Most people would be surprised that Russian is actually a very pretty language. We Americans have a particularly harsh idea of what Russian sounds like: angry, grating, scary. THIS clip exemplifies how most Americans would feel if confronted by a Russian (or multiple Russians). While it's true that markets and talking to strangers can be intimidating, the language is not to blame! To prove this theory I'm going to compile a list of particularly catchy songs (mostly because Kim wouldn't humor me and stay up late listening to Russian music). I'm not going to bother trying to translate them..I'm probably not even going to screen them well enough to tell if they're offensive. The meaning isn't the point though..if you can understand it you already know that the stereotypes about Russian are false.

Russian is particularly well-suited to music because it's lyrical and rhythmic. Personally I like rap (I don't know if this is surprising to anyone...but yes, I am a big fan of rap music. When I drive I really like to listen to trashy rap because it's super catchy, but I'm too busy driving to listen to the lyrics). I'll save this category for a little bit later though, since not everyone might share this opinion.

[One thing about Russian music almost always includes either techno dance beats or an accordion...if you're lucky you get both in the same song!! ]

Let's start with one of my favorites -- the sultry, mulleted, and oh-so-debonair Dima Bilan. He started off as a sort of joke to me, but he grows on you over time.

This song is just kinda sweet. Plus it reminds me of Captain Planet.

***poetry break***

Another favorite

This is what Braveheart would look like if it were set to Russian folk music. Although, this is closer to what most Russian folk music sounds like.

Rap Time

I've already shared my favorite rap song (Еще Один День -- Ю.Г. ), so I'll try to add in some new ones.

This one's pretty's about hunting a Yetti!

Faktor 2 has some really fun music too. This one is making fun of American music (including Eminem, Snoop Dogg, and Usher). The title is "I want to be on tv"

The background music for this one intrigued me. The singing is a little forced, but the rap is ok.

Now, for my final point let's hold a little competition:


The German reminds me of skipping for some reason.

Alright then, I'm satisfied. I can go to bed now.

Well, Christmas has come and gone once again. If I were 5 this would be the worst day of the year (Christmas countdown: 364 days), but at 21 I find that Christmas itself isn't so exciting. The gifts are nice but fewer in between than in the old days...I suspect that's mostly due to the fact that I have more expensive taste and don't make Christmas lists. Now I mostly look forward to Christmas break as a whole: 1 month with no classes, no homework, no dorms, time with family, good food, and lots and lots of sleep. I could think up some moral to go along with this, but now is not the time for essays.

Actually, I don't really feel like writing this at all (I almost deleted everything, but I already had a paragraph..). I thought that perhaps a good ol' blog post would be a good way to get rid of my boredom, but that is apparently not the case. Yes, I know that I just talked about how great Christmas break is in my first paragraph and now I'm complaining about how bored I am....but boredom isn't such a bad thing. Not this type of boredom at least (where if I really really felt like it I could find something to do, but there's absolutely no obligation to be useful).

I really haven't done anything at all this break. I've probably been outside less than 5 times (so much for that tan)..and generally it's just to go to Wal-Mart for supplies. I read a book (The Kite Runner -- pretty good). Watched some movies. Eventually I'll make a pilgrimage up to Cottonwood to see the old town and hang out with friends...but I don't know when. It's 4 hours away which means it needs to be a multiple day affair, but it also means I'll need to apprehend one of my parents' cars for that time...leaving them carless (which doesn't really work so well). I really hate traveling right now. Let's the last year I've traveled:

Wasilla to Seattle to London to Moscow to Irkutsk: 10, 414.4 miles (by plane)
Irkutsk to Ulan Bator (Mongolia): 324.4 miles (by train)

then back again....another 10,738.8 miles

Wasilla to Sahuarita (AZ): 2669.3 miles (by car)
Sahuarita to Wasilla: 2669.3 miles (by plane)

Wasilla to Houston: 3267.9 miles (by plane)
Houston to Sewanee: 666.3 miles (by car)

Sewanee to Sahuarita x3: 4372.2 miles (by plane)

total mileage: 35,122.6 a few hundred miles here and there

For perspective, the circumference of the earth is approximately 24,900 miles.

That was also probably more math than I've done in the last 3 years combined. That is not a bad thing. Just don't judge me too harshly if for some reason you are nerdy enough to check my math and find I missed a number somewhere.

Luckily New Years is right around the corner. I have high expectations for 2010. 2009 has been alright, but I'll be glad to see it go.

My birthday is also soon...the big 22. January 29th if anyone is curious. Mail all presents and/or checks to my school address, please. I might settle for just a card...but bonus points to all who buy me something. My favor can be bought.

Also, thanks to all who stopped by after my last post. I doubt you'll ever come back, but the popularity was nice while it lasted. Here's a secret: I like to stalk everyone who visits just like they stalk me. It's called "statcounter". It's not nearly as interesting as reading my blog, but it does say how many people read it and gives me a nifty map.

In general I spit upon Twitter and curse its name, but luckily one of my suitemates doesn't share my opinion and noticed that a fellow Twitterite had stumbled upon my latest entry and spread the news (with rapid speed, might I add: kudos to you mystery tweeter). So...about 100 people stopped by over the next 2 days, as compared to about 3 the week before. I'm still not going to get a Twitter account though. Ever. I struggle enough with thinking up worthy facebook fact, 90% of the time I just don't have one because I decide whatever I thought about saying would be boring to the rest of my 200 some friends on there.

There's another subject: facebook "friends". In reality it's more like facebook "people I met once and thought were cool enough that I wanted their names on my page.....and then I never talked to again". I've been thinking about doing some purges..but I would feel a little bad. Someday I may actually want to know what they're doing. Maybe I'll be looking for a job and they'll have some influence and I'll be like "HEY FRIEND! Look it up on facebook, we're like bffs!! Your statuses show up on my news feed ALL the TIME!" and they'd be like "OMG YEAH! I saw those photos you posted last week! You're hired! Here's $1,000,000,000!!!" And then we'd talk to each other in real life.

Friends are a status symbol too. If you have over 1,000 of them you must be amazing, and if you have less than 100 you should get out more. Maybe sometime I'll suck it up and either get rid of some or start talking to them again....or facebook will just get better settings. I care more about the photos that my best friend posted than who the person that I met once in highschool is now friends with. Or, maybe the unthinkable will happen and facebook will cease to be the most important thing in life. Maybe I'll just get a phone.....except that I hate phones. Maybe I'll just get something else that's equally as personal but not a phone. Smoke signals could be fun. While you were at it you could make s'mores.

I finally got with the times and watched the new Star Trek (my family generally just waits until things come out on DVD instead of going to theaters). Everyone was right: it is a really good movie, and the Russian guy was pretty cute. He really is Russian..I looked it up on Wikipedia.

Well, look at that. I went and wrote a blog after all.

Merry day after Christmas,
Happy Boxing Day,
С Новым Годом,
and Happy almost 2010!

Here's a nice little reminder of days bygone (even more bygone than 2009): an excellent day of iceblocking. This is how you sled in Arizona.

Signing out,
Amanda "Completely Uncalled For" Conrad

The title has very little to do with this entry, but I thought it was catchy.

I've been hungry for the last couple of days. I'm talking abnormally so. Generally I have a pretty high hunger tolerance, but this morning nearly began with me tumbling out of bed and promptly starving to death right there on the floor...the sole witnesses to my misfortune a pair of dirty socks, a package of stickers, and a pile of Russian notes. Luckily I keep a stash of emergency poptarts in my closet for just this sort of occasion, and I managed to scarf one down before I lost consciousness. Then I went back to reviewing for my 19th century Russian Lit. final.

