Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Spring.... (eventually)

March has never been my favorite month of the year, but this year it hasn't been so bad.
It is finally consistently above zero Celsius (even though it snows practically every night). SPRING is coming.

Along with spring came quite a lot of good news.
First, I will be working at an ACCESS (American English language camp with high-school-aged children) camp in June. The camp in Chelyabinsk, unfortunately, is in July, so I would not be able to make it, so I will instead be going to nearby Bashkiria to a smaller city called Salavat. Everything is all worked out, I am in contact with the director there and might even be able to stay with a host family. This will only be for a week, I know that Svetlana will need my help during this month as with any time.

Also... BIG news... I am officially hired to work at Adyghe State University next year! My friend will be preparing the documents this summer. It is exciting, I will get to live in the North Caucasus and teach both English and Spanish! It is also just good to know that I have something in line for next year, and not have to worry about the "parents' basement" unsuccessful-job-search possibility.

As for life in Chelyabinsk, classes are going smoothly for the most part. As you may know, I do teach at three different institutions, which does get confusing (sometimes schedules don't really coincide, and it is really nobody's fault). The only really difficult classes I have are when I occasionally cover Svetlana's classes with the Sports Faculty. These students, as athletes, have a lot of energy, and have a very low level of English, and most of them would rather just pal around with me in Russian, and I need to set some sort of authority. It can get pretty exhausting.

Most students, however, are consistently very enthusiastic. There are two particular students in the ACCESS group (the younger students who will go to the summer camp) that have really impressed me. One of them wrote me a terrific essay about Michigan (long story about how we got to this topic) and another student has never failed to turn in her homework and always seems to be eager to be on task. Believe me, in Russia, this is very refreshing to see.

Because of the more consistent schedule, I have been able to put together a new batch of lesson plans, which were for the most part both useful and unorthodox (in a good way) for the students.... including a talk about the Boston Irish and St. Patrick's Day (including the Boston Celtics and the Dropkick Murphys), debates for the YURGU students about internet piracy and social networks, a discussion about the "real world" American workplace featuring clips from "Office Space", and an analysis of Red Hot Chili Peppers lyrics. "Californication" certainly surprised people, when they found out the real meaning of the text... I myself was pretty surprised when I found out for the first time that it was not some happy song about California... and "Especially in Michigan" produced some rather strange imagery. Most students DO agree that Michigan looks like a mitten.

Also... this weekend I probably made the best contribution to the side project of mine, and got to professionally record some Russian folk songs. It so happens that one of the teachers I work with has a husband who works as a sound technician in a theater... the only theater in Chelyabinsk with an full-professional recording studio.
Here are the Dropbox links to the songs:
Tonight, I'm leaving for a conference in Ufa (Bashkortostan, the place where I visited Cathy in the summer). Cathy Trainor, the Fulbright ETA there, has organized the whole thing, молодец! I'll be giving a lecture on "Health and Fitness in the USA" and signing some of my "Songs from the Urals" (that part will only be for the ETA circle, as I didn't see much point in presenting that for some people who already live in the region) Oksana will be there, as well as the new American Consul from Ekaterinburg!

So much to prepare for...

Sunday, March 11, 2012


...Absolutely guilty of blog neglect for the past month. If I said it was because I was too busy, this is only half true. Yes, I do have a fuller schedule this time around, but I have had plenty of time in front of my computer to blog... I just didn't do it. I was never really inspired. After a month of traveling and telling all those stories, regular routine has not seemed interesting enough in comparison... but this doesn't mean it has been boring!
The thing is, there just isn't any news. Well, not really.

Since the last blog (about Kyrgyzstan), there haven't really been adventures, just... good times, for the most part. Right after Kyrgyzstan I flew into Moscow, got a miserable cold (thankfully, the only one so far, knock on wood) then left to go to Kazan with some other ETAs. Kazan is just another awesome city. I was glad to have gone. Altogether it was a good time, with Tatar food, beautiful buildings, kol'yan, banya, and a friendly, clean hostel.

Oh wait... something weird DID happen between Moscow and Kazan. Word of advice: When someone asks to help you with your bags, beware. Sometimes they'll ask you for money right after.... and sometimes, they'll ask you for marriage. This happened at the vokzal in Moscow... a seemingly friendly Tajik helped me with my bags. I offered him 100 rubles (he did carry them a long way) but he wouldn't accept it, instead, he followed me around for the rest of the day, which ended with a marriage proposal.
I declined.

After returning from Kazan, I was so tired of traveling, that when I finally reached my apartment, I did not go out for three days. Running in the park, yes, but in no way did I want to ехать anywhere.

Of course, there were interesting activities since then, mostly surrounding cold weather.  Here is a picture of what you need to wear when you go running at -34 C:

Without a doubt, that was the coldest temperature I have ever felt. I decided to run, just so I could say I did it. It was cold.

The next weekend's cold-weather activity was "Ural Tubing". It's what it sounds like: sliding on a tube in the Ural Mountains. It took place in the city of Zlatoust (another big city in Chelyabinsk Oblast) with Volodya.
Oh yes, here is news, SAD news. Volodya moved to St. Petersburg!! Well, it's good news, he loves his new job, but it sure is not as much fun without him here. I've still got Zhenya though as a close friend here... but I really miss Volodya.

More recently, I took a trip to Taganai (remember, the mountain I climbed back in September?) with another friend named Olga and several of her friends. We stayed overnight in a log cabin in the middle of the mountain trail, and then hiked up further on a different fact. It was breathtaking, but COLD!!

The scenery does outweigh the cold, though.

Yesterday, these same rebyata all came over to my place to sing songs. I hope to record them and add to my collection.

Anyway, I will try to update the blog more. This was just a recap; more teaching-related or life-related, deeper thoughts require more time to write about.