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Thursday, June 18, 2015

Last Night Together

Our last night together in Moscow needed to be special.  I didn't want to sit around the house with all the stress of suitcase packing and the memories of the past two years bouncing off hollow walls, threatening the tears to spill.  I wanted a last trip together to Red Square and something beautiful to fill our minds.  Ballet.
One last trip to the Kremlin Palace to see Sleeping Beauty.  How fitting the name was as I looked at my darling daughters' heads bob up in down in complete exhaustion.  We were all so tired and emotionally spent that we could barely function.  The soft thump of ballet slippers padding the stage, a gentle twirl, and an elegant leap soothed the worry lines in my forehead and took away the stress for a few hours.  Exquisite costumes and set design sang to my tired soul.  The music wound its fingers into my crying heart and massaged some of the pain of leaving away.
I have been so blessed to live in a country where I can watch the top dancers in the world perform, accompanied by a world class orchestra.  I am so thankful for the opportunity to share these special nights with three of my favorite people.  I will hold onto these memories that we share over this next year when four dwindles to three. 

Friday, June 12, 2015

Goodbye Moscow

Being able to explore another culture has been such an incredible experience. I cannot express how thankful I am to the Fabers and my parents for giving me such an amazing opportunity. Throughout the course of my trip I have experienced the beauty of Russia, and the pride its country has. I have enjoyed exploring the city and learning more about the history of its nation. There is a lot of culture within Russia, and I am so thankful I was able to experience it personally. I have enjoyed trying to overcome the challenges that arise while being in a foreign country. I have learned so much in the past couple weeks, and I would not trade my experiences for anything in the world. I am very sad that I have to say goodbye to Moscow tomorrow, but I hold on to the hope that someday I will be able to visit again. I am so grateful that God has blessed me with such amazing people, who have allowed me to explore more of His creation. I will remember this trip as long as I live.

This is a List of Things I Experienced for the First Time While in Russia: 
*flying alone and flying internationally 
*riding the metro - the first time I swiped my metro card I could not figure out how to do it so the guards had to come help me so I would stop holding up the line
*riding in a train
*riding a public bus
*being in a foreign country overseas
*touring/seeing a palace
*seeing onion domes
*touring cathedral churches
*watched a rated R movie - The Matrix
*seeing a circus
*touring a music conservatory
*experiencing a brand new culture

These are Various Foods I Tried Over the Course of My Visit:
-butter chicken 
-chicken vindaloo 
-chicken biriani
-samosa - bread stuffed with mysterious vegetables and meat 
-naan - soft pita bread 
-xinkali - dumpling filled with juice and meat
-khachapuri - cheese pizza bread
-cream soda
-tarragon cream soda
-eggplant roll
-syrniki - cottage cheese pancake
-borsch - beet soup
-hot chocolate - Americans drink hot cocoa, Russians drink hot chocolate
-dill salad - salad made only of pickles (not good)
-pelmeni - dumplings
-blini - Russian crepes
-shashlik - meat on a stick
-chak chak (national Russian sweet)
-Russian chocolate
-chocolate and vanilla ballet cupcakes
-homemade chocolate chip vanilla malts
-homemade mint oreo chocolate ice cream
-edible cookie dough balls
-puppy chow
-no-bake cookies
-zucchini bread

Cultural Things I Noticed:
*Russians like synchronized clapping - Elena pointed this out to me  : )
*Russians like carrying bouquets of flowers - Maddie and I counted 107 throughout the two weeks I was here
*babushkas are old Russian women - sometimes very tough and grumpy
*Moscow is very into Ballet - the Bolshoi theater is famous for its 4 degree incline making it easier to see all the dancers
*a lot of Russians can speak English - it is becoming a universal language
*many Russians are quiet and quick on the metro
*a lot of Russian women have bangs cut straight across their face
*many Russian women wear high heels ALL THE TIME 
*the parks are very well kept and beautiful
*you are required to wear a headscarf in many traditional churches - babushkas also like to wear them
*Russians really like dill, they put it on everything
*they have a lot of culture as far as traditional clothing and objects
*some of the buildings look old and beat up on the outside, but are very nice on the inside
*lots of cigarette smoking
*not many places to buy clothing
*metro system is amazing and well cared for
*metro is very busy during rush hour - we were all waddling like penguins   
*lots of history and monuments in Russia
*very proud of their country - a lot of people wore Russia shirts, especially from the Olympics 
Park Pobedy (Victory Park)

