Sunday, September 28, 2014

Tiger Day!

Vladivostok's mascot is a Tiger. So, of course, they have to have Tiger Day holidays!

There was a parade of school children in the morning, followed by a  bunch of performances from adults and children. There was, of course, a small market to buy stuff as well as food. Then at night, they had a free concert of B-2/Б-2 a pretty famous Russian rock band. I didn't listen to anything they did before the concert, but free + concert +Russia = of course you go!

Pictures from the day!

I was the only one who wanted to go see the parade.
The cool costumes people wore!
School children performances.
The concert

lead singer

 See you around the globe!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Day in Vlad!

Today I wondered around Vlad after a yummy stop in a cafe with a new Russian friend- Elena!

We went to Chololadnita Cafe...guess what they excell at? Chocolate drinks! They had them in Moscow and Petersburg, but those didn't have a sit down menu, at least not that I ever saw!

I had an Ice Oreo drink, which, while not made with real Oreos, was still delish!

Then we wandered around the sea front of Vlad and, of course, took pictures. A day out with Russians, always involves pictures.

Har Krishna is a big thing here. They like to go around singing just "har krishna"
 After than fun, I went to a free Korean Cultural Concert.


 The singers/performers were amazing! My favorite part was the traditional v. K-pop dance that they did! (which of course didn't turn out in a single picture!

See you around the globe!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Russian House

The Russian House is a cultural house where you can experience a Russian Tea plus see tradtional clothing that women and men wore. As well as play with traditional toys.

The SRAS Americans went with a Japanese group that was on a study holiday.

Thi place was totally cool.

They first served us with bread and salt. Which sounds really weird, but totally works. Didn't hurt that the bread was absolutely yummy!

Then we had tea, black of course. But the fnny thing here was that those traditional Russian glass tea cups with the metal handles?

Those are only for men. Women weren't supposed to served tea in those. We got dainty teacups.

Then they showed us traditional costumes from different eras while playing classical Russian music.

Then the funny thing happened. They had Alek and a Korean girl get up and get dressed in traditional clothing, without telling them what was going on.

Well apparently they were getting "married"!

this was about when they figured it out!

One of the cute traditional toys was a cow that walks. I of course had to buy it. I can't stop giggling when I watch this wooden cow walk down a wooden plank. Don't ask why. Prorblly has to to with "It's Russia"

Just so you can understand the adorableness how crazy I am.

See you around the globe!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Надежда/ Nfdezhda (Hope)

A story about this day on the VSUES website. (translate if needed)

The Nadezhda is the practicum ship for a local marine university, but it has something special- a cultural center!

We boarded the ship to what, at the time, appeared like an awkward clapping welcome thingy, but found out later that it is a customary greeting when boarding a ship like Nadezhda. We got to listen to a history of ship ship as well as explore all over!

We did an imptomtu "share the song of your country" where the only song the three Americas knew was the National Anthem (yay brainwashing!). So that happened. There is a video on Facebook for proof.

The ship was really really cool! Best explained in pics! We got to see the dorms, the classroom, the culture center, the officers quarters, and wander around up top. It was really interesting to see!

there was suddenly a sub!

 See you around the globe!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Far Eastern Federal University

There are two universities in Vladivostok: Vlad State Uni of Economic and Service (where I am) and Far East Federal University (ДФГУ)

We decided to go see ДФГУ one day after classes. You just take a bus form one university to the other. But it is a long bus ride because the university is on an island.

Yup, you read that right.

On an island.

It was built to host the 2012 Asia Pacific Economic Conference, and the the Russian State "gave" it to ДФГУ.  The conference participants and volunteers were hosted there. FYI_ Russia also built the two bridges we drove over to get there, just for the conference.

But campus was a traditional American style campus- student center, dorms, cafes, gym, and I'm assuming classrooms, but I didn't actually see any.

We think their mascot is a dragon.

Ryan decided to have fun with angles...

We had lunch at one of the cafeterias, cheap, traditional Russian food.

We mainly just wandered around the campus looking at it and taking in fresh air.

See you around the globe!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Exploring down town Vlad!

When I woke up around 8 am my time (5pm EST the day before), I decided to go try to find internet before eating and going downtown. Sveta, the wonderful lady who met us at the airport, wanted to show us downtown today.

After walking out the dorms to go to the only place I knew with internet, I ran into a problem…the way I knew was locked tight. I started to go down stairs, but realized I didn’t want to walk down 5 flights just to walk back up them. When I exited the stairwell, I ran into Alex, who was also looking for internet!

We thought there was another exit from the dorms towards the sports hall…so we started walking that way. There is but it’s the long way around. After a helpful security woman told us how to exit. We literally walked around the building/campus.

Only to find a gate.

Which we watched a Russian jump.

We looked at each other and shrugged, then climbed the fence.

But, once we got to the place with internet, it was closed on Sundays, so we asked the security people if we could sit on the benches they were using to block the doors, but they said no.

So we sat right outside on the ground.
statue of tigers downtown

Which is a problem for Russia. People don’t just sit on the ground. But we needed internet.

