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.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

For those of you who don't know, European ballet demands skinny dancers. Ballet dancers in general are some of the worlds thinnest people, but on this continent, it's a necessity. This summer at the Bolshoi Summer Intensive, I was told I was fat for the first time by a ballet teacher. And here, now that I'm actually in Russia, it doesn't stop.

A regular phrase that my ballet teacher tells us is "Надо худеть" (pronounced "Nada who deet") which directly translates to "need to lose weight". And this upcoming week it's only going to get more frequently said. On Friday we have what's called Weigh In. In February there was a schedule posted saying on which days each class would have to report to the nurses office.
We all have to arrive, post ballet class, in only our leotards and tights, hair down and teeth as clean as possible. Then the ever chipper nurses (see previous posts for the backstory on the relationship with the medical staff) call us in one at a time and we stand on their scale and then they measure our height. Back into the waiting room.
Another nurse calls you into a room and she examines your hair and nails for malnutrition. No matter how clean your hair is, she tells EVERYONE that they have dandruff and that they need to go to the drugstore and buy a certain shampoo. I'm beginning to think that she's selling shampoo advertisements. Back into the waiting room.
Then the "dentist" calls you into her room and has you lay in her chair in her dingy room. She takes the cleaning instruments that she used on one of your classmates only a few minutes previously and swishes them around in water before sticking them in your mouth. So while you're thinking about all the germs your tongue is coming in contact with she's rattling on about how you need to have a certain tooth pulled or how your tongue is slightly too close to your teeth or how you have too much salvia and you need to see a doctor. 
Once this is all said and done, the head nurse makes a nice little report for your teacher to read. Then the next day at ballet class she tells you that you need to lose more weight. Last semester when I weighed in at 53 kilograms (116.8 lbs), she said I still had to lose 4 more kilos (about 8 lbs).  I did lose quite a bit of weight with my illness last month, but I have gained much of that back...
So that being said, while this is arguably the world's best training school, it's the best for a reason. 

Sunday, April 12, 2015

So, two weeks ago, I was in Switzerland. Yeah that happened.

    One of my best friends here, Olivia, had an audition in Zurich and her Mom (who might read this blog post at some point, so HIIII) offered to pay for me to go along with her so that she wouldn't be all alone in yet ANOTHER foreign country. 
     So Friday after ballet class we headed off by taxi to the airport and flew for 4 hours while watching Sixteen Candles and sewing pointe shoes. And eating the free Swiss chocolate offered to us by the flight crew.
      You see, aside from being in Switzerland and the fact that that's really cool, Olivia and I were really excited about sleeping in a real, big, soft bed and showering in an actual shower (the hotel shower was probably the best shower I've ever used too) and eating food that didn't come from the academy cafeteria. 
       So basically, aside from the hour we spent actually sightseeing, Olivia and I laid in the beds and watched Netflix. Basically the extent of our trip. Bad tourists.


Tuesday, March 31, 2015

So, my fellow dancers, we're nearing Summer Intensive season.

This year I'm not attending any summer intensive, in favor of saving money and spending time with family and friends. But this blog post goes out to all of you who will be attending The Bolshoi Ballet Academy Summer Intensive (referred to as BBASI NY). Consider this your need to know things about the program based on my previous experience. Keep in mind that the rules and housing are significantly different this year but hopefully someone out there will be reading this and find it helpful.