I attribute my brush with death to the fact that McClurg's food has been steadily decreasing in quality since Thanksgiving, and I can only be sustained by old pizza for so long. To remedy this, I proposed that Kendra and I go out to eat for dinner. Unfortunately, the most classy restaurants in the area are Mexican (which Kendra doesn't really care for), and Subway. Considering the fact that we've eaten at Subway about 392574827542 times this semester, we decided to visit its neighbor: Waffle House. For those of you not from the east/south who have no idea what Waffle House is, here's a picture:

From its appearance (and all Waffle Houses look the same) Waffle House was built in the 50s...and then never altered again. They specialize in (what else?) waffles...they do offer other food choices, but I would not recommend you try them. People keep coming back because you get a lot of food for cheap, and they are ALWAYS open...even on Christmas day (they had a sign up advertising this and seemed very proud of this fact). Anyway, for once Waffle House was almost full, so Kendra and I got squashed back in the corner booth right next to the break room. This placement actually turned out to be quite strategic. It seems there's been some drama in Waffle House as of late -- SOMEONE has been leaving threatening letters! But wait, that's not all! At 9:00 on this very night (December 11, 2009) a showdown was scheduled to take place. All of the waitresses seemed one knew what this new development in "As The Waffle Turns" (as our waitress dubbed it) would bring! Angst lingered palpably in the air...mingling poetically with the stale smoke and rancid cooking grease. Would everything turn out to be just a gross misunderstanding? Would the Sewanee mafia show up and "settle" the problem once and for all? Would fisticuffs break out in the parking lot???

Unfortunately, we ate dinner at 7:30 and didn't get to find out. Our waitress said she was going to start charging a $5 cover fee at the door though..and we were welcome to come back (provided that we brought our own beverages and popcorn).

I have officially decided that I'm looking forward to graduation. 17 years is a long time to continuously be in school, I'm getting rather burnt out.

Of course, it doesn't help that I'm in the midst of finals right now (not that I have that many). It's so unfortunate that they always time finals for the times when you care the least about school. After the hustle and bustle and lack of sleep accumulated by the final days of class, I'm pretty sure that 99.9% of students would rather (insert drastic action here - it's too late to be creative) than read anything else about that subject for at very least a month. Sometimes they'd rather not talk about that subject ever again...I find that I fall into this group most often.

Luckily, break is just one week away. *Conveniently* my two finals were scheduled in the very first and very last time slots. Maybe I'll do something interesting during my week of repose like go on a hike. In reality though I'll probably complain about the essay I still have to write, sleep, and play bejeweled all day. I have never claimed to be the most active person in the world.

I can't wait to go home for multiple reasons. Here are a few:

1) It's Christmas
2) Walking from my room to the kitchen does not involve any of the following: a) cold, b) 1/2 a mile, c) motivation

Well...those are the main ones really. I guess family will be nice too =P (and yes dad, I do still want a ride from the airport)

Here's a fun link for all of you Tetris players (courtesy of Kim and

Oh, and P.S. Jared -- I'm still winning

Things are settling down here and life has, for the most part, returned to normal. I'm very pleased to note that November has been much better than October. About a week ago I checked my mail for the first time in a considerable while. This year's dorm is about a mile away from my post office box, so since my incoming correspondence has pretty much dropped to 0 I usually only bother to make the trek once every week and a half or so. However, on the rare days that I do have something there's about a 70% chance that I won't be able to open my box and will just give up in defeat and decide to try some other day. Apparently the trick to opening it is to not be me, since no one else has problems with it. Anyway, a week ago I found both a letter from Ludmila Vasilevna (my host in Russia) and a Halloween package from my mom -- happy day! I have a miserly streak though, and have only grudgingly shared a few cookies and a box of nerds with 1 of my suite mates. Don't worry though, I'm learning my lesson...the thought of candy now gives me a slight headache. Now I'm pacing myself

You should write me. Or send me things. My mailbox is lonely...and so am I!

Ok...that picture might be a little extreme, but you get the point.

As you can perhaps tell from the title, I've been listening to a lot of music lately. I go in cycles when it comes to music: sometimes I listen to it all day, sometimes I won't turn it on for a week, sometimes I only listen to music in foreign languages, sometimes that makes my head hurt. Most recently I've been in a Russian music mood...more specifically a Братья Грим (The Brothers Grim) mood. Since it's Russian I doubt most of you folks will understand, but it's ok because I barely understand the lyrics myself. This group focuses more on the overall sound, so I feel like the mood should be fairly universal even to you non-Russian-speaking readers. Click HERE! I'm assuming that worked, I'm bad at this linking business. And yes, there is a rutube. If you like it enough, повторить means repeat.

If you like rap with meaningful lyrics, try this one-- Еще Одинь День (One more day). My favorite lines are:

Куда спешить? Зачем стремительно так жить? /Where are you rushing? Why are you living so hurriedly?
Зачем забывать, что можно дышать, можно любить?/ Why have you forgotten that you can breath, that you can love?
Ведь можно жить, а можно просто проживать! /You can live life, or you can just live through life!

If for some absurd reason you like English, I've always liked OneRepublic's song Stop and Stare.

I also have no shame in admitting that I like THIS song. I don't care what you say, it's sweet and has nice bass.

For bad days, go here
For romantic days
If Bollywood is your style
If you need to drive
Or if you're on a boat...
If you've got hurt feelings,
Just let it go.

There really is a song for everything.


(Yes, I do expect you all to listen to every single one of these. A lot of time and love went into my selections!)

This year is full of contradictions. Paradoxically, it's been one of my best and my worst years. I began the year with an extended Christmas break followed by a great study abroad experience. Then my summer alternated between immense activity and complete isolation. While at times I thought I might go insane from lack of social interaction, at other times I got to see good friends that I hadn't seen in years. I spent a little over a week catching up with Kim on a trans-US/Canadian road trip (whom I hadn't seen since June of 2008). Even though we spent a lot of time driving and listening to the same songs over and over again, we also got to see a lot of cool scenery and wildlife....and avoid getting eaten in our tent by said wildlife, gain valuable work-place experience in the moving industry, perfect our rendition of "My Life Would Suck Without You", acquire a premium German accent, have heart-to-heart conversations, partake in dust art, and I learned how to drive without using my rear-view mirror.

In Arizona I discovered that while moving heavy furniture down a set of stairs is frustrating, moving it up stairs is even worse. I got to make a trip back up to my old haunt of Cottonwood and see Amanda #2, which was also fantastic. Then I spent a few days in extreme suburbia and returned to Alaska.

I had an awful flight going to Alaska, and discovered by accident that I had my ride's old cell phone number...and so failed to let her know that my flight was going to be delayed about 4 hours. Luckily she didn't abandon me, even though she'd had a long rough day too. Even though we were both exhausted, we had a nice little catch-up session (I hadn't seen Tara since she'd come to visit me in Arizona a few years earlier). I also discovered that Fruitland smoothies are amazing.

I got to the house in Alaska to find that the car keys weren't there (a big problem). Luckily, everything got sorted out the next day and it just became a slight mishap rather than a disaster (since there wasn't really any food at the house and we lived 16 miles outside of town). Then I got to have some alone time...something I had severely missed in Russia. A lot of alone time.

However, when I wasn't being alone or admiring the great view of the inlet, I was seeing old friends...some of whom I hadn't seen since I left 5 years ago. Sarah and I learned to open champagne bottles with a sword, Gabe and I went rock climbing and had many a late night chat, Mark showed me the joys of scary computer games and rollerskiing (or being pulled by him on rollerskis), Jessica and I had a nice dinner, and Trevor and I had lunch and my first game of frisbee golf (which I discovered I'm not so good at). I knitted my first scarf ever (although I have since knitted a 2nd...the key is to use larger needles).

Then comes school. I'm living in a great suite with a great group of girls. I'm only taking 3 classes, which means I have an unusual amount of free time. However, I somehow never seem to get enough sleep..even though my classes don't start until 10 or 11 each day. I'm playing 1st in orchestra and have managed to avoid the wrath of the director so far (which is better than I can say for a lot of the other members). My boat for crew has come together surprisingly well. Even though 2 of the girls have never rowed before they've caught on amazingly fast, and we even won a medal at our last regatta (a medal that we earned, not just got because there were only 3 boats). I got an A on my midterm, even though I didn't like my essay. My Fulbright application finally got turned in (and with minimal conflicts). I'm feeling optimistic about the year, and looking forward to Thanksgiving, which is just around the corner.

