Saturday, March 6, 2010

last day

Day 8

This was our last day in Vytegra and it’s easy to see that we are all exhausted after such a busy, exciting, and draining week, and today was no exception. We still had another school to visit today, but this one was the technical/vocational school for the kids who didn’t really make it into high school. The school was really neat to see, and I know that despite how tired we all were, we still found it interesting because the students were a little older and the atmosphere was slightly different.

The students there seemed much more involved with us and less shy than the other students we’ve met who were about the same age (the younger kids everywhere were never shy about anything); they asked a lot more questions than the others and it really seemed like they asked better/more intelligent questions. And I think that’s a little surprising because these are the kids who didn’t quite make it, yet they still seemed so ambitious; many of the ones I chatted with were still planning on going to a university. And even though they didn’t show the same respect to their teachers that all the other schools have, they still paid a lot of attention and respect to us. Plus they gave us this amazingly beautiful pastry/cake and one boy serenaded us, so this school was pretty cool as far as I’m concerned.

In the afternoon we went to the children’s house place (not an actual child’s house but a place for the youth in town), which was a really cool stop. We were so burnt out, but we still managed to do crafts and watch dances. We all thought the dances were really good, and they were kind of a mix between traditional Russian and modern. The really neat thing was though, at the end of the dances we were again presented with the same welcoming bread and salt as the first couple of days. Traditions run strong.

I really enjoyed learning how to make things with yarn and sticks, even though it was a huge struggle and mine isn’t exactly pretty. And the same goes for making the large lucky breasted Russian dolls. It’s hard to compete with these kids because they are so talented with theses arts and crafts! There were entire 3D pirate ships and large palm trees made out of the yarn, and then there was the incredibly beautiful (and expensive) hand made Vytegra lace. It’s so hard to believe that the students do these things, and they start so young! No matter how much I painted, drew, colored, stitched, or sang when I was younger, it never got any better; clearly I wouldn’t have made it in Russia. And I think the really shocking thing is that this isn’t the only thing they do. In addition to school and clubs and crafts, they do also play sports. I was really surprised to talk to so many basketball players and fans, and I was also really sad when some girls invited me to come watch them play on Sunday, but we won’t be here anymore then. These students are just so warm and friendly, and they have accomplished so much at such a young age with such a tough curriculum and so many great hobbies. They are truly very impressive and very helpful. Every time we run into one of the students on the street they just start walking with us and talking and helping us find the places and things we want; it’s such a great experience!

The students we’ve met really make me think about my own life and what I do and what I have accomplished or what my skills/talents/passions are, and I just feel like even with everything I’ve done and everything I’ve seen and visited, in so many ways I pale in comparison to the Russian youth. And despite all the things they do, they are so interested in us and our lives because we are so different to them, but I really feel like we are much more similar than I first imagined. And sometimes I feel like if they came to America they might be slightly disappointed, because they wouldn’t be treated in the same way as we were treated by the Russians here, and they would see the differences in the cultures, superstitions and beliefs. Of course they would like to see the cities, monuments, people, cars, and hear our accents, but when it comes down to the culture and our history, I really feel like it might be a disappointment for them, because of the incredibly rich and cultured society they come from. But then again Ethan is in the US, and that would be MORE than enough for anyone of these students to be happy anywhere!

The soviet submarine we saw today was really neat and the nice dinner we had tonight was really enjoyable. A BIG thank you to Alina and Tamara Pavlovna for everything you’ve done and everything you’ve worked so hard to put together for us!!!!! This has been such an amazing learning experience and I know that none of us will ever forget anything that happened here. This trip was so great and I know it will only get better in the years to come, so thank you for everything! And anyone who’s going next year, I want my pottery!!!

My favorite discussion: the one we had last night at the cafe about the zero or max thing in Russia

“creepiness, zero or max . . .” Awesome.

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