Holiday greetings from the great state of Iowa!! :)
I have been struggling a little with finding my "Christmas" spirit this year because this is the first year EVER I have not been on a school calendar; it's the first year ever I have not counted down to Christmas with my fellow students or co-workers...it's weird.
Luckily Chris' and my Russian departure date was pushed back so we could take time to come back home for Christmas....
Unluckily this happened on our way home:
We drove back to Iowa to make life easier on Pip, but Mother Nature decided not to make life easy on us. We made it through Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and half Ohio on our first day unscathed, and the next day had a dry 2nd half of Ohio, a VERY wet Indiana, and a great first half of Illinois...and then, Winter Storm Draco hit.
It started out small, nothing two Iowans couldn't easily get through:
But it very quickly grew:
And then we started seeing cars in the ditches:
And then we couldn't see anything at all:
We drove into the storm thinking we would drive straight through it, but after passing our highway exit backed up over a 1/4 mile, we decided it was easier just to stop for the night in Monmouth, Il, just over 30 miles from the Iowa border. So close!
Of course, the funny part of that story is that we were traveling with a dog...and Monmouth is not a big city...and it only had like, 2 hotels...and the one hotel that accepted dogs was full...and so we had to sneak Pip into our 2nd floor hotel room... :) He was a VERY good boy and we left a nice tip for the cleaning staff (not that he made a mess...but there was probably some excess hair floating about...)
Anyway, despite "driving not advised" warnings, early the next day we got back on the only road that was open out of town and got to witness all this:
We even almost got stuck in a miles-long traffic jam! Thank goodness for rest stops! :)
Of course, by the time we (finally) made it to Iowa the roads were starting to clear, but it was pretty dicey for a little while, especially because the wind was so high and the roads really were pretty icy...
But anyway, we made it, and have started to celebrate all the fun things about Christmas. We had Chris' birthday and Christmas gifts/meal with his family today, and will do the same with my family tomorrow. We also got to meet another new niece, Chris' brother and his wife's new daughter. Good times. (Brings the niece and nephew total to 4, in case you are keeping track!)
We hope that you all made it through Draco unscathed, and that any traveling you are doing this holiday is safe and event-free! Happiest holiday wishes, Merry Christmas, and we hope you have a wonderful 2013 and will keep reading about all our crazy adventures!!!
First of all, for any readers in Connecticut, or anyone with small children, my heart bleeds for you in light of today's tragedies...not only did horrors occur at a school in Connecticut, but children were also slain outside a school in China...as a teacher and an aunt this truly concerns and saddens me...
Also, I apologize (again) for the long blogging hiatus. We are getting closer to leaving, and so are getting busier trying to fit things in.
Among the things we have done recently: Shopping!!
I can't believe how much "stuff" we "need" to go to Russia...food, clothing, a happy lamp...
Yep, we got a happy lamp. If you close your eyes and sit real close, you can imagine that you are on a warm Caribbean beach...it's lovely! (and will probably be really lovely in Vladivostok!)
I also (FINALLY) got a new coat (which you can see in the pictures below)...also, the handsome man standing with me (the non-statue) is my dad, who came to visit this past week!
(If these pictures are giving you déjà vu, don't worry; yes, Chris and I went to Monticello a few months ago...but Dad had always wanted to go, so we went!) :)
On the very first day of Russian, even before we started learning the language, the heads told us about the Новый год (New Year) party and film festival, and we have been working on it ever since. That event was today, and I was really happy both Dad and Chris were able to come watch! In order to really get into the spirit of the even I joined the choir...I got to learn Russian songs and I also got to dress in a fun Russian outfit!
Not only did I sing, but my classmates and I also made a fun video which was one of 14 shown at the festival: (Don't worry...the movie is in Russian but there are English subtitles throughout! Also, it's only four minutes long!)
And even better...we were voted first place by the attendees of the event!! We won the Golden Pinecone!! :)
So Russian's not going too badly...it's still not really fun, but most days I feel like I am getting somewhere...
I also took a progress test a few weeks ago, and got pretty positive results--at least, I tested better than I thought I would, so that was exciting! I take my official language test after the Christmas holidays...And then we're off!
Other than that, life is just tripping along so quickly! Basically we have just the holidays, my test, and then we will be packing out and off to Russia...I am so excited for this new adventure, but nervous as well...it's going to be VERY interesting! What an adventure! :)