Unfortunately though, this year has not been without its troubles. October has been an especially emotionally taxing month for me. On October 1st I began the month by oversleeping an important crew practice. I had been up late doing homework, and then had trouble falling asleep, so it's not surprising that I either incorrectly set my alarm clock, or I just didn't hear it go off. As soon as I woke up I sent my coach a quick e-mailed apology, and went back to bed. When I woke back up at about 9 I went through my usual morning routine: get up, bathroom, brush teeth, get dressed, check e-mail. I almost didn't see the e-mail from the dean. It said there had been a tragedy on turns out that 4 girls driving to the practice I overslept had been hit by an 18-wheeler. 2 of them died instantly, and 2 others were badly injured. I had only met them a couple of times, but it was still shocking to learn the news.

Then, yesterday, I got home at about 8 pm from a busy day and found an e-mail from my site director in Irkutsk titled "Amanda, I have some bad news". This time the news was much more personal. She said that a few days ago Igor (my friend and ex-boyfriend from Irkutsk who was currently in Seattle) committed suicide. His sister wanted me to know that it had nothing to do with me or the relationship, and I believe her. The breakup was sad, but necessary, and we parted on as amiable of terms as possible, but decided that it would be best for both of us not to have any contact for a while. That being the case, I hadn't talked to or heard from Igor in 3 or 4 months. The last thing I knew, he was really enjoying Seattle, found the work he was doing rewarding, and was starting to make plans for the future back in Irkutsk. I guess we can never truly know what's going on in the heads of others though. I don't know how or why it happened. In some ways I don't want to know. It's just heartbreaking to know that someone you cared about could hurt so much that death seemed like the only answer....and that there was nothing you could do to help.

I don't want to think about him as he must have been this week, I want to remember him as I knew him. If he had a fault, it was that he cared too much. He regularly rescued poor lost foreigners and loved children. Even though he classified himself as a loner and only had a couple of people he considered his true friends, the whole town knew and liked him. He was brilliant, but modest. He looked best when he played soccer...I never did care for his maroon dress shirt that he wore so much. Somehow he managed to be a complete dreamer and romantic...and utterly practical. He always said that he was just like a big child, and I agree. He rescued me from countless dinners (if I didn't like something, he would just sigh and roll his eyes and eat it for me), and always insisted on washing the dishes. I taught him how to make chocolate chip cookies (which he thought were "bearable"..along with PB&J), banana bread, and Chinese fried rice. Together we learned how to make blini...however, he had no skill at all at flipping them. Sometimes he was pensive and didn't understand the world, but overall he was an optimist. We had a lot of good times together. We were different in a lot of ways, and in the end that drew us apart, but through it all he was always a fun and loving friend. He's one of my greatest memories from Irkutsk. Had I known when we said goodbye in Moscow that it would have been for forever, I would have hugged him tighter.

R.I.P Игорь Михаилович Лужков. I hope the next world is better for you than this one was.

Please keep everyone's families and friends in your prayers. Death is never easy for anyone.

Is it procrastination when what you are procrastinating on homework that you shouldn't even be working on tomorrow...because you've already finished today's work and read the 100+ pages of Russian lit for tomorrow? I think I am just an over-achiever by nature, but now I have one less class than usual, so instead of breaking even on my work, I am ending up ahead. I suppose that is a cross I will just have to bear.

Yes indeed, it is going to be a hard semester. My classes start between 10 and 11 every day, meaning that I've got to be out of bed no later that 9 or 10 on my average day. It's just so hard to regulate my schedule so that I'm in bed before 1 am so I can get those all-important 8 hours of sleep. Living in a single also has its disadvantages. There's no one to annoy if I want to stay up late or get up early. It's up to me to fill up all of the drawers and shelves (although actually I've found that if anything I have too much stuff). Sometimes it does get a little lonely though. However, to alleviate this is the fact that while I have a single, that single is connected to a suite consisting of a common room, 3 other singles, and a bathroom. Don't fear anyone, I haven't abandoned my longtime roommate Kendra. In fact, she is sitting next to me right now doing homework and we are sharing cheez-its like old times.

In other news, the plague has hit Sewanee.....or at least Health Services likes to think it has. They've been instructed to call any type of influenza or disease with influenza-like symptoms the swine flu. Whoever thought of that was brilliant.... The flu sucks as it is (but is not that major unless you already have a weakened immune system), but now you've got to call it something like the "swine" flu which just makes it sound dirty. Now every corner of every building has a hand sanitizing station, everyone with the slightest cough or sniffle has been confined to their rooms (where they are ordered not to leave, and served meals by masked health workers) or sent home to their families (where they can infect them and spread this horrid sickness amongst their loved ones and countrymen without being hampered by over-zealous health services officials).

Get over it already people. Honestly, I've had the flu. You throw up for a day or two, sleep a lot, take it easy for a week, and you're good. It is not the black death. Also, washing your hands and using hand sanitizer excessively can actually hurt you. You need to build up some immunities. Personally, I'm pretty sure my body has pretty well gotten the hang of fighting off minor ailments. Probably something about my ancestors living without hand sanitizer (and probably soap for that matter) for thousands of years before I came around.

Yes, I do realize I'm probably going to get sick after saying all of this.

That's all really. I haven't been up to much. I finally mostly cleaned my room. I like my classes. I've been trying to work out every day. I'm still planning to do crew. I survived orchestra even though I literally hadn't played in 9 months (and still had to play 1st). I kinda really need to do laundry.

Read the caption. It is amazing. (ps -- look Kim! I figured out how to make it a link!!)

I finished my first scarf ever! I'm going to wear it excessively once it gets cold enough.

I probably should have closed the closet door.

Well, my 8 weeks of solitude are coming to an end. Now I just need to get the house in order, cram everything from the last 9 months of my life into 2 suitcases, and find my way to the airport. Nothing too bad, right? Right. Sort of. Maybe.

Cleaning is one of my least favorite things because it's just a continuous cycle. I completely cleaned the whole house about 3 weeks ago, and now I will have to do it all over again because it's messy again. How lame is that? I still haven't caught up on the dishes...and there are so many of them that I could feasibly not do the dishes for at least 2 or 3 weeks (note: this is a theory, not a practice). The problem, though, is that only a few days' worth of dishes fit into the dishwasher at once, so the same key dishes and utensils always have top priority..leaving all of the particularly delicate or odd-shaped dishes out of the loop until it becomes convenient to wash them. I have to say, I am looking forward to some good not-home-cooking from McClurg.

I still miss trays though.

Yesterday I got back from a trip down to Seward to see the Chases. I was feeling pretty good when I got back -- settled down on my bed to check e-mail, caught up with a few people.....and then I fell asleep. I can't imagine why on earth I would be tired! It's not like I had to go exercise with Mark or anything....

Thursday after (a very tasty) dinner Mark had an idea. He had a hankerin' to go roller skiing -- it's active, it's outside, and it's fun. I don't happen to know how to roller ski (but it looks interesting, I may have to learn), so he suggested I could ride a bike instead. We'd go from the fire station to Safeway and easy 6 miles. I thought that sounded like a good idea, so I got suited up in some too-large borrowed rain gear and an ever so attractive helmet, and we set out. It was pretty easy at first, I kept up alright, and the bike was a little small, but not too bad. But then Mark started getting a little ahead...."no big deal", I figured, "I'll just catch him on the next downhill". Wrong. You see the problem is while Mark has been off running mountains, I haven't been up to much at all. I walked a lot in Russia, and climbed my fair share of stairs..but that's about it really. So, while a couple of miles of skiing just invigorated Mark, I started getting a little tired. I was relieved to see Safeway come into view..I wasn't quite dying, but I was starting to feel it a little in my legs. Then to my horror, Mark puts his head down and powers past our check point. For the next half mile or so I consoled myself by thinking maybe he just wanted to try out some hills, and we'd be turning around soon. I finally got a moment to catch my breath when someone Mark knew stopped him for a little chat. After he finished talking, Mark came over to see how I was doing, and inquire if I would like to go all the way to the Sealife Center. I looked balefully at the rather massive hill between us and the Sealife Center and told him no thanks, I was quite happy with what we'd already done, and wouldn't mind turning around now. This wasn't quite the answer he was looking for, so Mark worked some of his persuasive magic and said the hill wasn't that bad, and it was all downhill to the Sealife center after it, and that we could take a nice break once we got there if I wanted to. I rolled my eyes and said fine, and struggled my way up the hill.

