The Russian Exchange Program - November 1997


Editors' note: This is compiled from the journals of seven Kentucky School for the Deaf students who went to Kamensk, Russia (22 train hours south of Mockba - Moscow, near Rostov and Ukraine) where they stayed at the Kamensk Boarding School for the Deaf for three weeks in November 1997. In April 1998, seven students from the Kamensk school visited the Kentucky School for the Deaf for three weeks, in part of the EcoBridge student exchange program with a focus on environmental studies.

Their journals were downright honest, expressed from their hearts and minds. Sometimes they were humorous, and sometimes not. Either they loved it or they hated it.

Please keep in mind that those journals are written by high school students during their first-ever experience of going overseas - and living in a different culture. In no way does their journals represent Russia, Kamensk, or KBSD as a whole, but from their own individual perspectives.


PART 2 as featured in the October 1998 issue of


Thursday, 6 November 1997

Brandy - At the market, I could not stand seeing skinned off bull's heads (with horns intact) on the table, with all eyeballs and teeth exposed. Gross!

Joshua - I couldn't eat breakfast because I had a sore throat, and I was coughing badly, so I took two swigs of cough medicine, then later Rita gave me two sinus pills. At the market, I started to feel dizzy. I guess it was too much medicine, but later I got better. Today was pretty much of a boring day, but Mike and Dan made me laugh a lot today. All we did today was to walk, talk, laugh, walk, talk, and laugh.

Hillary - I feel better after taking a bath. I think that I am getting used to the smell of people here. I swear it takes my whole effort to keep from holding my nose. One boy hugged me, and I almost keeled over, but I held my breath and hugged him back. Margarita's worried about me because I cried and cried yesterday. Christopher explained that I was just homesick, and that's putting it mildly. I don't want the Russians to know that I wish I was back in America. I would give every ruble I have for a Papa John's pizza or McDonald's hamburger. I will write more tomorrow, and in the meantime, God bless America!

Terra - At the market, we saw skinned off rabbits with fur left on the right foot, to symbolize good luck. When we went back to school, I had a headache that got worse, so I laid down. And I missed going with the others to the museum. Later in the evening, we taught them American games, such as "Twister" and "Bear Hugs." Then the Russians taught us their games. Fun!

Friday, 7 November 1997

Joshua - Mike and Sam got into a big fuss over stupid little baby things, and I just dozed off during that boring science project. And then we went to a picnic. Duh, it's freezing out there, but it turned out to be fun. We ate fire-grilled lamb kebabobs that were marinated in vinegar. Mmmmmmm! They played some games, and I didn't want to join, except to stand and watch as well as freeze my butt off. Thank God it's still there! I notice that some of our people have been having bad mood spells. I'm just wondering when mine will come. Brandy and I went out to a store to buy Coca-Colas. Then on the way back, we got lost a little, but found the school. As it turned out, we were locked out, so I had to climb that stupid brick fence about 7 feet tall, jump down and nearly broke my neck. And then I found my second mother: Good night, Rita!


Michael - At the picnic, we played a cool game where three of us (Sam, Dan and me) would line up, arms around our waists and be like "horses" while three Russians hopped on our backs. Then the three of us had to move all the way to a tree, while they shoved and bounced on us, trying to make us tumble and fall. If we fell, they get a point. If we got to the tree, we get a point. Then we switched turns, riding on them. T'was a lot of fun playing that game, even though they won, 5 to 4. We were all wild. Play play play! With a boombox, we also danced silly, even [the school headmaster] Margarita! Oh, Svetlana is a real wild driver! Dan and I laughed real hard because we liked her driving, but Aloshi and Christopher said their Hail Marys. The roads were full of mud and big potholes.

Saturday, 8 November 1997

Brandy - We went to Novocherkassk, and I bought some Russian pins which cost 1,750 rubles (about 35¢) at the Cossack museum. At the cathedral, I could not believe a little girl took a sodapop from my coat's pocket. Svetlana tried to talk with her and get it back for me, but she just laughed and refused to give it back.

Hillary - During the Communist years, Denis' home would be in a collective farm, and it's small but nice. You know that it's funny while I have been here, I've learned to appreciate what I have instead of wanting what I can't have.

Terra - At the Novocherkassk Cathedral, there were so many beggars, mostly old women. Some people worked inside, mopping and sweeping. It was also dark, with no electricity, except for candles. Later at Denis' house, I tried to help his parents to get the dinner table ready, but they would not let me. The food was great, better than the school. I ate two platefuls, but picky Hillary hardly ate anything. I also tried the beef jello, and it wasn't that bad.

Sunday, 9 November 1997

Brandy - We hiked for three hours around Denis' farm. And we visited Denis' father's gravesite. I almost cried when I saw the headstone, because I never had seen a headstone (etched with Denis' father's face) like this one in my entire life. I felt so stupid asking Denis if I could take a picture of the headstone (which he naturally did not allow). I could not stop laughing at Hillary, because Denis took a route through the tall grass, but Hillary went the other way. Her shoes got stuck in the deep mud, and she was very aggravated. And when we got back, Denis' mother gave us a soda bottle, and Hillary grabbed it and drank it up by herself, when it was supposed to be for all of us. She felt so lousy. I hope Denis will forgive me for asking...

Joshua - Bradley and I watched two Jean Claude Van Damme videotapes, then we had a cook-out with fish soup, complete with bones and eyes. It was good.

Hillary - I noticed that the kids here does not have this "level of sophistication" that you see in America. They are not as stuck up as people back in America.

Bad Doggy!Samuel - When I finally saw Alexey's dog with big gnarly fangs [behind a gate], I wasn't really afraid of it, but I jumped. I'm still thinking about coming to school here and live here. I have no clue what will my family say? The school is different, the bathroom, and everything! I like it, and I can live with it!

Terra - I'm now sitting in Denis' parents' bed which they gave up for us for the weekend. Then we went to the top of the hill where we saw the whole collective farm and town. The land is so big; it's amazing! As we started our journey home, there was mud everywhere you went. We tried to avoid the mud, but it seemed impossible, so we went through the mud. Hillary, I felt sorry for her because she stepped into a mud hole and had mud all over her. Rita told her, "Be careful where you are going," then the next thing she did was to bump into a tree. Ha ha ha!

Monday, 10 November 1997

Joshua - We had chicken and mashed potatoes for breakfast, queer huh? But I am still sick. What's new?

Terra - Now, it's hard for me to write because more Russian students had returned, and they kept coming into my room. I felt like I couldn't finish this journal in time. Poor Rita, she had to do all the dirty work - laundry! She had to wash and rinse the clothes in the tub, and hang them to dry. And now she's tired!

Michael - We didn't do much today after we got back from Alexey's house. After lunch, we played basketball outside. My god, the Russians fouled a lot! But we whipped them, of course.

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Russian Exchange Program