Pushkinskyii Shopping Mall, Kursk- Shopping Heaven!

So there's this new shopping mall that opened up in Kursk not too long ago, it kinds functions as the hang out spot for the young nowadays. I myself am not someone who indulge in his capitalistic inclination, so I don't go there to 'hang' except when absolutely necessary.

Anyway, here I present you, Pushkinskaja Shopping Mall:

Scene 1. The case of Frosty- the patriotic snow man.

Scene 2. The case of the hanging contraceptives, I meant, ornaments.

Hanging from the ceiling of the shopping mall are beautiful decorations, boughs of holly, stars, moons and angles. But from the bottom looking up, you go, what is that? Is that a bird? Is that a plane? No that's _______ (fill in the blanks with what you think you see, be creative!).

Scene 3. The case of Tina Fey- the wonder woman!

Seen in a prominent corner of the shopping mall, on display in a shop, selling spectacles.

Wow! Now Tina Fey can add 'spokesmodel for a lower-end Russian-brand spectacle company' to her long list of accomplishments (which already includes actress, comedian, screen writer, producer, mother, etc). Super Woman indeed!

In case you're interested, this is also a picture I took during my day out here in Kursk. Seen in a billboard advertisement:
Translation: Bowling, for students! Pay 50% less!


Christmas Charity Concert, Kursk: Part Deux A Full Report

Christmas Charity Concert, Kursk: Part Deux

After 2 long months of our charity drive, we ended up raising 24, 300 rubles! That was a vast improvement from last year! In fact we raised 5 times the amount that we did last year (Read about the drive last year here). All thanks to the hard work of various students and organizations who helped out in every way imaginable.

Anyway, on December 26th, 1 day after our christmas celebration. We rented 4 buses an brought approximately 6 children from the orphanage at Prospekt Druzhbei 5 to the Concert Hall in our University, where we had a concert just for them.

the children arriving in the concert hall

the crowd in attendance

So the event started at 3pm, and as was the case last year, I was the MC of the day.

me emceeing po-russki (in Russian)

During the concert we attempted to portray to the children the different aspects and different cultures of the students studying in the University, and so we invited students from different nationalities to prepare some performances which might be eye-opening to the children.

The performances included
1. Dragon 9, a pretty established band performed a christmas song, 'Carol of the Bells' and 'Yue Ya Wan' or Moonlight Creek, a song made famous by F.I.R.

2. I gave the children a simple geography test, and invited some children onstage to point out some countries on the map, all of whom received a pack of chocolate as a gift.

3. A stunning performance performed by a Sri Lankan student and a Malaysian student, the Pharaoh and Isis Phoenix dance, equipped with props and costumes to enhance the whole performance.

4. Julian and Andrea, these two Brazilian friends of mine, prepared this slide show presentation of Brazil, showing different pictures depicting the country, buildings, cities, popular monuments, food, people, etc.

5. Lana and Tarsis, another two Brazilian friends, teamed up with Jason, Diana and Mex to perform a musical rendition of the Josh Groban's song, 'You Raise Me Up'.

6. Shola, a Nigerian girl, prepared a slide show presentation of Nigeria, also with pictures depicting different aspects of the life of a Nigerian.

7. 3 Nigerian girl then performed a cultural dance to the song 'the Miracle song'.

8. We had an interactive game with the children. I introduced the children to our own Kung-fu Master 'Bruce Lee'. As usual, the children were all enthusiastic to see another Kung-fu performance. At first I asked the children to sit patiently while I call onstage our Kung-fu master. I hollered out, 'oooooooooohhhhh!!!!' 'Oooooooooooh!!' At which point the background music played, 'Everybody goes Kungfu fighting!' That was when Jason burst onto stage to wow the crowd. The children were laughing the whole time.

'I AM BRUCE LEE' huffs Jason

We invited 4 children onstage, and as Jason shows some Kung fu moves, the children were asked to follow after. It was hilarious! The whole audience were practically on stitches watching the children perform. But anyway, I did explain in Russian, 'you need to promise me that you won't be fighting with other children, understand that this is only a game!' I didn't want any fights to break out because of this!

9. Jason, Qi Jie, Jack, Ming and a junior, Ashton (who received Shao Lin Kung-fu training) went onstage to give an awesome Martial Arts performace to the thunderous applause of the children.

10. Janeth, a Sri Lankan student, went onstage to present a slide presentation on Sri Lanka.

11. Sandun, my neighbour, performed the Candle Crown dance.

12. An 8 minute movie clip on Malaysia and its various cultures, traditions, ways of life and so forth.

13. Abigail choreographed a dance routine to 'All That Jazz' from the musical 'Chicago'. It was a very well choreographed performance with plenty of cheeky and entertaining moments, enough to keep the children clapping the whole way through.

14. A tutor working in the orphanage, Mdm. Elena Vladimirovna, took the stage to present the next few performance, the first, a girl singing a Russian children song.

15. Her sister accompanied her onstage to perform another singing performance.

16. 4 boys appeared onstage for, of all things, a break dance performance. I must admit at this point, I was screaming so loud cheering them on! You should see the video clip of their performance. They did things I thought only profesionals could do, two boys could run a short distance then propel himself skyward, do a 360 spin and land squarely on his feet! One boy did a headstand, another handstand. Then at one point, 2 guys hoisted 2 of his friends into the air, at which point the both of them did another 360 spin at least 6 feet in the air!!! My jaws dropped at this point! And all of them have been 12 year old! One I thought looked maybe 8, 9!