Our nice long break lasted for about 5 seconds. Then we spent some time debating about which side of the hill was harder. He said the side we'd just come up was the worst because it was really the worst was behind us, and it was just an easy coast back to the car. I said that this side looked pretty bad from our current vantage point and reminded him that there were still 5 miles between us and the car. In the end, I managed to stretch our break into about 5 minutes, and then we set back towards the car...all the way Mark encouraging me and telling me how it was just an easy straight shot back to the car (untrue, it is actually slanted slightly uphill most of the way). Once we made it back to the car I did have to concede that I felt pretty accomplished.

The next day after dinner Mark looks at me again with that gleam in his eye and says he has a proposal for me. I didn't see a ring or anything, so I figured it was probably bad news. He suggested that today we can just go easy..just to Safeway and back. I said I wasn't falling for that one again (he defended himself by saying that yesterday he said "at least" to Safeway). I told him about the only way I'd go would be if he pulled me...

We had a good laugh about that, but then Mark got a thoughtful look and said there could be something to that idea. After scrounging around the house we came up with the following objects:
-Dog harness
-2 leashes
-roller skis

Can you see where I'm going with this?

Unfortunately, we didn't take any pictures of this momentous I have created my own rendering of what it probably looked like via paint:

(if Russian doesn't work out, I'm thinking there could be a place for me in graphic design)

I can only imagine what the tourists thought. We got passed by 6 tour busses and a train along the way.

Mark pulled me the 6 miles to Safeway and back while keeping up a pretty reasonable pace and only complaining about how the bike's weight would kick in while he was gliding and not when he was pulling. When we got back to the car Mark felt so good that we turned around and did another 6 miles (but this time I got there by my own propulsion). I'm pretty sure the only thing this experiment proved is that Mark is a beast (that's a compliment)...however, if this ever becomes a fad, we totally thought of it first.

That's about all that's going on here.

Here are some good links of the day:
(I do apologize that they are not you'll have to copy/paste)



Oh man...Flight of the Conchords makes me laugh. I don't know about you, but watching those sure brightened my day

I saw this in the Wal-mart parking lot today. I was just so in awe of its beauty and practicality that I had to snap a picture of it (surreptitiously of course..thus the grey ford escape occupying half of the photo). I'm not quite sure if they were going for the limo effect, or if their family was just so large and rugged your average van wouldn't survive the rigors of daily life. Unfortunately, I didn't encounter the owners of this fantastic vehicle (I'm really curious about what sort of gas mileage it gets....side note: what if you did this to a Prius?). Alaska is awesome.

Speaking of Alaska and awesomeness, the moon has been spectacular lately. My camera skills are not quite capable of capturing the magnitude of awesome the night this picture was taken, but it can at least hint at what I'm talking about:

Enough talking though, now it's time to do what I do best: criticize. I'm sure anyone who has a blog on blogger has noticed how utterly annoying adding pictures is. I would gladly add more pictures..but it's just such torture! Blogger assumes that I want every new picture added to the top of the note, I do not want to move it anywhere, AND that I want the cursor to disappear afterward. The first assumption I could perhaps understand. I'm sure a lot of people DO want their pictures at the top of the blog. I could even forgive the benevolent creators of blogger for thinking that I wouldn't want to move the pictures (indeed, it's such trouble I generally don't want to move them).....but making the cursor disappear?! That's just cruel! I was always taught that one should add 2 spaces after every sentence...and now I can't tell if I've added 1, 2, or 30! Plus the whole obnoxiousness of having a touch pad and clumsy fingers (I have had far too many occasions where I have accidentally simultaneously touched the touch pad, clicked in the middle of a paragraph, somehow highlighted everything, and then hit backspace before I even know what's hit me).

Oh cursor came back.


In other news, the great blogger experiment of '09 hasn't really been working as expected. I got one more "plastic spatula melt" hit, but other than that nothing changed...except for a peculiar rise in readers. Maybe word just got around that I'd been updating. So, I have decided to lower my expectations/goals. I now aspire to just be on the first page of google's search engine for the query "plastic spatula melt". I feel like that's reasonable...and anyone who is searching for information about melting spatulas probably deserves a reprieve in the form of my delightful blog.

Here's to you, oh frustrated melty plastic spatula owners! ( I recieved an e-mail from my dad a few days ago. He said he'd read my blog and thought I'd been alone for too long. He's probably right)

I have not touched a plastic spatula ever since I discovered that my favorite plastic spatula was melting and leaving unsavory slivers of plastic in my ham. Actually, this is more to do with the fact that I've been behind on dish washing and haven't felt like cooking anything requiring a spatula than my utmost horror at the discovery that plastic spatulas melt. Here's a tip though: don't be in a hurry and just leave things cooking on "high". Plastic spatulas are much more likely to melt when your stove is on high than, say, medium. It's a fact. However, had you used a metal spatula, you probably wouldn't have this problem...unless your stove is just insane. Then you'd have bigger issues than your spatula your skillet melting. I have to imagine that would be considerably less pleasant than a few scraps of plastic. I've also discovered that once a spatula begins to melt, it is much more likely that the melting process will occur with less provocation the next time you use it. I would imagine the plastic is the same throughout the spatula..but a lot of things in life seem to go like that. When one corner starts melting it just gets worse and worse from there. Spatula is a funny word. That's probably at least 60% of the reason why I've become so dedicated to the goal of my blog reaching fame through the phrase "plastic spatula melt".

I was casually talking to my friend Jared earlier (Hi Jared!!) about cold weather clothing when I realized how extreme I sound sometimes. I was saying how my favorite boots are bunny boots (google them, they're sweet), but they'll only keep your feet warm until about -30F. At around -35 your feet will be cold..but not to the point that they hurt (which is the worst, by the way). Then he asked what the coldest weather I'd ever been in was, and I'm pretty sure the coldest I've ever been in was around -40F when I was in Irkutsk. Possibly a little lower since I wasn't carrying a thermometer around with me at the time (however, that experience is how I learned that Fahrenheit and Celsius meet at -40). That was also the day Claire and I got lost in town. Then I threw in that -40 wasn't really that bad...when my dad was mushing in a race it was probably in the -50s (I believe I remember correctly..sorry dad if my facts aren't straight). What's absolutely mind blowing though is the Siberian town of Oymyakon. Not only does it have an unfortunately umpleasant sounding name, but it also has the distinction of being the coldest town in the northern hemisphere with a temperature of -71.2 C (-96.2F). There was also a prison camp around there somewhere. Talk about bad luck.

I'm really not that extreme though. I'm just normal...ish.

I was also reminded today how inaccurate a gauge my expression is in comparison with my actual mood (unless I'm smiling..then that usually means I'm happy). I was walking in a parking lot today, thinking about how glad I was that I had my coat because it looked like it might rain, when a middle-aged passerby gave me a friendly reminder to smile. I flashed him a little smile and said "Thanks"..but then I got to thinking about how people always accuse me of either being depressed or angry, when in reality I'm just thinking about random stuff that doesn't really have to do with anything important. I'm very rarely depressed...pensive sometimes, yes, but depressed and angry, no. I just happen to direct my thoughts to other things besides what happens to be on my face at the time.

I also make pretty inaccurate first impressions (although sometimes it works to my advantage). I will guarantee you that most people who have spent a very minimal amount of time interacting with me think I am: quiet, shy, nice, smart, rarely smile, perhaps uptight, and a little condescending. I've been hanging out a fair deal with someone I used to go to high school with (if you're reading this, you know who you are...and I'm pretty sure you fell asleep before you answered my e-mail, but I'll forgive you since it's your birthday =P), and they've been quite amazed that I'm actually quite different. A lot of people are usually surprised to find out who I really am. Ok..that makes it sound bad, what I mean is that I'm actually pretty cool (in my own opinion).

