Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Hot tea and waffles

It is a chilly day in surprise lately. This morning it rained, but coming home from work tonight the clear, crisp, fall air was refreshing. I am sitting at home drinking a cup of tea and eating a delicious waffle. It is not a normal waffle that you eat in the morning with eggs and bacon, but a small, round European waffle filled with syrup. You make a hot cup of coffee or tea and set the waffle on top. In a couple minutes the syrup has warmed and you can eat a delightful pastry with your cup of Earl Grey. I'm obsessed!

I can hardly believe that I have been here for a full term of school already. I am giving my students their 1st term assessments this week and it has been challenging to say the least. My school runs differently than most schools--even other Russian schools. There is not a required number of days that students must attend, so I have had students go away for two weeks on vacation and there is no need for them to do make up work. And here, when students or teachers get sick, they must stay out of school until the doctor signs off saying that their illness is completely gone. So they'll be out for a couple weeks often--and again, no make-up work. This seems ridiculous to me as a teacher. With break coming up, I have planned for assessments and been preparing my students for it--giving them the schedule well in advance. The day before the test, a couple kids say, "Well I am leaving for Dubai/Maldives tomorrow, so I won't be here." Thanks, kids. Teaching here is an adventure for sure--and a real look into the lives of the zolotoya molodezh, or "the golden youth."

I am just as anxious for break as the kids, however. I have decided to do a little traveling for my fall break. I will be going to Estonia and Finland with a few friends this coming Saturday and we will be gone a week. We are taking an overnight train to Tallinn, Estonia and the Russians all tell me to have no happy expectations. We are going 3rd class and it might be kinda rough, but it will be a story to tell regardless:) We will be in Tallinn for 3 days and then take the ferry to Helsinki and stay there for a couple of nights, then take the train back again on Friday night. As bad as I am about blogging, I promise to put up a few pictures and tell a few stories about my time there.

But before my lovely break I have some work to do. I am technically supposed to turn in all my lesson plans for next term by Friday. So I best get working! I have turned on my Jethro Tull Christmas album, which is brilliant by the way, have re-heated water for more tea, and now need to force myself to do lovely planning.

Shisliva y paka!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

High heels, mullets, flowers and chocolate

How is it possible to love life so much? There are so many things in this country that could cause discouragement, homesickness, frustration, exasperation, and headaches, yet despite it all I am in love with this place and with my life. I have been very sick for the last three weeks with a sinus infection, but somehow it has not deterred me from enjoying school, hanging out with people, and seeing sites.

The culture here is so fascinating. There are so many things that make me smile—on the inside of course. People don’t smile here very much, but I will admit that it is one of my favorite things about this place. They appear very serious on the outside, but they are very friendly enjoyable people. I also love the fact that they are quiet. You can have a very big crowd in a public place but it won’t be very loud because everyone speaks quietly and they don’t draw attention to themselves. This is excluding futbol matches, of course.

All the women wear high heels—all the time. They are amazing with their balance as they will stand with no support on the metro and remain standing up. I am not quite that talented. I can stand alone in the metro, but not with high heels. I find that I too though wear high heels much more. I have not yet worn anything but high heels at work and my feet are becoming accustomed to it.

Mullets are the other thing that are very popular here—don’t ask me why. They are not usually very long mullets, but are short (what my friends call Euro mullets). Nonetheless they weird me out.

Muscovites are really into appearances. Most people don’t believe me when I say they are very fashionable people, but they are (at least in Moscow). I feel that little by little I am feeling more like a city girl. I am feeling much more comfortable on the Metro. I’ve not yet taken any pictures in the metro, but it is an incredible place. The marble, the chandeliers, the stained glass, the statues, the paintings are amazing. Taking the metro is like going into a museum.

School is still going well. I am feeling a little more settled in with what I am supposed to be doing. The students are really fun and I am glad I teach 5th grade because I can actually speak with them. By 5th grade most of them know a lot of English. One of my roommates teaches preschool and kindergarten and she frequently mentions how hard it is to never really talk with the kids because they hardly know any English at that point.

Teacher’s Day is also coming up. It is October 5th and is a big day all over Russia. Students bring gifts to their teachers, and it normally consists of flowers and chocolate—two of the most popular things in the country. Teacher’s Day isn’t until next week, yet I have already received a couple big bouquets of flowers and several cards. The students at my school are also extremely wealthy so they tend to bring very expensive gifts. One of my roommates has already received Dior makeup and Prada perfume. Theater tickets, gift certificates, alcohol, electronic gadgets and tea are also very common gifts. In America these things would be considered bribes, but here it is the normal way of life. How interesting this place really is.

I am sitting in a Starbucks drinking my $8 latte, updating my blog, visiting with my roommate, and watching the fascinating people out the window. This Starbucks is on the first floor of a business complex at a very busy intersection somewhere not too far from my home. There is a girl in a black and purple coat and very high heels standing out my window. She has been standing there for about 45 minutes waiting for something or someone. People and cars are rushing here and there, heels clacking, horns honking. My roommate is sitting across from me, surreptitiously working on her amazing photography skills. She bought a very old soviet era camera and has been taking a lot of pictures of me, the coffee shop and the people around us. She has been pretty sneaky about it too. I look forward to seeing them when the film is developed.

For about half an hour the sun had been shining brightly, but now it has finally clouded over again. Someone finally came for the girl outside my window. I sip the complementary hot chocolate from the tiny cup I was just handed. I think I will finish this and open up the book I am reading, The Portrait of a Lady, by Henry James.

Until later,
shasliva y paka.