    1) The summer intensive is huge. HUGE. Regardless of what companies and and academies may lead you to believe, all Summer Intensives are designed mainly for making money. The Bolshoi is no exception. The Russian students here in Moscow do not pay tuition, so the New York and Connecticut programs serve mainly as fundraising. Please be aware of this. The classes are over sized and a plethora of different kinds of dancers are accepted. I was assuming before I went that all the dancers would be bone thin and extremely talented, much like the image we receive of the academy. But honestly, many different body types are skill levels are invited. So on the note of the huge classes, I move to my second point. 
     2) The levels are random. Sure there's a slight order to them, in terms of best to worst, but honestly there are prodigies and dancers who lack luster in all the classes. The levels are named after the teacher who teaches them, rather than being numbered. I was placed in "Ivanova" indefinitely after being in "Pyatkina" for 3 days. Ivanova was technically ranked 2nd highest but like I said before, girls at MANY different skill levels were in my class. There were about 45 girls in my class. And one teacher. Bringing me to point 3. 
     3) Bolshoi teachers shamelessly play favorites. Here in Moscow AND at the summer programs. They do a pretty good job of being fair but Russians are very political. Students at BBASI can ask to be moved to a higher level and usually their wish is granted. Students with friends in high places in the dance world get special treatment. But in the individual classes each teacher has a few favorites and everyone else receives lesser attention. My teacher was one of the most fair out of all the teachers and she always made an effort to help even the worst in the class. But I had friends in other classes who never once got a correction from their teacher in the whole 6 weeks. I was blessed to have earned the favor of Ivanona and Gusev (my partnering teacher) and I firmly believe that their favor is what got me the invitation to study at the academy.
     4) Okay, final point. Everyone wants to be a favorite. It's slightly cut throat because getting into the academy is such a big prize and only people who get attention get in. Honestly, worry about getting better. Worry about improving. Your classmates are going to try and psych you out. They're going to give you dirty looks. The end performance is like, the final test to see if you're academy material and it's important to focus on yourself and your dancing. If your teacher sees that you're working hard and taking corrections well, they'll respond to that. Good work equals good attention. And that's true about all parts of life. 

Monday, March 23, 2015

    Here's another Emma fact for you all:  hospitals are in my top five fears. Right up there with airplanes and untimely death. I often say that I'd rather die than go to the hospital. Unfortunately, I don't really have that kind of guts and last week, I was forced to check myself into the hospital. Intrigued? Read my sad little story.