So, to save people some time in the get-to-know-Amanda process, here is a portrait of me:
(although it'd be weird if people read my blog before meeting me, so this is probably pretty useless)

--A sense of humor is one of the most important things to me
--I think I'm hilarious
--I'm not shy, but I can be socially overwhelmed at times. It's just so much effort to entertain more than 4 people at a time, that I usually don't try
--I'm only condescending if I think you're being dumb =)
--I'm good at keeping a straigh face, so if I say something outrageous, it's probably not true
--I like to be unique. I think it's an only child thing.
--If I am smirking to myself, it's probably because I thought of something really funny, but it would be too hard to explain
--I am awful at small if I seem quiet at first, it's probably because I don't know what to talk about with you
--I feel socially awkward quite often, but I'm mostly ok with that
--I really enjoy outdoorsy things, but sometimes it can be hard to convince me to do things (because I enjoy being comfortable too)
--I am stubborn. You probably won't change my mind...but I'm also not unreasonable, so I won't disregard ideas just for the sake of being stubborn.
--I'm very competitive when it comes to board games
--I will probably beat you at foosball
--I am afraid of the dark (I'm talking woods by myself, not my room)
--I'm slightly nearsighted, but I don't wear my glasses very often (driving, classroom), so if I act like I don't recognize you from across the room, it's probably because I can't see your face.
--I get along pretty well with animals..cats and squirrels are my favorites. Sharks, bears, and tigers are my least favorites.
--I really hate it when my plastic spatulas melt
--I'm pretty don't be fooled by my haughty/dour-seeming demeanor! I'm probably just thinking about the weather...

There's a lot more that I could say (like how banana bread is amazing), but that would take away all the fun of getting to know me!

On a parting note, this is something that always brings a smile to my face, and I think everyone should watch:

So I recently downloaded this program called statcounter so I can see how many people read this (just because I never know unless people leave comments)...and I discovered the most humorous thing. I can track the keywords that people used to find my blog. Now, you'd think the most common would be things like "Siberia" or "study abroad" or something normal like that. NO! This is not the case. The most common are "plastic spatula melt" (2x) and "i donate clothes to Goodwill". To think all this time I've been writing I thought people were reading my blogs for more noble purposes like making sure I'm still alive or getting a first-person account of a semester abroad in Russia. While I'm a little disheartened to learn this is not the case, I've decided to make the most of this and have some fun with my newfound knowledge.

I'm going to write a list of random and highly diverse keywords and see if this increases the traffic of my blog, and which keywords are the most popular.

Take this google search:

what to do if zombies attack
John and Kate plus 8
polar bears
I can see Russia from my house
global warming
magic tricks secrets revealed
shark attack
Michael Jackson
best tips for weight loss
Queen Elizabeth
Russian is the best language in the world
I read War and Peace and survived
microwave disasters
true love
Monty Python is awesome
I love squirrels
I hate itunes
it's hard thinking up a bunch of topics
muscle pain
ice cream
everyone wants to take an Alaskan vacation
If you cut Alaska in half Texas would be the third largest state
bad pickup lines
how do people learn to like running?
has anyone even read any of this?
giant squid attacks
did you hear twitter quit working for a day?
it made me happy, I think twitter is a dumb idea anyway. Hurray for hackers (assuming of course no one hacks into my computer or facebook)
how many people are honestly looking up "plastic spatula melt"? I bet they'll all be directed to this page because I say it at least 5 times now
I'm curious now
Amanda is the best name ever
my arms hurt from rock climbing
why aren't sugar gliders allowed in Alaska?
wouldn't it be awesome to have a pet squirrel?
oriental flavored ramen noodles are my favorite
I'm sad that most people have not seen The Shakiest Gun in the West. It's an amazing movie
I really need to wash dishes
The Iditarod Trail is kind of close to my house
When I was little I used to catch lizards. If you did it right you could get them to bite your ears and then wear them as earrings (no joke).
My cousin also liked to make war paint out of lightening bugs. I preferred to just put them in a jar.
Why is English spelling so hard?
This list is rather absurd.

That's all I can think of at the moment. We'll see if it helped any. I'll keep you posted if I remember to.

Two blogs in a row, MAN I AM ON A ROLL!

Some of you may have noticed something different. Yes, I made an addition to the title. I decided that the old title didn't really fit any more. I'm not really going east anymore. No...well...that's not true. I am going (south)east to Tennessee pretty soon, but that's not really the point. The point is that I've been to Russia and back, and now it's time for some new adventures (which hopefully won't just be restricted to courses in an eastern direction...northwest is pretty cool...and maybe south, I hear they have beaches there).

Oh...and, um....I added a new background. Yeah.

Ok, I'm being modest. I think it's an awesome background and I'm really proud of myself because it took me forever to figure out how to put it up. That's really why I'm writing. I keep finding myself straying back to my page to admire what I've done, so I figured in the time I'm here I might as well do something useful, right?

I've been feeling a little philosophical lately. Sometimes you just get hit with pensive moods, and lately I've been a little bit troubled by something. I've realized I don't truly know what I look like. I have a set picture in my mind, the girl that I see every day in the mirror. Then I'll run across a picture of myself and have to do a double-take. You think to yourself "wait..really?? That's what I look like??" I'll elaborate:

What I think I look like

What I actually look like

Notice that my bangs are on the opposite side of my face. I think I look like the mirror image of myself, not what everyone else sees! I don't even know what I look like!!! My life is a lie!!!!!!!

Alright, maybe it's not that extreme. But seriously, doesn't that bug you a little bit?

I've also been thinking about how weird living itself is. Looking back time has gone by so fast, and I know I'm only 21, but 21 years is still a lot of years to have gone by so fast. In some ways you just want time to go by faster because you're curious about the future -- who you'll marry, what you'll do, where you'll live, if you'll have children or grandchildren, will advanced math ever actually get used on a daily basis like they assured us it would in middle school? But at the same time, you wish life would just stop so you could fully process just what exactly is going on. Have you ever just gone through a day, and then stopped to think about it, and realize that you've done a whole lot of things, but haven't really thought about any of them? Your average person only lives into their 70s or 80s, so it's quite unfair that you don't even realize how valuable time is until you've gone through a quarter of your life. It just seems to emphasize that there must be something after life, otherwise what would the point be? In the grand scheme of things 80 years is nothing. Although I guess we can be glad it's not a couple of weeks like flies (but who could really stand being a fly longer than that). This reminds me though that I've had a fly stuck in my house for what seems like forever, and I wish it would hurry up and die, because I certainly am incapable of killing it (believe me I've tried).

I also think it's silly to make plastic spatulas. I mean, really? They're plastic, that means they melt. No one wants a melty spatula, because then it gets in your food, and that's just gross. Why not more metal? I'm bringing this up because today my favorite spatula was leaving bits of plastic on the ham I was heating up. No.....I am not a bad cook. I am a lazy cook, but I am not so awful that I would inadvertantly melt spatulas. Clearly the flaw is in the design. The worst of it is that of 4 spatulas, 3 are plastic. At least this is the first one I've noticed melting.

Sex and the City is actually a decent show.

How do you know if you've had a power outage, when none of your clocks are plugged in? Moreover, how do you know if you've had a power outage, when your home is run by oil and is not connected by powerlines. And if the powersource is right next to your house, how could you have had a power outage?? That seems like it would be pretty serious! This morning I turned on the tv, and it had the menu screen (like usually happens if it gets unplugged or the power goes out), and the oven clock was flashing.....but the microwave clock was not. I know there is plenty of fuel, because I checked yesterday. Everything is still working...soooo....I guess it was just a fluke?

I miss cats.

