Friday, March 8, 2013


During our duration in Vytegra, we provided service and support to many institutions here.  We provided service and support to the local museum in the form of assisting recording of cassettes to digital formats, translating Russian brochures to English to encourage tourism, helping develop a website for the museum, and photographing coins and memorabilia from the museum for digital storage.  We provided service and support to the local schools by helping run classes related to American legends, history, and culture, providing English lessons, and by helping make food for the school.
            Some of my first impressions of Vytegra were the exact opposite of what I had learned from the literature on small towns in provincial Russia.  The people were very open and warm and were accepting of outside culture and ideas, not seeming resistant to change.  In fact, the director of the local government agency started his discussion with us by telling us that he was interested in changing the methods used by the schools to ones more American.  This completely contradicts the literature on small provincial towns in that small provincial towns are depicted as having accepting people who refuse to accept change. 
            Building upon the literature, it was clear that it did not actually apply to this town.  The literature said that the town, in general, would be close minded, when this was not the case.  For instance, in the piece called “The Stinger,” the people of the town depicted welcomed a stranger from outside the country, but when he attempted to change things by building a distillery to improve the living standards of the town, the people rebelled and burned down the distillery.  This could not be farther from reality in regards to Vytegra.
            In the end, the town of Vytegra provided an excellent experience for all of the members of this alternative spring break.  This trip to the Russian Heartland proved to be not only an eye opening experience to what the true lives of Russians are like, but to be a heart-warming event that allowed us to truly help out those in need and make new friends in the process.  The things that we have seen and done here will echo not only here amongst the people we have touched, but will echo within us as one of the most touching experiences that we could have ever wanted to do in our lifetimes.

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