AFRF Newsletter, January 2016
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American Friends
of Russian Folklore


Welcome to our Newsletter!

Happy New Year!

With Russia in the news, we want to share with you more about what we've been doing, as well as our plans for the coming year. In 2014 and 2015, we sent 31 American school teachers to Russia as part of our Peer-to-Peer Russian American Educators' Exchange.  The State Department grant provided funding for them to exchange folklore and meet with their Russian counterparts.  The grant also provided for two Russian teachers to visit schools in Colorado in May, while 2 additional teachers came to Wisconsin in September.

Observations of an American high school teacher -

John Baldridge, a high school teacher from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, participated in the RAEE Christmas exchange.

There, he found that he was "deeply touched by the kindness of the Russian people. They are such a misunderstood society. As an American, I possessed certain preconceived ideas and stereotypes of Russians, yet I visited their country with an open mind, ready and willing to learn everything I could about Russia and change my perspective if necessary."  Continue reading...
A message from our president, David Galloway.

Dear Friend,
Добро пожаловать! Welcome to our inaugural newsletter! The AFRF Board of Directors is pleased to initiate this communication with volunteers both past and future to keep you updated on our activities and expeditions which we invite you to join. This is an exciting new venture for us, and a way to stay connected to our expedition alumni and supporters. We welcome comments on the issue via email ( as well as suggestions for future content.

Since 2007, American Friends of Russian Folklore has
sponsored 16 expeditions, sending nearly 60 volunteers to document the rituals, stories, folk art, and objects of daily life in Russian villages stretching from the western borders to Siberia. And of course, volunteers not only have contributed to serious academic research through their efforts, but have also established warm personal relationships with the residents of these villages, many of which continue well past the end of the expedition.
These last two years have been especially busy for us. With grant support from the United States/Russia Peer-to-Peer Dialogue program, we sent American teachers into Russian rural schools to teach about American folklore.  Before going home, the American teachers collected Russian folklore to incorporate into their curriculum back in the States. Four Russian teachers were able to make reciprocal visits to US schools. We are proud to say that 44 teachers, 28 Russian schools, and more than 40 American schools were involved in our program. Now that the grant activity is winding down, we are returning to our more typical practice of organizing expeditions which are open to all.
As we approach our tenth year of work, we’d like to issue a fresh invitation to those of you who’ve traveled with us to consider another expedition. Or, if that’s not possible, please inform your friends and colleagues of the opportunity and encourage them to consider such an experience. If you are a teacher or professor and wish to arrange an expedition around a student group, we are eager to do so and invite your proposals. Finally, if you are a professional folklore researcher, we can design an expedition around your research areas and help locate volunteers to assist with your work.
Thank you for your support and enthusiasm. Our volunteers are the heart of AFRF and have allowed us to continue supporting Russian folklore research over the years. We hope to see you on a future expedition!
On behalf of the Board of Directors,
David J. Galloway
Tara Ann Carter with students from Ust’-Buzulukskaya Stanitsa
To celebrate our Russian American Educators Exchange, AFRF sat down with former participant, Tara Ann Carter, a literature and social sciences educator from Philadelphia, PA to talk about her experience traveling to Volgograd Province, where she shared curricula on the folkways of Mennonite and Amish communities of her home state. She came back with more than just teaching material on Russian folkways to share with her US classroom.
What drew you to apply for the exchange?
Personally I’m very interested in global cultures and exploring the world, and as a teacher I feel it’s important for students to gain a global perspective. It’s even more of a focus in my current position as a teacher at an International Baccalaureate school. I do my best to expose students to perspectives from all over the world, including Russia. I’ve found the best way for me to get perspectives, stories, and experiences to share in the classroom is to go meet with other teachers and speak with other professionals about what they do and combine it with my perspective from the American classroom.
What were your impressions of your Russian peers and how the schools operate?
No matter where you are, teachers are the same. Teachers are birds of a feather. The teachers we met in the village were interested and engaged. They spent their own time learning about us and talking to us. We also had a chance to discuss how they spent their own time developing lessons for their students in the same way that we do this in America, and we all agreed on how there’s never enough time in the day! They had similar experiences that there’s a constant demand from the powers that be, that we, as teachers, are having to navigate and negotiate while doing the best job we know how to do. At the end of the day—I’ve said this to almost every teacher I’ve met—teachers are teachers, we're the same. To continue reading...
Congratulations to our Scholarship Winner!

Amy Bruer, who is currently a candidate for an MA in photojournalism at the University of Missouri School of Journalism, joined last summer's expedition team to Siberia. In addition to her photos, a few of which you see below, she will be creating a film from what she experienced.

To read her impressions of her time in the village of Akhiny, please continue reading.
Photos of Akhiny by Amy Bruer
Would you like to come to Russia in 2016?

Have you always wanted to visit Kamchatka? We are offering a unique opportunity during summer of 2016 to travel to Kamchatka --- on Russia's Pacific coast --- with Dr. Yelena Minyonok, where you will document the folklore of the ethnic Russian population in the village of Milkovo and enjoy the area's stunning natural beauty. (Application deadline: March 1, 2016)

Perhaps you'd prefer to see western Russia, where you can visit the tiny village of Luzhnaya (Smolensk province), and help record the excellent local singers and musicians, as well as document the village communal candle ritual. In June, there will be an expedition to Sagutievo village in Bryansk province, to document the springtime "Drema" festival. Or travel to Siberia and join us in the Belarusian village of Akhiny, where we will continue last year's research project to document songs and stories. Wherever our folklore expeditions take you, you can count on a front-row seat as you help to record myths, songs, rituals and family traditions.  For more information ....
Please consider a donation so that American Friends of Russian Folklore can continue this important work. Every dollar makes a difference!
Donate now....
Copyright © 2016 American Friends of Russian Folklore, A California Nonprofit Public Benefit Corporation, All rights reserved.

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