Back in the States but Looking Back at December in Perm

Hi from Atlanta! On Monday night, I landed back in Atlanta to much excitement, many hugs, and a lot of happiness. I traveled for nearly 30 hours altogether, which made for a tiring and long trip, but the anticipation of seeing my family made the trip pass by smoothly and kept me energized!

Last week I promised I would update you all on the happenings in Perm this past months – quite obviously I never got around to that! So, let’s see, where did I leave off last time…?

The first night of Hanukkah fell on December 7 (the first day of Hanukkah was December 8, but the Jewish calendar begins every holiday the evening before). Hanukkah is a very special holiday for me – I was born on the first candle, and so it’s always been my holiday! It was very strange to think about spending the holiday all alone and away from my family and friends, and lighting candles by myself every night. Luckily, I didn’t have to celebrate all by myself, at least not on the first – and, for me, most important – night! The city of Perm has it’s own branch of Chabad, which forms Perm’s Jewish community. My family and I got in touch with the rabbi and his family before my arrival in Perm, and I met them on Jewish New Years, a very short while after my arrival in Perm. They are such nice people, and very hospitable. I kept in touch with them and shortly before Hanukkah, they invited me to their house for the first night to light the candles. It was so much fun, and it really gave me a proper holiday like it should be every year! Not only that, but they also went above and beyond by making me a birthday cake. I went home that night feeling so fulfilled, and warm, and happy, and incredibly appreciative of them for helping me celebrate my favorite holiday quite thoroughly!

The week after, on December 14, the time for Historical Dance exam had already rolled around. For exams, the class and the teacher decides on an outfit together, we get measured and fitted for it, and then it is made for us according to our measurements and specifications.

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You probably know what I’m talking about if you’ve ever seen any of the exam videos from the Vaganova Academy, for example, on YouTube. This year, our class has a light pinkish-purplish leotard and skirt. For our Historical exam, we didn’t wear the matching skirt, as in Historical we wear our black character skirts. We will wear the skirts for out Classical exam in June. I took a picture of the leotard to show off 🙂 Oh, and the exam went really well! It was my first ever exam, and it was nice to have it in Historical rather than Classical as my first.

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During this time, decorations went up in the school, in the dorms, in the city – everywhere! And it was all so beautiful and festive.

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We [the foreign students] even made a poster to put up on the school walls. Line drew the snake – she’s got some mad skills! We wrote a holiday wish in each of our languages, with a little drawing of our country’s flag next to it.

Having finished our exams, and having reached our final weekend here with all of us together, a group of us decided to hit one of the favorite restaurants here, Tsuru, for some sushi. We had wanted to go there for a while, and we decided that since my birthday and the New Year was approaching, we should finally go and celebrate them both.

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It was nice to go out with the festive spirit – and with a lot less stress than we had been feeling in the weeks prior, seeing as exams were mostly finished and we were all ready to finish up for the holiday break. As an added bonus, the food was excellent! [One thing America should learn from Russia, and really every other country, is to serve smaller portion sizes at restaurants. That, and the metric system.]

Line found peanut butter [practically non-existent in Russia!] and a travel mug [which I had been looking for unsuccessfully] and gave them to me as my birthday present! This was the best present of the day and I am so happy I finally have a thermos to use! We really enjoyed the peanut butter =]

Line found peanut butter [practically non-existent in Russia!] and a travel mug [which I had been looking for unsuccessfully] and gave them to me as my birthday present! This was the best present of the day and I am so happy I finally have a thermos to use! We really enjoyed the peanut butter =]

Finally, on 20 December, my birthday was here! That was fun! I already posted about it being my first birthday away from home and how my parents made it as wonderful as always, but I never did post the pictures from the rest of the day. I got so many wonderful treats and gifts from my friends at school [and not all of them are pictured – by the end of the day, I was drowning in sweets!], and it was so much fun to have cake with everyone at the end of the day! See, the school bakes a cake for each student on their birthday.

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Some of the birthday gifts and treats I got from my friends at the academy!

