Thursday, June 18, 2015

Things you need to know if you're planning to study at the Bolshoi Ballet Academy as an international student.

   1) You are essentially a human ATM. It's very very expensive and if there's a class to be cancelled, it's going to be yours. The Russian students are the number one priority and not usually, but sometimes, it greatly shows. 
    2) You're going to have to lose weight. Plain and simple, you have to fit their ideals. It's hard and they're not going to baby you. It's one of your responsibilities to be in "proper form". That's really hard for me and other people who are easily affected by that kind of criticism, so beware. I've seen dancers go down in flames due to eating issues and depression. Know yourself and how you'll react before you come here. 
    3) Also on the topic of eating. When you get here the academy students will tell you all different things about the academy food. I know I've complained a lot about it but really, just go down to the meals and try it for yourself. Figure out if it'll work for YOU. (But don't trust the hot dog looking things. Just don't.) 
    4) Switch your cell phone plan to T-Mobile or another company with international data because wifi and routers for internet are a pain to deal with here. The wifi system and connection is so bad here and you can buy a russian wifi router (as my roommates and I have done, twice.) and then it'll stop working. You take it to the wifi store and they say "The whole system is down. Nothing we can do." It's safer to get some fast data and use the academy wifi in the lounge when you can.
    5) The dorms are dirty. They just are. Be prepared for the worst and hope to be pleasantly surprised. The first few showers that you will take here are rough.  Bring flip flops.  Trust me.
    6) Really work hard at learning the language. Once you understand Russian, it's the key to everything. Making friends, buying anything really, the overall experience will be greatly enhanced if you don't have to rely on already fluent friends. 
     7) Unless you just really, really love Russia for some're going to be really homesick. You're going to be sad sometimes because it's stressful here. But I promise, if you work hard and step up to the plate, you're bound to experience the most rewarding year (and maybe more) of your life. Use the opportunity you've been given and make it yours. 

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Sorry for the long, long intermission in between blog posts. But lately we've been intensely preparing for our final dance exams which left barely any time for sleep, let alone blog posts. But HOORAY, this past Thursday we finished our final exam and I have officially started my 'going home countdown' and I've celebrated passing grades in all 6 of my classes! 
This semester has been such a learning experience. I've learned a lot about myself, and the world around me. Not to mention I learned to shave my legs and wash my hair in under 2 minutes because the academy showers are THAT bad.
I've learned a language, not fluently, but for 8 months of studying and the memory of a goldfish I'm pretty proud with how much I've learned.
I've learned a lot about being a good friend, relationships are a lot harder to maintain when you're over 5000 miles away.
I've learned a lot about religion. In a country where Catholicism is the number one religion and my best friend/roommate is Mormon and I live next door to atheists and I've been raised baptist my whole life, you learn a lot.
I've learned a lot about being mature. It's more than being able to carry on an intelligent conversation with adults. You have to be able to carry on an intelligent conversation with yourself.
I've learned a lot about criticism. You have to be one part 'grow a thick skin and get over it' and one part 'maybe I'm not as big as I thought I was'.
And I've learned a lot about ballet. It's a part of me. It's not something I can do forever, or even want to do forever. But it's shaped me. 
Living abroad has turned me into Emma, in my truest form. 

Saturday, May 16, 2015

You all regularly hear from me about life in Moscow and at the Bolshoi Academy, so I thought you'd like to hear from some of my friends.  I asked them to tell me the top 5 things they miss about home:

Olivia, Los Angeles, CA:
Before arriving at the prestigious Bolshoi Ballet Academy, I spent my final days back home thinking constantly about the people and things I would miss.  There's the obvious pets, family, ballet and school friends, my room.  But I've found myself longing for things I didn't think I'd miss.
1) Gluten free food and smacks.  I maintained a much healthier and cleaner GF and vegetarian diet back home.
2) Hand soap and toilet paper.  They supply you with neither here.
3) English speaking waiters and service people.  Also people that smile.
4) All kitchen appliances.
5) Really good coffee made by a wannabe actor.

Alysha, Grosse Ile, MI:
1) Fridge - because I waste so much money in buying new fruits and veggies because they go bad really quickly.
2) Clean bathroom - my family doesn't poop on the toilet seat and I enjoy clean, working bathrooms.
3) My family and my dog - because they understand me and make me healthy food...Well not my dog, she cuddles with me.
4) My car - he represents my freedom of being able to go wherever I want, and here I have no freedom.
5) Chiropractor - because my body has been in constant pain for the past 8 months

Morgan, Sandy, UT:
1) Regular sized laundry machines where you can fit more than a day's worth of clothing.
2) Cold filtered water than you can get anywhere and anytime.
3) A good nights sleep where I don't wake up to annoying birds chirping or bright sunlight through the window or back pain because of the springs that I sleep on.
4) The feeling of bare feet on warm fuzzy carpet, hard floors and walls are depressing.
5) I am already on #5...uh, green salads, wifi, movies, variety in ballet class, my wardrobe of more than my same 8 outfits, clean bathrooms, fresh air, showers that drain, English language, people that, a lot.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

So, before I came here, everyone was always telling me about how Gorky Park was "bigger than Central Park", "better than Central Park" basically this huge thing that made Central Park look like trash.

And now that the weather here is warmer and there's more hours of daylight, I have decided on several occasions to explore and try and walk through the Motherland's answer to Central Park. And my consensus? Central Park is much bigger. I still enjoy Gorky Park a great deal and I usually go walk around through it 2 or 3 times per week.