After about 5 minutes, the security guard came over and invited us to sit on the benches with our legs facing out. J

Then internet!...until my ipad died…

Alex and I went to the store to buy 5 L of water, because we didn’t need anything else and you definitely don’t want to carry 5L of water when you need to buy other stuff too.

After brunch, we all met up to go downtown, taking an entirely different bus from a different stop.

The center/quay (набережная) is very calming and relaxing. There is a beach right there (so ignore my comments from yesterday if you want to) with paddleboats (called cataramans in Russian) and row boats for rent. If you walk along, there are cafes and shops full of “sea products” (aka fish) and a cute tiger statue.

They even had a place where you could work out for free, it looked really cool, but the whole 30 min there 30 min back/ outside in winter thing didn’t really appeal to me. But I might try it for the first month.

It was calm and relaxing to just walk along the seashore. I missed having that in Kentucky/Irkutsk/Macedonia. I like being by an ocean/gulf. I like knowing and I go and just be calmed by the sea.

We stopped for a drink at a super expensive bar. And I learned something new, the Russians love Jack Daniels. The whole bar was practically a tribute to Jack Daniels (with lots of different flavors).

Ryan and I wanted to try to find a matress pad (after being woken up by a pain in my hip from the bed, I knew I had to try something!) she said we needed to go to the Chinese market. (the Chinese has this market cornered in almost every place I’ve been to!) After 30 min of trying to find this matress pad, we finally do…only to realize that what we wanted was lot in translation and mattress pad had been translated to mattress cover. But this store did have matress pads, just not as thick as in the US. So for 750 RUB we decided that our comfort was worth it and quickly bought them!

We caught a taxi back, and I realized something. I had been looking at Soviet block housing, but it had been decorated. It wasn’t a straight block, but every apartment building had something decorative under the windows…take that away and it was block housing. Which goes with something I learned the other day Vladivostok was the last city to turn communist; they held out until 1920.

I do have to say…this no internet thing has made me more productive. With no please reading books left, I have nothing else to do with my time than to read the school books I had been avoiding. Now I’m almost done with them.

Class starts tomorrow!

See you around the globe!

Saturday, September 6, 2014

The Beach

 Guess where we went today? Yup, the beach! We took two buses, which took about an hour, stayed there for about 40 minutes, then came back. Seemed silly for such a short amount of time there.

To get to this specific beach, you take the number 59 (possibly also 60) in front of the “grey house” or (a few stops later) the train station. You get off at the end of the line, and follow the road until it ends. It is a bit of a hike, maybe a mile or mile and a half?

But you end up at a cooll little rock beack/outlet thingy with a light house! It is directly across from Russkii Island. It was pretty, a tad uncomfy to sit on due to the rocks, but still pretty.

We stayed there for about 30 min, and then went to get food at the little cafes. (and saw another wedding of course!)
Cant you just hear the pitiful little meows?

There was an adorable little 10 week old kitten or so that was there. I wanted to take it home.

Afterwards, we took the bus back to the train station, where we then walked back to the center. We were looking to buy some USB internet that is faster than the dorms and better. After walking by a protest against the killing of stray dogs, we entered a mall. (I think it might have even been their GUM.)

They have a Cinnabun…this will be in my future. They also have the Chocolate Café that I liked in Petersburg.

We ended up not buying internet, because our guide told us to wait until Monday to get the one at the university and see how fast it was. The USB drive cost 2,000RUB ($55) and the price is 400 RUB per month (or even higher, they had it up to 1,400/month) ($11.11).

Then we went to buy silver wear! I can cook with real cooking utinsils and cut things! WOOHOO!!!

Now to go use them…

See you around the globe!

Friday, September 5, 2014

Orientation to the RFE!

We started with a quick orientation(just vocal) of the dorm, we can supposedly exchange our sheets every week. And there is either a place to do our laundry ourselves or to have it done on the bottom floor for 50 RUB (under $2), this was lost in translation.

Then she showed us around the maze of this school. We filled out paperwork and listened to an orientation of the school. It is called “Vladivostok State University of Economics and Service” and is a weir dmixture between a “normal” college with only the political science department and a trade school. You can study banking, car mechanics, hairstyling, international relations, economics, etc…They even have their own bank, tourist office, car shop and “learn to drive” place.

We had about an 1 hour break, where we were able to go to a café and get some wifi!!! Then back to take a test of Russian language. I finished a bit early and went to get some food for later.

We took a “bus” tour of the city, by which I mean the bus dropped us off downtown, we walked around, then took a city bus back. We also got to take the Funicular. Which is, according to Lonely Planet, “a fun 60 second ride.” Seemed silly, but kinda fun.

We saw the center of town, including a walking street. Saw the triumphal arch, a few monuments, the underside of the Golden Horn Bridge, and 10 weddings. No joke. Taking pictures outside around your city is a Thing in Russia, and the weather was beautiful today.

We then took a city bus back to stop outside of a supermarket (the same one from last night), and I bought staples mostly, but a few veggies. Apparently the farmers market is downtown near the train station and a pain to get to.