The Bolshoi

St. Isaac's Cathedral

~ Hannah (Thank You Fabers!)

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Hannah in Moscow

So far Moscow has been an amazing experience that has taught me a lot about the world. I have really enjoyed being able to immerse myself in another culture. There is a lot I have learned from the language and actions of the people around me. Touring with the Fabers has been a great experience because they have shown me the culture on a deeper level.   

Old Arbat Street - 
For my first full day in Moscow, Maddie took me to a street called Old Arbat. This pedestrian street is lined with many different shops and restaurants. Displayed along the sides of the street are unique, handmade paintings that people are trying to sell. One of my favorite parts of Russia so far is viewing all the art people have designed and created. The reason Maddie and I went down Old Arbat street was to have Auntie Ann's Pretzels and some frozen yogurt. Unfortunately all the pretzel shops closed down so we ate at Dunkin' Donuts instead. Despite the fact that I live in the United States, this was the first time I had ever been inside a Dunkin' Donuts. We ordered a bagel which Maddie was so excited to have because apparently they are hard to find in Russia. For dessert we went crazy at the frozen yogurt store. I felt so cool eating frozen yogurt in a foreign country. I guess fro-yo is popular no matter where you go. 

Anglo-American School - 
I was so excited when Maddie said we were going to have lunch at her school. We have talked a lot about her school over the phone, but it has been hard to picture every event we have discussed. After a long metro and walk, we arrived at a building enclosed in barbed wire. At first I felt like we were about to enter a jail. At least they have a lot of protection around their school. Before we could enter the building we had to pass by a Russian guard. Lucky for us he was pre-occupied by his phone conversation. I did not have any sort of identification that allowed me to enter the school so we were hoping somehow I could sneak in. Maddie showed the guard her badge, and as she turned to open the door for me, she handed her badge to me. I immediately understood what she was doing and showed the guard her badge, passing it off as my own. We felt like secret agents. As Maddie and I walked around the school she showed me all her classrooms where she was given 5 hours of homework a night. It feels so good to be a senior on summer vacation! For lunch we ate in the cafeteria with Elena and Emma. I have never seen such amazing cafeteria food look so good! It is a good thing I did not go there because I would have gained the freshman 15 before even leaving high school. Lunch was very good, and I had a fun time seeing the place where Maddie spent a lot of time learning. 

Cathedral of Christ our Savior - 
Maddie and I got the opportunity to visit another church in Moscow. This one is probably one of my favorites so far. It has beautiful gold onion domes on the outside, and very nicely decorated interior walls. It was so interesting to see all of the details painted across every inch of the church. We toured this church on a good day because there was a service going on while we were in the building. It was interesting to be able to watch how different groups of people worship God. They also had a limited exhibition going on while we were there. It was portraits of Biblical figures placed on the walls. Each picture was very was intricately filled with beading and sewing. The faces of all the characters where so beautiful. It was very cool to be able to experience the great qualities of this church.

Ballet -
Going to the ballet in Moscow was one of the things I was very excited about doing when I got to Russia. We saw a production called Le Corsair at the Kremlin Theater in Red Square. When the ballet started I immediately noticed the beauty and intensity of the sets. Everything looked so perfect on stage and the dancers were very talented. The artistry between the ballet dancers and the pit orchestra was amazing. It was cool to see how the symphony is able to compliment the movement of the dancers. I really enjoyed watching it. During intermission I was also able to meet a Caledonia alumni who also lived on the compound. That was very random, but so cool! After the ballet was over we walked around Red Square at night. This was my first time seeing Red Square since I have been in Russia, and it immediately made me fall in love with the country even more. Everything was so gorgeous, and I really liked being able to to see all the lights. I could not wait to go inside the buildings the next morning with Maddie.

