how everyone in the audience looked very young, which was surprising to me because last year everyone looked like they were in their 30s and older. Later, we found out that the seminar on Tuesday was for university students. Vera and Jeremy, my colleague at ABIC, were the first to present, and their presentations were amazing. The other two spoke in Russian, but from what everyone told me they weren't that interesting. When the first four presentations were finished we, the presenters, went to have some tea before lunch.
For lunch my director took us all to Gastro Gallery. I had been there once before but only to drink beer. I wasn't sure what to expect because I heard their steak was amazing but the rest of their food wasn't that good. Like every meal in Russia we started out with a salad. After the salad we ate soup and after the soup we had our main dish of steak and potatoes. All the while there were vegetables and bread on the table as well. We finished with tea and some kind of dessert (pictured above). I have to tell you, I am not a meat eater, but this steak was AMAZING. I don't know what they did to it but it was so gosh-darned good. The potatoes were great as well. I'm salivating just writing about it.

Right before we left I went into the bathroom and took way too many photos. It was beautiful! Did you ever think someone would say that about a bathroom?! See for yourself though. I couldn't help it.
After lunch I had to go to work for two classes. I thought we were only supposed to take Wednesday off so I told my partner teacher she didn't need to cover for me. Only a few days earlier did I learn that most of the festivities would take place on Tuesday, so I missed the tour of Ufa and the beginning of dinner. At first I wasn't that upset about missing the tour because it wasn't that great last year, but I heard it was better this year so I regretted working. Plus, our group of presenters this year was a lot more fun and we all seemed to get along very well so I wish I had spent more time with them.

I arrived to dinner an hour late, around 7 pm, but I didn't miss much. Again, there was so much food and three courses of salad, soup, and a main dish. I ate so much kiwi and caviar that I thought I was going to explode. I'm also someone who usually eats everything if it's sitting in front of me but I ate so much throughout the day that I couldn't even finish all my potatoes.
Like last year, the evening was periodically interrupted, in a good way, by different performers from the school. At one point everyone got up and started dancing with the three girls. I stayed back because I had on 6 inch heels (they were my only waterproof shoes) and after wearing them all day my feet were killing me. We had tea and we gave toasts to the seminar and to each other. Sometime after 9 we all decided it was getting late and we should go home because we had to be up in the morning.
Wednesday was the seminar for the teachers in the republic. Last year it was at the pedagogical university, but this year it was at Gymnasium #3. Wow, this school was amazing! It reminded me of some kind of elite prep school. I tried to find more pictures online because I wish you could see it for yourself, but I was unsuccessful. There were chandeliers everywhere and a large staircase that made you feel like you were on the Titanic. It was absolutely stunning. The attendees were even greeted by violinists!
The event started out with preliminary presentations, some being more interesting than others. After we went to the cafeteria for a coffee break. After the coffee break we went back to the auditorium for more presentations and then started our own master classes. Elizabeth and I were paired up together, and we did our presentation on using film in the classroom. Ours focused on how you can use film to assess speaking, writing, and grammar. Last year we only had to present once so it gave us an opportunity to go to all the other presentations. Unfortunately, this year, we had to present five times. We did split the last two so we could each visit another presentation. I really enjoy professional developments because I like to learn and get new ideas. If university education was free in the USA I don't think I'd ever stop being a student.
The seminar ended with a performance by students and a passing out of certificates to the attendees. The two days were long, but they were so much fun and we were working with a great group of people. It's kind of sad that I won't be here next year for it, but I told my director I wouldn't be mad if he paid for me to attend.
The last two photos are from Vera. The first one was just a funny one of my director and his time cards for the presenters. The day before the some of the presenters went over the allotted time, so I think he learned his lesson. Also, we had so much packed in one day that we needed to stay on a schedule so we could end on time since Vera and Kore were flying back to Moscow right after. The last picture I included to give you an idea of the amount of people attending. I think there were about 130 people in all which is great and I know they learned a lot.
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