After an ultra-comfortable train ride for 12 hours, we arrived in Cheboksary. I was nervous to meet my host family, but I immediately felt their warm spirit as the students disembarked the train.
Today might be the first day living without the other exchange students from camp, but nevertheless, it was exciting. I loved the small tour of the city as my family drove to the house. Cheboksary is quite beautiful, and much cleaner than Moscow and definitely more so than New York. I saw the famous Volvo river today, and we actually snacked on pizza near the embankment. For Russian pizza, mayonnaise replaces the ordinary American tomato paste. We shopped for picnic groceries as we waited for the pizza; the Russian supermarket lines are tidier and very cool-looking. Another thing I noticed was that lunch (obed) was a heartier meal than dinner (uxin) for Russians.
I learned the word for bridge (most) in Russian today. The term might be mentioned a lot since we live in a city nearby the river. There were a lot of graffiti from teenage couples who wanted to declare their love through writing on the bridge. It’s a bit of a funny notion since my hometown, San Jose, seriously battles blight and graffiti with a passion. I should know, since part of my sophomore internship stressed the Blight Control and Anti-Graffiti hotline.
I suppose my family was impressed that I knew Russian and other foreign languages; I would say the knowledge really helps me communicate. I think I can understand 80% of what my host mother and father tells me. So far, I have been on their good side, and I hope I will continue to make them happy. I imagine the task of taking care of a foreign exchange student requires much patience—especially when language is a barrier.
I am still a bit anxious about attending class with instruction in Russian, but I suppose, I will learn a lot of new vocabulary there. Ira and I walked around the neighborhood today. It was rather tiring because the weather would randomly change from hot to cold and vice-verse. Still, I am excited about attending Gymnasium No.1, the school is mostly indoors and the gym is well-sized. I hope I can take physical education class, so I can stay healthy and fit in Russia. I also hope I can take their advanced level English class, because I will really miss conversing in English with my fellow foreign exchange students and Americans.
Yes, I miss the comfortable life in California, but there are many things to be learned here too. It’s not better, it’s not worse in Russia; it’s simply different. Some things remain similar to America; there are several parks, pizza shops, public transportation and a McDonalds, and I hope once my fascination with this new town slowly evaporates, I will feel some other wonderful emotion instead.