Red Square -
The first thing we did when I got to Red Square was enter the building where Vladimir Lenin is kept. It was a very creepy feeling to see such a strong political leader lay in a glass case in the center of the room. His body has been preserved so he looks a lot like plastic. I was also able to see St. Basil's Cathedral. This is a large church on one side of Red Square that has a lot of beautiful onion domes. While we were waiting in line to get our tickets to enter St. Basil's, Maddie and I learned a new language. We called it knocking. The lady at the front desk did not know any English so she chose to bang really hard on the window until Maddie and I understood what she wanted us to do. I personally think hand motions are much more effective, but I guess she has the freedom to do what she wants. The inside of St. Basil's was much different than any church we have been in so far. A lot of the churches are very big and open, but this one seemed to be a little more condensed. There were a lot of small rooms that made up the church as opposed to one large open area. The inside was very cool, but I think the well decorated onion domes on the outside of the church give it its popularity. For lunch Maddie and I went to a very high-end mall called Gum. It was so high-end that we were not even able to afford using the bathroom. We were not about to pay 500 rubles ($9) each to sit on a toilet. I did enjoy walking around the mall though. It was very nicely decorated to look like a town street. We had a lot of fun window shopping. 

Convents and Monasteries - 
Visiting convents and monasteries was definitely a first for me because I for some reason thought they were fancy graveyards. I quickly learned that they are actually the areas where monks or nuns used to live. Many of the buildings were very old and losing structure, but you could still see the intricate architecture. A lot of the buildings had big bells that were also very beautiful.

International Christian Fellowship - 
On Sunday I had the pleasure of being able to visit the Faber's church. It was very cool to experience a service of the Christian faith in another country. I think it is very exciting that God makes opportunities for people to follow Him no matter where they live. It was also fun to watch Elena play guitar :)

Ismailovo - 
Shopping in a Russian market is something very different than I have ever experienced. When we got to Ismailovo I saw booth after booth filled with homemade goods. The number of products to choose from was so overwhelming. Everything I bought I was expected to barter for.  I was not very good at this. The first thing I tried to barter for was a small matryoshka doll playing the flute. The lady told me the price and I tried to ask for a lower price, but I ended up just offering the same price because I forgot what she said. I probably ended up paying way more for the doll than I should have, but at least it is playing the flute! Many of the people I bought things from were all very friendly. They were interested in where I was from, so apprehensively I told them Michigan and then the United States. Surprisingly they got very excited when I said Michigan. One man said he has visited Detroit and then he spent about 5 minutes talking non-stop about the Red Wings. I guess he is more of a Michigan fan than I am, considering I know nothing about the Red Wings. I had a lot of fun looking at everything the Russians had made. It was so hard for me not to buy everything on display. This was a very cool experience, and I hope I get the opportunity to shop here again. 

Gorky Park - 
In Russia parks are very important to the people living here. They take very good care of the parks, and try to make them look as nice as possible. I have really enjoyed being able to walk through many of their different parks. Maddie and I were feeling quite adventurous, so we decided to go to an area in Gorky called Panda Park and do a high ropes course. I don't really think either of us knew what we were getting ourselves into when we bought the tickets. I went through the course first, with Maddie following right behind me. After a quick safety lesson given in Russian, the helpers let us move through the course on our own with no further instruction. If either of us had died on the course no one would have known. In total I think Maddie and I went down 4 zip lines in which we had to try and land on a pad at the end of the tree. We were laughing so hard at our fear of jumping off a tree with the hope of landing on the cushioned pad. For the most part we did fine, we only crashed a couple times. We had so much fun. I think the Russian workers had a good time making fun of the crazy Americans trying to navigate the ropes course.

