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.

Monday, March 27, 2017

End of March Snow

This weekend I was supposed to go camping. Thankfully, it was cancelled because of the weather. I think I would have died sleeping outside in 30 degree weather. Since I thought I was camping I had lesson planned my next two weeks at work ahead of time which meant that I didn't have any planning to do this weekend. My week was also really busy too. Then, the trip was cancelled, so I planned even more work for the weekend thinking I had a lot of free time. What I'm trying to say is I don't really have a post today because I worked all weekend (even on Sunday).

Last week was in the upper 30s, and the sun was shining all day, which meant the snow was melting. I was overjoyed because I'm so over the snow. I also just ripped my boots and had to throw them away so I don't have anything to keep my feet dry and warm. Then, on Saturday, it started to snow again. It was a really depressing moment to walk outside and see 2 inches of snow on the ground. My feet were getting wet because my other boots aren't waterproof and I'm scared to wear my rain shoes outside since they have heels and I'm not used to walking on uneven surfaces. I'm extremely clumsy. I just want to be able to walk on ice-free streets!

I've also been a little somber lately. I really like my apartment and where I live, and I get sad thinking that I'm going to be leaving in a few months. I still don't know where I'll be in July. I applied to several jobs in the USA and one in Russia. I also have opportunities to move to Moscow. I want to stay in Russia, but I also know that I have a ton of school loans to pay back and making under $400 a month isn't going to pay them. On the other hand, I am terrible at interviews, so I don't want to move back and have to work 3 part time jobs again. I really fear that will happen. But if I move back I will have more opportunity to travel because I'll make more and save more. I'm broke right now, which is why I haven't been traveling this year.

Do you have any ideas of free things to do in the city or places to take photos? I've been feeling uninspired lately.

Friday, March 24, 2017

3-Ingredient No-Bake Cookies

I know I mention this all the time but I have the hardest time cooking in Russia. I can never find the ingredients I need when I go to the store, and sometimes I just don't have the right equipment in my house. This is especially the case with desserts. No matter what I do my desserts never seem to turn out right. For the past few months I've been scouring Pinterest for ideas. I would come across no-bake cookies, but they always called for that one ingredient I could never find: peanut butter. In December I managed to find peanut butter but forgot about my desire to make those no-bake cookies. A few weeks ago I resumed my search for a recipe that I could follow. All the no-bake recipes called for ingredients like cocoa powder. I felt defeated. Then, I found it. The three-ingredient no-bake cookie of my dreams. One that called for honey and not a stick of butter. There is no short supply of honey in Bashkortostan.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Meeting the Royal Family and Barron Trump

No matter what I did last week I was constantly tired. One night I got eight hours of sleep but could barely function the next day. You know when you get only 3 hours of sleep so get that weird feeling and it's hard to stay awake? That's how I felt, and I have no idea why. Friday night I only got four hours of sleep. I just couldn't sleep. I was exhausted, and even when I did fall asleep I still felt like part of me was awake. The strange thing was that when I finally woke up I wasn't tired, and while I write this at 8 pm I still don't feel tired. I woke up and was more productive than I've been in weeks. Maybe I just need less sleep? I did have a dream, though, that I met Barron Trump and was trying to convince him to say his name in a British accent to Prince Charles and Camilla. Dreams are so interesting.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Painted Garages

I haven't had much opportunity to go out and take pictures lately. Even when A and I go for a walk it's usually in the same places we've walked a million times before or I'm waiting for the snow to melt to take better pictures of the buildings around the city. As I was scrolling through my catalogue in Lightroom I couldn't believe I hadn't posted these pictures before. Maybe I just assumed I had because I have a similar picture to the one above on Instagram.

Monday, March 13, 2017

My Russian Language Progress

"How did you know that?" said A to me, shocked.

We were in line at the check out, and one woman asked if I had a card for the store. I said, "Yes," and handed her my card. A couldn't believe it. Just moments before the cashier asked if I had the same card and A answered for me, "No," until I told him, "Yes, I do have it." He couldn't believe that I understood the question. Truth is, I still can't hold a conversation in Russian. I can barely form a sentence, but after living here for a year and a half you learn things about language acquisition that you wouldn't think possible. Here are a few things I learned about language learning and the Russian language in general.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Thawing Out

This winter was a strange one for me. I just had no motivation to do anything but go to work and come home. People would always try to make plans with me but I'd just cancel, or in some cases it was just to late to go out. I used to get extremely terrible seasonal depression when I was younger, but this didn't feel like that. It could have been slight seasonal depression, but I just didn't want to do anything. I wasn't homesick either. It felt more like I wanted to recover from something. As the days are getting longer and the temperature getting higher I feel my mood changing.

Last Saturday was just what I needed to kick start my spring. I finally felt more motivated to go out after 7 pm, and more willing to meet with people. Sorry to any of those people who want to meet up! It's not you, it's me! I met Elizabeth around 4 because we wanted to get together and she's always willing to go on photo hunts with me. I had intentions of taking photos of an old building only to find that it was covered in some kind of tarp, so the only photo I managed to get was the one above. We walked a bit when I started to get hungry so we decided to get dinner. We chose Cafe Barashki because neither of us had been there since my birthday, and they have really great food.. During dinner my friend called me to see if I wanted to meet at a pub that night. I haven't seen her since August, so I agreed to go. After dinner Elizabeth and I walked home where I waited a little bit to go back out. It was so great to see my friend, Elmira, and meet her family. I even got to meet another friend who has constantly been inviting me to the pub, but I've always been to tired to go. The night starts so late here in Russia, and I'm seriously an old women who likes to be in bed by 10 pm.

All in all, it was a good weekend to recharge and get me ready for spring. How was your weekend? Any plans this weekend?

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Happy Women's Day

Can you believe it's my second Women's Day celebration in Ufa? It feels like just yesterday that I celebrated with my class and A and I went to the abandoned observatory. Last year Women's Day was on a Tuesday, so we had Monday and Tuesday off of work. This year we only had today off so I wanted to make the most of it. If you saw my Instagram post yesterday you saw that A bought me flowers. It's so sweet when he does that, but I was going to tell him not to buy me anything because I'd rather he save his money. It's like he can read my mind and decided to buy me flowers the day before. One of my students also got me Dove chocolates which was so stinking cute, and I almost ate the whole box. Oops.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Churches of Ufa V.1

Last summer (as you can tell from the lack of snow) I took these photos with the intention of doing one big post of churches in Ufa. It's really no surprise that I love the Orthodox churches. Even if you aren't a religious person I think you can agree that they are beautiful. I forgot about these photos, and the other day it hit me that they were still on my hard drive waiting to be edited. I decided to post these two because there are a lot of churches in Ufa, and one post will be too long. Plus, I'm really slow at going out to find them so it will take a while for the next ones to come.
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