Thursday, December 18, 2014

Okay so Kasha is basically just gross. And since that's all we eat, breakfast just isn't fun. But with the different varieties it's kinda like something new everyday. I definitely have favorites, and least favorites. Consider this your guide to kasha served at The Academy.

    #1 Corn kasha. Which is funny because I HATE corn alone but this kasha has a taste resembling corn bread. That's been mixed with hot water. And run through a blender. Yeah. So that's the tastiest one.
    #2 Rice kasha. This one is basically whole white rice, soaked in sugar water and somehow boiled in a cauldron to assume an oozy, gooey, lumpy mush. It looks like meal worms, so if you don't look too closely, it tastes really good with jam.
    #3 Chunky corn kasha. Resembles #1 but with chunks, of course. I thought these were the same. I was wrong. Chunky corn kasha has oil on the top. Yummy.
    #4 Wheat kasha. This is sad that it's number 4 because I always talk about how much I hate it. It's kinda like oatmeal? But made with the shells of wheat berries. And it tastes burnt. And sometimes there's a bit of a hard chunk in there. Again, if you don't think about it, this one is good with butter.
    #5 Oat kasha. Lumpy, gluey, slimy, burnt tasting, oatmeal. I only eat oatmeal if it's in quaker oats cups with nuts and berries and spices and yummy stuff. This certain kasha is a brutal shock to my First World Princess Taste buds.
    #6 And the award for the Worst Kasha goes to what we call, Cream of Wheat Kasha. Not sure how we came up with that name because it's not creamy, nor is it made of wheat. It's soupy, rehydrated powder the consistency of sugar scrub with extra oil. Absolutely NO taste. It's served piping hot, and since its so thin, it's basically hot water. Absolutely no nutritional value and you're hungry ten minutes later. 

Monday, December 15, 2014

Okay, so my least favorite class hands down is gymnastics. Every Wednesday and Friday I slowly save my energy in preparation for the impending doom of ridiculous, demanding, relentless over stretching designed to increase my flexibility (or break my body. Whichever comes first.) Splits with my legs on chairs, hanging by my arms from bars, teachers standing/sitting on me. It's just all kinds of fun, let me tell you. So in the five minute journey down flights of stairs and through hallways to class, I try to come up with a reason why I can't go. Morgan, my roommate is usually a very good sport and listens to me go on and on. A typical walk to gymnastics class might go like this:

    "Morgan, I think my leg just fell off. Shucks. No gymnastics."
    "Okay Emma."
    "I have influenza...I think I heard that big tree smash through our window...My Mom is calling. It's an emergency."
    "Found an excuse yet?"
    "I'm suffering from a rare jungle fever. There's no cure."
    "Dude, I think I just ate kiwi (I'm allergic to kiwi)! I'm going into shock!"
    "Okay. Shut up."

The dreaded gymnastics room. (ГИМ жал)

Saturday, December 13, 2014

It's been snowing here! A lot. Actually everyone is complaining about how there's barely any snow on the ground but coming from a girl who's lived in Texas for 9 years, this is a TON of snow. I open our window a lot and just stick my arm out, or make a snow ball from the snow collecting on the sill and aim for a tree. I'm also fond of sitting in the window and letting my legs dangle out. * Small children don't try this from home!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

So I've been here five and a half weeks and my Russian Language class has gone through three textbooks. Which is a total of three years of syllabus! I know I talk a lot about my Russian class but it's seriously such a big part of being here! Since we have it everyday and we are moving so fast, sometimes it's to keep my brain up with it all. I'm such a far cry from fluent but I'm hoping my short Christmas break in America gives my brain a little break to refresh it all! But while I'm home I'll still be studying, like my teacher and I were joking about today, "Study, Study and Study! No sleep only studying, day and night." That man knows how to laugh. I'm so thankful for such a good teacher. Where would I be without him?

Sunday, December 7, 2014

In Russia and many European countries the dance floors are raked. Which means they are set at and angle so that the audience is able to see everyone on stage, even if they are in the back. My studio is the least raked out of all the studios. And the stage is about twice as angled! It's taken some getting used to but I no longer feel like I'm going fall and roll down the floor!

 You can see the angle by looking at the ceiling and the barre...

