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Saint Petersburg

We arrived in Saint Petersburg three days ago. We arrived by overnight train. It was one of the first times I have ever been in a train let alone an overnight one. The Russians use a lot of public transport, it’s almost amazing. Sergei told me that he once spent three days in an overnight train. I thought that was insane, considering the extreme lack of personal space. But it was still a lot of fun. Speaking of which, I am constantly surprised by the number of Russians that speak English. I was able to meet one on the train and watch Sean play fool (Russian card game) with her through the night. I even just now met a young woman in this hostel’s kitchen while typing this who was in Michigan last year.

Anyway, Saint Petersburg is a beautiful city. It has a lot of very old buildings; they all look as though they are from the Victorian era. Our tour guide on the first day said that it was a “young” city, only around 300 years old. I thought that was pretty hilarious considering the age of our entire country.

Some of the places we have been include: the Hermitage museum, Tsarskoye Selo, and Isaakievsky cathedral. Pictures will follow, since I can’t attach pictures to this post using my phone. There are a lot of pictures, and the Internet in our hostel here can only handle so much, so most of them may have to wait until we get back to Moscow. I’m looking forward to seeing the bridges being raised tonight.

More from Sergeiv Posad

Sergeiv Posad

Last Sunday we traveled a good hour by train to see the largest monastery in Eastern Europe, Sergeiv Posad. It was quite beautiful, but unfortunately it was also under repair. So we really couldn’t see it completely for what it was. However, it was still quite striking. We walked around the grounds taking pictures, dodging large tour groups, and generally trying to stay out of worshipers’ ways. I found it all rather fascinating. So much ceremony and belief all throughout that place, much more than I expect to see back home. More than anything else, I saw history. I can think of only a few places able to boast of such history. There was a line about 100-150 ft long of people waiting to get blessed fountain water to drink. It was quite impressive. I’m really glad I was able to go.

VIM trip

Week 11 News from Russia

So this post is again rather late. I have had a really hard time getting focused lately.

Dr. Layfield arrived and we were able to wrap up classes with Miss Ashley and see her off. Now we are on our last teacher which means we have less than a month left… I don’t really know where all the time went. It’s been a blast already and that was with classes. In a few weeks classes will be over and we will be traveling all over Russia learning about the culture, language, and people.

Last week we went to a agriculture research facility named ВИМ (pronounced VIM in English letters). It was a very long trip but pretty cool. We were given a few presentation about the history of the company’s up to what goes on there now. I learned that the research facility was founded by the same man that founded the agriculture university that I am currently taking classes at. Afterward we were taken to a small showroom housing a pretty cool tractor and a machine designed to separate wheat from chaff. The machine operates by blowing air through three chambers of different heights. The chaff is blown off and collected allowing the heavier pieces if wheat to fall ever lower and eventually out of the machine and into a bucket. The tractor had about 6 foot high ties and the bottom of the frame sat above the tires. We were also able to take a tour of the garage and see a bunch of mechanics working on various projects.

Sushi, Irish Soda Bread, and a Russian fish recipe… Lots of good eating lately!!!

Weeks 9 and 10

Weeks 9 and 10 were wrought with peril. The natives have been experimenting with EMPs in an attempt to cur us all off from the outside world and now my Mac is a casualty.

(Make believe is so much more interesting than life sometimes…)

Anyway, my computer died last week (why I haven’t chronicled my adventures lately). So here I am blogging with my iPhone. It’s been an ordeal trying to find out what to do with my computer (because I insist on complicating everything). But now I have a course of action, and I should be back to being able to use a computer again soon.

Dr. Buffington’s course is over, and I received an “A” (hooray me!). We also started our last course (I can’t believe we only have one course left, time has flown by). It’s been interesting so far.

I’ve also learned a few interesting things about Russians this week. Simply put, they do not enjoy “mom jokes.” I find this interesting because in my circles, they are quite common part of our collective sense of humor. Also, since I came here Russians have been looking at me funny (not for the reason brother just thought of…). Apparently it is exceptionally strange to walk around barefoot. Who knew? They think I will catch a cold or something….

Other fun things that happened; my birthday and Saint Patties day!!! I can’t believe I forgot to say “happy Saint Patrick’s Day” in my last post, so “Happy belated Saint Patrick’s day!!!! From Russia with love.” We teamed up with the Russians and French in Anna’s room, and had a huge feast. I made russian potato bread, and Jenn made a cabbage and chicken stew. With the french making crepes. Awesome time. My birthday was also awesome. I was given an MSAU sweatshirt by the Russians and Jennifer made sushi for everyone (pictures to follow)…. So many leftovers. Other than the computer things, it’s been a great couple weeks!