    So, some of my friends and I decided we wanted to try and see the ballet. We left on a Saturday right after lunch and stood in the bitter, bitter cold for almost 3 hours. I ended up getting a ticket along with my two roommates and our friend. However, two boys (Sterling and Kyle) who came with us had issues with their student cards and were unable to purchase tickets. So Morgan and I sold them ours because we both were freezing, tired and in vaguely grumpy moods. But before we headed home we decided to join the group for dinner. We went to this vegetarian restaurant that everyone at the academy always raves about and being the picky eater that I am, HATED the food. I got back to the dorms with a slight sick feeling in my stomach and passed out almost immediately. 
     At about 11pm, my Mom called me, worried because I had fallen asleep without telling her I made it back safe (even though I totally did) and upon hanging up I realized that despite my heavy sweat pants, sweater and wool socks, I was shivering and no amount of blankets could keep me warm. That night my fever crawled higher and higher until I actually started hallucinating about millions of sick Emma's all laying in my bed (I kept pushing them off the bed but they kept coming back). Desperate to escape my "clones" I retreated to the bathroom. And that's when the nausea hit me.
      HORRIBLE night. 
      The next day I started on the upswing. My fever broke and I kept down some water and applesauce. And the day after that, I had some juice and even some quinoa! I was feeling so much better! 
       Sadly, that evening, hell broke loose.
       Pardon the TMI details but my vomiting came back, this time accompanied by diarrhea. And even once everything I had ingested was gone, neither symptom stopped. That night, I only slept for about 30 minutes at a time and that was sitting on the bathroom floor leaning against the stall door. 
        Of course I was not about to suit up and take ballet class, so I stayed behind and Morgan was going to tell our teacher that I was sick. My teacher didn't like that too much. Demanding that Morgan tell me to go to the nurse and get a sick note to prove that I was actually sick. And believe me I was. At this point, my parents were worried. And even my friends in America who know I'm very independent and I like taking care of myself, started urging me to see someone. My friends at the academy were hovering around my room asking how I was, begging me to try and drink some Gatorade. 
         My plan had been to go to the nurse and say I had my period or something like that, so that they wouldn't freak out and send me to the hospital. But, when I informed my parents and best friends that my symptoms had become relentless and not to mention, full of blood, I was ordered all at once by about 5 people to go to the doctor immediately and ask to be taken to the Global Medical Center (which is where I had gone for my back injury. See previous blog posts.) 
          I could barely walk, and my head hurt so bad that I could barely think in English, let alone Russian. So aided by Google translate and several friends I explained to the nurse that I needed to go to this specific hospital TONIGHT. Needless to say, the nurses and doctors were angry with me but luckily, after seeing how drained I was and how I had been near to tears when my friends Morgan and Sterling brought me a bag of things to take to the hospital, they eased up on me and called a car to come pick me up. BUT, after they watched me throw up 3 times in 10 minutes, they decided to call an ambulance.
          So I rode in an ambulance for the first time. In Russia. 
          Right after I arrived to the hospital, I went straight to the bathroom and threw up, again. (Luckily though that was the last time I threw up.) 
          A nurse took me to a room with a bed and a huge bathroom and a huge tv and a table with chairs and handed me a bathrobe and said to change into it. Did I mention that this nurse didn't speak any English, regardless of the fact that she worked at a "western" hospital? Because she definitely didn't speak any English. And my doctor also, who walked in as I was doubled over on the bed in pain, spoke only broken English. Because of my extremely distressed state and the language barrier, clear communication about what was wrong with me wasn't made. They gave me an IV, turned off the lights and told me to sleep.
         I was confused, at a dangerously low weight, freezing cold, and in need of the restroom every 30 minutes because of the rapid speed that I was being rehydrated with.
         Luckily, in the morning I was greeted by a nurse who was friendly and spoke fluent English. And then a doctor different than the one I had the previous night came in, and in perfect English, inquired me about how I was feeling. With a clear picture of my condition she brought me medicine completely different than what I was given the previous night. And within hours I began feeling better. 
       One of the difficult things about all this is that recently I had turned 18. Which means that my medical records and conditions are private and only released at my discretion. I would try to relay information to parents and friends but, I've never really been a details person and honestly I did a horrible job at keeping people informed because I've never received so many worried texts and calls, despite the long distance phone charges. No worries though, eventually I convinced my insurance company that I was healthy enough to consent to giving my Mother direct feeds of information and updates. 
        After 3 nights and almost 3 days, I was fully hydrated, keeping food down and sleeping.  Finally getting sent home with medical records saying that I had somehow come down with TWO viruses and an infection. My ballet teacher at the academy was very anxiously awaiting my arrival. Worried sick, as I was her first student to ever be admitted to the hospital. 
        Once it was all said and done and I was laying comfortably in my own dorm bed with my own clothes on, one of my best friends messaged me saying, "Okay. We need to have a little chat about your limit before you go to the doctor because you're a painfully stubborn person." 
        And because I am such a good humored person, I laughed. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Sorry it's been a while since my last blog post.  Our wifi router stopped working.  Now it works, but only in the student lounge.  Friends from the US came to visit for a few days.  Then I spent a week quite sick.  Including 3 nights in the hospital here in Moscow.  That story is forthcoming. 

In the meantime:

Snippets of things over heard in ballet class:
    "My brain feels like someone drenched it in oil and fried it." 
    "Was it at least good oil? Like coconut oil?" 
    "Not even. It's crappy canola oil."
    "Honestly Leonova (the principal of the academy) is way scarier than Putin. I think the USA is worried about the wrong Russian."
    "I took a double dose of DayQuil and honestly, I think I'm a bit drunk."
    "Oh blue leotards. I love looking like an Oompa Loompa." 
    "Wait, Oompa Loompas aren't blue." 
    "My childhood memories are all lies."
    "I'm not gonna die happy until I go to a Russian Discotecha (a Russian dance) where they play more than Pitbull and Lady Gaga." 
    "That awkward moment when the Djornya calls you fat."
    "Wait, the sun is shining and I'm really not sure I'll be able to dance today. I need darkness to thrive. Do not hold me responsible for my adagio."
    "There are about 7 different languages being spoken right now and it's giving me low key anxiety."
    "I'm 19 now. I feel like I should pay taxes."
    "You know, at home you're a god for getting into the academy. And when you get here, it is far less glamorous. My bedroom lights actually turned on today." 