Having cake in the evening

Having cake in the evening

The day was really great, full of chocolates and cake, as you can see, and I really enjoyed my birthday-away-from-home!

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On my last day before going back home for the break I was out doing some last-minute shopping and I decided to take some pictures for you guys of the theater and the surrounding park.

I’d like you all to know that I sacrificed all feeling my right hand for about five minutes after taking these pictures! I had to take off my glove and WOW it was COLD. I was “only” about -25 C, however; over the New Year, it will reach -37 C and maybe even less than -40 C! I, however, will be spending the first four days of the New Year in a warm Miami temperature as my family heads there for a family vacation! Until then, and after we get back from Miami, I will be spending my break in the still-cold-yet-much-more-bearable climate of Atlanta. I’m making the most of it, knowing that soon enough I will return to even colder weather than before I left in Perm when I go back for second semester mid-January!

Wishing you all a happy [and warm!] holiday season,

Until next time!

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A Birthday of Firsts and The Best Parents Ever

A Birthday of Firsts and The Best Parents Ever

Good morning to all those on my side of the world, good night to those on the other! This morning I woke up 20 years old – my first day as a not-teenager and my first day in my new … Continue reading

Boys, you may be interested in this!

In keeping in touch with the good friends I made last year at SIBA and checking back on their website often, I recently found out that, this year, SIBA is offering a full tuition scholarship to boys between the ages of 16 and 26!

For those of you who meet the age and gender criteria, and are interested in taking advantage of the opportunity, I would suggest visiting the website, which has all the information about registering, etc.

I thought I would pass along this opportunity as it might help a lot of young men wanting to continue their training over the summer. Please pass this along as well – I am sure that many people will want to hear about this!

If you’ve not yet heard of SIBA, it’s a summer intensive in Salzburg, Austria that I attended last year and loved a lot. Here is a video of clips from the program: 

Holiday Gift for Dancers

The day-to-day happenings of the last few weeks here in Perm have been interlaced with holiday preparations – everything from decorating our dorm rooms and the school itself, to putting suggestions for foods we want for a holiday meal during the last week of school in a box they put up, to buying gifts for friends and family.

Except, ok, I haven’t really gotten too far with that last one! Buying gifts is always such a complicated process for me! I want the gifts to be perfect, but this perfectionist tendency in me always leaves me closer to reaching the deadline without a present at all [due to not being able to choose] than having a 98% perfect present [as opposed to the 100% I strive for]. This has lead me to make several outings [in the bitter cold, I might add!] to look for gifts and coming back empty handed the majority of the time (luckily, I have at least made some progress, albeit very minimal). Factor in the fact that I spent almost all of this week locked up in Isolation after catching a virus that was going around, and the harsh reality sets in at once: I am way behind on my holiday shopping!

The thing is, I shouldn’t complain. At least I am buying presents for normal people. But what do people buy a dancer? That can be tricky. Gift cards are always good – I have received gift cards to dance stores before and those were always a treat! But what about a different type of gift card…?

Most [every?] serious dancer wants to attend a summer intensive in the summer, and the majority of the young ballet world is currently refining and narrowing down long lists of summer intensive auditions they will start attending next month. But there is something else all these students have in common: the awareness that they may not be able to attend a summer intensive at all, even if they did get in. 

This, my friends, is where this holiday gift idea comes into play! SIBA, the program I attended last summer and highly recommend, has come up with a wonderful idea for dancers and their relations alike. For the first time, people can buy gift cards to go toward the summer intensive program and gift them to dancers. If that isn’t a good idea, I don’t know what is! 

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So, dancers! Put this gift card on your holiday wishlist and you could find yourself ever so much closer to attending a summer program this year! I know I would certainly find great use of this – I am hoping to return to SIBA this year once again because I liked it so much last year! What with still being involved in the search for funding my year-round education here in Perm, a summer program is going to be tough to afford, if at all affordable (flights are a biggie!) I am well aware that my concerns are similar or the same to those held by other dancers, so I figured that if I thought this was a good solution for me, that it might be a good solution for you, as well!