17. Another singing performance from one of the elder girls.

18. GAME TIME! We asked for 7 children from the crowd to pair up with 7 of our foreign students.

Each team are given a piece of newspaper. At first, the music starts (I like to move it move it! from Madagascar) at which point you and your partner must dance. Then I yell 'STOP!' at which point the music stops and immediately the countdown begins from 10 to 0. During this time you must fold the newspaper in half and by 0, both of you must return to the newspaper. The team that fails to do that loses.

Anyway, pictures are worth a million words so just check out the following pictures for yourself.

19. The last surprise of the day is Santa Claus and the Snow Maiden (the Russian version of Santarina, the Snow Maiden is the Russian Santa Claus' granddaughter) who came on stage to distribute gifts to the children, packets of candies and confectionaries and a gift package of 2 exercise books, pencils, a 6pcs colouring pencil, an eraser, a ruler and a pencil sharpener.

Following which we invited the representatives from the orphanage onstage to receive the gifts that we prepared for the children.

20. We invited the Children onstage to accompany the Christmas carolers during the finale.

The concert lasted 2 hours. And at the end, the bus came back and picked them up to send them back to the orphanage.

As we were lifting boxes of gifts into the buses, the children were thanking us profusely and wishing us Happy New Year. You kind of feel this sense of satisfaction, that your goal, after 2 long months, was reached.

Also, these children are the MOST polite, kind children I have encountered. Before the concert I had the chance to speak to a few of them and you should have seen the earnest in their eyes as they reply you. Then, after the concert ended, I've heard of two stories where my friends were saying- those children who won chocolates during the events, when they left stage, they didn't hesitate to share their prize with their friends. In fact one boy broke his bar of chocolate immediately, took only ONE piece, and then distributed the rest to all of his friends. Stories like these are the ones that really break your heart into pieces...

Anyway, I really have to thank everyone who was involved in the success of the concert, from the performers (some like Jason, who performed FOUR times in 2 hours, Abigail, Sandun and Diana who choreographed dances or had to write musical score not once but TWICE, some like Lana, the Brazilian girl who had exam on the day but attended anyway, all of those who never hesitated in performing and SO MANY MORE it will probably take me hours to list them out), the also those who helped out in the background with distributing gifts, taking care of the PA system, decoration, backstage crews, ushers, Photographer, Video Cameraman and many many more.

Just thank you very very very much!

Anyway, also not to mention those who helped out during the two month long charity drive. I know this will sound corny, but this is the absolute truth- I kind of felt a sense of pride that the students who helped out came from all different walks of lives, from different religious and racial background, and did this selflessly to achieve one goal- to give the children a memorable experience. This drive really wouldn't have been such a great success if it wasn't for each and every single one of them.

Barbecued Chicken Dumpling

Jane's Haircut Service

Handmade Christmas Cards and Friendship Trinkets

Chicken Dumpling

Personalized mobile phone pouches

Fried Chicken Wings

Indian flat bread and Malaysian Fragrant Rice

Our Stall during a recent Malaysian Student Food Fest

At the end of the drive, we raised a total of 24, 300 rubles. And we stayed true to our promise- every single cent from the money raised were spent ENTIRELY on the children. We didn't even use up a single cent for the decorations, etc!

1. Transport to and from the orphanage

2. A packet of juice and a packet of Russian snacks for each of the children

3. Presents - 11 bars of chocolate and 2 gift packets to the winners of some of the interactive events during the game

4. A wrapped present of 2 exercise books, pencils, an eraser, a ruler, a pencil sharpener and a box of 6pcs colour pencil for each of the children

5. Candies and confectioneries for each of the children

6. Toys for the girls
Playsets, make up kits, dolls

7. Sport equipments and toys for the boys
Footballs, volleyball, table tennis rackets and ping pong balls, kites, badminton rackets and shuttlecocks.

8. Games and Activities for both boys and girls
Frisbees, Snow/Sand scoops, Puzzles, Bowling ball set, chess sets, Monopoly (Manager) game set

9. Books catering to children of all ages

10. Diapers
Diapers of different sizes for the toddler and infant orphanage from Ulitsa Puchkovka, 38

I would like to end this report by referring all of you to this organization that I chanced upon while researching about Russian orphanages. Click here- http://www.invisible-children.org/english/ to find out more information. Basically it is an organization that seeks for mentors through a penpal/correspondence for the children in the different orphanages in Russia.

Most of the children 'graduate' (in actuality, they just simply have to leave when they reach a certain age) from the orphanage, some of them will turn to drugs, some to illegal things, some commit suicide, some will commit crime and get themselves into jail just so they have a place to spend the night and have their meals taken cared for. By providing the children with mentors, they get to learn from a figure, who knows them and cares for them and provide them with the undivided attention that they deserve.

Click on the following link to read about the goal for this organization. http://www.invisible-children.org/english/2slova.html

I personally signed up immediately after the concert, and now have a mentored boy who lives in the orphanage here in Kursk. It really doesn't take a lot out of you. Those who are interested please contact them by sending an email to this address.

E-mail: kinderhilfe@gmail.com

ICQ: 490-002-883

Also, the children speak only in Russian, so if you do not speak Russian, if possible, try to get someone to translate on your behalf.

That's all for now, ciao!

===End of Christmas Charity Drive: Part Deux===
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