...Not my love affair, the Karelians'
17.06.2009 - 30.06.2009
So I thought maybe it was time to give you all a painfully long update. (This is where you can stop reading if you read that last one and decided you’d prefer to just imagine how I’m getting on……)
So since I last wrote I have started and finished working the camps with the…children…arghhhhh! It was actually no way near as terrifying as I thought it would be! Though SO much work! I was teaching with this really nice girl and she explained a few things about Russia to me…like the appalling salaries for teachers etc. We got on really well and since the camp ended last week I’ve already been over to hers for lunch and she bought me a book about this Russian song I like (алые паруса). Russians when you get to know them are so kind. Especially here. I think Moscow left me with the wrong impression of Russians.
I have not met one single male teacher yet - think the pay means it's more of a 'woman's job'. Getting used to the different ways of thinking about men and women's roles is proving quite a challenge. Yesterday Tatiana said (quite bitterly it seemed) “I suppose you’ve found yourself a boyfriend then” which I think is because I’ve been coming in around 5.30am 4 times in the last week (just dancing). I said no and I didn’t want to because I would be leaving soon. She started to laugh manically and said FIND ONE and take him back with you (which to me seems a rather hasty commintment). At which point I said I’m too young and I like being independent. She was like “too young” with raised eyebrows (I'm a spinster here) and then said. “Independent! Who wants to be independent? Haha”.
All that aside…I have been teaching so much English that I have become a parody of my former self. Even when talking to British people I have started miming all my actions…I’m going for a run (cue fingers running along the table), I’m tired (cue enormous fake yawn)…I think the worst was my description of roomy-somewhere with lots of space- so I twirled like a lunatic round the classroom.
Anyway, the two weeks working in the camps were really hard because it was 8.30-5 with children (from 9 to 16) and then evening classes every night until 8.15pm. Children have so much energy…I have NO idea how they do it! I became a slight joke with the kids because I just yelled (yes YELLED! Hahahahahaha) “OI” everytime I wanted to get their attention. But then that became a massive joke so they started following me round saying oi oi oi.
In the first week of the camp while the children were playing outside on their break one of the boys, who is 11, threw a paper airplane and picked it up again and the caretaker saw. He thought the boy was littering so picked him up and pinned him against the wall. He (he being a full grown man) was shaking him against the wall and the other teacher had to scream at him for 5 minutes before he let him go. I asked the boy if he was ok and he just laughed and said “This is Russia. I’m fine”. The man didn’t even get fired because everyone knows he is a bit crazy and an alcoholic so they just arranged supervision for him!
I have also since the last message finished teaching 2 English groups and a French group. I just teach one English group now. I have been teaching French in Russian and I cannot even describe how difficult it was to begin with. My brain seemed unable to switch between the two languages! They were complete beginners so when I accidentally spoke French for 5 minutes without realising they looked more than a little confused! It doesn’t help that the two grammar systems are completely different either because explaining the past tense was a nightmare!
I also have since been round to Lena’s, the woman’s who I lived with when I was first here three years ago, and she made a dinner for me and invited friends round. One of her friends works for Greenpeace (who knew it existed in Russia?!) and he showed us this “meat the truth” video which was a bit pointless because Lena doesn’t speak English and I’m already vegetarian so didn’t really need convincing on that front! It was a lovely meal though and was really nice to see her again!
The Khoz (host lady). Well she has got more and more bizarre…about 3 weeks ago she spent half an hour going on about how she doesn’t ever see me eat (I go out to eat a lot) but that I MUST eat because I’m such a polninka (chubby/plump girl). Apparently its strange for her that I would be so chubby because I don’t eat meat. Anyway after about half an hour of this (an actual half an hour) she tootled back to watch dom dva (Russian weird matchmaking twist on big brother) at which point (I was VERY tired-not usually this sensitive I hope!) I had a little cry. Anyway I was just being silly but she happened to walk in and got all panicky…and eventually asked “did I offend you…?”. Which yes she did a little. Anyway she completely backtracked and started being really complimentary-said I’d misunderstood (which I know I didn’t) and since then keeps telling me I’ll never be polnaya (chubby).
She has also since started force feeding me. The other day she watched me eat three full bowls of cereal and when I left the kitchen she asked me where I was going because she had made me Kasha (porridge). I said I wasn’t hungry but she just said “I made it. You WILL eat”. I couldn't really move for the rest of the day!
I arrived home from lessons the other day and somehow ended up singlehandedly making three separate journeys up four flights of stairs with the parts for her new door, and eventually one journey with the new door. And if you have ever seen a Russian door you will know how heavy duty they are! She did actually “help” though. This help involved her standing by me and yelling “What are you doing?”, “No Siân, not like that, like this”. And then made us take a break on the 3rd floor because SHE was tired!
I am at times a bit like her weird foreign slave.
I have also been to a Russian rock festival which was fun! It was called Vozdukh (air) and we befriended these random Russian people who we eventually had to flee because they were all drunk and became increasingly more weird.
To finish I thought I would also share a few very Russian Russian stories:
My friends told me they went to Subway and there was no bread left…
A friend and I arrived late to a film and instead of buying a ticket just bribed the usher in the screen (mostly my friend, not me)…
I saw a boy almost fall down a manhole because someone hadn’t closed it properly…
I saw a child poo 4 times onto the sand at the beach…his Mum didn’t seem remotely embarrassed. I felt quite ill.
Anyway on that pleasant note I shall leave you all. Sorry it was so long. I'l write again soon