The Russian Exchange Program - November 1997Russian postmark

edited by Dan Brubaker and Rita Zirnheld


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 1 as featured in the September 1998 issue of


Friday, 31 October 1997

Bradley - I am really excited about going to Russia after long planning and working hard. We learned a lot about Russian history and culture. I hope all of us will keep up with TEAMWORK. I will have fun with my brothers, sisters, mom (Rita) and dad (Dan).

Hillary - I leave for Russia on Sunday! I am scared to death of the airplane. I keep on having nightmares that we will crash. I will pray, but I can't wait to get to Russia though.

Saturday, 1 November 1997

Terra - Here I am sitting around thinking what I'll do tomorrow; especially what I'll do in Russia. As of now, I'm pretty nervous because I've never been on the plane before, so I really don't know what it feels like to be on the plane. I'm nervous because I don't know what to do or how to begin communicating with the Russian students, and I'm afraid I'll do something wrong. There are many things on my mind.

Joshua - I really don't know what to expect except to what I've been told at our meetings. But what I do know for sure is that I'm scared. I keep on wondering if I'll make it.

Sunday, 2 November 1997

Bradley - It was Mike's and my first time to ride an airplane, and I hoped to find a good seat. But I didn't, I could still see outside. When the plane flew off, and know what did Mike and I see? We saw God standing above the clouds! Just kidding, but it was so pretty. After we got into Cincinnati, we had to wait there for 8 1/2 hours before our next flight to New York City. We arrived late at New York City that we had to run all the way to another plane. During dinner, I accidentally spilled some Coke on Mike's pants. Ha ha ha!

Monday, 3 November 1997

Bradley - Some drivers here in Moscow drive like crazy and they don't give a @#*! about other drivers. I don't think I will cross any streets in Russia because they will not stop! Red Square

Michael - Upon arrival, we waited in long lines for passports, and after we picked up our luggage, many people pushed me aside, while walking by. Really rude rude rude. I hate Moscow!

Brandy - At the Red Square, I met several deaf Russian peddlers. They sold fur hats, and I bought one. Many deaf people are not allowed to have good jobs, so they have to sell things.

Hillary - We had to walk a long way to our train car, and really we got a little CELL for a room. I thought there was no way that we could all fit in there, but we squeezed in.

Terra - Here I am, on the train. It's very small, for four people with two beds on the top, and two beds on the bottom. Sorry about my writing, this train isn't smooth.

Tuesday, 4 November 1997

Hillary - When we got off the train, I took a good hard look at my surroundings and I wanted to come back to America so badly. It's poor here, I'm not talking about ghetto poor, or project poor. I mean, it's poor. But I kept a big smile on my face. Later at the school, I met one boy and he is sweet and everything. But God, he follows me around everywhere!!! He is almost like a bad dream. I like him but he is always there!

Joshua - Upon arrival, I know that what I expected was actually worse than I thought, Kamensk looked like a war zone. When we settled down, we had borscht (cabbage soup) which was good, then I had a nap. The Russian kids kept on coming in and out [of my room], and I was beginning to become angry.

Samuel - I'm excited that I'm in Russia, because you have to figure your way out! Well, for one thing I got ripped off for buying a few things! Now I'm not buying The Boys!anything until Dan thinks I should if it's a good deal! There's a lot of snow outside for the 22 hour train ride. Everything is almost covered - trees, bushes, cars, trains, tanks and even the roads! This trip so far is about handling your grouchy bad moods, disappointments and anger! This trip is about knowing your limits and their limits. Instead of saying time managing, it's managing behavior and thoughts. This trip is the best trip that any school could offer!

Terra - The school is not as fancy as ours. There are a lot of tiles, and their floor is made out of wood. We went to the post office to call Kentucky. A ten minute call cost us 98,000 rubles, which is approximately $20.00 - and that's a lot! This week is an autumn break for the students, and there are orphans who are still there. They sometimes go to teachers' houses. The school also has a lot of stray dogs.

Wednesday, 5 November 1997

Bradley - A funny thing happened last night. I woke up and put on my clothes. I thought it was morning, and I went to Dan's room and saw everybody there. And I said, "Good morning everyone!" Then Rita said it's not morning, it's 11:30 p.m. so I went back and took my clothes off. Anyway, I woke up this morning REALLY at 9:15 a.m. We used a van that would fit only 11 people but 14 of us were cramped inside, that some of us had to take turns sitting on laps for 2 1/2 hours to Rostov. Ugh! And when we got back in the evening, we had supper that was SO GOOD, but it got so many bones (from chicken heads and legs).

Brandy - I loved the pizza with shredded carrot on top. I can't believe some of us didn't like that. Some of them would not even try! I used the (Turkish style) Tired!toilet, and it did not bother me. I could get used to Russian life, and I love it!

Joshua - For breakfast, we had some kind of doughnut with cottage cheese inside and covered with some sauce. Gag! so I threw it away.

Samuel - Everything is expensive here for the Russians. The weather isn't that bad due to low humidity. It wasn't as cold as I thought, and the wind really burns your hands and ears! It also dries your lips fast! The bathrooms [with Turkish toilets] here is hard to explain, but I will take pictures of them soon. The students here gets to shower [at a nearby bathhouse] once every five days. I'm still up writing all those good times I've had and the good thoughts!!!

Michael - I had to take a cold shower this morning because only three people showering would run out the hot water supply [which is heated only once daily]. Whatever. We went to Rostov-on-Don today, and we bought a FAX machine for KBSD.

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Russian Exchange Program