My favorite part about the park? This 70 ruble ice cream, that isn't particularly cold. It's white as copy paper and on a stick, and is a spitting image of a chunk of styrofoam. But it's so so good. The paper says its vanilla flavor but it really just tastes like milk and sugar. I wish I could take a suitcase of the styrofoam ice cream home for everyone to try, but I guess it'll just remain one of amazing memories I'll hang onto until I'm old and senile.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

In a previous blog post, I described how I almost got to watch a ballet but didn't quite make it.

So now, a month later and with warmer weather on our side, I set out again with Morgan (roommate, classmate, ballet prodigy, best friend and most recurring character in this blog) and Olivia (classmate, travel to Switzerland buddy and best friend) to attempt to get tickets to Legend of Love.

We were victorious this time! FINALLY. This ballet is a Bolshoi original and it's what's described as neoclassical. Meaning it's not a classical ballet where they wear pink tights and tutus, but it's also not contemporary with people writhing on the floor and what not.

Here's my brief retelling of the storyline based on what I got from the online synopsis and actual real life viewing:

It's set in some obscure middle eastern kingdom ruled by women and suffering from a serious drought. Reigning queen, and clad in a red unitard is Mekmene Banu (sounds like a Dr Suess character...) the queens sister, Princess Shireen is deathly ill. And because all good stories have an evil sorcerer, the sorcerer appears out of no where and offers to cure the princess in exchange for Mekmene Banu's beauty. She makes the trade and apparently becomes so heinously ugly that she has to wear a veil over her face in order to keep people from screaming in fear. A year later the Queen and Princess are walking through their garden and see a random guy in a blue unitard and they both fall madly in love with him. But of course because the Queen is ugly, he falls in love with Shireen. The Queen goes crazy with jealously and anger over the fact that she gave up her beauty for her sister and the little brat turns around and steals her man. Mekmene Banu sends the random guy, who is unfortunately named Ferkhad, off on an impossible mission. He has to climb to the top of the crystal mountain and free the trapped water so that the people of the obscure middle eastern country can have something to drink. While he's gone, the Queen has a dream in which she's beautiful and Ferkhad loves her. And her pleasant slumber is interrupted by none other than the brat sister, Shireen, begging the Queen to allow Ferkhad to come home without freeing the water. The Queen for some reason agrees to this ridiculous request and Ferkhad arrives home within the next 8 bars of music. But then he sees the thirsty commoners and decides to go BACK to the crystal mountain and finish his mission.
So while the plot line is more than slightly ridiculous, the dancing was the best I've ever seen. Definitely one of the best 100 rubles I've ever spent.

And the Bolshoi Theatre?  Gorgeous.

Our seats?  Standing room only.

We're hoping to go another time or two before we leave Moscow.


Wednesday, April 29, 2015

If you read back through some previous posts (here and here), you'll know that I have a deep loathing for gymnastics class. However my loathing as deep as the ocean has become loathing only as deep as an in-ground swimming pool.

Recently my ballet/gymnastics teacher has been allowing girls in my class to take the gymnastics class before ours with the option to skip our original class or take both. Obviously I jumped on the idea of taking an earlier class and skipping the second. But as time has been going on and I've gotten stronger, most of the exercises that used to kill me, aren't too bad anymore. It's my goal to come back to America "ripped".

Maybe if I come back with abs and really toned legs, the protein shake guy at our local Texas YMCA will stop telling me I need a protein shake and his phone number.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

The academy is located in a small, lower income part of Moscow, called Frunzenskaya. If you look at a map of the Moscow Metro you'll see the red line, and almost all the way in the lower left corner is Frunzenskaya.

The roads in most Moscow neighborhoods are one way and so getting the academy is a challenge by car. It's in the middle of many tall apartment building and rather than street signs,  Russia displays street names on the sides of buildings. However Frunzenskaya is rich with trees often obstructing those signs. A few times I've been in a taxi and the driver had to let me out a few blocks away from the academy, simply because it's that hidden of a building and he couldn't find the right street to turn into. 
Any time we need groceries, the nearest Billa/Билла (basically the Russian version of Albertsons) is about a 5 minute walk away. And if you want to walk a tad farther the nearest Azbuka Bkusa/Азбука Вкуса (basically Russian Whole Foods) is also an option. But I usually just walk to Billa, because I've gotten so used to the exchange rate that spending more than the equivalent of 3 American dollars on an item is too expensive to me. In the bread section at Billa (for those of you who don't know me well, I love bread and basically all forms of carbs) you can buy this small loaf of what my friends and I call, Crack Bread. Because it's the most addictive thing you could ever taste. It's dark brown, just short of pumpernickel and covered in crushed nuts and seeds. It's so freakishly good. I wish I could bring some back to America but I'm not in the mood to violate customs.
In the opposite direction of the two grocery stores, is Gorky park (see previous posts) and in ANOTHER direction is the Frunzenskaya Metro Station and Starbucks. I head over to Starbucks about once a week. Mainly for wifi but also because they have the best carrot cake you've ever tasted. 
Just past the Metro Station is a park with a small, three animal zoo. Through the zoo is a restaurant called Black Market. Black Market specializes in brunch and the best waffles you could ever eat live there. These waffles are big and fluffy, covered in sliced bananas and strawberries. And for a finishing touch, tons and tons of whipped cream. It's a well deserved treat for a Sunday brunch after a long week of classes. 
And that was a long post, basically about the food I eat here in Frunzenskaya.