Sunday, September 15, 2013

A Busy September: Part 2

Kristen says...

So, where were we? :)

Believe it or not, we have been living in Vladivostok for almost exactly 9 months, but on Friday (besides the whole three weeks at home thing) I left the city for just the second time since our arrival! (The first was the two days in Артём.)

Leaving the city isn't hard, we just have to get official permission, which makes spontaneity difficult...

Luckily my Friday trip wasn't spontaneous, so I had the permission to go to Ussuriysk, a city about 60 miles north of Vladivostok.

I actually went for a 55th anniversary event for the Primorskaya State Academy of Agriculture. We were specifically interested in the academy's forestry school, but ended up seeing a lot more of the school that we originally thought we would.

The day started at a local auditorium, where a nice gentleman explained the history of the school to us (in Russian of course) which I'm sure was interesting if you know Russian...
 When that was over there was a 20 or so minute break during which it was decided that the Americans in the group would be better served taking a tour of the school instead of listening to the next session (again all in Russian), so we set off with one of the students to see the school, the dorms, and the two school museums...

One was more of a natural history museum with these highlights of Far Eastern animal life:
Hedgehogs (I love the Russian word for hedgehog: Ёж)
A flamingo... (native to Russia?!)
A creepy tiny deer with large fangs (WHAT?!)
So some of those animals were weird...

I also got to pose with this beautiful animal:
Amur tigers are definitely native to Russia.
 The other museum was about the history of the school, which was pretty interesting and had books of history like corn yields from 1955!
 After touring the school we saw a little bit of Ussuriysk, including their World War II memorial:
We were not the only visitors of the day:
Our tour guide, Christina, also pointed out the name of her great grandfather, one of the more than 6,000 Ussuriysk soldiers lost in the war.
Next door to the memorial was the three-room town museum, apparently a converted school building.
"Welcome to the Museum--Inscribe yourself in the city's history."
The museum was very nice, with some examples of early Russian clothing, more natural history, and explaining the links of the city with China (apparently the Chinese were in charge of the city at one point). It also had a room full of early techologies, including this typewriter, which caught my fancy, mostly because I'd never seen a cyrillic typewriter before!
 Next door to the museum (are you sensing a pattern here? Apparently the downtown square is the tourist center of the city!) was this beautiful храм, which we didn't go into because we none of us had long enough skirts or head coverings appropriate to the occasion.
 It kind of reminded me of all the beautiful churches in Honduras! :)
  After hitting all the city highlights we went back to the celebration event. After a short coffee break we attended the afternoon session, which was actually a showing of the dancing, singing, and other musical talents of the academy's students, interspersed with awards given to faculty, staff, and other school supporters.

 I always really enjoy going to events like that because Russian folk dances are really neat, and I love the costumes:

 Afterwards we had an hour's break before the 4:00 lunch, so we drove out and walked around another, less populated part of the city, where we saw some mushrooms made out of tree stumps:
Apparently at one part of the morning session one of the speakers suggested that one of the important elements of the school was protecting the forests, which in turn protects the wild mushroom populations--in the US we think of mushroom hunting as somewhat dangerous (unless you're looking for morels, I guess) but mushroom hunting is a major fall activity here...
 We also saw this fun tableaux, with the Russian house on the far right and the scarecrows on the far left!

All-in-all it was a great day, and was nice to see another part of the country.

Something funny, I was warned before I left that the road to Ussuriysk wasn't very good--apparently they are building a nice, new multi-lane road but right now you are relegated to a two-lane dirt road--so I was a little worried...oh boy. If all the roads in Honduras were as good as that road, the trip to Amapala and back would have been half as long and twice as easy! I was very pleased! :)

One more, coming soon! :)

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