    "That breakfast meat looks like the steaks that Alex the Lion eats in Madagascar." 

Saturday, February 28, 2015

For some reason, all the teachers here at the academy don't tell us their names. I think we're just expected to know their names already. That being said, I don't know my character teachers name, but he's easily one of our favorites. Because my class is mostly Japanese students, he often starts counting in Japanese instead of Russian, sending them all into fits of giggles. He always jokes around, his many facial expressions and voices are easy to mimic and laugh about on the sides. Morgan, Yumiko (a japanese girl who's the best in our class) and I often mimic his sound effects until he hears us and starts laughing and shaking a finger in our direction.

Last week, he had downloaded a flashlight app onto his smart phone. However a popup offering that he buy the extended version appeared, but it was in English. So he walked over to me as I was putting my shoes on for class, and said in Russian, "I don't know English, could you help me?" After directing him in the right direction he stood and ceremoniously bowed in a Japanese fashion. 
And his reaction to me sitting out of class because my back was hurting? "Oh, your back hurts? Then my heart hurts."

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Anyone who knows me, knows that I deal with back pain on a 24/7, daily basis. Diagnosed with spinal degeneration, in short, the cartilage in my lower back is either pulled tight or pinched depending on the vertebrae. Last time I had it checked (in late September, shortly before coming to Moscow) I had reached the 4th out of 5 categories in severity. There's no cure and since I'm super stubborn and I love ballet, I'm ignoring my chiropractor's suggestion to quit dancing for now at least.

So since it's been bothering me more than usual, I decided to head down to the Academy doctor's office to complain and get a slip of paper, excusing me from class for a few days. My plan was just to go have her look at me and say to rest, because since my back pain is lifelong all I really need is a short mental health break before going back in.

Let's just say things did not go as planned. 
The doctor was in a bad mood when I got there. Angrily asking what was wrong I told her my back was sore. She FLIPPED OUT. Telling me how bad that was and how I was a stupid dancer for hurting it in the first place. She sent me back outside to the waiting room and said she'd be making phone calls and by nighttime I'd be in a hospital. So, since I'm a person who'd rather die than go to the hospital, of course I was unnerved. I tried to explain that I had seen a doctor in America and I knew what was wrong and I just needed to rest. That made her even more mad. She told me I was stupid and disrespectful and to go to the nurse so that they could have data such as my temperature to give to the hospital. Turns out I had a fever. So when I had to report my temperature to the doctor she scolded me for being selfish and not coming to the doctor sooner and telling her because soon I would infect the whole school and when no one could dance it would be all my fault.
So after all that, arrangements were made for me to go the Global Medical Center and I was not pleased. I called my Mom at 4:30am her time asked what I had to do. I had to go to the ATM to get 7000 rubles to pay for this myself since it was too early in the morning for the Academy to contact my insurance. But neither of my debit cards were working. Then I briefly thought I lost my passport. So when Morgan asked me if everything was okay I just started crying and hyperventilating to the point when Morgan decided she'd be accompanying me to the hospital. 
Once we got there, I had to fill out my own hospital forms. And I decided that I didn't want to be a grownup. After a short wait I ended up in an exam room with a doctor saying that the doctor at the Academy requested X-rays and thankfully he didn't deem that necessary. He told me to take off my boots, jeans and t shirt and proceeded to administer mediocre chiropractic care. Surprisingly it worked. 
So 6 hours after this all started I finally arrived back at the academy it was dinner time. I thought, "Wow, I'm lightheaded with hunger and I have a splitting headache. Surely I can eat before seeing the doctor again." I was wrong. A nurse came into the dining hall and demanded that I go see the doctor right. this. second. So I went and the devil started yelling again because I guess she just likes yelling. I just answered, "Da." to every question because I was too tired to try and translate. 
And like a soldier from battle, I left that room waving a little, green sheet of paper saying that I didn't have to dance for 5 days.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Here is a list of classes offered to my level. International Trainee.  Stajor.  Not sure why I just used the word "offered" because let me tell you, these classes are 100% mandatory. 200% mandatory.