If you’re looking to buy a present for a dancer, take note

Happy holidays everyone 🙂

Italians, Chocolates, and McDonalds

About two weeks ago, we welcomed two new Italian girls into our school. They’re only here for a month, until the end of the semester. And other than that, I don’t know much else about them!

The new Italians and me!

The new Italians and me!

They seem nice, but I haven’t really gotten to know them; they don’t speak Russian or English, and so trying to carry a conversation is really difficult for us! They’re lucky that we have two more Italians here who, having been here for a year already, speak Russian very well. I only wish I could speak Italian now, too, so that we could hang out more together!

The Monday following their arrival, we [the foreign students] were taken on a field trip to the Кондитерская Фабрика “Пермская”. For my non-Russian-speaking readers (which, admittedly, is almost all of you), this is the Perm Confectionery/Chocolate Factory. As you can imagine, we were all pretty excited to go see the chocolate factory! Who wouldn’t be?! Especially in anticipation of getting to taste all  the different sweets they produce 😉 So, after Classical, we hurriedly got ready, as we were told we would be leaving  at 10:45 (Classical ends at 10:30) and then had to wait for the bus anyway as it came a bit late. The ride was not long, although some used it to catch up on sleep, while I used it to declare my love for ballet in Russian:

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I have several pictures from the factory, but none of them are of the actual making of the chocolates, as we were not allowed to take pictures inside.

Still dark at noon...

Still dark at noon…

I can scarcely believe that almost two weeks have passed since then, in which time November has come and gone and we have entered my favorite month of the year: December! December brought with it even fewer hours of daylight, basically blanketing us in what feels like night for much of the day except between the hours of 10 am and 4 pm. I took this picture one day at around noon, and in the picture it turned out brighter than it actually looked in real life!

In a way I find it comforting, and I like it. It’s the same comfort that I get from the cold and the snow and the winter. On the other hand, it is incredibly misleading. I mentioned today that I am in isolation and so I had the opportunity to turn off my alarm clock and wake up whenever my body decided it was ready. When I woke up it was quiet in the hallway and dark outside, so I was sure I had woken up around my usual time of 6:00-6:30. When I looked at the clock and saw it was nearing 10:00, I remembered that I just can’t use the light coming in from my window to approximate the time it is when I wake up! At least, not until spring comes ’round and the night is less dominating.

Last weekend was interesting and fun as well, which is nice – I always feel successful when I end my Sundays feeling like I spent my day well! Saturday night started the weekend out well when I decided to make truffles to share with everyone. I had a lot of fun making the truffles with a semi-improvised recipe, but the most fun was the laughs I got from everyone’s faces and their reactions when they passed by in the kitchen! Everyone was curious and eager for the next day when they would be ready to eat!

On Sunday morning, Darya took a big group of us to the market and then to McDonald’s for lunch, and on the way to the market I handed out the truffles. Everyone loved them, and they were a huge success! Unfortunately – although it is a testament to how yummy they were – people ate them all so fast that I didn’t even get a chance to take a picture of the finished product! Shame, because they looked so good and I would have loved to show you guys. Oh, well, I suppose it’s an excuse to make them again some day…maybe.

McDonald's for lunch with the crew! Too bad Darya isn't in the picture, but *somebody* had to take it! :)

McDonald’s for lunch with the crew! Too bad Darya isn’t in the picture, but *somebody* had to take it! 🙂

But at least they were thoroughly enjoyed =) We were then energized enough [ok, hyperactive from the sugar] to make the trip to the market. Unfortunately, even a sugar high doesn’t do much to keep you going when it’s as cold outside as it is here! You see, the market is outside, and despite dressing warm, we were all icicles after a mere 30 minutes [I mentioned, to many nods of agreement, that I should have made soup instead of truffles!]; and so, we finished up quickly and headed off to defrost in McDonald’s!

