Friday, November 30, 2012

Petunia, the Lithuanian Turkey - Abby from Northwestern

Our food table. Photo by Abby
While schools and workplaces in the US were closed this week, I continued to go to classes and play catch-up on homework.  Lithuania obviously does not observe Thanksgiving.  I knew this would be a hard week to be away from home, and it was. I love Thanksgiving.  I love its purpose, the time spent with family, the food, the football games, the card games, etc.

I didn’t get all of that, but I came about as close as you can when you’re 5000 miles away from home.  My RA organized a potluck Thanksgiving dinner between 2 pods in my building (30-40 people).  Each room signed up to bring a dish: turkey, mashed potatoes, salad, dessert, or drinks.  I was leaning in the direction of mashed potatoes or dessert, but my roommates wouldn’t have it.  They wanted to bring the main attraction–the turkey. Nastia nor Yulia had ever eaten turkey before and this was the second time for Hedi and Irsana.  So I consented to help prepare it (even though I’ve never done it!) if they could figure out where to get a turkey.  You see, you can’t just go to the store and buy a turkey here.  You won’t find one in the frozen food section, which is why people have never eaten turkey here.  It’s just not something they eat on sandwiches or for the holidays.

On Wednesday, she took a bus down to the market and bought a 5 kg turkey (11 lbs) for something like 60 litas ($23).  So it was expensive compared to standards in the US, but simple economics makes the pricing easy to understand.  The second I got back from classes Nastia jumped out of her chair and rushed me to the fridge.  She had to show me the prize for her turkey quest.  The spirits were high in my room that night!

Seasoning with Yulia and Hedi. Photo by Abby
Now the ball was in my court.  I became the expert on how to prepare a turkey. I did some googling to figure out seasoning and cooking times, gathered a few ingredients, and went for it!   Yulia named it Petunia, although the gender is still in question.  Three hours later, Petunia was ready to eat.  
After we ate, we went around our tables and said what we’re thankful for.  Then, a study abroad cut out the wishbone; we explained the tradition and had two Europeans break it after they made wishes. We followed that up by watching A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving.  I may not have been at my grandparent’s house with the fam this year, but I still got to be with people I love and eat yummy food.

I will always cherish this year’s Thanksgiving because I finally got to feel like I had something cultural to share (and I made a turkey!).  I didn’t realize how uniquely American Thanksgiving is.  We have traditions and even some foods that I can be proud of!  I had a lot of fun sharing this part of my culture with my roommates and giving them a taste (literally) of what Thanksgiving is like.

Monday, November 26, 2012

"Minute To Win It" on campus!

Last week LCC students organized "Minute To Win It" challenges in one of LCC's student residence halls.

One of the teams before the game
The Balloon Challenge

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Being thankful - Franklin from Gordon

I received an e-mail from my friend, Teapot, who is currently studying in Orvieto, Italy. She sends these updates out to people every few weeks informing us of her experiences and her thoughts on being abroad. The latest one included a list of things she is thankful for. I thought I would do the same. It is now half-way through the semester and I'm coming to realize what I appreciate both here and in America.

1. I'm thankful for my family. For the first time in 14 years, I miss them (the last time was when I was a 6-year-old day-camper and homesick). I know they wish the best for me, and often times know the best for me.

2. I'm thankful for my friends back home. My day has been made multiple times when I received a letter from one of them--whether a note about killing a bee, a mad lib, or a literary work of art. I am pleasantly surprised by the fact that relationships can grow even though there is an ocean between us. Likewise...

3. I am thankful for Skype and Facebook, so I can keep in touch with people.

4. I'm thankful for the friends I have made here. I love hearing their stories, their thoughts, and their jokes. Sometimes, doing homework isn't worth it when I can learn so much more from a conversation over tea than from a Language Acquisition textbook.

5. As mano protinga sesuo said in a reply to an earlier post, I really do appreciate the other Americans here. Yes, we can be imposing, but it is very relieving to have someone who is experiencing the same things as me.

6. I'm thankful for Mindaugas, my English student. Every English lesson is so rewarding because I actually get to interact with someone who is living in real life--not only that, but living it fully and well. I hear about his family, his girlfriend, his job, his plans, his dreams, his daily routine. It's a sort of escape for me from the idea of 'studying abroad' to actually living here. And I find more and more that I love to teach. Sometimes it is difficult, but I never dislike it.

7. I'm thankful that people, at least somewhere in the world, still live simply. I see old men riding their bikes through the forest even on cold, windy days and I admire them for finding joy in nature. 'Fun' does not seem to have spoiled natural pleasure here.