Why does everyone think snuggies are so ridiculous? They get picked on mercilessly, but I think they were a good idea. I have had many a time when I've been trying to use my hands in a cold room, but have to sacrifice my arms from the elbows down or my shoulders. Then you can always try just rolling over and using one hand...but then when you're reading it gets hard to turn the page. An alternative is a robe. However, then your feet are exposed!! My feet and hands are the coldest parts of my body. The only problem with snuggies is that they have to be restricted to the couch. If you tried to use it as a blanket you'd have holes in your blanket..which is the worst. So give snuggies a break. I do agree though that the name is kinda silly.

Cherry yogurt is delicious.

You can tell that you're a bad blogger when you so seldom write that when you do, you feel the need to explain to your readers what has prompted this miraculous event . Luckily I noticed and analyzed this urge before I began, and have come to the conclusion that this is MY blog and I'll write as I please.

So far my summer has been an on-going vacillation between absolute boredom and extreme activity. Sometimes I'll go 3-4 days without getting dressed or talking to anyone at all. You start memorizing the schedules of your favorite tv shows, sleeping, and doing crazy things like trying to become interested in knitting. I got through about a foot of my new scarf before I gave up on that madness. There can seriously be no more mind-numbing process than knitting....but at the same time...I love knitted objects like sweaters and scarves. If only I had a machine to do my knitting for me...or an elderly relative who had nothing better to do... Or maybe if I was just faster, and could double-task while I knitted. If I didn't have to look at what I was doing or pay any mental attention to it I'd probably be a knitting fiend.

Yes, I honestly have nothing better to do at the moment than rant about how much I hate knitting.

However, when I'm not losing my sanity by sitting home alone for extended periods of time, I'm left with no time at all. I've found that weekdays I am a social outcast, and weekends my company is highly sought after. Is there no happy medium? Can't I just be liked all the time? Or at least take precedence over silly things like jobs?

An example of this is the last 5 days: Starting on Wednesday (an unusual occurance..generally I don't do much until Thursday or Friday) my friend Sarah hijacked me and took me to Eagle River to watch a movie. Hijacking is perhaps not the right term, but she did have to work pretty hard to convince me to get off the couch and out of my pajamas to go see a movie. Unfortunately, we were too late by the time we got there, so we had dinner at McDonalds and went back to my house, resulting in Sarah spending the night, and the pleasant discovery that a how-to guide for opening champagne with a sword actually works (Sarah happened to have a sword). Thursday progressed as usual -- I woke up at the crack of 1, ambled down to the kitchen and computer, then stayed there until bedtime. Now on to Friday (where the real fun and sleeplessness begins): Sarah was having a garage sale to get rid of old clothes (conveniently all in my size) and other objects from storage, and I volunteered to help. I got there a little after 9 am and put a whole lot of clothes on hangers. Unfortunately, we missed a lot of the garage sale sharks due to our mutual disinterest in mornings. We did, however, manage to catch a few haggling stragglers right at the beginning. You know the type -- where $3 for a pair of designer jeans that have barely been worn just isn't good enough, it's gotta be $2. Luckily normal people started coming by after that, and business was good..until 1 when it started to rain. Then we packed up and hung out until 6. Then we drove to Anchorage to have dinner with Sarah's parents and some family friends...which ended up lasting 3 hours and involving a whole lot of food (which I regretted in the morning, but appreciated at the time). Exhausted, Sarah took me back to my house for pajamas and any old objects from the garage that I'd like to donate to the garage sale....but we ended up just spending the night at my house again.

Saturday started off the same way (except some loser tore down Sarah's garage sale signs, so we had to make new ones...garage sale drama sucks). We quit around 5, and since Sarah was just going to donate the unsold clothes to goodwill, I got to pick through for anything that I liked. After hauling my new wardrobe to the car, I checked my phone. To my complete shock, I found that I had 1 text message, 1 missed call, and 1 voice message. After checking all of those (and trying not to stay awkwardly long in Sarah's driveway) I discovered that my good friend Mark was coming to Birchwood, and perhaps to my house later that night. The message said he was leaving at 5:30, and it was 5:50 when I listened to the message..somehow I figured he wouldn't have left on time, so I called back anyway. My suspicions were correct. After confirming that a visit was indeed in order, I finally went grocery shopping (I'd been putting it off for at least 3 or 4 days). I knew that I could survive another day on ramen and spaghetti o's, but I was pretty dubious about the contents of my kitchen being able to support a boy. It was quite fortunate that I did go grocery shopping, because it turns out Brett came too, and even my fully stocked kitchen barely survived the onslaught of two very hungry young men. It would have been really sad if my guests had starved to death...especially because their parents probably would never let them come over again if they had. For dinner we went back to Birchwood (a church camp in Eagle River), and Mark's mom was nice enough to make us grilled cheese. Dinner was followed by an exclusive Mark/Amanda walk around the lake (which used to seem like a huge deal at 12 [like you'd almost think you'd have to pack a lunch to make it around], but at 21 it's really a pretty short walk). That was nice, because it can always be odd to see old friends. Sometimes you have to rediscover what it is about a person that's made you stay friends for so many years, which in our case seems to be easy conversation...and that he's not afraid of bears (that is a very important quality in an Alaskan friend, because I happen to be very afraid of/worried about bears).

Today I went back to Birchwood to help with a building project. There I developed both a fascenation with and hatred of a product called Blueskin. Basically it's tar on one side, and water-proof blue stuff on the other, and you stick it on the sides of the building. I feel like there are so many interesting thing you could do with make hand-shaped cutouts and climb up things or something....but when it's being used for its original purpose, it's super annoying. After that I came back to Wasilla and was feeling particularly productive, so I stopped and got a haircut that I've been putting off for a while (don't worry, nothing drastic, just cleaning up the ragged ends). Now I am back to my original control center (the couch) and have no plans at all...except for a hike at some still unplanned time before the 7th.

I've also started thinking about the future. Funny how being by yourself will do that. After staunchly denying any interest in further schooling (I've read enough books and written enough essays for at least 2 lifetimes), I've changed my mind and am definitely going on to grad school of some sort. I'm still tired of school, but I've come to the decision that for what I'm interested in, it's mandatory that I get a higher degree. Now I have to decide where and what I'll study. The question of where is completely up in the air, but possible majors are Slavic languages or International Relations/Studies/Something like that. After that my idea is to join the foreign service (unless I get a better offer, which is entirely possible). I've also given the military some more thought. I'd pretty much decided I wasn't interested in any of the job options there until a friend told me about Foreign Area Officers (, which intruiged me. I really like that they'd include a graduate program and further language training, and I'd be starting on a career track rather than doing ambiguous scholarly things which may or may not be able to get me a future job. With an interest in Russian/Slavic languages and living abroad in general, it's pretty much inevitable that I'll either end up working for the government or the military. I'm sure no matter where I go it'll be interesting, and I'm just as interested as everyone else to find out where that will be.'s tricky..but in a good way usually

my group (sign says "Siberia")

center of town

a light breakfast

my room

After the banya

The only surviving picture of my host and I (and Basya)

the infamous Basya


Igor and I

After doing some craigslist surfing and late night pondering about the future, I've decided maybe I should just become a famous blogger. So, after I moseyed over to my blog, and calculated that my blogging average is about 1 blog per 1.5 months, I realized that I would have to either write spectacular entries, or blog more. Then I realized all I was really looking for was an excuse to stay up really late, so I think I'll just write a single blog and leave it at that.

I'm home now, and have been for almost 2 weeks now. For those who have kept track of my whereabouts via this site, I'm sorry to have kept everyone in the dark for so long. Although, I highly doubt this accounts for many people (that is of course, before my fanbase spontaneously combusts and I become the most popular and richest blogger in the world...which could be any day now).

