Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Let it snow!

Oh the weather outside is freezing
Everyone's catching colds and sneezing
The boilers are on the blink, oh no!
Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow!

It doesn't show signs of stopping,
And we've bought zephyr for scoffing,
The electricity's threatening to go,
Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow!

When we finally get it right,
The heating and lights are all on!
And if we're really lucky tonight,
All night long we'll be warm.

The wind outside is howling,
And our stomachs are loudly growling,
But the gale continues to blow,
Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow!

Apologies for any bad-scanning and awful rhyming, I never claimed to be a poet or lyricist.

I'm currently nibbling on a bun filled with home-made tvorog and looking out occasionally at the thick blanket of white and the snowflakes whirling though the air. I've now got a sore throat too, so I'm sure it won't be long before I join the other half of the village in their community cold.

The cows here give so much milk they've made signs to advertise its sale at 200 roubles per 3 litres (or 75p a pint). On top of that there's enough to make a big saucepan of cocoa each day, and to produce home-made sour cream and curd cheese (tvorog) too, all of which are very tasty.

I have learned very quickly to fear the word снежок! It means snowball, and no sooner does one hear it and duck than see a lump of snow land somewhere close to one's head. These kids are really accurate, and we're scared to take them on in a snowball fight because we know they'll win!

It's doesn't feel much like Halloween, but then we can't celebrate it here because apparently it's evil and scary. The lights and boilers being totally off in the morning was scary enough for me! I do wish I could watch The Nightmare Before Christmas though, as it's so weather- and date-appropriate.

Until next time (provided I don't freeze to death or perish in a snowball fight),

Oh the Weather Outside is Freezing
Everyone's catching colds and sneezing
The boilers are on the blink, oh no!
Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow!

It doesn't show signs of stopping,
And we've bought zephyr for scoffing,
The electricity's threatening to go,
Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow!

When we finally get it right,
The heating and lights are all on!
And if we're really lucky tonight,
All night long we'll be warm.

The wind outside is howling,
And our stomachs are loudly growling,
But the gale continues to blow,
Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow!

Monday, 29 October 2012

Спасибо Sundays #toomany

This was supposed to get written yesterday, but yesterday was really 'meh' and so cheering ourselves up by watching the Inbetweeners film was more important. That film's really funny in the same way as the Inbetweeners series was, so if you don't like dick jokes then it's not for you.

With a month to go both of us keep mentioning/thinking about/counting down the days until we get home. Luckily my parents called last night and a chat with them reminded me that I can only function by having something to look forward to, and a big part of my feeling demoralised was that I didn't have anything concrete to look forward to here, so I was defaulting to the next good thing: going home.

Now I feel a bit better though, because I have stuff to look forward to here:
- A community game (sounds like a sort of live action role play game) on Saturday where Vicky and I might get to play baddies that the kids have to 'defeat'
- Potentially going to Kitezh (going to ask Katya about that happening)
- Game club, which has its first edition today - I really hope it works! The idea is to have a solid organised weekly session of Game of Thrones, Twister, Mafia and other such board and parlour games. Idea is to have a choice of games to play instead of having just Game of Thrones out and then a maximum of 6 players being able to play and others being left out.
- Half-term, when Vicky and I get a break from teaching (though teaching is one of the things I like doing most here, when it's going well)
- Starting new modules in the textbooks we teach - feels like it's about time to do some different topics.

Gratitude! That's what this weekly column's supposed to be about. Thanks this week go out to:
- Sergey for taking us to Moscow, being really patient while we took ages picking souvenirs, and being an all-round decent tour guide
- Vicky for being hilarious and for taking the One Direction jokes way too far. I can't believe we actually have a shrine now. For a band we don't even really like or know a lot of songs of.
- Bacon crisps, for existing
- Na Zdorove cereal, for the same reason
- Those ladies who came and gave the soap masterclass
- Jessie J for telling me it's okay not to be okay. (Yes, sometimes I listen to pop music, and what of it?)
- My friends and family for telling me to keep my chin up

Nobody likes Mondays anyway.

Friday, 26 October 2012

Odgar & Hare

Today has been as changeable as the weather: it's rained, snowed, hailed, been incredibly windy and been bright and sunny.

Both Vicky and I woke up in bad moods, partially due to the rain. At breakfast I felt unseasonably homesick and gloomy, despite a very encouraging conversation yesterday to the effect of 'keep your chin up, you'll be home and with your friends in a month'. Part of what keeps me going is knowing that quitting would mean binning my entire degree, and that is not appealing in the slightest seeing as I've worked so hard to get here.

