Wow! It's been a while since I saw this screen!

I left you with a movie last time, so here's a movie from my summer:

Yes! That is Old Faithful exploding out of a mountain at a 90 degree angle! I've only just gotten proficient at posting videos on blogger. I'll worry about flipping it next time. You're just going to have to crane your neck for this one.

If you haven't guessed, I'm home from Tolyatti now. I never quite got around to that "meaningful concluding blog post", and for that I apologize.

So, if I wasn't updating my blog, what have I been doing this whole time?! I left Tolyatti around June 20th, and then I hung out in Moscow until the 31st. Then I was home for a month. I ate lots and lots of food to make up for not eating well in Russia, gained (back) 10 pounds, swam every few days, and enjoyed being back in the USA. Did you know that it's a pretty awesome country? At the end of July Kendra flew down to Tucson and we began our epic month-long road trip. That finished about 2 weeks ago, and since then I've just been a complete bum.
Our route. Not pictured: Alaska (we flew), The Grand Canyon,
Phoenix, and back to Sahuarita. Google maps couldn't
comprehend my directions once I got back into Arizona.

Since everyone always asks:
Most interesting thing you saw: Elephant seals
Most interesting place: Fort Ross, CA
Most beautiful place: ALASKA OF COURSE
Best thing: Seeing friends
Place I'd least like to live: LA or Idaho
Biggest surprise: There are Russians EVERYWHERE
Most annoying thing Kendra did: Try to make me eat breakfast before lunch
Worst things that happened: Truck wouldn't start once, cleaning nasty starfish and sand dollars, California traffic
Scariest thing that happened: Almost ran over a bear
Lessons learned: Use sunscreen ALWAYS, a GPS with an Australian accent > a GPS with an American accent, double-check addresses before going to the wrong campground, people in American hostels are creepy -- spend more and get a private room, my trucks's speedometer is off by 3 or 4 miles
Best story: Showering in the YMCA, off-roading in Utah

Happy birthday Tolyatti! Thanks for convincing me for a few seconds that the city was blowing up! You know, in most places they postpone fireworks when the weather is stormy.

Have any of you ever wondered why sometimes there's that car alarm that just keeps going off time and time again? Well, today I learned that it might be because the angry person whose car you parked behind is kicking it. I always wondered how Russians managed to get out of chaotic parking situations (the "parking lot" as we Americans know it is a rare concept here), and now I know.

It's June! Do you know what this means? It means that I get to change my calendar! I haven't actually done this in about 2 months, because somewhere in the middle of April I started feeling depressed looking at a grey picture full of slushy melty snow. I don't care if that's what April actually looks like, I didn't need to see that both on the street and on my wall. So, it's been on sunny, green, flowery May for quite a while now. I was skeptical that May would live up to its picture, but you know what? It really has. You would be amazed how fast plants can grow. In the past 2 months my dvor has literally gone from a wasteland to a jungle. Ok, not literally..but almost.

Another pretty crazy thing about June is that it means I'm going home soon. I'm here in Tol'yatti until June 19th, and then I'll be in Moscow until the 29th. I still have quite a lot to do though, so it hasn't sunk in yet. The university organized a summer camp for about 40 children whose parents either work at the university or are otherwise connected. It's supposed to last for 4 weeks, but I'm skipping town after 2.5...which I have to admit that I'm not particularly disappointed by. The camp was started last year, so it wasn't quite my idea. Today was the first day, and so far the kids are nice. This was the oldest group though, and I already knew about half of the group from the weekly lessons that I've been having with them, so that was helpful..particularly since those that I already know pretty well are the loud and easily sidetracked teenage boys. I know from experience that under no circumstances are D. and A. to sit next to each other, and I did have to confiscate a drawing. I also know from experience though that they're not bad kids, and they've gotten to be pretty talkative around me (which is really my main goal -- making people comfortable speaking English). Now to work on the remaining 6 scaredy cats.

Tomorrow will be my first day with the middle and youngest groups. The middle will be a big handful (I expect) -- fifteen 11-13 year-olds. Woohoo! I still haven't figured out what to do with them yet. Maybe we'll draw monsters or something. That could be fun.

