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.
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.
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.
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.