Where Am I? I Am Home!

Rischa Indira Sabrina (INA AFS to Russia YP 16–17)

Здравствуйте! [ˈzdrastvʊjtʲe] Time does fly. It still feels surreal for me now, that I have been here for five months and that this newsletter is just a friendly reminder that my time here, in the land of “Masha and The Bear” is slowly but surely running out. From the sun that kisses your forehead gently while whispering, ‘good morning, sweetheart’ to the sun that comes bashfully. From the fields that were once green and brown to these blinking white glitter-like lands when the sunlight shyly touches the soft and uneven surface, all dominated in white. From when the thermometer shows only the number to when the thermometer needs the minus to complete the whole equation. From when you only need a pair of jackets to when you need a whole lot more layers of clothing just to make sure you do not freeze in the challenging temperature of Russian winter (and yes, thankfully, I have the chance to experience the amazing frost of Russia. It was about 36–40°C when the frost came in and me, Bianda, Taufan and Naufal were all still in Moscow for AFS Winter Social Project 2017. Yes, miracles do happen. It was one of the coldest Christmas nights in the last 120 years as was quoted from a meteorologist from Fobos weather center and as cited by RIA Novosti.) It has always been such a great honor and blessing for me to have the chance to witness all these amazing phenomenons and be a part of this endlessly surprising journey while having the chance to be an ambassador for a such great nation that has raised the little Rischa to this Rischa that is now miles and miles away from her beloved country, Indonesia.

These past 5 months had definitely taught me a lot. A lesson that is not only written in pages but furthermore, a lesson of life. I have grown to know this ‘at-first bizarre and new’ place to the place I can proudly call, home. “Home isn’t a place, it’s a feeling” -Cecelia Ahern, Love, Rosie. As cliché as it may sounds, I can now finally understand what Cecilia Ahern was trying to say in one of her famous quotes. The feeling of comfort and safety around the people that you love is what creates the feeling of ‘home’ as it is. Living here, in Russia for five months has definitely given me the chance to open my eyes and heart more, so that they can fit more people in it. Both of my families; my natural family and my host family are one of the most important parts of this journey. They are the ones that had always been there to love and support me through all the good and rough days here. As the season changed and the days passed, we are now not only ‘Rischa and her host-family’, but an important part of each other’s life. They are the ones that made this place best-called ‘my other home away from home’, as they are also the main reason why I feel ‘at-home’ in the first place. Along the way, I also met my other very important family; The AFS family. From it, I made new friends from both Russia and all over the world. It is such an amazing feeling to get connected with each other and share thoughts about how a simple thing, such as school life or local cultures can be such a different situation in one another, yet somehow similar with the people from such a diverse variety of backgrounds. It turns out that difference is instead not a very good reason to live in chaos and intolerance; instead, it is the reason why we should all live hand-in-hand with each other in peace.

Not only did I gain much more understanding and love for this place and its people these past few months, I also experienced lots of new and amazing things that I haven’t experienced before. These are a few highlights of these past five months; the New Year’s Eve, my first ever Russian Christmas and The Winter Social Project 2017. Those are the moments that I will definitely, forever keep in my heart. New Year’s Eve is of course, one of the most eagerly awaited times by almost everyone in the world, and so does for the Russians. That moment, me and my family gathered around the table that was already beautifully set with lots of mouth-watering home-made foods and Петуха (read: pittukha) or rooster pictures as the main decoration. According to Russian beliefs, Roosters are indeed, a sign of good luck and so therefore, by displaying the roosters, the year after is believed to be flooded with joy and good luck. Then we played some Russian traditional games while waiting for the Kremlin bell to chime and Vladimir Putin to deliver his signature New Year’s Eve speech. After the bell finally rang and Putin had delivered his speech, we then raised our glasses (I got juice in my glass) and cheered for a new exciting beginning ahead of us.

The Winter Social Project 2017 is definitely one of my favorite moments as well. We (me, Bianda, Taufan and Naufal) got the chance to be a support team for that event and go to Moscow to introduce Indonesia as well as getting to know more about the other countries. We also taught them how to introduce themselves in Indonesian language, played Indonesian 17 Agustus-an (Indonesian Independence day)’s games and teach some traditional dances like Saman and Sajojo. They are very interested at how a variety of hand movements in Saman Dance can be such a beautiful dynamics when it is done with a large number of people. I can now agreeably acknowledge the anonymous hypothesis that says, the further you go; the prouder you are of your home country, and yes, it is indeed true. This journey made me realize that even though I already had another home away from home now, I will always have Indonesia tattooed on my heart wherever I go. It also happened that this was my first ever white Russian Christmas. As was said before, not only did we saw snow on the Christmas day, we also experience the amazing -40°C Russian Frost. Yes, once again it was -40°C. It may sounds petrifying, but trust me, even in the temperature as cold as that, with a cup of hot tea and a good company, just like what Elsa said in her famous movie quotes, ’the cold never bothers me anyway’.

Slightly different than any other countries in the world, most Russians do not celebrate the Christmas day on the 25th of December, instead the Russian Orthodox Christmas is held on the night of 6th January. It was just another amazing day. After a long tiring day on the 6th January, we finally went to bed late that night. At around 2 a.m. in the morning, Bianda and I were woken up by the loud noise of people singing “Коляда (read: Kolyada) and dancing in traditional Russian costumes. And yes, that was just the beginning of this Christmas’ festivity. Then we had to play and win some Russian traditional games in order to get a free Blini and a cup of hot tea; a classic Russian combination, perfect for a frosty day. For those who do not know, Blini is a traditional Russian pancake that is usually served with either jam or condensed milk. I just love Blini and Russian celebrations. They are just loud, colorful and vibrant.

As was quoted from one of Russia’s famous sayings, “Без труда́ не вы́тащишь и ры́бку из пруда́” (read: bez truda ne vitashisy i ribku iz pruda) which means without effort, you can’t even pull a fish out of the pond. Life will not always be as smooth as the newly fallen snow, but living in here for five months has taught me to not easily give up on life and always see the bright side (because God and the one you love will always be there for you wherever you are). Because after all, even the stars above need darkness to shine, so just keep on shining, shimmering stars!

Rischa Indira Sabrina, Kostroma, Russia.