Monthly Archives: May 2012

I thought my life would be over the minute my computer died on me. However, as with a lot of things in Russia, you can’t just give up. Luckily, I had a friend whose brother is a computer whiz and he managed to get my laptop screen to sort of work. Smacking it around a bit also helped. In other words, don’t bring a Mac to Russia because most people won’t know what the hell to do with it.

Last Friday was the “Last Bell” celebration at the lyceum. It’s a celebration that marks the last day of class for the graduating seniors.  For the last day of class, the seniors gussied up and the 5th graders came in and “taught” them. Then there was a concert, some speeches, and lots and lots of crying parents. All in all, it was really quite adorable and a lot of tears were shed. At my high school, we didn’t have anything like this. I remember we all went to Six Flag, and after graduation, we had an all night graduate party. But there were also roughly 500 graduating seniors at my high school — graduation felt like one gigantic party, whereas it was much more personal at the lyceum. Watching the seniors whisper excitedly to one another and nervously shift in their seats during the concert definitely got some waterworks out of me. I remember all of the emotions of high school graduation and all of the uncertainties. Will we all still be friends? Will we all stay in touch?


That’s kind of how I feel now. Everything is going to change so quickly, and whether or not I want it to, I have to go with it.

On a less angsty note, this past weekend, I also got to fulfill my dream and FINALLY rap in a concert. Yes, you read correctly. Rap. In a concert. In front of people. And no, it was not sloppily nor was it drunkenly (well, only a little bit) at a karaoke bar, it was at a legitimate concert. My friend Anesh and her sister Eka are two relatively famous singers here in Ukhta, and they invited one of their friends to sing with them in concert. They needed back up singers, so they asked yours-truly to help out. At first, I was only to sing back up in one song, but then it turned into two songs. At rehearsal, I saw that they were going to perform “Lady Marmelade.” I asked, sheerly out of curiosity, which one of them would rap. They all looked at me with wide eyes and said, “You! How about you?!” So I brought my street cred to the streets of Ukhta, and the crowd went wild.

Once pictures (and videos) are up, I will most definitely post them.


Here is a short video of me rapping in concert and an even shorter interview. The video starts at 4:40. 


This past week, the weather rose into the 20’s, and Ukhta burst into life. All year long, it’s been cold and rather dreary. People have been bundled up inside, with the heater cranked up to the maximum. It even snowed in early May, for Christ’s sake. Now that the signs of summer are finally upon us, people are at last shedding their winter coats and are taking leisurely strolls outside simply to enjoy the sun. This past week I was able to walk outside for the first time without a coat on. In addition to that, I’m finally no longer a pasty shade of yellow, but instead, a proper shade of brown! Finally about time that I get a little tan.

One of the downsides of living in a small city though is that there’s…not much to do even when the weather’s nice out. As I was walking with some friends, we reached the end of the main street. “Vse, gorod zakonchil’sya,” they said nonchalantly. The city ended. There’s nowhere else to walk except to go back the way you came from. One can only walk back and forth along the main street so many times. Even so, it’s refreshing to see people finally excited to be outside and just so damn happy to be alive.

White nights are also upon us. Guess what time it is? That’s right, 1:30 in the morning! Nothing like waking up at 3 am thinking you’re late for class and realizing that you still have 3 hours left to sleep.

This past weekend we had a good-bye party for our friend Roma. He’s a current student at the university here who’s going to America through the work and travel program. It’s the first time he’ll ever be in America, and it’s his last weekend here, so of course, we had to celebrate in good style. One by one, everyone is leaving for the summer, be it to America or Europe, and not going to lie, I don’t want to say goodbye just yet.

A last hurrah for Roma

I tried washing my clothes in the washing machine here once. The result: a dress that now ended at my crotch, a business skirt that is no longer considered appropriate for work, and a few shrunken shirts. On top of the fact that the woman who runs the washing machine room (yes, there is a woman in charge of the washing machine) is only at work from 11-4 on weekdays, I didn’t want to risk shrinking my entire wardrobe. What was I to do? Go the old-fashioned route.