8. I'm thankful for my roommates and all the curious things that happen between us.

9. I am thankful for the opportunities I have here: traveling, teaching, editing, cooking, learning, playing. All of these are enabling me to make the best of this experience.

10. I'm thankful for the nice ladies at the post office. Without their patience and understanding, I would never be able to send anything.

11. I had forgotten how pleasant alone time was. Mindaugas was late to our English lesson yesterday (we actually missed each other by 4 minutes), but while I waited for him, I was able to  take my focus off school, culture, and work, and just sit and think.

12. I'm very thankful for food that other people make, because I'm not very creative.

13. I'm thankful for my German student. I was writing my German professor a post card saying that I wasn't able to use it my knowledge much, but as soon as I finished writing, I got a visit from a girl who is engaged to a German and needs to practice speaking. Thanks Jesus, that was cool. We've been meeting for three weeks and today is our final lesson before she moves there officially.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Tutoring - Rebecca from George Fox

I've started tutoring a 14 year old girl named Jelena (pronounced "Yelena") in English. She speaks enough English that I can have a conversation with her, but I'm still getting the hang of this whole TESOL thing. During each 1 hour tutoring session, we do grammar worksheets and I struggle to explain why exactly the past participle of "forget" is "forgotten" and then I force her to speak English for the rest of the time. Sometimes I have her read short stories out loud to help expand her vocabulary, so trying to explain what certain verbs mean involves me doing some pretty embarrassing miming to get the meaning across. I also ask her lots and lots of questions about her life in Lithuania and even when she struggles to find the right word in English (which is when Google translate comes in handy), I have so enjoyed learning from her.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Risk takers at Hermitage

Photo by Kristen
One of the snapshots from the fall break trip to Russia. The group is posing after their exploring time in one of the most amazing art museums in the world - Hermitage, St. Petersburg.

Friday, November 9, 2012

An American in Russia - Breanna from APU

Moscow is home to over eleven million people, and is the current capital and largest city of Russia. Moscow hosts the most billionaires in the world, and apparently boasts the most expensive cup of coffee. Moscow has such a unique hustle and bustle to it-unlike any city I've visited before. The people, culture, architecture, and history certainly make it an unforgettable place.
As we got off the train in Russia, we started our long walk to the Godzilla Hostel. It was quite the journey to our hostel, considering all the snow on the ground was turning into slush from the downpour of rain. Despite my careful and strategic efforts to dodge puddles, my shoes were soaked by the time we reached the hostel. Lesson learned: always bring waterproof shoes, and more socks than you think you could possibly ever use.
The Moscow Metro is the best metro system I've ever seen. We traveled in 4 groups of about 8 to 9 students to avoid getting lost and drawing too much attention as tourists. My favorite game to play was the "Don't-look-like-an-American" game. We tried to blend in whenever we got on the metro. Our pre-departure tips of don't speak too loudly, don't smile, don't look lost, and don't stare proved to be good instructions. To semi blend-in, requires a silent entry, no talking during the ride, and picking a spot on the floor to stare at for the entire duration of the trip. Unfortunately, I have no pictures of the metro, as it is illegal to take them; unlawful activities seemed like a bad idea. 
McDonald's. Photo by Breanna
Within the first 5 minutes of being in Russia, I could see how much Americans stand out as tourists. Before even reaching the hostel, two different people asked us if we were American--and we weren't even speaking English. Locals just know. As the week went on, I started to take note of the things that label us as Americans. First, we dress differently. Our clothes are brightly colored, while Russian fashion is primarily dark colors. The next thing I noticed is how loudly we talk. As Americans, we talk in nearly every setting. We can never simply be silent. On the metro, it was rare to see Russians talk, even if they knew each other. The train could be packed, with no seats left, yet still be completely silent. We also point and wave excessively. If a friend is in sight, we wave--no matter the distance. 

The Russian language uses the Cyrillic alphabet, not the Latin alphabet. Hence, reading Russian was quite the task. The three weeks prior to departure we had three short lessons on basic Russian. We learned the alphabet, common phrases, foods, and greetings. I spent the entire week staring at signs, trying to decipher just one word. It was surprisingly entertaining. On the rare occasion I could read a word and actually comprehend the meaning, it was very exciting. Even places like McDonald's, Starbucks, Cinnabon, and Wendy's are spelled using the Russian alphabet. Hopefully you recognize the iconic "Golden Arches", but in case you need me to translate--a picture of McDonald's.