August 13, 2014

Well, I have been home a week now and it has been great reuniting with friends and family.  My braids have been taken out (thank God! Haha) and I have pretty much recovered from jetlag.  I came home bearing the marks of being at camp: small scars from old mosquito bites, a wrist covered in bracelets, and a flash drive with almost 2,000 pictures.  In some ways on the plane ride back, it seemed as if my adventure at camp was a dream, like time had stood still for the weeks I was in Russia.  But when I look at my journal, the pictures, and the messages from VK (the Russian version of Facebook), I am reminded of the summer that I have had.

I feel like this is just the end of a chapter, not the book on my adventures in Mari El.  Many of the counselors and campers asked if I was coming back next summer.  I guess since I have come twice they assume I will make this a yearly event like Gwynn haha.  I honestly feel like I will some day; I’m not quite done with Lesnaya Skazka.  Once again, I have formed new friendships and strengthened old ones.  And by God’s grace, the lessons I taught had a positive and lasting impact on the children who were in the class.  The camp administrators gave me an open invitation to come back any time I wanted to.  Now that I have caught up on sleep some, I will work on making revisions to the curriculum and, with Gwynn’s help, analyze the surveys to see if there are any statistically significant results from those.  I’ve received lots of questions about the curriculum on both sides of the Atlantic and I’m excited to make it better and send it electronically to those who can use it at their camps.
In conclusion, I would like to thank everyone for reading the blog and following my journey this summer.  Despite the politics between our two nations, I witnessed first-hand the power and magic of cross-cultural friendship and relationships. Every day was an adventure with its own unique challenges, but in the end, it was all worth it. How cool is it that I was able to teach something I’m passionate about to groups of Russian children in the middle of Russia and help change the way they look at the world?  It has been a truly life-changing experience.

My parents didn’t raise a fool and I would be foolish to think I did everything this summer by myself.  Here is a list of people I would like to thank who helped make this adventure possible:
• First, I have to thank God for blessing everything to work out the way it should.  Even when things seemed to be going wrong, I always had peace that things would work out because I felt confident that I was exactly where I was supposed to be.

• Thanks to my family and friends who are always supportive of my ideas and dreams, no matter how crazy they may seem.  Their prayers and support helped me more than I can express.

• Thanks to the International House staff for the support from Chicago.  It wasn’t easy helping me navigate things from Chicago,  but they were always willing to assist me.

• Special thanks to the Davis Grant for Peace that awarded me the funds to go on this journey.  I will be forever grateful to the Grant for helping me fulfill my dream of going back to Skazka.

• Thanks to Gwynn for being my on-the-ground support and answering my millions of questions along the way.

• Thanks to all of my Russian friends and family for their friendship, love, and memories from this summer, not to mention help with translations.

Who knows what the future holds for me, but I plan to keep working on my Russian!  If anyone knows of a person interested in funding any future trips to Russia, you know where to find me!

My journey is done for this summer, but check out my friends’ Hasta and Kelli’s summer adventures too!

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