Saturday, 8 September 2012

Pleasant Surprises

After the emotional washing machine that was yesterday, today has been refreshing.

For breakfast (why do I always post about breakfast? Because it's always a surprise!) we had cheesecake! I am not even joking. Cheesecake, with baked apple. Vicky and I swear they are fattening us up so they can cook us on a cold winter's evening.

The next surprise was when Katya came over to inform us we had a class, right then! After a laugh trying to find the right room and the right class to teach, we finally got in to find all these 3 11/12-year-olds sitting on their low chairs, gazing far up at us. First thing we did was introductions - we've been here a week and a half, so though it's hardly a shock that we haven't learned all the kids' names, it was funny to realise they didn't know our names. Introductions out of the way, the first thing we did was rearrange the chairs into a circle - it's hard to play games in the context of two standing teachers and three kids seated in rows. We fumbled plenty attempting to explain the 'I packed my suitcase and in it I put...' game - we gave up on doing it in alphabetical order when we realised that was really tricky for them, and just played with whatever words they could remember. The 5th form, as their first lesson of term, did the verb 'to be'. This came as a surprise to both of us teachers, as 'to be', though hard to learn, is a vital and constant part of our language. Vocabulary-wise they were comfortable with animals and classroom objects. So really elementary level, even though they're 5th form. Just as well we're starting on the Kindergarten kids now!

At 3pm we wandered trying to find the person who was to set our 'work in the garden' task. All it took was a quick knock on Katya's door, and it soon turned out she was the one who was meant to show us where the overgrown lettuces were. I don't know the technical gardening term, but instead of being nice little ground-level lettuces they had turned into tall mini-tree lettuces, and according to Katya that means they're 'not good'. That was explanation enough, so we pulled up lettuces for an hour.

4pm was the most exciting time of the day - time to collect mushrooms! Lena and several of the children passed us in the garden, I think not realising we were meant to come with, so we ran, grabbed our gardening gloves, nicked some knives out of the kitchen, and caught up with them at the edge of the village. We each got a bag, and a model mushroom, and set to hunting down these little peachy-fleshed inside-out-umbrella mushrooms. At first Vicky and I picked up the wrong ones, and it was pointed out that these had dark undersides. What innocent Westerner would've thought they were wrong, when they look the most like the ones you find in the supermarket, and when the correct ones look bizarrely inverted and fuzzy? Vicka, one of the 4th form girls - who I would describe as none too keen on physical labour but quite the gourmand - gave our picking efforts the once-over, pointed out how she knew which ones were rotten, and immediately I warmed to her for being a clever little mushroom-policewoman.

The 'volnushka' mushroom: freaky-looking, and completely edible (allegedly)
Another surprise for today was how much I've missed English chocolate! I opened up the London-bus-shaped Olympic-commemorative Miniature Heroes tin (Cadbury's sponsorship here I come!) with a sigh, deeply inhaling the familiar and oh-so-British smell of Dairy Milk. It was a smell for sore noses. I shared them with Vicky, Katya and family over a lovely cup of peppermint tea while watching a Russia Today program from 3 years ago about Kitezh and Orion. It was amusing to see how the children have grown - little Sonia was excited to point out her cameos - and also how the village has changed. They used to have a currency called the Ori here which the children earned per hour of work, and could spend on food etc in Orion. The children tired of this 'game of economy', says Katya, and now prefer the 'game of authority', which I think is a way of saying they'd rather earn respect than earn money, because it's strange to carry out monetary transactions with people on an everyday basis when you think of them as your family.

It's Sunday tomorrow, which means rest, relaxation, and watching films. Perfect.

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