All classes will be rated on the ridiculous 1-10 pain scale that confuses me, for easy understanding of my struggles:
    Classical Ballet: This class is a very hardcore 10. It also involves my teacher yelling at me very loudly. In this class we practice certain exercises and steps to increase strength, flexibility and control.  
    Repertoire: This is one of my favorite classes. In this class we learn solo variations from classical ballets. So basically an example would be Act 3 Sleeping Beauty wedding variation. Rated 6 in pain, only because dancing a 3 minute dance nonstop kinda hurts your lungs. 
     Pointe: Basically classical ballet, but with pointe shoes. Duh. Due to my lack of healthy toe nails, this is more painful than it should be. But I'm skilled at ignoring the pain. I'd give it a 4? Yeah a 4 sounds good.
     Character: I love this class! It's like folk dancing? Kinda. It's hard to explain. Google it, if you're curious, because I'm horrible at explaining. This class isn't painful, it's just long and sometimes boring. Rated 2. 
      Historical: The. Most. Boring. Class. Ever. Okay so here we learn old time dances like the Minuet and Valse for a whole 2 hours with a teacher who has a crazed look in her eyes and insists that historical is THE MOST IMPORTANT CLASS and corrects everything down to where your eyeballs are pointed. I kid you not we literally hold hands and walk around the room while she yells for 2 hours. Rated 10 for mental torture.
      Modern: This is also one of my favorite classes! This teacher also kind of has a crazed look in her eyes, but then again, most of the teachers do. She speaks quite a bit of english and she's the perfect mixture of serious and hilarious. Her favorite thing to say is "OH MY GOD! Girls. Not good." This class isn't painful until we start rolling around on the floor resulting in tender, bruised hips. Rated 4.
      Gymnastics: Rated 1000. Enough said. My hatred for this class is forever. 

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Last Friday, Morgan took me out with her to meet some friends from her church for a night of go-carting and Georgian food! (The country, not the state of course.)

First we took a 30 minute journey through the Metro then we crossed a very busy street and almost got run over. Then we got in a car and I wanted to die. Anyone who knows me, knows that I HATE cars and driving and everything related to it. But Russian drivers are like NYC cab drivers on crack. I kid you not, I thought I was gonna die.

But, finally we arrived and got into these NASCAR jumpsuits and I found myself in a go-cart. And guess what?! I was flooring the gas, never got pulled over, never hit anything or anyone AND I came in 5th out of 12 people.

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Afterwards we went to this Georgian restaurant. You know how Americans really like Mexican food? Georgian food is like the Mexican food of Russia. We had these mushrooms with bread and cheese inside, and these HUGE dumplings with either meat and mint inside or potato and cheese. Then we had this flat bread with herbs and gooey cheese. And this big round pastry with cheese and a raw egg in the middle! Basically the key word is cheese. It was so good. Like really really good.
In the middle of our meal a small bug started crawling across the table, we called over the waitress who called over the manager who apologized profusely and gave a pitcher of this lime green drink that could probably glow in the dark. We made sure it didn't have any alcohol, before trying it. It was heavily carbonated and tasted like a combination of green apple and black licorice. And it also, following the trend of the restaurant, was sooooo good. 