Claustrophobia - 
For a continued celebration of Maddie's birthday, a couple of her friends and I did an activity through a company called Claustrophobia. The four of us were locked in a Medieval Room and given 1 hour to escape. Unfortunately out of 3 rooms we were not even able to open the first door. Lets just hope none of us ever get locked in a room, we would all be doomed. It was so much fun working with everyone though. We all had a great time laughing and trying to figure out the puzzle. 

Moscow Tchaikovsky Conservatory of Music - 
As a musician I was very excited when Maddie's piano teacher was able to give us a tour of the Tchaikovsky Conservatory of Music. It was so insane to be able to walk on the same floors that Tchaikovsky did! The school was beautiful and has so much history in it already. We were also able to see the start of the Tchaikovsky Piano Competition. The pianist we got to watch was very incredible. I also was able to have a flute lesson with the professor at the conservatory. This was an interesting experience already because the professor spoke very little English. Luckily Maddie's teacher was able to translate. I really enjoyed my lesson and felt like I learned a lot. The teacher was amazing and has played principal flute with numerous symphonies. The entire experience was beyond incredible.

VDNKh Park and Park Pobedy - 
Mrs. Kris, Maddie, and I went to VDNKh for a picnic lunch and to see all the monuments. The first statue we saw had the symbol of communism, the hammer and sickle. This was so cool to see because I have seen the image everywhere, but never knew what it was. We then walked around the park and looked at a lot of the different fountains. They were all so beautiful. It was so fun to be able to walk around another park in Russia. Maddie and I then went to the space museum. I took a Geology and Astronomy class this past year in high school, so I enjoyed seeing life images of many of the things we talked about. After the museum we went metro surfing. The two of us really wanted to ride on the longest metro escalator in Moscow, which leads up to Park Pobedy (Victory Park). We are so nerdy but we had fun. The metro systems we visited today were very nicely decorated and modern. One station looked as if it had a theme of Jack and the Beanstalk. We also passed by the metro that was closed down because it flew off the tracks. So much fun to be had in the metro. 


Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Saint Petersburg

Day 1
The day after I arrived in Moscow, I left with Maddie and Mr. Chad to tour the city of St. Petersburg. We rode a 4 hour train to the city and then took a taxi to an appartment. I enjoyed looking out the window of the tain and seeing all of the gorgeous valleys and houses. When we got to the city I first noticed all of the beautiful architecture that composed each of the buildings. It was just how  I imagined a European city to look. When the taxi dropped us off at our appartment, I was very glad to be walking on the ground again. Russian city drivers are crazy! The area outside of our apartment door smelled like terrible cigarette smoke, but the interior of the apartment was beautiful. It had an awesome view of the buildings and the river that ran through the city.
After a long morning of traveling the three of us decided to eat lunch at an Italian restaurant. That restaurant is where I learned how Russians bring your food out immediately after making it. This seemed weird to me especially since Mr. Chad received his food almost 40 minutes after Maddie and I finished eating our pizza. When everyone is hungry, that becomes very unfortunate for the person who receives their food last. After lunch Maddie and I walked down a street called Nevsky Prospect. This road consists of many different shops and restaurants to visit. We went in a couple different stores and I was very surprised to find how many people speak English. After walking close to the end of Nevsky Prospect we ended up standing in front of the Hermitage Palace. I was so shocked at how beautiful the outside of the building was. Until that point I had never seen anything decorated in such gorgeous detail. In front of the Hermitage Palace was a bunch of flags from all the different countries in honor of St. Petersburg's birthday (May 27). However after spending a long time looking at the flags Maddie and I noticed they were missing Ukraine's flag. Poor Ukraine. By the time we got back to the apartment we were hungry for dinner. The three of us went to an Indian restaurant called Tandoor. I had never had Indian food so I thought it tasted really good. I found it funny that I ate Italian and Indian before I was able to try Russian, considering the fact that I was in Russia. I really enjoyed my first day in St. Petersburg and could not wait to continue touring the city.