I remember calling my dad on skype and asking him for help. He started laughing at me and said, “This is just like Vietnam!” So with my dad’s years of experiences handwashing clothes and my own trial and errors, here is how to wash your clothes by hand.

What you need:
– A large basin.
–  A clothes scrubbing brush
– detergent
– good background music (I personally like Journey)
– arms of steel

my high-tech washing machine

Step 1:
Fill up the basin with hot water and detergent. Make sure the water is nice and soapy!

Step 2:
Dump dirty clothes into basin.

Step 3:
Scrub each item thoroughly. This takes the longest.

Step 4:
Let clothes soak in the water for about 40 minutes. I don’t know if this actually helps in the cleaning process, but it makes me feel better about the cleanliness of my clothing.

Step 5:
Rinse until all the detergent is gone. This takes about 6-7 rinses.

Step 6:
Wring out clothes, shake them out, and then hang them to dry.

State of the art drying machine. Dries almost everything in about 9 hours.

To be honest, I don’t know how clean my clothes really are. They probably aren’t clean at all. But, the most important thing is that they smell good and look relatively decent, and that’s all that really matters. Also, in case you were interested, I still lose socks when I wash my clothes by hand.

In case you didn’t know, yesterday was Victory Day, a celebration which marks the capitulation of Germany to the Soviet Union. Russians take this day very seriously, and it’s understandable why — there were about 24,000,000 casualties total during WWII.

Russians take this holiday so seriously that the government issues a five-day holiday — all of my friends had Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday off. However, schools were still in session, which meant that I had to teach quite a bit. On top of teaching, I couldn’t turn down my friends’ invitations to celebrate. So one can imagine that after five days of intense merry making, working, and not sleeping, I’m feeling a little run down. My brain’s not working quite so well, and my body hurts.

This wasn’t my first Victory Day Celebration — I was in Moscow two years ago to experience the holiday in its full glory. However, I must say, that even though Ukhta is a tiny little city that doesn’t hold a candle to Moscow, I enjoyed the celebration here much more. Two years ago, we woke up too late to make it to the parade — by the time we got there, the riot police had cordoned the streets off because there were too many people. Here, I not only made it to the parade, I got to be in it! The perks of being a local celebrity are unlimited. While the celebration in Ukhta can’t compare to the bombast and glamour of that in Moscow, the festivities here were more personal. Good weather, good company, I can’t really ask for more out of this city, can I?

During the parade. I unintentionally looked like a Japanese school girl.

С днем победы!

Nadya and I.


With a soldier

..Americans in Ukhta!

Randi, another Fulbrighter conveniently located in the Komi Republic, took a somewhat spontaneous trip up to Ukhta for the weekend. She is currently based in Syktyvkar, which is only about 200 miles away from Ukhta — which means it takes about 10 hours to get here on a slow, rickety train. When Randi said that she wanted to come visit, I was absolutely elated for a number of reasons. The first being that I would finally be able to speak English on a weekend with someone here, which is something that hasn’t happened all year. The second, and most important reason, was that there would be another American here! While there are creepy, old American men who come here to do business every so often(with oil…and perhaps wives?), I am quite positive that I am the only American who is living here. Also, I am pretty sure that I am the only American here who isn’t creepy and old.  I’m going to even put it out there that we made history this weekend with the fact that there were two of us. I have absolutely no proof to back this up, but with the way that people were awkwardly staring and gaping at us, it may have been the first time in Ukhtinian history that there were two young Americans here at the same time.

The perks of living in a small city is that it doesn’t take too long to show a newcomer around. We covered the major sites in about…three hours. The major sites being the eternal flame, the children’s park, the adult park, Lenin street, and the mall. I had also properly warned all my friends that there would be another American coming here, and so to the chagrin of the babushki working in the dorm, a good chunk of them showed up at my apartment to celebrate in good, American style.

Randi surrounded by my friends.