Category Archives: 2016 – Russia – Trip Log

2016 Trip Starts Soon

2016 Trip Starts Soon

Greetings and welcome to the 2016 trip log.  The trip gets underway on June 24th.  After that, we hope to have an update at least once a day but the team gets busy and sometimes they don’t have time to write an update.

So stay tuned to this channel for the latest on the 2016 Bainbridge Island-Kitezh trip to Russia.

Tomorrow is the day!

Tomorrow is the day!

Tomorrow is the start of the team’s Russian adventure!

Everyone will meet at the front of the Ferry Terminal at 9:15am for pictures and goodbye’s.  Then it is off to Russia!

The first flight is Lufthansa 491 departing at 2:00 and arriving about 10 hours later.  Then Lufthansa 1448 departing at 12:20 local time (3:20 am PST) and arriving about 3 hours later in Moscow at 4:30 local time (6:30 am Saturday morning PST).  Moscow is GMT+3 or 10 hours ahead of Bainbridge.

I sent this message out to the email list.  If you think you should have gotten it check your spam filter and if you still can’t find it let me know and I’ll see what might be going on.  If you haven’t signed up for the list but want to go here:


And they’re off…

And they’re off…

The team successfully managed to get to the airport, eat something and get on the plane.

Here they are at the ferry terminal showing off their red sweatshirts.


Here they are waiting at the gate.




They have arrived safely in Germany.  Now they wait  about 3 hours until 12:30 local time for the flight to Moscow.  Weather in Frankfurt is about what it was here when they left, 67 and light rain.  Weather looks good to Moscow.

A selfie in Frankfurt's airport.

A selfie in Frankfurt’s airport. (Yes, they took it upside down.  I don’t know what the mural is all about but I like the guy’s mustache.)

In Moscow

In Moscow

The team has arrived in Moscow and is in a “super long line” for passport control.  Next up, they will go through customs, then meet up with the Kitezh representative and start the long drive to Kitezh.  When they get there I’ll send out an update – maybe around noon Pacific time.

Kitezh at last

Kitezh At Last

The team has arrived at Kitezh where it is a little before 11:00pm.  After almost 28 hours of traveling I’m sure they will want a good night’s sleep though Loretta said most of them slept for the van ride from Moscow.  The hard part is over.

Travel and First Day in Kitezh

Travel and First Day in Kitezh – 26 June

Loretta sent a message about the travel day and their first day in Kitezh:

We got through Seattle security after waiting well under an hour. Our plane was on time and the flight was as good as a 10 hour flight can be. We had three hours in Germany. Our flight to Moscow was just under three hours and was spent asleep or at least “resting our eyes.”

We waited at least an hour to get through passport control in Russia, but by that time our bags were going round and round waiting for us. Customs was an easy walk through as no one had anything to declare.

Our ride to Kitezh was waiting. We also had Andrew (a Kitezh teacher who has been teaching English there for 20 years) and Lena ( a program teen* returning for the games). We left the airport at 6:10 pm and arrived at Kitezh at 11 pm. Dinner, tea and teens (and some adults) were waiting for us when we arrived. After some food and housing assignments, we all took showers and went to bed – it was after midnight.

First day in Kitezh

Despite the heat and bugs, we had a really good first day.  We meet for breakfast at 10. We worked from 10:30 to 12 (wiping sweat and swatting bugs – now referenced as WSSB ), toured Kitezh from 1-2 (WSSB). Had lunch at 2. Met with the other teens at 3 for a “get to know you” session. Worked from 4:30 -6 (WSSB). Had dinner at 6. Teens played soccer at 7 (WSSB) while Michael and I met with other people to plan out our cultural exchange events. Teens met at 8 to finish up the aforementioned “get to know you” session. At 9 BI-K met alone to discuss our day, etc. At 9:30 we went to various homes for tea. It is 11:30 now and Olivia, Kathryn and I are showering, writing and getting ready for bed. It was a very full day.  We sweated and swatted and built fire pits and cleaned camp sites and collected herbs for tea and sweated and swatted and made clay medallions and made tea balls and raked and sweated and swatted and relaid wood plank walkways and sweated and swatted. Everyone did a fabulous job!

*”Program teens” or “program kids” are kids who spend the school year in Kitezh living with the residents.  It is like boarding school but they live with the families of the residents instead of in dormitories.

If you are curious about their weather you can look up Baryatino, Kaluga Oblast, Russia for a forecast.  That is the nearest town which is 5 miles south of Kitezh.

Here are some photos she sent:

“Getting to know you” sessions were held in the new school building:

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Working on a fire pit:

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Hanging out waiting to get working, pulling weeds and presumably sweating and swatting.

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Cultural Exchange – Monday, 27 June

Cultural Exchange – Monday, 27 June

The team got some more classroom time today.  This time it was about stereotypes of people from USA, Russia, Great Britain and China. There are currently some long term volunteers in Kitezh from China and Great Britain.

In this activity, the kids (all nationalities) created labels they associated with countries and cultures in USA, Russia, GB and China.  Then they tried to figure out which country is being described by each of the labels.  In round two, they did a similar activity where they had to describe characteristics of individuals from the same countries.