Today I had my last class with the group of teachers that I've been working with this semester. It's sort of surprising, but my greatest hit as far as topics go was "rednecks". We devoted 3 lessons to it since everyone was so interested and today finished up by watching The Beverly Hillbillies. In case anyone's wondering, the closest translation in Russian would be деревенщина -- I know because that was our mission during one of our classes. I was kind of nervous about the teachers when I first started, but they've turned out to be some of the most fun.

Apart from all of the good that's happening, there has been a rather tragic development in the last week. My body has decided, without my permission, that it no longer has any desire to cook. This forces me to either scrounge or eat out quite a lot. I guess it hung in there for quite a while though; 9 months is respectable. On a somewhat related note, I had a dream involving Spaghetti O's yesterday. I was trying to explain the word "trashcan", and somehow in my mind holding up a can of Spaghetti O's and then adding муссор (trash) to it was a logical explanation. Trash...can....sort of? Apart from the obvious sign that I've been teaching too long, it made me miss one of my favorite easy meals. Yet another thing on the long list of items that they don't have in Russia.

Also, it's really hot here now. It's great.

I ran across THIS today and I wasn't sure who to share it with, so I'll put it here. If you don't understand it then that's probably a good thing.


A nice snowstorm

Early April -- gross

Late April

Bonus points if you've noticed that blue plastic bag that's been stuck in the tree for months.

One new lesson learned: don't pick up strange Russian bugs. They might sting you.

I know that sounds pretty obvious, and believe me I'm not usually in the habit of petting bugs, but last night there just so happened to be a rather large bug that had found its way into my apartment. After watching it hurl itself against the light in my hallway for a few minutes I took pity on it. It appeared to be a harmless mosquito hawk, and while I don't know if they really eat mosquitoes or not, I figured that it was worth saving it in the slim chance that it did (I happened to see my first mosquito yesterday). I was also in a pretty benevolent mood. Well, right as  was going in for the grab, I felt a burning sensation on the palm of my hand. That stopped that. See if I ever try to rescue a bug bare-handed again. Unfortunately for my uninvited guest that put a short stop to my feelings of good will and it was forthwith squished unceremoniously.

The string of strange phonecalls continues. Here is my latest (translated):

me: Hello?
- Hello.
me: Hello
...........awkward silence.......
me: Why did you call?
me: *hangs up*

Since a lady with a very similar voice then called my cell phone, I have a sneaky suspicion that the awkward call had been from a lady inquiring if I'd like to change my internet plan. Bad reception or bad receptionist? Hard to tell. Since I'm leaving in a month I didn't feel inclined to change my internet in any way though..even if it was free.

In other news my trusty bus #121, my favorite, no longer goes to the university. Hard times.

Today I had my last Chat Hour, which was actually pretty sad. It's a good group of people, and I'm going to miss them. I'll still be at the university for another 3 weeks (4 if you count the remaining days of this week), but I'll be working with children instead of university students. I'm not sure if it will be refreshing or exhausting. 3 weeks seems a bit extreme to me, but I'm not the one who arranged it. All I know is that I hope I know enough games to fill up 3 weeks.

I've been having a lot of what we'll call "flashback sensations" lately. Sometimes a certain smell or sound or temperature will make me think about events or places from my past. Maybe it's just a symptom of advanced homesickness, but whatever the cause I've enjoyed the memories. Here are a few of the things that I've been thinking about: rainstorms at the Cottonwood pool, the long (but now seems short) walk between Quintard and McClurg, sitting in bed and looking out the window in Alaska, walking through town in Middlebury, and Hope. Sometimes it's sad that there are days that you can't go back and enjoy again. For many days once just really wasn't enough. I suppose that's the beauty of the future though -- there are plenty of wonderful days left to be experienced. That's one reason (of many reasons) why I'm happy that the world didn't end on Saturday! I personally am interested in finding out where this story that is my life goes.

Right now though this life of mine is going to the store. I don't have any lessons to prepare for tomorrow, which almost certainly means that tonight I'll be up late doing a whole bunch of nothing. Unless I want to do this in the dark, I really need to buy a new lightbulb. Cheap Russian lightbulbs. At least I've gotten pretty handy at changing them.

About this blog

Good news: no more required disclaimer!
Bad news: I'm really lazy about posting when I'm not in Russia