Friday, July 25, 2008
Here is a slideshow of some highlights from their time here.
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
The end of May brought the end of Aaron's first school year of teaching in Russia! It was a great year for him.
The first week of June was spent at a dacha (a Russian country house). It was a rustic, but fun experience, even though it was chilly most of the time. Lydia loved it, although it took her a while to decide the potty (an outhouse) was a "nice potty." She loved running around in the great outdoors, and "helping" the landlady with the gardening. Some of our favorite things were hiking through the forest & fields, seeing a beekeeper, walking to the little country store in the morning to buy fresh tvorog (like cottage cheese) and smetana (sour cream), making shashlik over the grill, and last, but definitely not least, experiencing a banya (Russian sauna). Here's what a banya is like: You all strip down and go into a little room with your friends (and maybe the landlady), and the room is so hot you feel like skin is going to roast and burst into flames at any moment. After you sit there for a while, the landlady pours water over some hot rocks, and steam bursts out all over the room, making you realize that the way you felt before wasn't hot at all. (At this point, I was begging the landlady to let me out... she wouldn't let me...) You gasp for air, and once you start breathing again, you all start beating each other with birch branches. They do make the air smell nice, and you're supposed to breathe deeply to get the full healthful benefits. After a few beatings, you head out to the outer room again, where someone promptly douses you with COLD water. Yipes! I was screaming for mercy again. The landlady had none! Then you sit around in the lounge area of the banya cabin, drinking tea, and discussing how great it all is for your skin, your heart, lungs, and overall health. Oh, and then you go back in and do it all over two more times. Quite the cultural experience. I do have to admit, I felt refreshed and relaxed after it was over. And after the second time I learned to endure the heat/cold like a real Russian. Here are some dacha pics:
People buying fresh milk, smetana, and tvorog
The rest of June and the first week in July was spent in the US! It was so great to spend time there again, and to see some friends and family. To get there, we took the train to Helsinki and flew out from there. Here's a picture from a boat parade we saw in Helsinki.
And celebrated the 4th of July!
In the middle of our trip we went to Kansas City for Aaron's friend's wedding, and then headed to Arkansas to visit family there. Here are some highlights from that part of the trip:
Kayaking & playing at the Buffalo National River