Day 2
Mrs. Kris, Elena, and her friend Emma took a late train to St. Petersburg the night before and joined us at the apartment in the morning. The five of us went out into the city to tour various churches. We first visited St. Isaac's Cathedral. This church is the third largest domed cathedral in the world. I really enjoyed being able to go inside the church and see all of the beautiful structures. We also got the opportunity to climb to the top of the building and have a large overview of the city of St. Petersburg. It was so cool to be able to see such a unique view of the city. For lunch I was given the opportunity to taste Russian food. Before I left the States my parents told me I had to try borsch, so I did. It tasted better than I expected, but I don't know that I would voluntarily order it again. At least now I can say I tried it. We then visited the Church of the Savior on the Spilled Blood. "On the Spilled Blood" was added to the name of the church after Alexander the II was murdered there. The exterior of the church has many gorgeous onion domes with lots of different designs. At this point I think I am beginning to develop an obsession with onion domes. The inside walls of the church were also very impressive. They are filled with mosaic pictures of different people and events that make up the Bible. Every inch of the building was covered in beautiful glass artwork. After touring the different churches we went on a boat tour. I was very excited about this because I love going on boat rides! At the beginning of the boat tour, the tour guide asked which of us spoke English. After we looked up at him and rose our hands he yelled at us for talking too loud. I thought this was funny considering there was a group of Russians sitting right next to us who were also talking. We are living up to our stereotype. On the boat tour I was able to see a lot of different buildings in St. Petersburg, including the front side of the Hermitage. After the boat tour we had dinner at a Georgian restaurant called In Georgia. At first I was expecting to have barbecue, but then I realized there is a country called Georgia which is different than the state Georgia. I also thoroughly enjoyed this type of food. I think I am beginning to become culturally well rounded in the different foods I have tried. 

                                                              Saint Isaac's Cathedral

                                                  Church of the Savior on the Spilled Blood 

Day 3
Today we planned to take a boat ride to the Peterhof Palace, which is also referred to as the Summer Palace. We got to the boat docks early, so we had time to walk around the Hermitage again. Maddie, 
Elena, Emma, and I had fun taking pictures of ourselves in front of the palace. Just as we were about to start heading back towards the boat, a group of Asians ran up to us and started taking pictures with us. It was not long before we had a giant crowd of paparazi wanting to get their picture taken next to us. The 4 of us were all having a great time and laughing really hard at this unexpected event. Who knew having light hair and skin could be so exciting! After our 5 minuets of fame we walked back to the boat docks so that we could go to the palace. The summer palace was very beautiful and is known for its gorgeous fountains. It was really fun to walk around and look at all of the different gardens. It was so beautiful. I also enjoyed being able to go inside the palace and see all of the different rooms. There were so many gold accents on a lot of the interior that made it look so beautiful. After we spent the afternoon looking at the fountains and gardens we went back to the Tandoor Indian Restaurant in St. Petersburg because Elena was craving Indian food. For dessert we then went to a really cool chocolate restauraunt that had a lot of different gourmet desserts. That was a nice treat to end our day. 

                                                          Peterhof Palace Gardens
Day 4 - Maddie's 18th Birthday! 
For our last day in St. Petersburg we planned to tour the interior of the Hermitage. The Hermitage is also considered the Winter Palace. The interior was just as gorgeous as that of the summer palace. My favorite room inside the Hermitage had a very intricate clock that had many different functions. The room was also beautifully decorated with chandeliers and gold accents. We spend about 2 hours looking at all the different rooms and art located in the Hermitage Museum. We ate lunch at a cafe, and I was able to order my meal completely in Russian thanks to Emma's help! After lunch we went to buy our tickets for a tour of the Faberge Eggs. We had to wait for a little while before the tour began, so we decided to sit at a coffee shop nearby. Maddie, Elena, and I ordered chocolate milkshakes, which apparently Russians take very literally. When we got our milkshakes, they tasted like milk with chocolate syrup mixed in the glass. This was very different from an American milkshake. During our Faberge Egg tour, we were able to look at many different products made by the Faberge company. It was really cool to be able to learn about the history behind each of the products the company produced. My favorite pieces to look at were the Faberge Easter Eggs. I enjoyed hearing about the significance that each individual egg had at the time it was created. When the tour was over we headed back to the apartment and started preparing to return to Moscow. I had an amazing time touring the city of St. Petersburg, and I hope to having the opportunity to go back someday. Thank you very much Fabers! I am really excited to being experiencing the city of Moscow!