Things didn't improve when Galya had a go at Vicky for not mopping and sweeping the kitchen last night - the bane of our lives isn't aware that as volunteers who don't know how to do all of the kitchen duties, when we're on evening duty we only do the washing up (which takes an hour). We're always paired with another adult who does the sweeping and mopping and putting away the food, which is really nice as it's lonely and creepy in the kitchen at night. Vicky left after doing the washing up, fairly assuming the guy on duty with her would be along later to finish off. Turned out he hadn't showed up, and Vicky got blamed for the results. Because I am a coward, I conveyed this last sentence loudly in Russian to nobody in particular in order to put Galya to right. She heard, and then claimed she hadn't been telling Vicky off, while still moaning about it all. Yeah right. She slammed the door in our faces while we were discussing Shakespeare, then she told us to shut up while cleaning the tables because Vicky and I were having an amusing conversation, which made me want to cut off her remaining fingers and feed them to her, disguised in a disgusting cabbage-filled pilaf.

We had to set 6th form an end-of-module test today, which felt mean but is mainly to help us - we need to know what to go over and where the gaps in their knowledge lie. Shockingly enough, it seems they didn't know the present tense of the verb 'to be' before we arrived! 5th form also had a test, but we did it as whole class rather than a sit-down-be-quiet thing as we know that's asking a but much of 4 rowdy 11-year-olds. Also worryingly, they didn't know how to spell 'one' :S.

After lunch we peeled potatoes (Galya told us she'd do it herself, but we insisted as Arina had asked us to. Don't want to give G any more fuel to her fire, as we can imagine her calling us lazy and unhelpful if we'd accepted her offer). Once we were done with potato mountain we had a spontaneous dance party to Call Me Maybe which was playing on the kitchen radio (because we can
, and because everyone already thinks we're crazy), then we cleaned Sergey's house, which is always alright because we get to listen to the awesome rock radio station. It was even more pleasant this time as Han, another volunteer (think he's from Vietnam) had made us special delicious sweet instant cappuccino stuff. He's really nice - we totally owe him for spontaneously doing our breakfast washing up duty the other day while we were at a lesson. He nearly did the same today but the dreaded G prevented him from doing us such a generous and pleasant favour.


On balance though, the past few days have been great:
- we've had decent lessons, although I still get nervous when I realise I'm just a student and have only a 140-hour TEFL certificate and no previous classroom experience before Orion.
- we got to make soap on Wednesday! Seriously, soap-making is really great fun - we made a 'friendship soap' by everyone mixing up colours and glitter with soap and chucking it all in one container (me and Vicky muffed it and added smell when we shouldn't have, so the whole batch stinks of peach and biscuits). Then we made our own individual soaps - I made a 'coffee cake' by mixing cappuccino and biscuit scents in a brown, bronze and gold-glittery soap, and a beautiful fruity rose with layers of red strawberry, yellow peach and green watermelon. Afterwards there was gold glitter everywhere!
- On Wednesday night we had another two-person-party for being here 8 weeks out of our 12 and a bit. Today it is officially a month until we come home on the 26th, which should also warrant partying but tomorrow is a work day, so we'll have another party tomorrow. Vicky is amazingly good at the 50 Shades of Grey drinking game, and really got into the spirit of enhancing the characters with silly accents - chavvy Anastasia Steele has to be heard to be believed.
- I've got quite into Anna Karenina now, though I'm only 23% of the way through. It's like reading a really tawdry soap opera where everyone's in love with someone who isn't their spouse.
- Yesterday we got pizza for dinner. 'Nuff said.

Toodle pip old beans!

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Trip to Mosc-ow!

The -ow! is for pain caused by said expedition - my legs and feet were killing me after walking round Russia's capital and its gigantic souvenir market all day on Sunday.

Angry, cook-related rant, please feel free to skip this:
Things started out rather shit. I mean literally, we woke up to find cat shit on the carpet in the hall. At the crack of dawn Galya promptly launched into a 5-minute tirade blaming us for not letting the cat out. I informed her that we had let the cat out, twice (he sneaked back in after someone the first time). She said she told the visitors to let it out, but she should well know by now that any unsupervised cat should not be trusted, and if one sees Smelly Cat (aka Basik/Basil/Ash/The Phantom Pooper) he should be lobbed out the door without mercy or relent. Either way, I have had it up to here *Lois indicates as far as she can reach above her head* with her blaming us for cat accidents, and leaving us to clear up after them when we haven't been the ones leaving them in the house. We always make sure they're put out in a timely manner, because they have no litter tray, food or cat flap here. Which seems odd because she leaves Nyusha in her room at night. Where does Nyusha go to the loo? What does she eat and drink? Galya seems to think cats eat potatoes and drink milk... we tried to update her on the 'cats are lactose intolerant carnivores' thing, but she laughed in disbelief. Poor kitten.

