"I came to America when I was 14. My mother told me that books were too heavy to bring, and I had this crazy idea that I’d never be able to replace them, so I copied all my favorite Russian poems by hand."


"I came to America when I was 14. My mother told me that books were too heavy to bring, and I had this crazy idea that I’d never be able to replace them, so I copied all my favorite Russian poems by hand."

At the Soviet Lifestyle Museum! I’m wearing the “Moscow 1980” jacket and the grandma glasses. If you still can’t find me, it may help to know that I’m also embarrassing humanity with some pretty jiggy dance moves. Enjoy.


Guess what?


I’m Alive!


You know you’re excited, really, really excited. Right now I’m on the 30 bus going from the cafe we were doing our homework at to my little Dom in the Kirovsky District. We’re stuck in insane traffic along a major road, and everyone is calling home to tell of the awful Пробка and their impending lateness. Across the street is a large University, we just past a mini cooper and I guess what I’m trying to get at is… it’s really not too different than home.

True, it’s 40 degrees today (plus ceyem for all those russki fanatichskis) and it feels a heck of a lot colder because the wind chill is so intense. We also are passing the Kremlin, which is basically a giant castle, and apart from the UT Football stadium, Austin doesn’t really have anything that compares. (Это шутка, ха ха ха.) But honestly, it’s not other worldly. The traffic cops have DPS on their coats, even if it is in Cyrillic. Your likelihood of getting hit by a truck still depends on your intelligence level. Public toilets still suck… more on this later… and not understanding the language will always make for some interesting moments, whether it’s English or Russian. 

Highlights from the past couple of weeks:

  • PDO- a very intense, rather long briefing of information that will probably come into play later on but at this point is really hard to remember because holycrapwe’regoingtoRussia
  • Last meal- Oh, Chipotle, come to Russia! Props to Dulles for positioning it so conveniently. Who said “No time for lunch!”?
  • Siberian- Come to the dark side… we have neon green airplanes!
  • Russian Airports- Will you take your suitcase saran wrapped or would you like it on the side?
  • Squat toilets- Oh, your school doesn’t have these? You poor, deprived child. Don’t forget your tissues!
  • Free Wifi- the greatest thing since sliced bread
  • Construction- It’ll all be over soon, It’ll all be over soon…
  • Peyoter- the rooster that wakes me up every morning. As my host mom says, “Пётп хочет любить!”
  • Oh, nyet- только в России (only in Russia)

Each week, I’ll post some of our favorite “Oh, nyet”s. Yesterday I tried to say, “I have a food baby.” as a joke, but what resulted was “I have to eat children.” Oh, nyet. 

Luckily, my host family is very accommodating, loving, and helpful. I adore them, and despite my cannibalistic habits, we get along wonderfully. Our house is beautiful, spacious, and surrounded by a garden where we get a decent amount of our food. Always buzzing with company, this Datcha is a very happ’n place. Stop by for some чай и crumpets? 

School is challenging. My teachers don’t speak English and they push us hard, but they are also very understanding. Each one is a character! In one of my classes a few days ago, we were going around saying food items we knew, and someone mentioned what basically amounts to a Russian cinnamon roll.

(in Russian)

Teacher: “You eat that?”

Us: “Yes! We like them. Every day at Trali Vali.” (our cafeteria)

Teacher: “No, No, No. You can’t eat that! People who eat that are fat! In America, there are lots of fat people. I have never been to America, but my many friends say there are lots of very fat people. In Russia, there are no fat people. You don’t see them, because they sit by their TV’s all day. Fat people come from fast food. In Russia, we have natural food, not so much fast food like in America. You should eat greechniviya kasha (steamed buckwheat) and rice. Boys, eat sour cream. Strong sportsmen eat sour cream to make their muscles big. 

(This is all accompanied by hand motions, changes in pitch, and small, though not disapproving, interjections by the class.)

Teacher: Sour cream and rice. You can eat all the rice that you want. 

Student: Not white rice, that’s not good, I think. Maybe..

Teacher: Chinese people eat rice. 

Student: Yes, you are right, and they are very small.”

