July 9, 2014

I really can’t believe that at the time I am writing this, there are only 3 more days left in this session.  This is my first time seeing a camp session from beginning to end (last time I left with one week before the session ended), so I have been amazed at how quickly the days go by.  Even though most of the days are similar in structure, there are always special things that happened throughout the day that make each day memorable.  I enjoy seeing how the groups have progressed and grown over the course of the session.  Children who were barely talking to each other are now good friends, shy kids have come out of their shells, and the mood around camp is nice and peaceful.
By the end of the session, I will have taught about 50 classes, including the classes for my project and the time I spent with the younger groups teaching American games.  I have found that I really enjoy teaching!  It helps that it seems the kids are really getting it for the most part.  Some of the things we have talked about have shocked and challenged them in new ways and I can see the growth in their thinking patterns about diversity, stereotypes, and discrimination.  Several children have come to me to personally thank me for teaching the class and others always ask if I will be teaching more classes.  I feel so blessed and am honestly kind of shocked that my lessons and the structure for my curriculum are actually working out the way I had hoped, and sometimes even better!  God is good and it just gives me further confirmation that I am right where I am supposed to be.  I have two more classes left with each group and I look forward to wrapping things up and passing out the surveys again to see if there has been any significant changes in the way they answer the questions.  Regardless, I can honestly see the difference in the children myself, and to me that’s the most important thing!

As usual here are some random thoughts and events that have occurred recently…

Camp Life:
• It is truly hard to hide from the kids when I am trying not to draw attention to myself: it is like hiding from the paparazzi! Hahaha.  Sometimes I try to sneak to one building without being noticed, but once one kid shouts “Hello Shauna!,” there is no escape.   The one place I have found on camp grounds where I know the kids can’t find me is the café in the small hotel located on campus.  I didn’t even know it existed until some friends took me there.  Now, I am a regular customer!  The coffee isn’t that great, but it’s quiet, peaceful, and super cheap: one cup costs less than a quarter.
• Since most of the time I am clueless as to what is going on at any given time at camp, I can always count on one of the kids to grab me by the hand to lead me in the right direction, a group of them shouting my name to get my attention, or using a combination of Russian and hand motions to communicate.  Someway, somehow I eventually figure out what is going on.
• Because I don’t have a cellphone, I have to rely on old fashion communication: hand-written letters.  If I need to let Gwynn or the creative director know something, I just leave them a note.  I find it a very effective form of communication.
• Speaking of cellphones, I honestly don’t miss using mine at all!  I never had time to watch much TV, so I’m cool without that too.  A break from technology (with the exception of typing these blogs and emailing my family) is quite nice I must say.
• I have mentioned how my hair has been a big hit before, but it really does seem to be a magnet, especially for the younger children.  Boys and girls alike are reaching constantly trying to touch it.  I learned very quickly to keep my hair up because Lord knows I don’t need a kid ripping a braid out hahaha.
• Some things are universal: selfies, iphones, and MacDonald’s
• One thing the kids expect me to be (but I’m not at all) is an expert on American pop culture.  They always ask me questions about songs, movies, and other things that I have no clue about.  I tell them they know more than I do haha.

Russian culture:
• Here at camp, and I think in general in Russia, many of the people have the same names.  There might be about 10 or 12 names that it seems most people have, but the way they keep everyone straight is by using their surnames.  It is hard for me to keep the surnames straight, which can lead to confusion when talking about someone hahaha.  If I was Russian, I would be called Shauna Kevinovna, because my dad’s name is Kevin.  But since I am the only Shauna in these parts, there is no confusion at all when someone is talking about me haha.
• Sometimes it is difficult to explain to campers and counselors alike how foreign Russian culture is to most Americans.  Many are shocked and honestly sad that American students don’t learn Russian in schools, we don’t listen or watch Russian music and movies, and many Americans have no immediate plans of visiting Russia (especially given the political issues occurring recently).  For them, English and American culture are everywhere, so it is surprising to them that the cultural exchange between our two countries is very uneven.

• Getting help with my class from my friends Zhanna (the person who translated my curriculum into Russian), Anya, and Nikita (another former camper who is now a helper at camp).
• Surprise visits from old friends!
• Being interviewed by the local TV station to talk about my project and my class.  Much better than the interview I did in 2011 when I had only been at camp two days and still recovering from jet lag hahaha.
• More trips to the city, making new friends, and disproving some stereotypes about Americans these new friends had before meeting and talking with me.
• Kid’s reaction when I come to play or dance with them at disco.
• Trip to the forest!
• The nice, warm, and sunny weather!
• Raising the Russian flag during the morning gathering.  Don’t worry, I am not pledging allegiance to Russia, but it is considered one of the biggest honors at camp to be asked to raise the flag in the morning.  This was my first time doing it solo, so it was a big deal!
• Making friends with the kitchen, cleaning, and security staff at camp.
• Receiving the last package of supplies for my class!!!

That’s all for now folks!  Time to wrap up this session and look forward to the next.  My time in Russia has dwindled down to less than a month and I plan on making the most of it!

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