Week 8 Summation…. Delayed

So, it would be very easy to just pretend that week 8 never happened and pretend that week 9 was actually 8, but in the interest of completeness I shall refrain.  Alas, I am doomed to not be able to skip a week. But ‘tis of no consequence.

 As always, having fun.  Except for the fact that my computer has decided to ignore everything that I want to do and stop working when it wants to do so.  I spent two hours yesterday morning just trying to get it to start, after it froze to begin with.  (I could blame my not having blogged in a while on my computer, but I’ll save us both some time and dignity and just own up to just forgetting)

Anyway, less complaining…. This week I can sum up into 3 pieces: we went to a John Deere factory for our weekly tour, started learning about the dative case in Russian, and worked more with calculating investments in our Ag Business class.

Firstly, John Deere was a HUGE factory.  Probably at least thirty meters high and over have the facility (the whole facility, I think, is7500 m^2) was dedicated to stocking various parts.  The other half housed a few assembly lines that we were able to see.  I expected a few dark lines full of automated robot welding on pieces like you see in quite a few car commercials… ‘twas not so.  What I found were a few lines with stations that had about two workers per station.  Each person placed their parts on a machine and then the machine in moved to the next station with people floating in between to finish the previous job.  I found it fascinating. (Pictures to follow soon).

Next, the dative case in Russian language class is… interesting.  The dative case is all about “to whom?”  To whom are you walking pedro? -To Anna’s room, To whom is that letter being written? -To Bob, etc.  It’s not very hard to grasp, all you have to do is change the ending, but the more russian I learn the farther I feel from mastery.  It’s kinda awesome.  i knew Russian would be difficult, but that just makes it that much more rewarding when I advance.  At any rate, it feels good to finally be learning something new, but it is going to make listening for it that much harder.

Lastly, Ag business course.  On the surface I wasn’t sure what I could get out of this class, because we started off with things I went through in general engineering (unit conversions, etc.). Now, I’ve really been seeing some very useful things in the class.  We have been calculating desirability of investments. Meaning that if you have an option of buying a new machine or repairing the one you have, how much does each cost? How long will it last? and what else could you be doing with the money? Very useful for any major, and very important in Ag Engineering.  I’ve really been enjoying it.

That is about it for this week, you will all be hearing from me again shortly.

Giant Matryoshka Dolls!  This is the mall we went to where I bought that beautiful knife.  It was a gorgeous mall, four stories high with these beauties at the top.

Week 7

This week we went to a local green house and were able to see how it’s handled.  It was very interesting.  I got to see how the plants are kept warm and fed, as well as a hydroponics system (which I hadn’t seen before).  What I found particularly interesting was the computer system used to evaluate the closed water system (sensors give feedback as to how many and what kind of chemicals need to be added the balance the water feeding the plants). Besides that we were able to see about three different houses which included every stage of plant development. They grew many different plants including tomatoes, lettuce, and several herbs.

The only other thing we really did this week, other than a lot of studying and homework, was go out to a bar on Friday to see the town a little.  The bar we wanted to go to was unable to take us, but about 2 minutes of walking revealed an alternative.  This bar had more of a nightclub feel but had finger food, good drinks, and hookah.  We decided to take advantage of all three.  Around 12:30 (only about and hour and a half after arrival a.k.a. two drinks) we needed to leave to make it back before the hostel closed, but some of us wanted stay out all night since there was a 24 hour diner around the corner.  I was one person of five. We stayed to eat, drink, and smoke hookah, and had a lot of fun.

We left between 2:30 and 3:00 AM for the cafe, which was Coffee House.  We had something more substantial than bar food, and some good tea/coffee.  We also talked a lot about religion and movies etc.  Eventually there was a Russian there that spoke very fluent English and invited us to contact her if we wanted to see the sights with her.  We talked with her for a few minutes and took her card afterward. We were back in bed by 6:30 AM and slept until after noon.

Break-making here and there.

We spend a lot of time in the kitchen, especially when the Americans and French are all cooking at the same time.  Even more so when the Russians come to share dinner with us…. it gets crazy.

Week 6 Summation

So, I have been getting better about updating my blog more often than once a week (hooray me!).  Anyway, last week we started our power management course with Dr. Buffington. I’ve been finding it very interesting so far.  We’ve basically been going over unit conversions and power calculations for lights and motors.  A lot of these calculations usually include comparison with efficiency of some sort, and/or finding how to save money over several years at certain interest rates.  

I’ve never had to look at these issues along the terms of cost per energy, I’ve only ever just looked at energy or reliability.  As I said, we had Jean’s birthday on Sunday, I had my first haircut in 2 months, and otherwise have just been relaxing and having fun or doing homework with Jenn and the others.