Monday, September 19, 2011

Ooh, so suddenly I'm really busy, actually.

Teaching has officially started.
Last week, I only taught the younger group, the ACCESS English club, which consists of mainly 15-year-old students. Most are really shy, but their English I feel will catch on. Today I began with one of the "regular" classes, a group of 5th-year students who are in real need of conversational practice. The Russian education system is mainly lecture-based and not so much participation-oriented, but for this class, participation will be absolutely mandatory. Shy students will have to break out of their shell...  because really, the problem seems to be mainly getting the courage to speak up. Once they do, their grammar isn't all that bad, it's just a matter of practice, as in not hesitating after every word because they are not sure if it is right or not.

With Yury Vladimirovitch (the vice-governor whom I tutor English) is always charmingly enthusiastic. Our classes are always quite random (I remember actually explaining to him the word "random" and how we use it in conversation... best translated as случайно or беспорядочный) and topics are sort of digressions upon digressions... but hey, whatever works. He appears to be making progress!

Anyway, I have just received my full schedule. It looks pretty loaded. I'm kind of split around all different institutions... at the Pedagogical University, the Cultural Institute, Yury Vladimirovitch, and it looks like I will be teaching a class at YOGURT. Basically, it looks like I am taking a bunch of classes off the hands of the other CHELTA (Chelyabinsk English Teachers Association) teachers' hands. Sounds good enough. I like changes of scenery.

I am SO going to accidentally refer to YuUrGU as YOGURT out loud.

So... I am no longer "lonely" here. I have several acquaintance now, and there is definitely always something or someone to be occupied with. Last week, I finally met in person Zhenya (Evgeniya) a former Fulbrighter to America who is from Chelyabinsk, to whom Oberlin's Fulbright Anna introduced me. With her friends, we went to an all-night short film festival on Saturday night into Sunday morning... and we ALMOST made it to the end. As funny as some of short films were, it gets increasingly hard to keep your eyes open as the hours turn from 3am to 4am.

Annoying things of the past week:
A) Hot water outage. Apparently, this happens sporadically in Russia. The building WAS actually notified, discreetly by a white piece of paper hung among other unimportant white pieces of paper, and the reason was that "ремонт идет". "Repairs are happening." What kind of repairs, what broke and why... who knows. All I see is a pit outside with a pipe exposed (see: "What's a Chelyaba?") and a bunch of people in construction uniform smoking cigarettes and talking about it.
B) Random power outage. At least it was only three hours.
C) My internet decided that it didn't recognize my password anymore (even though I had it autosaved?) and I had to reconfigure everything.
D) Chelyabinsk doesn't have a logical timetable or route map of its buses, you just kind of have to learn by experience. I'm always afraid of taking a bus that I think will lead somewhere and end up in the Metallurgical district. But then again, maybe that would be an adventure too..
E) Most banks won't let me take more than 5000 rubles out at a time (about $160). Which means I have to pay a $9 commission for EVERY $160.

Non-annoying things this week:
A) The dollar versus the ruble keeps going up and up. When I got here, it was only 27 rubles to a dollar, now it is 31. Good for me, not so good for the locals unfortunately.
B) Did I mention things are 4x cheaper than in Moscow?
C) Every single person I have met is amazingly nice.
D) After not having any showers at home and then having only cold showers here for a while, I will NEVER AGAIN take for granted a hot shower. Or better yet, a bath.
E) Running is absolutely NOT out of the question like I thought it was going to be.

Some pretty awesome news...
I get FIVE weeks off during winter. Not saying that I don't like what I'm doing so far, I'm saying that it is good because I have the flexibility to realize the Epic Central Asia Journey with fellow Oberlin grad Joseph Campbell. I hope you are reading this, Professor Dumančić. Svetlana says that holiday break is from December 25th through January 8th, then exams, and then there is another break somewhere in there after exams... and that I might as well take the whole month off because there won't be any real classes.
Potential destinations for this time period:
long long train ride perhaps through Astrakhan
Somewhere else (possibly Altai Republic? Not that it's exactly on the way or anything.)
Probably coming back through Ekaterinburg.

LOL... one of the many, many, MANY obstacles of planning this epic journey is... can I go from Adygeya to Azerbaijan by train without crossing into any restricted and/or disputed territories? Because flying could get VERY expensive... because Krasnodar probably won't fly me to Baku, they'd probably reroute me all the way back to Moscow or something.
I know it's early, but a trip this *epic*  WILL take months to work out.

As for this week, I have my birthday celebration and Bashkortostan to look forward to! 

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