Teacher: My last class was Chinese students. One boy is quite big. He is THIS tall. The Chinese people used to eat natural food too, like the Russians. But now they have fast food, lots of fast food. Now, the children are getting to be very fat. (You’ll see it’s not a normal day in Russia without somebody making fun of the Chinese students.) 

By the end of it, if we eat right, evidently the girls are all going to drop 5 kilograms and the boys are all going to gain 15 kilograms of muscle. It is worth mentioning that  the cafeteria had extras of that particular pastry on said day, so everyone still ate it (and some of us got 2). Oh, nyet. The things you learn in school…

NSLI-Y Application for 2013-2014 is out! If anyone is interested in a really awesome gap year/year abroad (FREE), please check it out here.

Pictures soon! Email me, I look forward to hearing from everyone. 

From Russia with love,


Home, Sweet Home

I have been holding out of you all, I admit. I wanted to say something, really- It wasn’t you, it was me. I been waiting, you see. Waiting, hoping, yerning, for the moment I could finally say…


Unfortunately, that’s about all I can tell you. Out of concern for my host family’s privacy, personal information can’t be shared online. I can say that I am living with an older couple in a log cabin, and that they look absolutely lovely. If you see me in person, feel free to ask, and I will happily share pictures and tell you more :)



Things One Does Not Generally Expect to Get in Russia


  • A tan


A message from Anonymous
so miss alia dear, you have almost exactly 32 days left in the USA! What are you planning to do before you leave as a final goodbye for the year?

I have a friend named Colleen, and I could almost hear her say this as I read it! If it is you, Collenny, I am going to invade your fortress, take you with me as a hostage/personal shopper, and then plan some sort of MySuperSweetSixteenandaHalf type party.

How ever, if this is not Colleen (and you are suddenly feeling rather awkward and out of place), I do apologize. I really have no official plans. One of my best friends (from way back) may be coming down, which would be amazing. I’m going to have some of good bye thing, probably a bonfire or a day on the lake (unless my more celebration inclined friends intervene), and we are going up to see my family for a week in August. As much as I would love to “go out with a bang”, I’m really a wimp when it comes to parties. I do, however, like surprise parties (HINT… HINT…COUGH.. jk..sorta). :)

Honestly, my top priority at this point is to eat a lot of tex mex. (oooh.. Wait a second… Maybe not..) Spending time with my family is up there too! It’s nerdy, but I adore my teachers, and since so many of them have helped me get here, I’ll be visiting school quite a bit. I guess that kinda rounds it off. Oh! I have a job.

However, if you have any fantastic party ideas, please share. Really… Think of it as charity to the socially deficient. It’ll look great on college applications.


A message from easylob
What do you think will be your biggest challenge during your stay in Russia?

HAH! It’s not the travel, or the new family, or the winter, or culture shock (though they each put “challenge” in a new light). I am terribly, horribly, awfully afraid of having to buy… get this…


Yes, that’s right. Shampoo. Or any other personal care products, for that matter. How do you say unscented, oil free, I-just-don’t-want-something-I’m-allergic-to, ah heck, toothpaste, in Russian? You don’t know? Well gosh, darn it, me neither.

Stuff like that is really heavy, and so for obvious reasons we leave it out of suitcases when we set off in our little transatlantic caravan. It’s one of the first things they take us to buy when we arrive, and I’ve somehow got it in my head that I’m going to… erm.. fail, and give myself some rash or disease or something when I’m trying to make a good first impression. What if I’m the idiot that asks for anti-freeze instead of anti-frizz? (That was really corny, and sorta sad, but hopefully it made my point.) This is really an idiotic fear, considering I don’t use much of anything anyway, but it’s there none the less. The princess is coming out…

But honestly, little stupid things like that keep me from thinking about what will be difficult. Thanksgiving and Christmas will be tough; I’ll miss my family, no doubt. Yet, what better present than a whole new set of traditions, and a wonderful group of people to share them with?  I can’t wait. In the end, I hope… No, I know, that my biggest challenge will be leaving. Isn’t that the way it always is?