(Ed. note: Maggi Sliwinski '07 of East Concord, N.Y., is among more than a dozen HWS students and faculty heading for Siberia shortly after graduation. This is the second entry in her “Siberia Journal.”)
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Last night (Thursday, May 4) was our last orientation meeting for the group of students and faculty going to Siberia on May 15.
When I walked in the door, Professor [Judith]McKinney handed me my passport, visa and plane tickets for both there and back. This was a little overwhelming at first, to have all these expensive responsibilities in my hands.
We also received our insurance cards and learned a little about safety. They told us if we are ever stopped by the police in Russia, to speak only English and make sure to show them our passport right away. Usually, I guess, if they know you’re American, they’ll just let you go. Using the buddy system is also smart to do while we’re there.
Doug Reilly from CGE was at the meeting to talk to us a little bit about travel photography. We learned about the Rule of Thirds, checking the foreground and background of photos, and (most importantly) to take lots of pictures. Most of us are taking digital cameras and extra memory cards, so we don’t have to worry about carrying around film.
Toward the end of the meeting there was time for questions, I think I asked about seven: How much money should we bring? Should we bring long underwear? What about the gifts to families and teachers, etc. etc.
We can’t exchange money in the United States for rubles, so I’m going to carry cash with me. In Russia it’s customary to take small gifts for host families and teachers, things like key chains, little toys for kids, things that represent the United States or where we’re from.
We also talked a little bit about luggage and weight limits. I finally bought myself a roller duffel bag a couple weeks ago, but I’ve been so busy with final papers and exams that I haven’t even thought about what to put into it. My roommate and I talked about what kind of stuff to take: she’s already been to Russia a few times.
She said that 30 pounds is really heavy, and our limit is 44. So, I’m going to try to keep the weight down to around 25 pounds.
Since my last journal I’ve also learned how to say “My name is Maggi” in Russia, although I have no idea how to spell it and I won’t attempt it here. We also decided as a group to go to a banya, a type of sauna-swimming pool-steam bath that is popular in Russia. We will be doing this right after our flight arrives in Moscow, I think we’ll all need it to relax a little.
I’m very excited to go to Russia, even though my busy schedule hasn’t allowed me time to express that excitement. I think in about four days my nerves will start kicking in and the last night here will be like Christmas Eve and I will get very little sleep.
I’ll be taking lots of pictures, and will continue the journal while I’m over there.