Friday, February 13, 2015

Consider this your step by step guide to Emma's morning:

    6:00am - My first alarm goes off. This is more of a little warning. I open my eyes and check my phone. My friends send me text messages and snapchats (sometimes so many that my phone crashes!) while I'm sleeping and I do the same to them. It's an easy way we've found to keep each other updated. So I check my notifications and answer them. Depending on how tired I am, I either drift back to sleep or stay awake and text friends and family until they go to bed. 
    6:50am- Alarm number 2 goes off. I roll out of bed and head down the hall to brush my teeth and wash my face. I look in the mirror and access the state of my under eye bags. Usual in critical condition.
    7:00am- I sit on my dorm room floor and do my hair and makeup. Sometimes I'm listening to music, sometimes talking and joking around with my roommates and sometimes one of my friends will be awake and free to FaceTime. 
    7:20am- I get dressed (which requires choosing one of the 20 leotards I have here with me. That's serious downsizing since I have about 30 still in Texas. Oops.) and fill up my water bottle, take vitamins, grab a drinkable yogurt...etc. etc. I get ready pretty quickly so most mornings I spend a lot of time communicating with people at home. Since my friends in the USA are in school when I'm going to bed, it's usually the only chance I get to talk to them.
    7:55am- Morgan (roommate) starts tapping her foot by the door ready to go down to breakfast. If you're late, it's easy to get caught at the end of a very long line of students waiting for breakfast and that is just a HUGE waste of time. I usually don't eat the Kasha because this semester they're serving mainly my least two favorites. So it's just bread and butter to accompany my yogurt for me! Lately I've just been staying in my room and skipping the dining room completely.
    8:10am- We go up to the 2nd floor where all the studios are and wait in the hallways and stretch before our 9 o clock class. I used to have a routine that I went through before classes but now, in the mornings my brains are going in about 100 different directions. With all the different conversations I carry on earlier in the morning and with anticipation for the upcoming day, I find it easiest to stretch for about 10 to 15 minutes then I just sit. My classmates laugh at me but I really just sit and put my earbuds in and focus. Often, my music is turned up so loud that they have to throw something at me to get my attention!
    9:00am- Class starts! When my teacher walks in the room we're already doing the set warmup exercises that she likes for us to start without her so that we don't waste time. Within 10 seconds of her entering the room she's already yelling at me. It's strict and it's hard, but I wouldn't be here if I didn't like it.

Actual photo of what I do before class taken by a classmate.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Here's a list of things people told me about Russia, debunked.

    1) "That's such a hard alphabet to learn!" okay. Literally the cyrillic alphabet is the easiest part. It's the cyrillic everything else that's horrible! I don't even consider the alphabet hard anymore! But the different ADJECTIVE endings depending on what the adjective is describing is so hard. What kind of language has different adjective endings.
    2) "You're going to freeze!" Surprisingly, The United States has been colder than Russia on many occasions. Texas has been colder than Russia, I repeat, Texas has been colder than Russia.
    3) "Don't get a Russian boyfriend!" If you know my very well, you know that I have no time for, nor interest in boyfriends. Doesn't mean I haven't been creepily stared at by Russian men, but let's be honest, that totally happens to everyone. Even in America. 
    4) "They're gonna feed you horse meat!" I, uh, can't argue with this one.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Friday's are our shortest days. With only ballet technique early in the morning and gymnastics (shudder) right after lunch, we are completely free from 2:30pm until 6:30 dinner.

Rather than spend all that time waiting around in our room, my roommate and partner in crime, Morgan and I decided to head to Gorky Park.

Over ten times the size of central park and home to ice rinks, a skate park, several fancy restaurants, numerous cafes, small amphitheaters, intricate playgrounds and street cars that sell fried corn on a stick. We walked around for about an hour until we were too cold to go any longer. We decided while the park was beautiful covered in snow and ice, we would much rather enjoy it was its a bit warmer.

Hopefully in April or so, we'll be able to go without concern for our fingers and frostbite.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

I guess, in Russia, Starbucks is a hub for pregnant women, new mothers, mothers with toddlers. Basically if you're looking for women and children under the age of four, Starbucks is THE place to go. This is probably the tenth time I've come here and EVERY time its literally crawling with stray children. It's so amusing. A small girl has been standing by my table for about five minutes staring me down. I'm starting to feel uncomfortable. Small girl is eating a cookie and it looks very delicious. Incognito advertising perhaps?

Thursday, January 29, 2015

The bathrooms here in the dorms are always a wild card. Out of 10 toilets, I refuse to use all but 3. Out of 8 showers I refuse to use all but  2, theres a third one I'll use but only if I NEED a shower. The reason is that they are usually filthy.