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Are you like me? Directionally challenged and couldn't read a map if your life depended on it? Well my friend, I have just the thing for you! The Russian Metro! There are roughly ten train lines and each one only goes one direction. Each track only has trains going in that one direction. No more worrying if you're getting on Train #1 going north, or Train #1 going south. It's actually impossible to mess up. Here's the downside the the Russian Metro. The escalators. Basically straight down (falling just short of being like a ladder) and let me tell you, these escalators go DEEP into the ground. It takes a good two minutes to ride the whole thing down. So not for the faint hearted and those afraid of heights, but I'm certainly digging public transportation.

These guys are throughout the metro stations keeping an eye on us.

Monday, December 1, 2014

The newness of my room has worn off. My bed is basically springs. Guess who's bringing memory foam back with her?

Update:  My favorite House Mother gave my roommate and I brand new mattress pads from Ikea!  Sleep is a wonderful thing.

Friday, November 28, 2014

 Standing in front of the Bolshoi Theater!

 St Basil's Cathedral.
Geographical center of Moscow.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

In only a few weeks of Russian Language class we've made it all the way through Textbook #1. I'm swimming. These textbooks, mind you, haven't a single english word in them. So it's often in class that our teacher will say to us, "Slovar, slovar." Meaning, "Dictionary, dictionary." Which is super cool for Morgan and I, because with my phone equipped with international data, we get answers at blazing speed. Except for recently, my data has been SO slow and our teacher began explaining to us (all in Russian of course) where we had to go to get a proper dictionary. So now we have dictionaries and are fully prepared to deal with the first world problem, slow cell service.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Note to self: If you're a vegetarian don't study ballet at the Bolshoi. Three weeks in and I cant even call myself a vegetarian anymore. It's all about survival. If it's edible, you eat it. 

Sunday, November 16, 2014

     Over the course of the week I have collectively thirteen hours of Russian language classes. Morgan (my roommate and traveling partner) and I have nights where we are swamped with homework and its all very overwhelming. The frustrating thing is that our teacher isn't teaching us how to carry on a conversation! He's teaching us only grammar and the proper way to end words depending on whether it's a feminine, masculine, neutral or plural word. So, allow me to just pat myself (and Morgan) on the back. We've both had several semi-successful conversations with Russian speakers. And all that is stuff that we've taught ourselves, or that Sophia (my other roommate, who won a scholarship to study Russian and ballet for 6 weeks this summer) has taught us.

    You see it's very strange. Here there are lots of people I'd like to talk to. But they speak Japanese, Italian or some other language, while I speak English. So since we are all learning Russian, it only makes sense that the language I'd use to communicate with these people is Russian. I don't know, but it's just so strange having Russian be the common language. I'm used to people struggling to communicate with me in broken English. It's honestly, very unsettling how used to being the "Alpha Dog" I am. I'm not used to demeaning looks, and not being fluent in the common language. It's a growing experience. 
     Ballet classes, are definitely different than what I'm used to. Our teacher is very small, pretty and young. She is always dressed very nicely and has a long braid of shiny hair down her back. You'd expect her to be a sweet little lady with the personality of a little girl. But, no. She's the most terrifying woman. The majority of the class she is yelling ( I kid you not, YELLING) corrections and criticism. And she has no problem with hands on corrections. Common corrections that I get are to turn out my leg (which means she's going to put her hands on my shin/calf and forcibly turn my leg around. I can usually feel the cartilage in my knee stretching painfully when she does this.) and to point my foot more (which means shes going to try and bend my foot in half. My right arch is bruised from her thumbs). She hits me, scratches me, and yesterday she told Morgan and I that we were stupid.
     This may be shocking. But, basically everywhere but America trains their dancers like this. And here's a couple reasons why: Lawyers and the fear of being put out of your comfort. I've said this before and I'll say it again, I love when my ballet teachers yell. I love being forced to be better. Because rather than someone saying, "Try and do it better." Wouldn't you like someone to say, "Do it better." Just that alone makes me want to try harder. Like they just know that I'm capable of perfect ballet and they won't take anything less. I really appreciate this method and if you have the stomach for it, I think that's how everyone should be trained if they're serious.
     All in all, I've been here a total of two weeks and some days are better than others, but I'm still wildly happy and I'm going to soak up every bit of knowledge the Bolshoi Academy has to offer me.
 Morgan, Me and Sophia

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

So in my first week here in Russia I've learned a few things:

