Of course once the storm left town and work could resume, my visa expired. So now I am writing from the the beautiful US of A, but don't worry, for I am still skyping everyday with the school principal and closely monitoring the finishing touches of construction. The French playground matting has been finished! They have begun painting the lines for basketball and volleyball as well as installing the retractable volleyball net! I am hoping to have more photos tomorrow. Unfortunately neither my host mother nor the principal have a camera so photos are at the mercy of the mayor's office's photographer. Its a bummer that I wasn't there to see the pretty, final touches, but I am proud to have been able to get 90% of the full project completed on the ground!
The Rain Is Back!
I woke up today to the devastating sound of heavy rain drops pummeling my window. Yesterday was the nicest weather that I have ever experienced in Russia, yet today the town of Suzdal is flooded! I am very dissapointed. You can see in the above photo that the cover has begun and just a hair under half of the court is complete. A teacher and I said, "up yours weather" and went out and hung the backboards which we had built. We assembled the hoops and nets indoors and when the rain stops we will compete the new basketball hoops. Still to be done is a day of laying the cover, the painting of the lines for basketball and volleyball, and putting in the support beams for the volleyball net. To date, I have layed the asphault for the new court, built the mini soccer nets and basketball hoops, cleared the mini football field, prepared over fifty sports balls, jump ropes, sports pinnies, and other equipment, planned the new sports programs and the health education curriculum with the alcohol education materials, met a ton of awesome kids and led a recreation camp for them, and, taught some English to some very excited kindergardeners. About 85% of the full project has been completed, but unfortunately the most violent and unpredictable weather that I have ever seen has halted the final 15% and made for a big headache. As much as I want... I can't control the weather.
I woke up this morning to the most beautiful day that we have had in a week. The boys were on time and the laying down of the rubber matting began. I also grabbed my buddies freshmen in high school, Vanya and Victor, and we put up mini soccer nets on the mini soccer field that we cleared in the rain with just a till and a machette! Lawn mowers are an under appreciated convenience. Tonight we will finish the matting on the basketball court and then tomorrow paint the lines for basketball and volleyball, put in the metal poles for the volleyball net, and put up the full basketball hoops! Finally, everything is really taking shape.
Everybody Loves Pizza!
After a morning of frustrating meetings with the school principal where we tried to figure out our next move in this master chess game against the weather, I decided to help out a little around the house! I emailed Rimma and said dont worry about dinner tonight... I got it covered. I ambitiously decided to make homemade pizza.
I quickly learned that homemade food in the US is quite different from homemade food in Suzdal. For example, at home I would have hopped in the car and went down to Market Basket, where I would have bought already prepared pizza dough and all of the necessary ingredients. In Suzdal, I had to learn why tribal women recieved the title and worked ten hour days in the occupation of gatherer. It took three hours to assemble the necessary ingredients to pull of a simple pizza. First I needed to make the dough. We had yeast, oil, salt, and sugar in the house. My host mom tipped me off to a farm up the street where I found an old couple that make their own flour. I traded some cucumbers for a good size sack and then headed off to the next stop. In the garden behind our apartment, I made similar trades with the neighbors for red bell peppers, mushrooms, and an eggplant. I then went into our garden plot where I picked, right off the vine, ten fresh tomatoes and a handful of basil. Italian cheeses are hard to come by, so that took quite a few phone calls and long walks to markets. I finally found some mozzarella and parmesan. Back at the apartment I took a few minutes to regroup with a nice cup of Russian tea. I had everything I needed, including step by step dough directions from the mastermind blogger of the urban kitchen transforming www.generationyfoodie.com, Dara Reppucci herself!
Dough proved to be an easy task. Luckily I am a seasoned vet at simmering up a fresh tomato sauce thanks to mom's directions last week, so I thought that I was on the right track. Now it was time to turn a heap of dough into pizza pies. Sounds easy... unless you dont have a rolling pin. Thats right, I embarked on the hour-long forearm workout of the century. After both figuratively and literally wrestling with pizza dough on the floor, I had three sort of pizza like flatbreads. Like the Russian cousin of Emeril Lagasse, I juggled various fresh toppings while dancing around to the Whitney Houton's greatest hits tape in the 1982 tape deck on top of the fridge. The answer is yes, Whitney did wanna dance with somebody on the other side of the iron curtain. If twenty five years ago Whitney made her way to Suzdal, then it is safe to say that her debut album made more of a diplomatic impact than anything attempted by Washington in 1985.
In the end, I made three pretty damn good pizzas. I also would like to say to mom... "Thank You!" I never really understood what cooking dinner for a family and then cleaning up afterwards really meant. I can now say with confidence that it sucks! To think that for twenty-one years you have worked a full day and then returned home to put a delicious meal on the table for your children, makes me want to faint from imaginative exhaustion. I never realized how much of a pain it is because you always made it seem so effortless! Kudos to you and to all the moms or dads who cook for their families everyday.
Though I am exhausted and will be only ordering pizza that some other poor shmuck has labored over from here on out, I must say that the huge smiles and rave reviews from Rimma and Sasha made my war againts the kitchen completely worth it and I can go to sleep tonight proudly asserting that, though I lost a few years on my life, I won the battle!