Igor is spending a little over a year in Seattle working with the EarthCorps, and we were conveniently able to fly out of Irkutsk together. This worked out great since I happened to have a 7 hour layover in Moscow and Igor stayed to entertain me. Sheremeteva (forgive my spelling) is undoubtedly the greatest airport to have ever graced the forests of Russia, and is 1,000,000 times better than the airport in Irkutsk...but still, 7 hours is a long time. Sure the check-in counters have aquariums in them, but Russian fish look a whole lot like American fish, and the airport itself isn't that big. Our first mission was to procure a wall outlet. That accomplished, we watched an episode of Наша Russia, wandered, and at last ended up in Sbarro's Pizza. There I sat next to 2 American girls, listened to American music and had my first pizza with sauce in 4 months. The pizza was good, but I chose not to talk to the Americans, because I realized sometimes we really do have annoying accents. Instead, Igor and I talked (in Russian, of course) and made Russian-style toasts. I've become a big fan of toasting.

From Moscow I flew to London. There I realized that British accents and prices annoy me excessively. I enjoy watching the BBC and listening to British narrators, but airport officials in particular have absolutely awful voices. Then there are the prices: everything seems normal, until you realize that the GBP is almost twice as valuable as the USD. I ended up paying about $8 each way for a bus ride to my hotel (a distance of about 2.5 blocks), which was considerably more than the customer service on there deserved. Then I got to find my room in the midst of an Indian wedding party, which are apparently quite common this time of year, since I got to leave in the middle of one too.

After my *cough*favorite*cough* airport Heathrow, I flew to my 2nd favorite airport: Seattle. I inwardly gloated as I reached customs and was able to enter the (faster) citizen's checkpoint. After 4 months in a document-obsessed country, you start to value shortcuts when it comes to legal processes. I had to have a little war with my conscience there about if I should declare honey as a food substance. I suppose it's technically a food, but as I read through the checklist, which included items like pork and food from underdeveloped countries, I had to consider if Russian honey really ought to be on that list, and if Russian chocolate counted. I didn't want to lie to the officers, but at the same time I didn't want my bag quarantined for honey and chocolate. In the end I decided to risk it, and checked the box that said I had no food. Apparently I looked honest, because I made it through. Once in the regular airport I was plagued by memories of a not-so-distant imprisonment there, back in December when it was cold, and crowded, and they didn't turn off the tvs at night, and none of the airlines had enough de-icing fluid.....

Finally after 2 days of travelling I made it to Alaska. I was relieved that my bags made it and that I had a ride home. I turned on my old cell phone (not half as cool as my cheap Russian one), and resumed my old life. Now I speak English, hang out online a good part of the day, and sleep past noon most of the time. Until August at least....then I'll go back to my busy scholarly routine.

Now for pictures:

(which will be in the next entry for ease of formatting)

To my dear friend Jared (Дурак) on his 20th birthday, this 22nd day of April in the year of our Lord 2009:

In lieu of a birthday present, I'll write a brief update on life here in Siberia:

It's snowing, and that makes me angry.

Mother Nature is a tricky thing, I remember with joy the day I ceased wearing long underwear. And then bit by bit I discarded articles of winter clothing. Once (about a week ago) I even sat on the river bank eating ice cream and banana bread and was HOT! That was a glorious day.

Then yesterday I woke up to about 4 inches of fresh snow. Had it been fall I would have been delighted. Unfortunately, it's April. Right now, as I sit in my boyfriend's apartment boring him with my incessant internet usage and look out the window, I am met with the unsettling view of millions of fat white snowflakes cascading from the heavens. Absolutely disgusting. Today I was forced to wear my heavy scarf and hat again...HOWEVER, I defied all the rules of Russia and went outside with wet hair (this is out little secret though, please nobody tell Ludmila Vasilevna).

As far as other aspects of life go, all is well. My host is finally starting to figure out that I am a picky eater and will likely never change. Now instead of berating me when I don't eat everything, or eat less than half my weight in one sitting, she simply says "well, it's just my job to offer it to you....although you're getting thin (this is very bad) and I would hate for you to return to the US thinner than when you came". Yes, relations with here are overall quite's the cat I'm worried about. I'm not worried for myself, we are good friends by now. Oh no, I'm worried that one day I'm going to come home and find Basya beaten to death on the balcony. You see, Basya has a nasty habit of eating L.V.'s flowers. Nothing makes a babushka more angry than when you mess with her flowers. I can't count the amount of times I've come home to find a sullen Basya locked on the balcony while L.V. storms about the house raging "I'LL KILL HIM! I'M GOING TO KILL THAT CAT! HE DESTROYED MY PLANTS....AGAIN!!!!!" I'm just glad I never developed a taste for plants.

On an ending note (Igor's already waited patiently for over 1.5 hours), I dreamed up a very fitting philosophy the other night (I'm not sure if it was in Russian or English, but for the sake of all my readers (that is..Jared and my mom), I will write it in English:

Sometimes the wolf tricks you. Sometimes you trick the wolf.............And sometimes it doesn't matter because you're a shark.

After several not-so-subtle hints that I should update my blog, I finally decided to do so. I'm currently in Mongolia: the land of cheap internet and food that hates me. Luckily we're (me and 2 friends from school - Claire and Anna) heading back to the luxury of Russia tonight by train. While Claire had her turn being sick she made the very astute comment "I just want to go back to Russia!!....wait, WHO SAYS THAT?". However, it's true. Mongolia is a very interesting place, and we're all glad we came, but for the sake of everyone's stomachs, it's time to go back to Mother Russia.

As far as Russia goes, there have been several noteworthy experiences.

About a month ago we finally got to go on our extended trip on/around Lake Baikal. Unfortunately it's winter (spring now..but at the time it was winter) so the view was not quite as breathtaking as usual, but it was still very pretty, and in lieu of warm weather, we got to drive around on the ice for a couple of days. This experience would not have been made possible without our fearless driver/real Russian man: Misha. He single-handedly rescued the car when it almost went through the ice, and retrieved/assembled all the parts of the wheel when it finally succumbed to the trials of Russian roads (which I now know are not the worst roads in the world after a 5 day trip through Mongolia...let's just say my prayers here generally involved "Please God let us hit pavement soon, or else I might throw up"). Basically, he's my new hero.

2 weeks ago we went spelunking in a large cave (whose name I've forgotten) in a city (whose name I've also forgotten) about 2 hours outside of Irkutsk. I've been IN caves for geology field trips and a couple of touristy excursions as a child, however this was my first extended stay in one. My general impression is that that was probably the dirtiest I've ever been, and I'm sure Ludmila Vasilievna was probably mortified when she saw my dirty laundry. I'm really glad we went, but I don't think I'll repeat the experience too many times (sorry Kendra). It's rather creepy.

Perhaps most interesting of all is that the afore mentioned tutor and I have been dating for a few weeks now. There are some hefty benefits that go along with this, for example: I don't have to pay for busses anymore, and he has internet. (Don't worry Dr. Preslar, I promise I won't run away with him and overstay my visa).

I'm feeling pretty comfortable with life in Irkutsk now. I've got a pretty set daily routine, and it's hard to believe we'll only be there 2 more months. I'm getting a little homesick though, so I think I'll be ready to go home by the end of May.

Well, that's all for now, the wrath of Mongolia is striking again (but seriously, it was a good trip, and $400 total for a week is pretty good).


Ok, so here I am in internet cafe #3. This one actually has a mouse, and is not in Korean, so I think it's a winner.

I'm going to do this in bullet-point formation for my own convenience.

- I'm finally starting to figure out the whole transportation system. I can now make it to town and back on my own without getting lost. This sounds easy, but it's quite hard here, because while there are a plentiful amount of buses, there are no posted maps of the bus routes, and about 50% of the time the stops are not named. On the buses themselves there is a list of the stops, however they are more general neighborhood names rather than a concrete guide (not that you'd know where you were at anyway). I'm lucky though that I live along a fairly major road and my stop is named.

-- I have a tutor now. It wasn't really a concious decision, it was more along the lines of our coordinator here said that Middlebury would pay for tutors if we wanted them, and I said "why not". So now I have one. His name is Igor and he's a student in the (I believe) History department. Interestingly enough, he said his parents were in Palmer about 3 weeks ago, and he himself will be in Seattle for sure and possibly Alaska this summer.

-- Bosya (cat) doesn't bite as much now. He's quite the rambunctious animal..I think as a kitten he bit, so no one ever got in the habit of holding him. I can hold him now in the mornings (when he's happy to see me) and sometimes during the day if I don't mind too many scratches.