1: Languages are hard. Incredibly so. After being told several times that English was the hardest language to learn, I didn't believe it until just about 2 hours ago. English is very hard. I'm in an accelerated Russian language class here at the Academy (My teacher is a little old man named Alexander Simeonavich with a wonderful sense of humor) and we are learning the grammar cases
of the Russian Language. After struggling for a few days it clicked and I now understand the six cases pretty well. Just think, the English language has TWENTY-SIX cases. *sings Proud To Be An American*
2: Which brings me to point number two. It's true. Americans ARE looked down upon. It's recommended that you don't speak English on the streets. And in general it's just strange to be a minority. Even in the dorms, Russian is the common language and it's very strange because for the first time in my life I don't fluently speak the dominant language. Americans, compared to other nationalities are "fat" (especially in the ballet world), slow with learning, and no matter what you own, it's nicer than everyone elses. 
3: Russian food is horrible. I'm honestly having a very hard time swallowing it sometimes. Every. Single. Morning. We have kasha, which is the Russian version of cream of wheat/oatmeal. And I can promise you, once I leave Russia, I will NEVER eat it again.
4: Russian men are bold. My roommates Sophia, Morgan and I were on the metro this past Sunday out to buy ballet attire and on the way home there were three Russian boys around the age of eighteen staring at us. Unfortunately every time we went to change trains they were already on the train (no, they weren't following us. The way it happened it actually looked like we were following them!) They laughed at us and winked, before getting off at their stop, gesturing for us to call them. And the previous week, we were taking a selfie (yes, yes I know) and a group of about fifteen boys started yelling "American girls! Hi! Over here!" We shook our heads and pretended to not look interested, but, they all came over with their phones out. So thats the story of how we took huge group selfies with a group of Russians in army uniform. 
5: Last but not least, I really love ballet. I love it so much. That's all I can say because there aren't words to express it. That's why I dance. No words are needed.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

At the academy, we are fed three meals a day.  Breakfast is the same.  Every. Day.  Kasha with bread and a slice of meat (left column, second photo from top).  Lunch and dinner are the same 7 meals, served in a rotation.  The rotation doesn't mean that we are served something different every day, though.  We had the same lunch three days in a row. 

I've learned how to say "no meat and sauce, please" in Russian. Now I can eat my rice/pasta in peace. Без соус и мяса, пожалуйста. So I used my new skill, and the dinner guy understood me so well that Sophia, my roommate standing next in line, also was robbed of her sauce.

Most of the soups are tasty, and I enjoy my almost daily cabbage salad with apple and celery.  The yogurt cups, drinkable yogurt and box of milk have taken some adjusting to, as they are ultrapasturized.  My almonds, almond butter, tea bags and nasty-tasting protein powder and vitamins that I brought from home are a good addition to my diet.  There's a grocery store about 5 minutes from my dorm and we've bought bananas and jam.  And Diet Pepsi.

Here I am, standing on the steps of the famed Bolshoi Ballet Academy. 
It's officially called the Moscow State Academy of Choreography. 
I can't believe I'm here.

Monday, October 27, 2014


    I've been counting down the days until I leave for a while now. But with only four days left, the fact that I'm moving to Russia (RUSSIA WOW) is becoming more and more real by the second. I think if this training opportunity was something that I had been working towards for years I would feel more prepared, less anxious. But this is just my pipe dream. Pipe dreams don't come true. Except this one did, and every day I wake up overwhelmed by the fact that I am indeed going to the Bolshoi Ballet Academy.
    When I was eleven, watching YouTube videos of Svetlana Zakharova and Diana Vishneva was my life. Entranced by their beauty, long, thin limbs and expressive faces, I made a resolution to dance just like them someday. So some how, through my crazy younger years and a crippling love/hate relationship with ballet, I was blessed with this amazing opportunity.  You see, my original plan was to audition for the Bolshoi Ballet Summer Intensive just to get it out of the way, assuming they wouldn't be interested in me. I just wanted to get the "what if I did make it?" Out of my head. And, I had a horrible audition. Absolutely, horridly, embarrassingly bad. But two weeks later I was in a hotel room with my mother, tears in my eyes because I had received an email asking me to attend the summer intensive.
      Now, the intensive was another story. Two days into the six week program, I was pulled aside by the director and was unceremoniously told that I was being moved down from the highest level into a lower skill class. My earlier fears that they didn't want me and weren't interested in my dancing returned and further pushed any wish I had of ever getting asked to attend the academy far out of my mind. But you see, when the program ended and it was time to go home, another surprising email came in. Crying for the better part of two days with equal parts shock, fear and confusion, we finally made the choice to start aggressive fund raising. I was going to Moscow, Russia to be one out of twelve Americans, one hundred international students and seven hundred students total, at this world renowned ballet academy. So here I am. Stressed and panicking but wildly happy.