Zdrasvyetye, my friends!
I am typing this from the lobby of the second floor of my hotel. After two other failed attempts, I finally got my laptop connected to the promised wi-fi of the hotel. Apparently, I need to be in the lobbies of the first or second floor in order to use it here. I bought an internet card worth 300 rubles (about $12) to use here, so I'm glad it does indeed work. That will make things nice when, like tonight, I want to communicate but I also want to stay in. I am tired! And, I smell like bug spray. And, I am covered in dust, despite numerous handwashings. It is those last two sensations that are my primary objections to camping. But, boy, am I having a good time.
I've had 4 placement sessions so far, at three different locations. They've been keeping us busy here. I started today at 8:00am with Russian lesson #2, and had a full schedule until after dinner at 8:00 tonight. It's good - I've been sleeping very soundly, even with the noises outside and the full daylight coming through the window at 5:00am (it wakes me up only long enough for me to panic that I'm late for school, then realize that I'm in Russia, then panic that I'm late for a placement, then realize that I don't have to be up for another two hours).
The kids are fun to work with, although there are some adjustments. The first placement, the Summer Camp, was the hardest so far - there were a lot of kids, with a wide range of ages and many of them were aggressive. From the teenagers skulking about in tank tops, smoking, to the 10-14 year olds who kept throwing pine cones at the other kids, to the little ones who kept pulling things out of the crafts bag without asking, then running off with them, there were a lot of discipline issues. It didn't help that the three of us volunteers who were sent to that cabin were all totally new and our translator, Dasha, went with the other volunteers to a different part of the camp. Paul, Janna, and I just did our best and it went okay. The kids seemed to have fun, which was the point of it all.
The second placement, the deaf kindergarten, was fun. I did that one both yesterday afternoon and today. There were 5 little boys there yesterday and 6 today. The camp has been dwindling in size since the city decided that they are going to close it next week and convert the building into a camp for kids with tuberculosis. The little boys are very cute, and it's more relaxing for us volunteers because there's not the same stress of non communication. I learned their signs for "No", "That's mine", "That's yours", "less/smaller", and "more/bigger" very quickly. The kids aren't shy about grabbing you to get you to get your attention either. One kids today got some glue on his finger and he just wiped it on my shirt and kept on working. My clothes have gotten very dirty, actually, so I think I'll be doing some sink washing tomorrow during my afternoon off.
With the kindergarteners, we did a quick craft activity (decorating butterflies yesterday and making paper crowns today), then just played with them - toy cars are very popular, as are a set of magnetic tiles that they use to build garages and houses for the cars. They're very cute and very friendly.
This morning I worked at the hospital for kids. The kids were probably between 6 and 13 years old, and were placed at the hospital either for treatment for a psychological issue (schizophrenia is a popular diagnosis here), because they were too aggressive for an orphanage, or because they kept running away from their orphanages. I actually thought they acted like a normal group of kids. I'm not sure if that means that their psychological issues are minor, or if the kids I work on a usual basis are just as disabled. In any case, these kids blazed through the craft we brought in order to get to the sports. I played soccer, basketball, football, frisbee, and volleyball this morning, all in a fenced in area with no grass. It was very dusty, but a lot of fun. The kids were very friendly and more patient with our lack of the language. Some of them even asked Olga, the translator, how to say things in English so they could talk to us in our language.
And I'd love to say more about it, but my battery's about to die and I don't have an outlet nearby, so I'm going to post this before I lose it.
Love you all and more later!