-- Ludmila Vasilevna still feeds me too much, but I think she's starting to figure out how much I can possibly eat, and only pushes me slightly beyond that now. It's rather odd how much more people here worry about you than at home. You can't believe the fuss it caused when I nearly went outside with wet hair.

--Yesterday we had our first excursion. We went to a really interesting little outside museum names Tal'zi. There we saw some cool old buildings, and went sledding on furs, had a pillow fight of sorts, and rode around on this interesting contraption consisting of a sleigh and a long pole attached to a post. This way people push the pole, and the people in the sleigh get a surprisingly scary ride. After that we went to a banya. Banya's are basically the best invention ever...and this one was on the bank of Lake Baikal. So, instead of a cold pool like the last banya was in, we ran to Lake Baikal to cool off. I'm just glad we decided to bring bathing suits, because after 2 or 3 Baikal runs there was a reasonably-sized audience watching from the cliff above...accompanied by many the cry of "Molozi!" (basically, "way to go!"). Luckily it was a warm day...probably +5 F. Last week there was a cold snap, and it was hovering around -25 F....We were supposed to have our excursion last week, but we heard it was supposed to get down to -40 F.

--School's good for the most part, sometimes boring, sometimes I can't understand anything at all, and usually I wish I was still asleep...but school's not really the place where I learn the most anyways (when it comes to language/Russia at least).

--Oh, and this morning Lud. Vas. made blini. Basically the best thing ever after banyas.

Well, that's about all for now. Camera is still broken, but I intend to steal pictures from everyone else.


Well, at last I've found a computer (with no small amount of help rom some of the people who've already been here for a semester). Unfortunately, this computer appears to be entirely in some sort of Asian language, so it's my pure luck and the fact that I manged to remember where the sign in button was that I made it this far. I have 15 minutes, so this is (as usual) going to be short. BUT I'M HERE, and alive.

I also have a Russian cell phone now, so call me if you aren't afraid of long distance --

8 914 942 3631

Also, my camera broke...or rather, I think the zoom got jammed, so now it won't stay on (because it can't open). So, I'll either have to buy a cheap camera or just steal pictures from friends..which is more likely. This means that everyone will have to wait to findout what Irkutsk looks like.

I'm living with a retired pediatrician named Ludmila Vacilievna. She's quite nice, feeds me too much, and has a very rambunctious cat.

That's all for now

I'm not much in a blogging mood..and one can't force a blogging, I'm going to keep this somewhat short. I did however feel that everyone would like to know that I made it safely to Moscow. Tomorrow I'll be flying with my group to Irkutsk, which I'm not looking forward too because I've had enough traveling for now. I also discovered that while British accents can be delightful in normal situations, they annoy me when I'm tired and stuck in their airport on a 10 hour layover (after 12 hours of flight time).

It's time for an update. I've stayed true to my predictions and have not in fact done anything more than sleep, read, and eat a lot of ramen noodles, however, who am I to fight the urge to blog (which as so often happens, struck in the middle of the night).

Today's big news (technically yesterday's) of course was the inauguration of Barack Obama. Most of you know that I am in no way politically inclined, and so you will appreciate the surge of patriotism that it took to get me to watch the proceedings on live tv this morning. Now, before you scoff, please do keep in mind my location (I have included a very handy series of clocks at the bottom of this page to ease this process, because even I can't keep track of all these time zones). If any of you did the math, this meant waking up at 4 am and stumbling down to the tv in time to watch a slew of unfortunate suit clad secret agents and a groggy soon-to-be first family motorcade over to church and tea. I'm not sure it was worth getting up so early for, and certainly not the $147 million I heard rumors of it costing, but it seemed rather nice as far as inaugurations go (I'm quite the connoisseur of inaugurations). Yes, I am making a point of using the word "inauguration" as many times as possible -- it's one of those words that's seldom used and tricky to spell, but your entire scholarly image could be blown apart should you misspell it. Kind of like "connoisseur". No one will ever take you seriously if you wrote something like "I am a conosewer of fine whines" unless you're from the 1200s. Anyway...basically what I was getting at was no matter your political views, it was a festive day all around, and I spent 8 months sleeping with someone who knew the president ( I will clarify, since I know my parents and any number of other relatives will read this -- by that I meant my roommate freshman year Sarah Walker. [note to Sarah: there was more I wanted to add to that sentence, but I couldn't think of any way to make it not sound unbearably scandalous. If you think about your picture with him maybe you can guess what it was]).

In other breaking news, I got my passport back today, which means I can now legally go to Russia. Of course it would be more of an adventure to sneak in, but I'm not that brave. Never come between a Russian and their dokumenti (this rule is right up there by "Never come between a mother bear and her cubs" and "Let sleeping Amandas lie").

Along with the passport came a much needed "hintbook" meant to give me a few survival tips specific to my location. Naturally I set about reading that as soon as I had opened the package and reassured myself that A) Middlebury finally returned my passport B) It was the correct passport, and C) The new visa was in my passport. On the first page they stressed that Russia is psychologically taxing, but can be very rewarding for those who "pay" with patience, understanding, and (my favorite) "bewildered acceptance on the countless occasions when understanding evades you". Having visited Russia once before, I can certainly attest to the truth in this. Even if I could speak Russian fluently, I'm certain that half of the time I'd have no idea what was going on. I'm not worried about this though, after 13 years of forced math classes, an endless assortment of general requirements, and more absurdest Russian literature than I care to remember, I am used to the feeling of "bewildered acceptance".

Last of all, I'd like to remind everyone of my upcoming 21st birthday. This momentous occasion will take place on the 29th of January, and will be my first birthday home since high school. Even more impressive though is that this will be my first birthday without homework in as long as I can remember. I don't really hav.....ok, I have to take this moment to rant. Like most laptops, mine has a touch pad for a mouse. At first I disabled the feature where you can tap it to click, but about a week ago I enabled it again since 3 years have been very hard on the buttons. Now whenever the cursor happens to be in the text box and I accidentally brush the touch pad while typing it clicks somewhere in the middle of a previous paragraph and keeps typing. So if you find any half-typed words in places where it doesn't seem like they should be, that's why. It makes me absolutely furious..or at least moderately disgruntled. What I was saying though, is I don't have any real plans yet, except for I want pie. Also, Kari -- you should remind Brionne that he promised to get me that $150 necklace we saw at the mall ;) I haven't forgotten.

Happy day after Inauguration Day,

Hopefully everyone reading this is aware that I'm going to Siberia for the spring semester of the 2009 school year. If not..I'm going to Siberia.

I've created this blog for the joint purpose of keeping everyone updated/reassured that I'm still alive and saving my e-mail from any undue strain. Unfortunately, I can't make any promises as to how often I'll update this since I'm both cheap (internet = rubles) and horrible at keeping anything even remotely close to a diary -- in my lifetime I have tried to keep a diary 3 times, and the only great thing to come out of that is a detailed tally mark of the amount of cows and moose we saw the first time we moved to Alaska.

I'm also going to take this opportunity to answer all those burning questions that you all have:

  • Why Siberia? -- Because I wanted to.

  • Why Russian? -- It's cool.

  • What will I do with a Russian degree? -- That's classified.

  • Where/What will I study? -- I'll be taking special classes at Irkutsk State University meant to improve my knowledge of Russian language and culture, including a delightful blend of grammar, film, and undoubtedly many other mind-blowing subjects having to do with Russia.

  • Where will I live? -- They tell me I'll be staying with a family. That's all I know at the moment

  • Am I excited? -- I'm terrified.
I am, however, looking forward to some decent weather for a change. tells me it's -6 F in Irkutsk right now, which sounds downright balmy compared to the -18 in Wasilla. I may have a use for my flip-flops after all.

I'm a little premature in setting up my blog since I don't leave until February 3rd, and I don't plan to do anything more exciting than finish the book that I'm reading and sleep a lot until then, but boredom here it is. Enjoy.

Here are some fun pictures to make my page more lively:

About this blog

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