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.
Tuesday, 11 November 1997
Brandy - I nearly freaked out when one male
teacher threw a paper water filter and tried to cover it up with
sand (on the bank of Seversky Donets River) after we did our scientific
project. We are here to help the environment, and seems that they
just don't care.
Joshua - We went to the river for our water project. The water was in fair condition, then Christopher and I looked for some biological life. Then later, we had a rap session where we expressed to each other as of why we were bickering with each other. Then we had oatmeal for supper. I finally had to go to bed at 2:00 a.m. by Dan's order - sorry, Dan for being so stubborn.
Michael - I'm so hungry for McDonald's hamburgers or pizzas from Domino's. When I chanted "I wanna hamburgers, I wanna pizzas, I wanna hamburgers, I wanna..." all others told me to shut up because it's really making them hungry. I know they miss American food just like me. I'm not homesick, but I'm homesick for McDonald's or Domino's!!!
Hillary - I swear I will do anything for a Papa John's pizza! Anyways, we had a close game (but the Russians) won where we did some projects, racing against time. It surprised me how much the teachers helped the Russian kids, and we had no help. In America, you're on your own, really. This morning, the teacher talked about Pushkin, and she was surprised that we already knew about Pushkin. It was interesting to hear from a Russian perspective. The Russian kids are getting on my nerves a little bit, because they won't leave me alone. Plus, they ask me stupid stuff like they do not know what a roll of film is. Funny, one boy drank Brandy's bottled water, and didn't like the taste. After drinking "sewer tasting" water all of his life, you think he appreciates good clean water?
Terra - Rita and Dan have been very busy, really did not have much break. There's always something that comes up, they had to leave as of NOW. And now, they are free, FINALLY! I guess another reason why I'm feeling tired now because almost all night, the girls kept coming into our room, and turning on the lights so that they could chat with us when we wanted to sleep. That was something we were warned about.
Wednesday, 12 November 1997
Joshua - I woke up very ill, so Dan told me
to stay in bed, but Rita thought it would be best if I got up.
*groan* At the science class which was interesting, but Rita made
me leave because I was ready to throw up from nausea. I feel so
sick that I should roll over and die! Later
after my long nap, I went to the auditorium for a pageant. I was
called to the stage where I had to play a game where we had to
dig with our mouths for a piece of wrapped candy inside a bowl
full of flour. I tried to blow the flour out, but it went everywhere
- in my eyes, ears, mouth, nose. Boy, talk about embarrassing!
Bradley - At a fifth grade class, I was a little "p...ed off" but I kept cool because they used the oral method, no sign language. I tried to accept it, so... It's 10:20 p.m. and it's time to go to bed, so good night! Wait a minute, my new name is (spelled out in Russian cyrillic alphabet). You gotta study it!
Hillary - I learned that the mayor of Kamensk passed a new law that you couldn't cut down a tree without the city officials permission. I wonder why we can't have such a law in America. They also have people actually count the trees so that you can't secretly cut one down. The food here sucks! I need real food, not borscht three times a day! Anyway, during the Miss Autumn competition, all girls were forced to speak and fingerspell only (no signs allowed). And nobody could understand them. You should have seen the look on Christopher's face. How long will these kids have to suffer? I just reached my boiling point today.
Terra - One thing I learned in the ecology class was that by law, people here are not allowed to cut down trees. They help to provide better air. Sergei took us on a city tour, and he shared his experiences with the communist government. He supports capitalism, because he's getting paid for his work. But I feel sad to know how much he's being paid - only $60 a month. Then he took us to an important memorial to honor Kamensk's children. During World War 2, Germans had occupied Kamensk for 9 months. And many Kamensk children, while playing around, knew where the Germans kept their ammunition, tanks, etc. When the Allieds arrived, the children told them where the Germans were and where their weapons were. On July 17, 1942, the Germans rounded up 36 children (34 boys and 2 girls) and tortured them in the basement of a school. Then, the Germans shot the children, and threw a grenade at them, killing all, except for two who survived. The children were between 11 to 14 years old. I was about to cry because there are so many things that happened in the past that I or we did not know. If you could hear this man's voice deep inside, you could tell and understand the pain.
Thursday, 13 November 1997
Brandy - Many people here have gold capped
teeth. One boy told me that the water here is bad, and ruins teeth.
I felt sorry that he had gold teeth because he is only 16 years
old, but he said that he's used to it. Hillary freaked out when
I bathed in the nude (at the bathhouse). All other Russian girls
shower naked, and there is no reason to hide. Hillary and Terra
wore bathsuits. Really, there's nothing to be embarrassed about...
Samuel - We went to see the mayor! I can't believe I forgot his name (even though I remember a tattoo on his right hand). We waited for an hour before we could see him, then we told him how we appreciated his efforts to improve the environment in Kamensk. There were four people interpreting all at the same time! Margarita speaking Russian, then Christopher would translate into English, and Rita would sign in ASL and Dan would sign in RSL. The little children even did a fairy tale play, and there were no signs (even though they fingerspelled a little).
Hillary - This morning, we went to the bathhouse, and I almost died when I learned that normal Russian culture is to get completely naked to bath in front of other girls! I kept my bathing suit on, and kept my eyes closed. And I was fine.
Terra - When Rita told us that we were going to a bathhouse. I thought, "It must be like a sauna, or a spa." So I put on my bathing suit. And when we go inside, it wasn't what I thought. All the Russian girls were taking a shower, and they were nude. I told Rita, "No way!" I'm not going in the nude! I went in and washed my hair and body with my bathing suit still on! The Russian staff were shocked at me! When I got out, ready to change into clothes, I realized that I had forgotten my panties and bra. So, I went outside with a towel on my head, and crossed my arms as I don't think I have to explain why....ha ha ha! Seven more days to go!
Friday, 14 November 1997
Joshua - We gave out tons of gifts to the kids,
and we gave out accordingly to their grades. They were happy.
Bradley - We watched a birthday party and dance for younger kids, then I went with Sam and Josh to Sergei's house in Shakhty.
Michael - When Andrei wanted me to go with him to his house in Ukraine, I was not sure because I really wanted to go with Dan. I did not want to hurt Andrei's feelings so Josh, Rita and Dan thought it would be a good idea if I went with him. Everybody else already left with their host families, and I will go tomorrow early morning on the train for three hours to Andrei's home.
Terra - We went to a water treatment plant, and it was somekinda boring. And it was so so so COLD that nobody felt like doing anything. In a biology class, I have been this bored at all since my arrival into Kamensk. This teacher used the oral method, and did not sign to his class at all. He just mouthed his lips, and wrote everything on the chalkboard for the students to copy in their notebooks. And that lasted for the entire class period. I did not learn one thing in that class, and the students in that class did not pay any attention to the teacher. The educational setting is set up differently at Kentucky and Kamensk. I mean a big DIFFERENT! I have seen many staff or teachers here (in Kamensk) give up on their students. I am glad that our students (in Kentucky) are not as frustrated as they are. There is not one deaf staff or teacher at the Kamensk school. And our students (at Kentucky) should be thankful for what they have at their school. Bye bye for now, good night!