Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Surviving Sandy and a Catching Up on What We've Been Doing

Kristen says...

Hi! Just in case anyone was wondering, we "survived" Hurricane Sandy!

Actually I think it is funny that we lived in Honduras for two years and never really experienced a hurricane (Matthew was supposed to get us, but fizzled out before he hit shore) until I moved to DCland...actually my one other hurricanal experience was in this very area, in 1996...I remember being on vacation in my parents' pop-out camper watching the '96 Atlanta Olympics on a 3-inch travel tv worrying that our camper was going to flip in the wind...good times!

Anyway, Sandy came and went with very little disruption to our lives except for a soggy puppy and two days off of class! I would like to say that I have spent the last two days diligently studying Russian, but that would be a lie, and I don't like to lie if I don't have to...yesterday I completed a lesson on my Rosetta Stone-knockoff iPad app and watched a movie about a mail-order Russian bride (Postmark Paradise, interesting premise) and today I have done a little vocab work, but other than that I have been pretty much a bum...

Oh well, such is life. As I am constantly reminded, I will have plenty of time to practice Russian when I am in Russia, which should be in a few months...whoa, time flies.

Anyway, before Sandy hit I had been a very busy girl studying the Russian and taking little mini trips, about which I would like to update you now:

The first actually happened WAY back in September, on Labor Day. I'm not sure that I have any better excuse about not having written about it before than that I was too lazy to pull the pictures off my camera, but there it is. Pathetic.

Anyway, on Labor Day Chris and I decided that we needed to get out of the DC area and see a bit of the state we are now inhabiting. Chris has always been a fan of Thomas Jefferson, and decided that he'd like to visit Monticello, Jefferson's historic home on a hill in southern Virginia, about a 2.5 hour drive away. Neither of us had been there before, so it was fun treat to drive out and experience something new.

We still don't have a car here (we have been getting to class every day on a shuttle provided by our apartment complex and use the Metro to get around to most other places) so we rented a Zipcar, a neat little program that until recently was available right here at the complex... Driving south wasn't an issue, and it was fun to see "The South" at a leisurely pace. The area around Monticello was particularly interesting since it was all horse farms and rolling pastures.

Monticello and its grounds were no less beautiful--it was just starting to be fall there when we visited, so we saw a bit of changing foliage. The day we visited was warm but not terribly hot, and we got there early enough to take advantage of many of the tours offered, including the house tour, the upstairs tour (probably the best of the day, we both recommend it), the gardens tour (Chris) and the slavery tour (me). We also watched the interesting introductory video and, of course, bought souveneirs in the gift shop. I also took a few pictures:

It was a really nice day, and we had a lot of fun!!

Of course, my last, hastily written update was to tell you about the next little mini-trip with my mom and grandpa when they came in for the Honor Flight. We all had a WONDERFUL time and I am so glad I got to experience the day with both of them!
Water cannon welcoming the veterans

My grandpa and his service photo. He had that smile all day.

Grandpa (tan jacket with hand upraised) in front of the Lincoln Memorial

The entire group, almost 100 World War II, Korea and Vietnam War Vets from Eastern Iowa

Mom and Grandpa with Iowa and the corn!

It was a BEAUTIFUL fall day--the leaves were gorgeous!

I love the photo-bombing Korean War soldier
My great-great uncle's grave at Arlington

With uncle Henry

End of the day at the tomb of the unknown soldier

It was such a great day!
 We went all over--it was a crazy day for a group of elder-statesmen...they started the day with a 5:15 AM flight from Iowa, were met with cheers and applause in DC then shuttled to the World War II Memorial, taken on a bus tour of DC, then to the Lincoln Memorial, Vietnam Memorial, Korean War Memorial, Arlington, the Air Force Memorial, and finally the Iwo Jima Memorial before catching a 9:30 flight back home. It was a BIG day, but really fun. If you are looking for a cause to volunteer for or donate to, look into your local Honor Flight organization, it really was such a big deal to all the soldiers.

Finally, last Friday my Russian class joined with another section to visit the Hillwood Estate, a museum that was endowed by Marjorie Merriweather Post, the heiress to the Post Cereal fortune and avid collector of Russian Imperial Art (hence the reason we went during class time!)

Hillwood was really beautiful, and it was full of lots of interesting things...

Marjorie's third husband was the US Ambassador to the Soviet Union, so the staff at Hillwood put out the diplomatic plates in honor of our visit... :)

I have seen most of these portraits in textbooks, so it was amazing to see the originals!
Looks a bit like Monticello, doesn't it?

Of course, not only did we visit and see the artifacts, we also got a tour...in RUSSIAN!! I will be the first to admit my Russian was not even close to allowing me to understand probably 99% of what the guide was saying, but my teacher helped by translating some of the more interesting bits to English.

It was a really neat house, and I actually hope to go back sometime and take the tour again...but maybe this time in English so I can understand it all... :)

Of course that was last Friday, and since then we have been weathering the "Frankenstorm" and enjoying our time off...

I think I'd better get back to studying Russian, though, because in just a few months my Friday's tour experience will be the norm rather than the exception...and I'd really like to be able to understand tour guides in Russia!


PS: Did you notice the new way I wrote the date? Apparently in Russia you write the month using Roman numerals...you learn something new every day, don't you? :)

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