This past week palthough it might be premature to talk about as we’ve only just started the second half] has not held anything out of the ordinary. We picked up our leotards that they made for us and they really are lovely – I hope to get a picture soon! On Monday we will pick up the skirts. And a week from tomorrow, I have my first ever exam! I am glad that my first exam is in Historical Dance and not in Classical; it somehow just makes it not as intimidating. I feel like it’s a good way to “break the ice” into the world of ballet exams.

Well, I’m off to go try and figure out a way to get the nurses to let me run down to the little store at the corner of our building. I want some snacks! Maybe if I promise to dress warm and be real quick they will allow me to go 🙂 After stocking up on something yummy, I’ll go make the most of my ‘stuck-in-the-dorms-and-can’t-go-out’ day by making some New Years cards for my friends here!

Time Has Found Me

I was going to start this over-due update by saying that I’ve finally managed to find a large enough chunk of time in which to sit comfortably, bottomless cups of black coffee by my side, and take as long as I wish to write and blog and enjoy myself thoroughly while doing it. I was going to start this post with it, and then I realized I didn’t actually find time…it feels more like time found me!

Ok, maybe that makes less sense written down than it did in my head, but allow me to explain myself:

Half of the school is sick. Ok, not quite so many people as to make up half of the school, but a lot of people have come down with a cold/flu. Isolation? It’s full to the brim. Of us foreign students, several people are tending to a mild case of the sniffles. And two of us – me included – are in isolation. I tried to avoid the nurses the last few days, because I was doing everything in my power to continue going to classes. My philosophy? If I’m not dying, I’m going to class. And honestly, if i were dying, I might want to spend my last days dancing, too. Haha!

My plan worked, but not for long; by yesterday afternoon I was in isolation after E.L. sent me there from class. Luckily, since the isolator is so full, Sara and I were allowed to stay in our rooms on our floor of the dormitories, which is so much more comfortable – and less boring! – than having to stay in the isolator itself. I still hate isolation, though! It means that we can’t leave the dorm building, not even to go to the school for out meals. Instead, they bring our food to the isolator [there is a small dining room there], and we eat there.

Anyone that knows me will know that I’m not fond of sitting around all day doing nothing. Or even if I am doing something productive, or something necessary like homework – I just don’t like sitting around. It makes me feel lazy. I like moving. Not being able to leave the building makes for very few opportunities for movement; unless you count going up and down the stairs when they call for me from the infirmary, the extent to which I can expect to get any exercise is the movement of my fingers on the keyboard as I type!

But, I digress. Not having a choice in the matter has at least given me a wonderful opportunity to catch up with blogging. And honestly, I am glad for that! Since it’s not my choice to sit around all day, I cannot possibly feel guilty for being lazy….right? Right?!

I plan on at least being productive today. Here I am writing my blog, and soon I will post more pictures and updates about what has been going on here lately. I also plan on crossing something else off my to-do list that has been lingering there for weeks – making holiday/New Years cards for my friends here!! There are only about two more weeks until we go home for break and some of my friends are leaving even earlier than me, so I really want to spend some time to make really nice cards for everyone.

Plus, I have to plan gifts. And I have to plan my birthday. It’s tradition here to give others something when it’s your birthday. For my birthday, I plan on making a cake or a treat to share with my friends in the dorm (the foreign students). Then, a group of friends and I (which includes also not-foreign students) are planning on having a little get-together, and i will have to make/bring something yummy for that, too. And finally, there is my class. It’s common to give everyone a big bar of chocolate. I might do that – or, if I haven’t tired of making something myself, I might try my hand at making yet another goodie to share with my class. I will mention that we have no kitchen – but we do have a microwave, an immersion blender, and a rice cooker. This makes for some sparks of creativity and it’s actually quite fun to discover just how much you can make without a kitchen! Case in point: I made everyone truffles last weekend. Yeah, I know. I rock. But anyway…my birthday is on the 20th, which is two weeks from today! So I’ve got to get planning and making and doing!

I’m off to go work on some updates for you all…they’ll be up today, that’s for sure!