Monday, August 13, 2012

The Final Stretch

Comrades,

So here we are, the final week of the program. It has been an intense seven weeks, and I apologize for not updating the blog on a more consistent basis. I return to the states next Sunday, at which point I have a few days to organize my life before beginning the semester. Rock and roll.

I have been busy preparing for end-of-program evaluations, essays, and presentations. With that said, in an attempt to procrastinate studying for my grammar quiz tomorrow on gerunds, I will update you on my recent adventures.

Friday evening I went to the Russian Banya (baths) with Sayrula. If you have never been to a banya, you must go, as it is a great cultural experience, language exercise and incredibly relaxing. I went with Sayrula a few weeks ago and we befriended one woman in the sauna, who explained to us the "science" of enjoying a banya: first the sauna, then the ice-cold pool, then the sauna again (during which you hit yourself with a branch of leaves from a eucalyptus tree to improve blood circulation. After two or three rounds of the sauna-cold bath, scrub yourself in the "scrubbing area." Keep in mind, everyone is entirely nude and you stand out if not nude. When in Rome...

A few weeks ago, the woman graciously shared her baking soda with us. We were satisfied with our results last time, so Sayrula and I thought that was what all Russians used and brought that with us this time around. While "scrubbing," we saw one woman lathering herself in coffee beans. Another woman approached us and asked us why baking soda, and recommended we use honey and salt. Then this morning on my way to class, I ran into one of my professors on the bus and chatted with her about my weekend and she recommended salt with butter and/or coffee grinds. It turns out, every Russian has their home-made banya scrub. Either way, visiting the banya was one of my favorite activities in Russia, and one I will certainly miss the banya in America. There is such a Russian atmosphere of community, a sort of "narodnosty" ("peopleness") that is uniquely evident in the banya but is hard to describe.

On Saturday, we had our final excursion to St. Demetrius Cathedral, Assumption Cathedral and the Golden Gates museum. They were interesting and filled with historical fun facts.

Sunday, in an attempt to procrastinate preparing for my presentation today, I went to the bazaar. I found the section of "junk" -- i.e. second-hand everything. There is a whole row of vendors in the market who sell second hand items including nails, books, cassettes, Soviet pins -- you name it, they have it. I love going to these shops, as they are treasure chests filled with living history. I especially love old books and in need of gifts, I searched the dusty boxes and found some great, unique pieces including a book of Russian jokes, two books on Russian cocktails and snack food, a book by Karamzin (one of the great fathers of Russian history) and a book on Central Asia. Score.

After walking around, I spent the rest of the day preparing for my large-and-in-charge presentation today on "Bazaars in Central Asia." What can I say...I love researching bazaars and Central Asia! It was a good exercise to conduct research and put together a presentation in Russian and I was definitely excited to get back to a topic I know something about.

Anyways, that's all for now, folks. The rest of the week is extremely intense with essays (Olga just edited my two essays due tomorrow -- that woman is a Russian rock star!) and tests. Until the next post, take care!

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