Monthly Archives: January 2012

Divnogorsk / Дивногорск

Happy Old New Year! Today is the New Year by the old Gregorian calendar. The Russians still celebrate it!

Today I went with Katya and a few of our other friends to a small town called Divnogorsk (“the town of wonderful mountains”). Indeed, it is a beautiful little city situated in a valley, surrounded by breathtaking mountainous scenery.

The reason we were going was for a Christmas concert, with traditional songs sung by various children’s choirs. It was a delightful concert. Songs were sung in old Russian, Czech, Latvian, Ukrainian, Belorussian, and modern Russian. The children were dressed in traditional Russian clothing, very beautifully decorated. They passed a basket around for us to put in coins and sweets to give to the children. I put in a few American coins, thinking they might enjoy that. After the concert, the children put on several plays, which were cute and funny.

The plays were followed by dancing. I learned some traditional Russian dances and songs. It was so much fun. Often the dances require that you change partners. They’re also done in circles, with men on the inside and girls on the outside. The reason for this is so that the parents of the boys could survey the girls easier and choose a bride for their sons.

Later, we had our fortunes told by a babushka. She took pieces of jewelry and put them all in a bowl of water. She covered it with a cloth, intoned something in old Russian, pulled out a piece of jewelry, and made a prediction. Apparently I’m going to come into money this year—hallelujah! Another woman was carrying a tray with figures made of dough. We picked one without looking and she told us what they meant. Apparently, I’m going to be making a lot of new friends this year.

Soon we left the concert hall and went outside. Right outside there were amazing ice sculptures. There was also a part of the hill that was pure ice and people were sliding down it. I received a large piece of cardboard and was instructed to slide down. And so I did, squee-ing the whole time! I felt like a little kid.

It was a long day, but a wonderful one. I learned a lot and saw some more of the traditional side of Russian culture.

I must go, but I wish you all vsyevo dobrovo [everything good].

Take care and be well!

Love,

Danya

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Passion / Страсть

Moyi druz’ya, I have one word for you: strast’ [passion]. I have rediscovered it.

Passion for what, you might ask?

Zhizn’. Life.

I am rediscovering my passion for life and all it has to offer.

On Tuesday this week, I joined Katya for capoeira training. I’ve been doing Tae Kwon Do for 12 years and I’ve missed it, so capoeira seemed like a good thing to try. And believe me, ladies and gents, it is. If you ever get the opportunity to try it out, it’s incredible. I haven’t felt so alive in a long time. Not since I last practiced Tae Kwon Do hardcore like I used to (five or six times a week, often twice a day). I intend to continue capoeira. Of course, it requires that I adjust a lot, because my Tae Kwon Do training has taught me to do techniques differently. But this is fine. I’m getting exercise and meeting new people. I love it.

By the way, if you don’t know what capoeira is, let me give you a brief explanation. It is basically a Brazilian martial art, although many call it a game with sparring matches referred to as “playing.” Games, known as rodas, are performed to live music. Everyone gathers in a circle around the combatants and sings and plays instruments. A capoeira fight (or game) is non-stop—you don’t stop moving the entire time. It’s full of acrobatic moves and kicks. It’s so beautiful. There are many, many videos of it on YouTube, so I suggest you look some up. Capoeira requires that you learn not only the martial art, but Brazilian Portuguese as well. (“Hallelujah!” cries my inner Language Nerd.) The classes are taught partly in Portuguese, no matter where in the world you study it.

The next day I tried acrobatics, also with Katya. That too was incredible. It made me push myself. I was able to do a one-handed cartwheel, which I’ve NEVER been able to do before. It was intense.

And something has been sparked. I want to do so many things. I want to learn how to play the guitar. I want to travel around Russia, beyond Krasnoyarsk. (Well, I will be going to London in two weeks! That’s another story for another day.) I want to pursue everything I can. I’ve only got one life. I’m going to do what I can with it.

Russia has done me so much good. I can’t even begin to convey just how much, moyi druz’ya. I can only hope that you find the same kind of passion someday.

I must go to sleep. Please take care and be well.

Love,

Danya

New Year’s, Christmas, and ice skating / Новый Год, Рождество и кататься на конках

First of all, s Rozhdyestvom i Novim Godom! Merry (very belated) Christmas and Happy (belated) New Year! I wish you all love, health, wealth, and happiness.

I should be grading papers right now, but I need a break. Besides, there is so much to tell.

I will start with New Year’s, since that comes first. Yes, New Year’s in Russia comes before Christmas! I’ll explain later. In any case, I went to my friend Katya’s apartment for a party. It was really nice (I got to wear my new, very brightly-colored dress!) and I met some interesting people. Anyway, earlier in the day I helped Katya decorate her apartment for the party as well as helped prepare the food. We baked chocolate chip cookies and Snickers cookies from scratch…they were a hit! One of the other things we prepared was a salad called oliv’e. It’s a very traditional Russian New Year’s salad, with peas, carrots, eggs, pickles, and various other items, usually some kind of meat, all thrown together with mayonnaise. It’s quite delicious. There were various other salads that I didn’t know the names of, but they were fantastic. Almost all were vegetable salads, some with fruit thrown in.

Before midnight, we sat around and did not do much but talk. This is the process of saying goodbye to the old year, where you sit around and not do anything festive in the hours just before midnight. Five minutes before midnight, we watched Medvedev give the annual presidential speech welcoming the new year. At midnight, we all cheered and immediately the games, the laughter, the singing began.

New Year’s is the gift-giving occasion in Russia, as opposed to Christmas. I received from Katya and her best friend Lena (who is a sweetheart) a pair of earrings in the shape of matryoshki. I’ve already worn them, they’re so beautiful. I gave a few gifts as well.

Christmas in Russia falls on January 7th in accordance with the Orthodox calendar. Yesterday I went to Katya’s house to surprise her, not knowing she was going to Lena’s Christmas party later. (I had intended to make burritos for her and Max, who has been hanging at Katya’s apartment a lot lately. They’ve never had any!) We ended up going to Lena’s house for drinks and games. Lena, ever the thoughtful girl, made some non-alcoholic drinks for me since she knows I don’t drink. She made a sort of kompot, which was delicious.

Later that night (try 2 AM), Lena, Katya, Max, and I decided to go ice skating. There’s a skating area by Katya’s apartment that’s never closed. I didn’t have any skates, but since Max and I have similar shoe sizes, he agreed to lend me his for a bit. Unfortunately, they ended up being too big anyway and I couldn’t skate properly. I managed to make one big circle around the rink with Katya and Lena’s help.

So that’s what’s been going on…well, that’s not completely all. I’ve been applying to graduate schools (and I am dearly crossing my fingers) and grading papers, since it is the end of the semester. I have a TON of papers to grade. Ooh boy…

Anyway, I need to get back to that. Please take care and be well, moyi druz’ya.

Love,

Danya