And the sinks are usually fine, but to get rid of uneaten food, girls dump it directly into the sinks. If I wanted to wash my face in a bowl of noodles, I'd do so myself. I don't want it at 6am while I'm trying to get ready for ballet.

But anyways, earlier last week there was a note posted on the shower room door. It explained how the showers were closed for repair. About 80 tired, sweaty girls aged 14 to about 19, wouldn't be able to shower. As you can imagine there was some uproar. So the house mothers gave over the key to the younger girls shower room so that we could all at least take a brief shower. These showers are used by girls about age 9 to 14. They have cute pink shower curtains. And shower heads that work.
 Oh, and has anyone seen the movie Elf? We felt like Buddy the elf, super tall people, in facilities made for kids. Fun times.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Here's a fun little tidbit for you all:

My American accent is apparently VERY thick.

My friend from Sweden recently told me that I sound like the American actresses on TV. And my Russian Language teacher always makes fun of me for having such a horrible Russian accent. Often I ask my friends from places like Switzerland, Italy, Sweden and Japan how to say random words in their native language (such as alien, sleep, hairspray, candy and walrus).

I always receive the same response, laughter because I sound utterly ridiculous speaking any language other than my own.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

In Russia every student is issued a navy colored, folding identification card. They're called (phonetically spelled) studiyenski cards and we can use them to get student discounts in places like bookstores and select coffee shops.

However, there's a certain perk to to cards that we dancers especially appreciate. On days that The Bolshoi Theatre has performances students can line up outside the ticket office and hope for extra tickets at an extremely reduced price of only 100 rubles (that's only $1.50 in U.S. dollars. In comparison, I saw the Bolshoi in NYC this summer and it cost $25 for a student rush ticket for our $155 seats!)

So my roommates and I lined up at 4pm at the end of an already very long line. Turns out we showed just a hair too late. With only about ten people in front of us, the ticket office closed with no more student tickets to sell. We were slightly disappointed but we knew that we were cutting it close with the time and had only ourselves to blame.

Standing outside of the Bolshoi Theatre.  The wind chill was about 2 degrees!

However on the bright side, The Bolshoi Theatre is located in a very beautiful part of Moscow. It's close to Red Square and many American stores like Zara and Tommy Hilfiger. Full of statues, intricate buildings and sparkling light displays still up from the New Year festivities, it's easily my favorite part of Moscow. While we were out walking I spotted a Hyatt Hotel and I thought to myself, "Someday when I have a family of my own I'm going to bring them here and we will stay in that very hotel."
Anyways, to reward ourselves for the long commute from the dorms, we walked around until we stumbled upon an Italian restaurant. I had an amazing pasta dish with a cream sauce and for dessert I had these doughy pastries with candied fruit and chocolate inside. All in all, not a bad way to spend your Saturday afternoon/evening.


Thursday, January 22, 2015

One day this week, we were served this tasty soup. 
In fact, we are served this soup regularly.
Cabbage, pickles and something like spam in a more than slightly oily broth. 
I ate the bread that was served on the side.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Well, I'm back in Moscow! And while last time was only for about seven weeks, I'll be here for the better part of six months. My suitcases (4 in total, oops) were full of about 70lb of food. Things like banana chips, flavored drink mixes, dried pastas and broths, and of course if you know me well enough you know I had about 30 bags of sour patch kids with me!

It's weird to think that I'll be here for so long. I have to stop and remind myself that literally I'm not coming home until I'm done. Something like FaceTiming a friend, or hearing what my family ate for dinner is unsettling. I won't hug my friends and family, or look at American road signs for a very long time. And that just makes me so, so much more determined to use this opportunity to its greatest extent. Many thanks to everyone who's helped me along the way. There are people who have literally carried me and I'm very grateful.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Here we go!

2 girls, 10 bags, 6 months, 5885 miles

Lots of food in these suitcases.  And gum.  And Sour Patch Kids.