Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Afternoon excursions in Nizhny

How do you feel when Facebook shows you On This Day memories? It's always a bittersweet thing for me. Usually, it reminds me of a favorite place / person in Ukraine. This week, it's been all about last summer's trip to Nizhny Novgorod, which really stings when compared to my total lack of plans for this summer. (No travel, anywhere. I'm just hanging on by reading adventurous posts like this one, this one, and this one.)

Summer plans 2016.
Summer plans 2017.

On the other hand, maybe I'll become a fluent Russian-speaking, Spanish-speaking billionaire after reading all those books this summer, haha. There's always a chance!

Although the academic part of the program was a bit of a letdown, last summer was still really fun. We did things like ride the cable cars, visit a monastery, and paint our own matryoshkas. Here are the afternoon trips that I haven't yet shared with you...

 Nizhny Novgorod Planetarium

A little bit about the planetarium:
  • first opened in 1948, which makes it the second planetarium in the USSR
  • housed in a church at a monastery until 2005, when a modern planetarium building was constructed and the church building was returned to the Russian Orthodox Church
  • there's an upstairs gallery of Earth as seen from space (My favorite picture = the барханы сахары, Saharan sand dunes. Why? Because they looked like burned marshmallows and because бархан is just such a cool word!)

Photos from our excursion-
On the university campus, waiting and waiting for our bus. Really hot day!
Fancy bus :)
Arriving at the planetarium.
Soviet space poster display near museum entrance.
L: Yuri Gagarin, the first human in outer space (1961) R: Laika, the first animal to orbit the Earth (1957)
Training simulator.
Viewing area for a space documentary.
We also crammed into a tiny planetarium to "watch the night sky", except that half the students kept taking flash pictures of the stars instead.


At this event, we split into small groups and spent 15 minutes talking with different university students like a local tour guide, a young bureaucrat, and two SFERA volunteers. (If you're between 20-30 years old, SFERA can help you find volunteer opportunities within Russia. Check out their website here.)

 "Russian Mindset" Lecture

I have no idea what happened to my notes from this lecture, but here's what is displayed on that projector screen-

Russians: well educated / love children / respect for the old / sense of humor / strong people orientation / the importance of friendship / generosity / pride / patriotism / love of literature and arts / nostalgia / self-sacrifice / apathy / conservatism / aversion to change / caution / collectivism / pessimism and cynicism

Duma Visit

Our group assumed that a visit to the State Duma meant that we'd be talking about the government but nope, guess again. There was another afternoon dedicated to an excellent lecture called "Government System in the RF". This visit was merely an excited presentation on how much World Cup 2018 is going to awesome-ize Nizhny Novgorod... and how expensive the awesomization is.

Handicraft History Museum

We had an "arts and crafts" workshop in this museum, making a tiny little felt boot (think valenki) to take home. It was a crazy hot + long afternoon. The woman instructing us on the boots was extremely stern, and I remember holding back near-hysterical giggles when the university's camera guy kept shoving his camera in people's faces like he was paparazzi and short on that month's rent.

After the workshop, about half the students stayed for a tour of the museum, including a pretty cool matryoshka section! Here is a virtual tour of this small museum, if you'd like to see more: Музей истории художественных промыслов Нижегородской области.

Kinda Sorta Language Exchange

This quickly turned into a hot mess, since few summer students could speak much Russian at this point. Basically, we sat at a table, talked briefly about a topic (holidays, etc), then switched to another table. After an hour, each group presented on a topic. It was... somewhat pleasantly chaotic.

Russian Song Workshop

This is a famous song called во поле берёза стояла ("a birch tree stood in a field") and wow, she is SUCH a good singer!!

Nizhny Kremlin

The clock tower... one of the Kremlin's 13 towers.
This place ended up in several afternoon excursions- a bus tour of the city, a bike ride, a specific Kremlin tour, the duma visit, and whatever else I'm forgetting.

Before this, I didn't realize Kremlin was also a common noun (fortress, городская крепость в старых русских городах) and not just a proper noun (that famous place in Moscow).

Administration building.
Back of Cathedral of St. Michael the Archangel.
Another (tiny) church within the Kremlin grounds.
Love locks in the Kremlin.
Obligatory WWII tanks.


This wasn't an official part of the summer school program. Instead, this was Sveta's idea. She invited me to a free concert at the Kremlin one weekend. After the concert ended, we did a fotosessiya with a WWII backdrop-

- then headed over to Bolshaya Pokrovskaya, a popular spot for walking. Half a block was taken up by a photo project called "The ASEAN nations- a Russian vision" (ASEAN = Association of Southeast Asian Nations) by Sergey Kovalchuk. We stopped and posed for tons of funny pictures there. I don't know where my pictures went, but I'm pretty sure it looked like I had to pee in all of them anyway :p Sveta's were better.

Back to the present... this summer doesn't seem like it's going to be anywhere near as colorful and exciting as last summer. I guess that means it's a good time to work on language/health/home projects. What about you- how do you think this summer will compare to last summer? Is Facebook reminding you of something fun you did in previous years?

PS: Do you want to spend a summer studying Russian in Nizhny Novgorod? Find out how to enroll!

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