Currently, it is 5:40AM in Moscow as I begin this journal entry. I awoke because of the loud falling rain. The sound is prominent, but soothing. None of the roommates are awake, and I tried to find a way to type without disturbing their rest.
I am having a really good time right now. Here, I live in the moment instead of over-analyzing things like I tend to do in America. I am not afraid to cooperate in fun games, make language mistakes or act silly during this Russian camp. The camp is located near the edge of Moscow, and there are students originally from across Europe, America and Asia right now. We all have an accent when speaking English, which reminds me of last year’s summer camp at GMU, but it all works well regarding communication. I am more happy when I conversed slightly in Russian and French with the students here.
The first day of camp only finished yesterday, but I can already see my progress with the Russian language. I recently learned the names of colors, a concept which we rushed through during the only 8-week summer Russian course I took. But more importantly, we learned grammar terminology in Russian with its English equivalent. I assume those terms will be essential for learning Russian in the future. Anyhow, in that previous sentence, “we” was defined as the Americans and I, but already, I can identify myself with other international campers too. At camp, we are all foreigners except for the native Russians; we speak too much English, but I am sure next time we meet, we will attempt to communicate more in Russian. For the latter, I am very excited.
I am not sure why, but here, I am not afraid to make mistakes while speaking Russian. Most of the time, I get my message across without repeating sentences, but I still believe I should practice my pronunciation and learning where the stressed vowels are. I remember Miss OK politely advising me on practicing more before I left the US. Perhaps it is because people know I am a foreigner that they expect less of my language skills, but when I was in a classroom setting, making mistakes was frightening. I stressed over saying things correctly or not at all, which discouraged me from learning as much as I could. Yes, that was not a good thing, but I was sincerely intimidated. The relaxed environment here is very nurturing, kind, open and friendly; I have bonded most with the American girls, but I am also making many other friends from other countries too.
I think I will really miss the camp’s international atmosphere, and the chance to easily speak English. In many ways, it still feels like America, because English pop songs play, we speak English mostly, I see the American girls for most of the day, the activities are conducted into English, and the Russian spoken here is reduced to my level of understanding. I can only imagine life will get more complicated and much more confusing when we leave camp. People will expect me to speak better Russian and will not be as friendly or accepting as the people here, so I want to make the most out of being here. I want to clear all my insecurities away before I enter the “real Russia”. I also want to make AFS proud by respectfully representing my country and NSLI-Y.
Near the end of the day, we had an activity called “Map of the World” where everyone sat as shown on a world map, then sang with their country delegation their national anthem or another song to represent their nation. Although we debated heavily over song choices, the Americans did a fabulous job with “America the Beautiful”. We were all in tune. Actually, I believe all the countries sang well. It must have been difficult for the smaller delegations; some sang solo or with only 2-3 people. The American group was only 6 people itself, but any smaller would have made this activity harder.
On that mention, the Americans are all grouped together during camp language lessons, but separated during smaller activities, in that way, I meet several more people. Working back reverse chronically, dinner was delicious when we were served chicken, rice, mayo salad and raspberry yoghurt. At first, the table was very quiet, as most of us did not speak English well. I was able to practice Russian with two girls there, and two calm Italians spoke some English too. I was proud of my attempts to converse, and people seem very receptive despite my limited knowledge.
We also dance many times during camp. It requires a lot of energy to keep up with the tempo and moves. Near bed time, I was actually a bit hungry because we moved so much throughout the day. There were many highs throughout the day, which even the slight rain could not ruin. I feel very thankful now for this opportunity to be in Russia, and glad I came. I used to be scared of the myths I heard of Russia: land of no smiles, cold perpetual Siberian winters, excessive alcohol, but I will learn the better truth, the good parts of Russia during this year. And when I return to America, I am excited to debunk these highly exaggerated preconceptions!