Thursday, July 25, 2013

I've been back at my Russian home for just over a week now and in two short weeks I'm headed back to my American home! The return home is a whole other bag of emotions, but I'll write about that some other time. Being back has been great! I feel even more comfortable here than ever, knowing the way things work and having quite the large number of kiddos whom I know quite well. Lessons are going well, but a shortage of classrooms has left us to study in some rather interesting places. I actually find it quite nice though, sitting with the kids in a circle in a random room or studying in the open air on the rare day with nice weather. It's nice to teach from "nothing" sometimes (i.e. no paper, chalk boards, or computers, just our words and our minds).
Informal lessons are also an awesome part of my days here. Today I had left thr building to get some fresh air after one of my lessons was moved to the evening. No sooner had I walked out the door and a handfull of little ones was running at me with open arms yelling, "Chelsea! Chelsea!". After a big group hug, they started up with a chorus of requests to teach them something in English. So we moved to a couple of benches nearby and I asked them if they could write in English. They all shook their heads no and with that, our alphabet lesson began. I quickly handed out some paper and pens and I could hardly write the next letter fast enough for those eager little munchkins to copy down carefully with pride. After we had gotten through the alphabet we learned some simple English words until it was time for us all to go eat lunch. It's moments like that, which i will always remember from this very special summer!

An eventful last day in Tallinn and a sad goodbye

Tuesday morning I was up pretty early, so after getting ready and packing up, I made myself a cup of coffee and took advantage of the best internet connection I would be having for a while. When my friend woke up he also had some coffee and we made a plan for the day. Our first stop was the Old Town to climb up in the town walls and check out a ark area we hadn't been to yet. It was all absolutely lovely! The breeze was a bit chilly, but thesunshine kept us warm. Next we headed out of the center to Pattarei Prison. This old Soviet prison was in use until 2005, when the EU basically forced them to shut down the awful operation. And then, about two years later, they just opened it up to tourists. And really, all they did was open it up! It was clear that they had put absolutely zero effort into fixing it up. That place is all sorts of accidents waiting to happen. There are no lights, so you are left to wander around at your own risk. There were several places where we decided not to walk because we weren't certain that the floor or steps would actually hold out. Old documents, newspapers, and equipment are scattered throughout the rooms and you can see the really awful conditions these prisoners were living in. All in all, I don't think I've been to a creepier place in all my life. And again, I can't wait until I can show you all my pictures from that wild experience!
We ended uo exploring the prison for over 2 hours, so by the time we left our tummies were starting to rumble. We went back to the center amd ate elk soup and cabbage pies in the restaurant inside the old town hall. It was all delicious and definitely a touristy must-do of Tallinn. With some food in our tummies we started out on the long walk to the park and ampitheatre where the national song and dance festivals are held. We laid in the grass for a while and enjoyed the beautiful sunshine until we were ready to make the trek back to the center. We took a different route home which was a bit more green and away from the mainroads. We wandered through the gardens near the presidential palace and then made our way through some quiet residential areas and back to the old town. We went back to the hostel where I was able tl squeeze in a quick phone call home and then headed out to our beloved pancake place for some yummy and very filling treats. My bus wasn't until 11 PM, so I got to hang out with the hostel crowd one last time before my friend walked me to the tram station. I was definitely dragging my feet - I really didn't want such an incredible long weekend to come to an end! But eventually, of course, my tram came and after a nice big goodbye hug I was on the train and giving a final wave from the window as the tram rooled along in the direction of the bus station.
My bus ride back to Saint Petersburg was spent using the bus's wifi and catching about 2 hours of sleep after our boarder crossing. We arrived a few minutes ahead of schedule, so I was happy to get on the earliest train back to the village.
Tallinn is now a city which holds a very special place in my heart. I hope to get back there someday and experience even more of the city and te surrounding countryside. But until then, I'll just smile to myself every time I remember this most recent adventure!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Old Town and a bike tour

Monday morning was a bit rough after Sunday night's excitement, so thankfullynoir first activity of the day was the noon walking tour of Old Town. Our guide was fun and we learned a lot about the city's history. After the tour our gang of three decided to rent bikes and take a nice bike trip outside of the city center. We biked along the coast to the open air folk architecture museum where we saw old Estonian dwellings and even played dress-up. We took a different route on the return trip and had been adventuring for nearly four houra by the time we returned the bikes. Since we hadn't eaten since the morning we were all quite hungry amd therefore ate way too much pizza back in the center. We needed a good long walk after so mich dinner amd stopped into a cute little cafe for a coffee as well. We hung out in our hostel for a bit after that, but when they all went out for the night we went for another walk before going to our friend's hostel to sit on the balcony and chat for a couple of hours until we were too cold. Back at the hostel we spent our final early morning houra of chatting in the common room and were glad to have a relatively "early" bedtime. 