The kitchens are super nice here, lots of burners and sinks. But no communal plates or sliver wear. (which if I had read the guide to Vlad, I would’ve known, but thought it would be like Irkutsk. Or at least easier to find silver wear…currently using plastic from the airport).

Our room is kind of like a suite:

Also, the trash is taken out by a cleaning lady, but I am not sure how often.

See you around the globe!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Welcome to the Far East!

I took the metro back to the airport, with the only difference being the random train change. At some stop, the train suddenly announced “The train will terminate at this station. If you want to go to Icheon Airport, please board the next train.”

Checking in was relatively painless, minus the whole you have to go to specific counters for specific flights, you can’t just check in at the main Areoflot counter.

I am consistently surprised by how easy it is to traverse security in other countries. Ridiculously easy compared to ‘Merica. I was even able to get some Duty Free shopping done (needed real face cleanser, the stuff I had in Irkutsk just doesn’t cut it).

First thing I noticed in Vlad? (The airport is nicer than most.—ok, besides that!) It is the most American approach to a city ever, when you are driving in, if you didn’t know better the (new) highway looks like any in the US. Also, the city is seemingly lacking communist block apartment buildings (I saw seemingly, because I know they must be here, but this city looks like St. Pete. Classic European buildings.

However, the “campus” is a nightmare. It is literally one building. Like Hogwarts crazy. There is even a moving staircase (AKA escalator). Technically I think there are 8 or 9 buildings, but they are all connected by covered walkways. So you don’t have to leave the building in winter. Good luck finding your dorm! I know of 2 entrances to the dorms (which close at 11pm), but both were closing around 10:20p the first night….The dorm is entered from the 4th floor of building 6, next to the hotel (which has an elevator that apparently we can’t use?) (yes hotel connected to the “one building campus”).

I can get to the international office, the dorm (kinda), and a café with wifi. I might be able to find my class on Monday. We will see. Will be leaving at 8am for an 8:30 class, just to make sure…

We got our stuff lugged into our rooms. I mean lugged. It was up 3 flights, down one, up two. (Yes, those are correct directions, remember ALL ONE BUILDING!) Got our bedding and were able to see our rooms. They are tiny. Like I think my single room at the HC may have been bigger and here I get a roomie. Second thing I noticed? BUNK BEDS.

With no easy access….

As in, move your desk so you can stand on it to get in, cuz unlike US bunkbeds, the side is NOT a ladder….I had to wait to wake up some the next morning before I felt I could successfully navigate the “getting out of bed” thing.

The lady (Svetla) who met us at the airport took us to a nearby café where we were able to buy dinner (fettuccini and mushrooms), then took us to “the highest” point in the city. Where there is a status to St. Cyril and Methodius (inventors of the alphabet).  We got to see the last of the pretty sunset (the sun had already “set” but the colors were still there).

Then we were able to have a nice student that had accompanied us to show us where to go buy water and food (cuz you can’t drink the water here and we had an early start the next day).

Then collapsing in the feather bag, I mean mattress.
Oh did I mention that I was lucky enough to get to experience BOTH Vlad and Irkutsk hot water shut offs? No? Well, I have about 3-4 days of no hot water here…and there aren’t any buckets….

See you around the globe!

Monday, September 1, 2014

The Rest of South Korea

The second weekend I was there, we went to visit Hyun’s grandmothers, on both sides. His dad’s side grandma, fixed us lunch (yum!) and we got to see where he was born. He had memories of growing up there and it was fun to see him remember it all. He hadn’t been to see the village for 16 years. His grandma told me at one point that I was “pretty because I ate,” and I don’t think I’ve ever received a more grandma compliment.

The Next Day, we went to Deagu where his other grandma lives. We went out to eat with her and his Uncle/Aunt/Nephew. However, Hyun and the Aunt ate a chicken soup grandma made first because she called him to tell him she killed a chicken for him. It was a traditional Korean BBQ place. Which means that you cook your own meat at the table, and eat it with sides in a piece of lettuce. I had a veggie bimbop thiny again, but it was with different vegetables. The waitress did NOT want to give it to us without the meat, we had to convince her that it really Really was fine. You weren’t allowed to wear shoes inside the restaurant, but they gave you slippers for the bathroom. (Most of the time when we had to do shared slippers, I tried really hard not to think about the other people feet touching it stuff…)

We spent the night in Deagu where we met up with a boyfriend of a friend’s sister (It was a mutual friend between Hyun/Kristine/I that we met in Skopje! The boyfriend is doing the English Program in Korea (EPIK) teaching English in Deagu for a year. It was a very fun evening, with soju and magkoli of course!

The next day we drove back to Seoul, but stopped at a Korea Folk Village. Apparently, Monday is NOT the day to visit. Usually they have people doing the traditional crafts, but no one was working on them today (except for one man making shoes). They had village life, a cafeteria, a temple, a horse show, and a mask making experience (of course we had to do this!). However, it was really hot that day as well. We ate at a yummy Italian place for dinner that was almost right outside the gates.

See you around the globe!