Saturday, June 23, 2012

My Super Cool Host Mom

Comrades,


Alas, I am writing from you from my apartment in Vladimir, Russia with access to Internet thanks to a Beeline modem! The 10-hour plane to Moscow was a schlep. Once in Moscow, we boarded a bus for 6-hours and then finally arrived at Vladimir.


Our host families were waiting for us at KORA, the university in Vladimir that caters to foreign-language students. We stood awkwardly with our luggage for a minute, feeling like cattle, before one of the Russian professors began matching children with family. The moment I saw my host mother, I knew she was the one because she was dressed from head to toe in black. Olga, my host mom,  was wearing black silky gypsy pants, a black tee and black leather sandals. Meanwhile, I travelled in my usual all-black ensemble – leggings, an oversized black V-neck tee and converses. As we waited for a cab, I commented that I love black colors and she said "me too, my daughter" (ya toje, maya doch)! We chuckled... In fact, the other day in the elevator we chatted about how we both hate color and she only wears black. She does not even wear white.


Olga is also super cool. I told her about my family and friends and how in DC I live in a townhouse with several other students which is "fun" (vesyoli). She then responded, "this is also a fun (vesyoli) apartment." Olga has long black hair she wears in a pony-tail with a 90’s style scrunchie and is tan because she just returned from vacationing in Turkey. She was born and raised in Vladimir and has two daughters, one who is thirty and the other who is 37. She is also a fabulous cook and who prepares vegetable-full meals in obscenely oversized portions I cannot finish (but that is to be expected from a Russian host mother). 

On Friday, we attended classes at KORA and met all of the Russian staff. Then we toured the city and learned about its history. I was particularly fascinated to learn about the Tatar-Mongol invasions. In fact, archaeologists discovered Tatar-Mongol graves under one of the buildings in the city. Our tour guide, one of the professors, explained how the spires of the church have evolved throughout history going from a more traditional Russian, onion-style top to those with a wider base. She also explained how Vladimir was only bombed twice during the war, which is incredibly serendipitous considering other cities of equal or less distance from Moscow were bombarded with bombs.

Today we had a language evaluation to determine the language groups. There is a variety of language levels on the program -- from PhD students to people with only two years of training. But everyone is extremely interesting and eager to learn. In fact, we all speak Russian with each other and do not digress into English. Molodetz! We also met our language partners -- locals from Vladimir with whom we will practice Russian. However, my partner and that of Mitchell (one of the students on the program) did not come, so we took a walk instead. I'm supposed to meet my partner tomorrow, but after she was a no-show, I'm not particularly eager.

Overall, my first impressions of Vladimir are that it is a Soviet style city with high-rises, apartment complexes and babushkas selling fruit on the corner. There are plenty of kiosks selling water, candy and cigarettes and women walking around in sky-high heels. There are also plenty of poorer areas and the city lacks the glitz of Almaty. 

Alas, I shall go rest before my first Saturday night in Vladimir. So long for now!





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