So I am now officially eating like a Russian all of the time. Okay, so I don't eat their nasty meat jello still, but I have picked up on a lot of other habits! For example, I don't eat cold cereal anymore. Somehow the logic of eating warm food in the morning will keep me warm all day has soaked into my brain and I've put it to use. I also never use regular size spoons, that's just weird. You eat cereal and soup with a freakin' ladle here. I mean, brownie batter stirring size spoons. If I try to use a tea-spoon I just get weird looks. Speaking of tea, I'm definitely hooked on my herbal, fruit tea goodness! It's a great way to end the day... and again, put some warmth back in me. Finally, since sauces don't exist here, I've learned that mayonnaise, ketchup, and cmetana (sour cream) can be put on anything and EVERYTHING and it will taste fine. Just shut up and eat it.
So it's been ridiculously long since I've last posted, but things are fabulous here in Russia! I can't believe that one month from today I'll be back in America! Time has flown and I'm not sure I'm ready to go back. Is this how missionaries feel as they near the end of their missions? Classes are going great, our primary kids are making leaps and bounds in their English. I'm always blown away with how much they understand me, especially one student: Masha. She truly picks up on everything I ask her, and although she's our biggest behavior problem, it's hard to be angry when she's also your most intelligent student. My elementary class continues to be a challenge, and one that is definitely beginning to wear on me. But I still love it and I know I'll miss those boys like crazy the second I'm in airport leaving St. Pete's. This really has become my home and it's going to be so hard to leave this city and the people I've met behind!
My most exciting stories right now are all from our weeklong vacation which we took the first week of this month. It was seriously the time of my life! Our first stop, after a 6 hour bus ride from St. Pete's, was Tallinn, Estonia! Which was pretty much a dream come true for me, I've wanted to go to Estonia since I was about 12. I never thought I would actually make it there though. It lived up to everything I wanted it to be though. We stayed in a hostel called Vana Tom which was conveniently located in the center of Old Town. Old Town is Tallinn's medieval village that dates back to the 1200's. Absolutely amazing. I've always loved medieval times, so walking around these beautiful cobblestone streets was candy to my soul. It was especially fun because we were actually in Tallinn on Halloween! We dressed up as best we could with what we'd brought in our backpacks and used what little make up we had to go wild. We then walked around to a haunted hotel and a haunted well. I didn't see any ghosts, but the ambiance made it the best Halloween I've ever had. From Estonia we took a 3 hour ferry ride to Finland! We had a few short hours to explore before taking a bus ride out to the LDS temple where we stayed in the patron housing. Since we stayed there, we had the opportunity to do baptisms for the dead each morning we were there. What a wonderful experience to have! Our confirmations were done in English, Finnish and Russian, then all baptisms were done in Russian. I know it's small, but I felt great being able to thank the brother baptizing us in Russian. It was funny too, all the names I did were from Pennsylvania! Go figure, eh? Another fun thing we did in Finlandia was go out to an island that was used as a fortress through many wars. It was absolutely gorgeous! All the hills and recesses made it look like The Shire. From Finland we took an overnight ferry to Stockholm! Unfortunately, there was a huge storm on the Baltic that night and since our rooms were on the 2nd floor of the boat... ugh. Seasickness to the max! A lot of our party went dancing which they said really helped because then you couldn't tell the boat was moving, but I was honestly so sick I couldn't even fathom getting out of bed. We arrived to a beautiful blue sky though when we landed in Stockholm. What an absolutely GORGEOUS city! I highly recommend that everyone make it a top priority in their life to get to Stockholm at some point in their lives. The first day we were there, we walked around for a bit, then after checking into our hostel (Hostel Acco) we took the free shuttle to the largest IKEA store in the world!!! Party on. I freaking love IKEA. We walked around the whole thing and then enjoyed some Swedish meatballs in the cafe. And at the end, get this, we topped it off by buying some Swedish Fish. Life complete. Haha :D The next day we went to Skansen, an outdoor museum of what Sweden was like way back when. It was really pretty, but most important to me... I got to eat Swedish meatballs AND Swedish pancakes there. Can this country get any better? What's that you say? ABBA?! It just got better. Don't worry, I definitely listened to ABBA a ton while I was there too. :) The last day we got to go to the Stockholm LDS Temple and do baptisms. This time, (since everyone in Sweden speaks English anyway) all ordinances were done in English. It was wonderful and I'm glad I got the opportunity to be there. After that we went to Gamla Stan and walked around. Gamla Stan is kind of Stockholm's Old Town. The buildings were beautiful, but more than anything I loved that practically everything just had a Christmas feeling to it. I think Sweden just celebrates Christmas all year long, because, it's awesome like that. The next day we flew back home to St. Pete's, our flight was delayed an hour, but other than that everything went 100% smoothly.
Needless to say, best vacation of my life. And I definitely needed the break from teaching too. I'm glad to be back though and I'm excited to make this last month great! (Last one, best one!!!)