- Hannah Petersen

Monday, June 1, 2015

Hannah's International Flight

It was 9:57 when we left our driveway to head to the Detroit metro Airport. I was beyond excited to start my journey to Russia. Ever since my parents led a mission trip to Ukraine, I have had a strong desire to explore the Russian and European culture. When we arrived at the airport my parents said their final goodbyes and watched me pass through security. This was only my second time flying on an airplane, and my first time flying by myslef. I was a little nervous about navigating the flights alone, but very excited to have the opportunity to travel overseas. My parents are so amazing!
When I found my spot on the Lufthansa airline, I was very shocked at how nice the economy seats were. I sat next to a window, which was very cool because I was able to take pictures of all the different countries I flew through. I also had a cool TV screen where I could watch/listen to movies, tv shows, music, the radio, flight information, and my favorite...the safety video (which apparently Maddie told me no one watches). On the flight, I sat next to this very nice lady named Lillac, who was traveling back home to Isreal after surprising her brother in the States for his 40th birthday. I really enjoyed talking with her. She told me a little bit about her son and the kind of things people do for fun in Isreal. My sister Kailee is interested in the Hebrew language so I asked if she would write me a couple things in her native language. She wrote the names of my entire family, as well as the Hebrew alphabet in my notebook. I got very lucky to sit next to such a nice person on the plane. It definitely made the plane ride much more enjoyable. I arrived in Frankfort at about 6:20 and had to make a connecting flight to Moscow at 7:00. By the time I got to the gate they were already boarding the airline. That was a close layover! When I got on the Moscow airplane I was disappointed to find that the seats were not as nice as my previous filght, and I no longer had a movie screen. For a second I thought I was on the wrong flight. It worked out okay though because I got in about a 2 hour nap before I landed in Moscow. After I made it through "customs" in the Moscow airport I was soooo excited to see Mrs. Kris and Maddie waiting for me on the other side of the green door! It was amazing to see them both! I then got to ride on a train back to the metro station. I think it was close to about 5:00 when we arrived at the metro station. Not a good time to be on the metro for the first time with 3 bags of luggage. After getting off the metro I made it back to the embassy compound. In front of the compound is one of the seven sisters buildings, which left a good first impression on me of the city of Moscow. I was so glad to be with the Fabers, and very proud that I had made it through my first international flight. I am so excited to get to know the Russian culutre, and begin exploring Moscow! 

Some Funny Things I Experienced While On The Plane:
1. I dropped my water bottle next to the side of the seat. It was dark in the plane so I had a hard time looking for it. When I finally found it I grabbed it tightly and began to pull it out of the crack. Unfortunately that was not actually my water bottle, it was the leg of the person behind me. That was embarassing!
2. When the flight attendants came around with their beverage carts they asked me what I would like to drink. Everytime they did this I answered "water." They would then repeat, "water still?" Very confused I then replied "Yes, I still want water." I told the Fabers about this one night while eating dinner, and they laughed as they explained to me how many people drink sparkling water in Russia, which is different than still water. 
3. On the Moscow flight I sat next to a Russian man who kept fallling asleep. Everytime a flight attendant came around to clean up his trash he would jump a thousand miles. I tried so hard not to laugh, but I am pretty sure he caught me smiling at him a couple times.