Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Mayakovskaya Square: Vladimir Mayakovsky

This is the statue of the poet Mayakovsky that adorns Mayakovskaya Square near EF in downtown Moscow.

Locating milk before its expiration date

Rachel and I live near a grocery store, and when I first got here, I had no idea what to expect the grocery store to carry and was too tired to venture out. I quickly learned that it carries almost anything you would like, but the issue is you have to check expiration dates. My first shopping experience, I bought toilet paper, water, cereal, and what I thought was milk. Excited to have some food and something familiar, I poured myself a bowl of cereal, opened the "milk" and smelled it (because Rachel's milk had gone sour and had smelled funny). Unfortunately, though I checked dates, this "milk" also smelled funny. Then I read the label. This was not молоко, this was кефир (kefir) a specialty Russian beverage that is basically fermented milk. None-the-less, I decided ok ... it smells a little like yogurt, I will pour it on my cereal, and it will be fine. And actually it wasn't bad, but I wanted milk, moloko, not kefir.So, last night, after another day of realizing how hard it is to get along when you cannot communicate due to a language barrier, I went back to Виктории (Victoria), our local, 24 hour grocery store and tackled the milk shelf again. What had happened before was that I stopped looking at the labels telling me what the beverage was and only looked at the expiration date, so this time I was determined to pay attention to both the name and date! When I got my moloko with an expiration of 07.10 (7 October), I almost could not wait to get home and have some. I cannot believe how much of a relief it was to finally taste milk after craving it for almost 5 days! Beautiful! So, wonderful, in fact, that I cried ... and now I wonder what will be next on the list of frustrating food stories ... probably cheese.

First day of class and a power outage

My first day of teaching and the power went out in my side of the building during the evening class. Although it's a tad different because I was prepared for class, the power outage reminds me of the time I got out of failing a human physiology test in high school because the power went out. I had skipped the day of the test because I forgot to study and when I came to class the next day ... I unfortunately still had not studied. As I struggled through the test, (not a multiple choice, by the way) feeling embarrassed that I had not studied, (even with an extra day!) and knowing I would fail, the power went out ... We all sat in the dark for five minutes, and then the principle came to tell us we could all go home. Hallelujah! I had another day to study for the test. That night I ensured that I could correct my mistakes and pass with flying colors. Talk about a getting a break!

Anyway, my first day of teaching - other than the power outage - went well. My planning is a little rough around the edges, mostly because I cannot bring the books home. Of course I have things I can improve upon, particularly giving instructions and error correction. This will come with time - once I get my footing with teaching and lesson planning, I will be able to focus more on error correction. I would like to get my bearings with the books and figure out an overall strategy, but alas, I am unable to take much of my work home with me. There are many more teachers than there are books!

All said and done, I am glad to be working again!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Red Square

Last night was Rachel's (my roommate's) birthday, so she got a group of us together to go out for the evening. After dinner we walked through Red Square: Krasnaya Ploshad -- words and badly photographed evening pictures cannot describe how awesome it is. St. Basil's, the icon of Moscow, is definitely a sight to behold, and I would suggest that anyone who has had an inkling of fascination or admiration for the building should go and see it in person. As I told one of my coworkers when we were walking around it, seeing the full three-dimensionality and being able to interact with it, St. Basil's is so much better than pictures could ever capture. Just like any sculpture - seeing it in the round is the only way to truly appreciate it. Perhaps it is the euphoria of knowing that I will be able to see this building almost whenever I would like for nearly a year or the honeymoon effect of being in a new country, but St. Basil's and the feeling in Red Square is indescribable!

I have included a couple photos taken in the evening without a tripod ...

Friday, September 26, 2008

Sattelite imagery

Well, I know this isn't quite the same as the pictures I didn't take today ... but it gives you an idea of where I am located ... and if you go to maps.google.com you can find out where Konkovo is in relation to city center. Just type in "Konkovo + Moscow, Russia"

My first successful day in MOCKBA (moskva)

Today I went with my roommate downtown. We got on the metro at Kon'kovo: КОНЬКОВО (near our apartment), got off at Teatralnaya (next to Red Square) and wandered down Tverskaya Street to the school. I should have taken pictures of the cars parked all over the edges of sidewalks and all over in the street! Aside from their driving and parking, Muscovites on the whole don't seem half bad. While I had heard stories that no one smiles here, after wandering around downtown, I realized this feels like any other large city - most people don't smile at strangers or just because you bought water from them. I would argue that not smiling really isn't as big of a deal as it was made out to be.

I start teaching on Tuesday - while it would be nice to just bum around, I am glad I will be teaching soon. The philosophy of the school I will be teaching at is that native speakers should be teaching more high-intermediate to advanced students, which makes sense ... but because I trained teaching beginners and then pre-intermediate/intermediate, I definitely would feel better teaching beginners. Anyway, hopefully it's a quick learning curve!


Thursday, September 25, 2008

Arrival in Moscow

Well, I survived the long trip after all. I'm hoping to actually sleep tonight and get on some sort of regular sleeping schedule, so I decided not to just sleep and sleep like I wanted. In two hours my new roommate will be home - we have only met in passing, but she was very helpful in getting me into my room and the apartment.

I have included pictures of my room, the shower room (toilet and shower are separate rooms), and the view from my window. While the bed is pretty comfortable, the person that had it before me broke it ... and it would be nice to have a bed that wasn't on the ground! We'll see if I actually do anything about it in the long run. The room has a balcony ... but it seemed a bit unstable when I went out on it - it probably will serve as a place to dry clothes and not much more!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Leavin' on a jet plane...

don't know when I'll be back again. Well, the flight boards in about 45 minutes, and I am tired enough that the man who helped me check my baggage got a $25 tip (forgot about my change). In truth, he deserved it. If he would not have been so congenial, I would have paid $381 for my overweight luggage! My reaction was to say "Shucky-darn", and then hesitate for a very long time. Then say, well so I guess there's nothing that can be done. I either have to go through my luggage and take things out ... or pay the money. It finally occurred to me that I could use my "emergency" credit card, and after a delay I decided I would just pay the fee. I spent enough time packing and debating what to bring that I don't think I could pick out 21 pounds worth of stuff to make the bag meet the 50 pound limit ... Then, out of nowhere the checker (no idea if this is the right term) said it would be $125. He said he would just charge me the domestic fee and assured me my baggage will arrive in Moscow. So, I thanked him and forgot my change! I realized this later and decided that rather than going to ask for the change, I would just allow him to keep it. Hopefully he took it as a tip.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Packing and anticipation

After months of anticipation and waiting, the flight to Russia is now less than 9 days away. I know that I am about as prepared as I can be. The CELTA prepared me to teach, and I have made and remade many checklists to make sure I am prepared to live. It's been a roller coaster of emotions since February when I signed up to teach English, and now, all the emotions I experienced over the months are barreling down on me all at once. I'm not sure what I feel anymore, but I look forward to an end to the anticipation!