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Kitezh Day 2 – Monday, 27 June

Kitezh Day 2 – Monday, 27 June

Loretta sent this dispatch:

We started today at 8:45 with group warmup although it was pretty warm already. Because the day was to be another hot one, we started our outside work earlier. From 9-10 we made banya brushes* out of birch branches. These brushes will be used when we have a banya one night this week.  A banya is very traditional Russian bathhouse and usually includes a steam room session and a shower. The banya in Kitezh has a room for tea, a huge shower and a steam room. The banya is used for socializing as much as for health reasons. The females will go one night and the males another.


They are all smiling… I’m not sure they know what the “brushes” are for yet.


At 10 we had our breakfast. We continued to work on the brushes from 10:30 – 12. It was super hot and, if possible, buggier than the day before. It seemed like a new biting bug joined the biting horse flies and mosquitoes. At 12 there was suppose to be sprinklers set up to cool people down. I told the kids to either go into the sprinklers or to rinse off in a shower to get some of the sweat that the bugs love off of their bodies. Well….the pumps were broken. Kitezh got a new pump last year. Both the old pump and the new pump broke. We had no water. So no sprinklers and no showers.


Kitezh has a large cat population. Russian cats are apparently just like American cats.


The rest of the day was spent having a meeting to learn about the Role Play game, meeting with the other teens for cultural exchange exercises, [see Cultural Exchange, Monday 27 June] having lunch and dinner. Afternoon work was canceled because of the water issue.

Meeting in "the Big House" to talk about the games.

Meeting in “the Big House” to talk about the games.

Our evening group meeting was full of laughter and jokes (and some people having a hard time staying awake) despite the heat of the day and the bugs. The kids have been troupers!  Their positive attitudes, flexibility, and willingness to do what needs to be done despite the heat and bugs (have I mentioned the bugs?) has been fabulous!

Volleyball in the much cooler evening.

Volleyball in the much cooler evening.

There are about 15 volunteer teens from Moscow for this week. Since we were only going to be here one week for prep, they thought they would need the extra help. About half are leaving at the end of the week. The other half stay for the games.

PS: After writing this I realized it sounds like we have no drinking water. Rest assured that we do. We should also have shower water by the morning.

*”Banya brushes” are birch branches bundled together.  While in the steam room, the Russians like to have someone beat them with a brush.  This sounds rather unpleasant but it isn’t and many kids who have experienced a real banya think it might be one of the best parts of being in Russia.  They might want to build one when they get home.

Kitezh Day 3 – 28 June

Kitezh Day 3 – 28 June

Loretta sent this:

Today was another very full day. We woke to much cooler temps with an overcast sky that turned partly cloudy later in the day. It was weather we all loved! But best of all we had WATER!! (Later in the day it did go away for a few hours but we got it back.)

The "Soviet" look

The “Soviet” look

Morning warmup started at 8:45 and then work began at 9. There was a lot of weeding, moving lumber, and making clay medallions.  We took a break at 10 for breakfast then worked from 10:30 to 12. From 12-1 was free time. At 1:00 we ha a session with Serge who talked to us about the history of Kitezh and the appropriate way to deal with the smaller children*. Lunch was at 2. At 3 we got together for our cultural exchange (more about that later).

Putting up tents for the kids attending the games.

Putting up tents for the kids attending the games.


We worked from 4:30- 6 pitching tents, weeding and making even more medallions. Dinner at 6. Volleyball at 7 for teens and a meeting for Loretta and Michael. At 8 we had a great sing along. We sang American songs and Russian songs and a Scottish song. We also did the Hokey Pokey. We had a group meeting at 9 and tea in the Big House at 9:30. It is midnight now and we are still up.

Stella and Olivia on kitchen clean up duty.

Stella and Olivia on kitchen clean up duty.

The cultural exchange part of our day is when all the teens get together and have exercises designed to get them thinking about the world at large and/or to introduce them to something new from another country. There are a few long term volunteers here from the US, the UK and China. They design (with input from Loretta and Michael) the cultural exchange program. Sunday our exchange was playing a name game and breaking up into groups for get to know you exercises. Yesterday we talked about stereotypes of the US, the U.K., China and Russia.  (See Cultural Exchange – Monday – 27 June) Stereotypical traits were put on sticky notes and then placed on the countries. Discussions were had about these traits. Some were flattering, others not so much. Today was about music or dance. Since Kathryn is a cheerleader and cheering is very American, she taught everyone a cheer. Sofia (from the UK) taught a traditional Scottish dance called a Ceilidh. We will have cultural exchange exercises for the next three days.

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They got to move/stack a bunch of lumber.

They got to move/stack a bunch of lumber.

As you can see, we are very busy.

Playing some Uno during some down time.

Playing some Uno during some down time.

*Kitezh is very deliberate about everything that they do and how they act towards the foster kids.  When the kids are young they often have bad habits that they have learned before coming to Kitezh.  Even though we are only there for two weeks, they want our group to be part of this learning process and not allow the younger kids to get away with any bad habits or behavior that isn’t allowed.  By the time the Kitezh kids are in their early teens, they are quite sophisticated in their social interactions and advanced in their education.  Our kids often guess that they are quite a bit older than they actually are because of this.