P.S. Mom, please do not interpret my sudden realization and appreciation for your efforts as a cry to cook and clean more around the house. My point is that, I can now say their is no shame in ordering a pizza!
Please, No More RAIN!!!
Each of the past three days, at 10am, I have met the contruction crew at the schoolyard, only to find soaking wet asphault and a continuous pulse of heavy rain. The cover is here from France, the hoops and nets are purchased and assembled, and most amazingly the contruction crew is hear and ready to work! Unfortunately this rain has put the project in a state of stagnation for the past six days!!!!! Tomorrow is the our last chance. The sun was out this afternoon and everyone in Suzdal has their fingers crossed for a dry night. If the rain will stay away, then tomorrow they will lay the cover and we will put up the new nets and hoops. Then Saturday they will paint the lines for basketball and volleyball. All we need is for tonight to be the first night of the week with no thunder and lightning!
Rain Rain Go Away!
Things have literally been soaking wet here in Suzdal for the past few days. Going into the weekend I was so excited: the cover material arrived from France, I had put together the new basketball hoops and soccer nets, and we had cleared a mini football field out of the overgrown brush next to the new court. Unfortunately, a violent storm came through Suzdal and actually ripped off part of the roof at the school. Obviously this situation took precedent over the project and the principal and school teachers had to address the situation of the flooding classrooms. Fortunately, everything got repaired over the weekend! As far as the project goes, the rain has halted everything. The playground cover can not be applied to wet asphault. This morning the contruction crew arrived but, after seeing the puddles all over the asphault, they had to pack up and go home. Right now it is simply a waiting game. We need a day of beautiful sunshine to dry the asphault so that they can begin. I have been trapped indoors for the last few days during this storm and have tried searching for every solution to the rain problem but to no avail. No matter how hard I try... I just can't control the weather!!!!!! Hopefully the sun will visit Suzdal tomorrow and things can get cracking once again.
Holy Cross Crusaders Invade Suzdal!
The crusaders invaded Suzdal for the weekend. It was awesome to have some friendly faces and english speakers to hang out with. They really loved Suzdal and this morning I took them to the school and showed them around. I took them out to the schoolyard and told them all about the project and what the next phases of construction are. It was great to have them here!!!
It Is About Time I Started Helping Around The House
Today was a hectic morning. Unfortunatey, Bank of America is not the most compatible with the local town bank. After four days of banking issues, 14 calls to Bank of America's international service number, and a half hour discussion with the head of Cberbank Moscow, I finally found a solution and was able to purchase the right type of check to pay for the next phase of the consturction project. Now having ordered the sports equipment and cover materials for the court, on Saturday more construction will commence to put the finishing touches on the new look for the school yard. After four days of headache, my host parents and I wanted to celebrate. As they went back to work for the afternoon, I set off to the markets. It took four stores before I found the necessary ingredients that my mother emailed to me this morning, mainly mozzarella cheese! I got to work at 4 pm today and by 7:30 pm the Italian feast was ready. On the job I learned how to debone a chicken and fillet breasts, mince garlic, and behead live shrimp. The result was a kitchen where a tomato fight might as well have taken place and some pretty darn good food: chicken parmesan, pasta in a tomato basil sauce with shrimp, and cheesy garlic bread. My Russian parents loved the italian food! Aferwards, I realized the dreadful flip side to cooking... cleaning!
After a full week of planning, organizing, and negotiating... construction has begun!!!! Right now they are ripping up all of the scattered chunks of asphault and foliage. The next step will be the big boy pictured below. It will steam roll everything level and then lay the new asphault base. This afternoon I will continue working out the nuances of the new cover that will be layed on top.
Shopping for Equipment
Today, the school principle and I had a meeting with a sports equipment manufactuer from Moscow. We have decided to purchase a foam matting cover for the basketball court. This cover will turn the court into a multi-purpose/ multi-sport court. This matting is very important to the project for multiple reasons. First, the new sports court will not only be used by the students of the school's new sports programs, but also by the kindergarten located behind the school. The cover will make the surface much more forgiving than the asphault beneath. This way even smal children can roll around and play on the court with out ripping up there hands and knees as they do on the current terrain they play on in the school yard. Secondly, the matting is made by a Russian company, which has designed it to hold very well in the winter. It is made from a material that hardens and becomes very tough and durable in the winter and during snowfall. Thirdly, this matting surface will have lines designated by color marking out a basketball court, volleyball court, and indoor soccer arena. It will turn a basketball court into a multi-purpose recreation area. There will be an area of open asphault for playground games like hopscotch and jump roping. Basketball hoops, a fold in volleyball net, and indoor soccer nets will make this an unbelievable resource to jumpstart the schools new sports programs. The principle and I were able to negotiate good prices and it looks like the money that SHCAB raised is going to do even more than we had hoped!
Every night this week I have walked down by the schoolyard after dinner and I have been surprised to find many young people kicking about soccerballs on the torn up asphault. The point is that the renovations to the school yard are going to serve the school's athletic programs, the kindergarden, and the entire community of Suzdal!