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).


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