The best way to spend 9 hours and 30 euros

During our early morning chats, the topic of a trip to a national park outside of Tallinn cameup. I was interested in joining, but figured I would join the trip later in the week and spend my first full day exploring the city itself. But for whatever reason, probably mostly because I was afraid the trip might nit have enough people later in the week, I decided to switch up my plans and spend Sunday in nature. We had the most perfect weather for the trip and enjoyed sunshine and warm temperatures the entire day. Our first stop was a waterfall where we were even able to walk along the top. After the waterfall we made our wayto the park itself. A walk through the bogs ended in a field full of blueberries, were we turned our hands and mouths blue munching on those delicious berries. Even though we had our snack of berries, we were getting hungry and were happy that lunch was our next stop. We ate a delicious lunch at a cute little Estonian restaurant, which has been working already for over a hundred years. After lunch we drove to an old Estonian estate which as been restored into something thelikes of a country club. The highlight of that stop was playing on the giant traditional Estonian swing. And just in case we werent having enough fun yet, we drove to the sea and had a swim! After drying off in the sun and eating an ice cream, we made our way to the last stop of the day. Our guide led us past the signs warning us not to enter to an abandoned Soviet submarine base. It's unknown what actually took place at this base, but the mystery added to the intrigue of the place. After a walk around checking out the premesis and making our own speculations about what took place there, we were once again on our way back to Tallinn. I can't wait until I have a better internet connection and can post pictures from this day. Better yet, I advise all of you to head to Estonia someday anc make this trek on your own!
Back in Tallinn the three of us went to eat giant, delicious pancakes. Back at the hostel another night of fun started which eventually found us at a bar in the style of  labortatory. The bar featured shots with strange names served in test tubes and names like detonation and radiation. Although we were home before three, I quickly passed out on the common room sofa. Thankfully my friend was kind enough to wake me up and send me to bed and another day of Tallinn adventures came to an end.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Welcome to Tallinn!

My bus ride to Tallinn went quickly by and my trek to the hostel was extremely easy and pleasantly uneventful. At the hostel I checked in and was shown my room by the friendly staff. I had one of the nicest, hottest, showers I'd had in a good long time and spent some time relaxing in thr common room of thr hostel. At 7:30 PM the strict no social media rule goes into effect and the evening's shenanigans begin. I signed up for the hostel dinner and enjoyed a big plate of delicious rice and chicken curry for a mere three euros. Everyone in the hostel was in the common room playing drinking games and chilling out and I found myaelf laughing a lot and having a lot of fun with all of my slightly crazy fellow travelers. Since the hostel is in a building with other apartments, the commom room closes at 11 PM and the fun moves out to the city. We started out at a rather inexpensive bar where I spent almost two hours chatting to a former Moldova Peace Corps volunteer. We exchanged stories of Eastern European wanderings and adventures.The next stop was a bar called Shooters, but it was overcrowded and not terribly fun. We mostly justwanted to dance, so we were happy when it was time to move on to our final destination - Club Hollywood. We got free entry with our group and quickly took to the dance floor. The music was loud and the atmosphere fun, but by about 4:30 home seemed like a good idea. The sun ws already coming up aswe made our way back to the hostel. Maybe the early morning sunshine gave us energy, but for whatever reason we found ourselves chilling on the common room couches chatting until 5:30 AM. Having come to Tallinn completely alone, I already found myself feeling that I had some friends after just one night in the city!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

A much overdue update!

Hello from the bus to Tallinn, Estonia! Yay for free wifi and mobile internet! the second session of camp flew by faster than the first session even, if that is even possible))  The last day of classes was sad, as it always is. There were lots of pictures to be taken, lots of hugs to be given and received, and promises to write each other on VK. "You're coming back next year, right?" they eagerly asked. Maybe kiddos. Maybe I just will come back next summer. But we'll see how life plays that one out :)
The last day of lessons I like to plan some fun review games to go over our material from the session and maybe even an American cartoon if the internet cooperates. The 1st and 2nd groups were all the way on board with this plan. twhird group, however, had another plan for how to spend the last day. When they asked me what we would be doing today, I gave them the rundown of my esson plan. They then looked at each other with smiles and shyly asked if we could review the verb tenses, passive voice, and the various uses of the verb "to get". I was a bit taken aback, but agreed all the same. I'll never say no to an eager bunch of learners! Even though I'm a native speaker of English (or perhapsmore appropriately BECAUSE I am a native speaker of English I rarely think about the verb tenses or other grammmar points, ot to mention how to explain them to english language learners. So I turned on my thinking cap, took a few seconds to gather my thoughts, and dove in! I would say that it went swimmingly all things considered! and then, as a fun last ten minutes of class we watched a couple of funny videos on Youtube. It's so awesome that they are starting to get English humor.
This session of camp the average age of my students was higher than last session. So while there were fewer games of tag and hide and seek, there were a lot more meaningful conversations about life, politics, interesta, and just day to day stuff. The kids opened jp to me about anything and everything. Whether it was coming to me for a hug and to vemt about boyfriend problems, my pupil who asked me to check her spelling and grammar in the personal diary she kept in English, or the never ending jokes and "magic" that the boys were always eager to amuse me with. Of course, I always played along, laughing hard at their corny jokes and being "unbelievably stunned" at their magician's skills.
This session I also got to lead a few hikes to the lake with the kiddos. This made them to envy of the other camp groups and were late afternoons happily spent together. It was on oir first hike that the girls wanted to know all about my boyfriend, whose name they first ,isheard as "Maria". So the rest of the camp we shared the inside joke about Chelsea 's boyfriend Maria))) While in the woods we always picked blueberres, even though it's techniczlly not allowed and then hid our blue-stained hands and mouths upon our return tocamp. One of the counselors for my group this time spoke German and a bit of Englisj, so we had fun communicating in a trio of languages. I spent both of my Sundays off this session in Saint Petersburg and I think the trips into the city definitelh gave me some extra energy for teaching the other 6 days of theweek.
So what else can be said? It was another fantastic session of camp filled with more memories than I could ever record all in this blog. So I'll just store them away in my mind to smile about when I'm missing camp in a couple of months' time.
Hopefully a retelling of my Tallinn trip will make it to the blog shortly after the trip!

less than one month until I go to the USA!!