Week #2 in Siberia

Well, here I am struggling to believe I've only been in Siberia for two weeks - it feels like its been months already! I've seen and done so much that I can't believe it's all happened in two weeks, but maybe that's because I spent three days trying to recover from jet lag, and they were the longest three days of my life. I've done some pretty cool stuff - a tour of historic Irkutsk, exploring the central market and the city, getting lost on a bus at night, eating at a Lord of the Rings themed pub, a trip to Lake Baikal and the open air musuem of Толций (Toltsey), and getting enrolled and figuring out which classes to take. Of all the things I've done so far, the school part has been the most overwhelming (although for the first couple days, the fact that I really had no idea how to communicate anything beyonds extremely basic needs was frightening). I knew that I would be taking classes here, but for some reason, I thought I'd only be taking three or four. Instead, it turns out that in addition to the twelve hours I'll be spending every week in a class devoted only to learning Russian, I will also be taking six more classes, four of which will be in Russian. This is definitely going to be a test to see how fast I can learn.

So, besides the overwhelming class load, I can honestly say that almost all of my experiences thus far have been good, with the exception of getting lost at night on the wrong bus, which I strongly reccommend avoiding. It is truly beautiful here - Irkutsk is a pretty city, and the surrounding countryside is gorgeous. I've taken almost as many pictures of the trees and flowers as I have of historical buildings and statues. I do have to say that I am amazed that this city has so much history - it celebrate its 350 year anniversary last year. Mind boggling that this city is older than our country, isn't it? I'm so used to being in the boring U.S., where the history is so common and well known, that being in a city that has this much history is amazing. I forget sometimes that the United States is a relatively young country, compared to the countries of Europe and Asia. And being so close to one of the world's largest fresh water lake is also quite different for me, since I've only ever lived in land locked states. But Lake Baikal is literally big enough to be a sea - standing in Листвянка (Listvyanka) and looking out over Lake Baikal is just like standing on a beach in Florida in and looking out over the Atlantic ocean - unless the weather is amazingly clear, you can't see the mountains on the other side of the lake. Water goes on forever and meets the horizon - it gives me that sense of standing on the edge of the world. I will definitely be going back to Lake Baikal, and I'm looking forward to many more adventures as I explore Irkutsk and the surrounding countryside.

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