Having not satisfied herself with blaming us for the cat mess, Galya then proceeded to shriek at us for making her late. Nobody bothered to tell us we had to catch a specific bus to Moscow in advance, we thought we were getting a lift. So it was very rich of her, after delaying our getting ready by making a huge fuss and waking everyone up over the cat shit, to then start telling us off for being a couple minutes slower. In the end we caught the bus just fine. She sat in front of us on the bus so I attempted to blow up her head with my mind, Sheldon Cooper style.

/angry rant

It was a long journey to Moscow: a lift to the bus stop, then a bus to somewhere or other, then a minibus (marshrutka) to Tyopli Stan. We stopped at Typoli Stan at a shopping centre for coffee and pastries in Кофе Хаус (translit. Coffee House) then took the Metro to Red Square. Red Square was even more impressive than I'd imagined. Vicky and I went round St Basil's Cathedral while Sergey waited outside (he was our tour guide/chaperone for the day). I found it most interesting and educational; I learned all about fools for Christ, and who St Basil was. He seemed to go around butt naked working wonders. Fair dos.

We went to ГУМ, which is like a very pretty, classy shopping centre with the very fanciest brands. We popped inside the Russian equivalent of Fortnum & Mason's and nicked loads of free cheese samplers. Mmm lump of Grana Padano :-)

After that we contemplated going inside the Kremlin, but decided it was too expensive and that time was short. On our walks we passed the State Duma and the National Library. We walked from Red Square to Arbat and then all the way down it; it felt strangely quiet, but then it was a Sunday lunchtime. We stopped for lunch at Teremok - we had been after Italian food, but were so starving that we were quite happy with blinis. Sergey suggested we grab a coffee afterwards, but we spotted the doughnut selection and decided on pudding. Suddenly I realised it was a Dunkin' Donuts we were looking at, so absolutely had to get something (we don't have them in the UK, and I'd heard many good reviews from the US). I had a doughnut éclair filled with chocolate cream and topped with chocolate icing and crunchy chocolate balls. Delicious is an understatement.

We hopped on the Metro to the Ismailovskiy market: imagine the entirety of Camden Town was a vintage, military surplus and souvenir market, and you've nearly got it. We spent hours in there looking at the fake Kremlin and being indecisive over souvenirs. I think I've got most of my shopping done bar a couple of guys (Matroyshas don't strike me as very masculine gifts). Once we were done deliberating it was time to get back on the Metro and get on our way home. Queue visiting revolting portaloos, a bakery called paul's, but not that Paul's (oh fine French patisserie, where art thou?) and hopping on a marshrutka back to who-knows-where, where Lyosha was waiting for us in the car.

Overall it was great, but it's strange to think I might live in Moscow for three months. It's like someone being taken to the Houses of Parliament and Oxford street and then being asked if they want to live in London. It's just the tourist sights, not places where one would live and see every day.


Yesterday we helped the children write Christmas cards to their Godparents (I think that means people who sponsor them). They decorated cards with feathers and sequins and such, with our help as translators. It was charming, if a little unseasonal! Knowing the post around here, the cards might just arrive on time! We have Liza from Ecologia Youth Trust here for the week, she's a friendly, witty lady and I enjoy chatting to her at mealtimes.

Today we're back to the ususal: teaching classes, moving logs and ironing. Bizarrely someone did the breakfast dishes during our class, so we were relieved of duty. Strangely masochistic as he is, I'm very grateful to the guy.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Same New Same Old?

I haven't updated since Sunday because we've really fallen into a routine here, and frankly I don't know whether that's exciting for anyone to read. Since a 3 weeks ago we've been receiving weekly timetable rather than daily, which makes it seem like time is going much faster. If you want a routine run-down, here it is:

08.30 - Wake up, get up and get ready for the day
09.45 - Breakfast
10.15 - Wash the dishes
11.00 - Free (aka lesson preparation)
12.05 - Teach a class
13.00 - Either teach a class or free
14.00 - Lunch
15.00, 16.00, 17.00 - One of these hours is free, the other two hours community work and/or other housework. Timings of each mixed up.
18.30 - Dinner
23.30ish - Bedtime

After dinner we're usually free, lesson planning, chatting, reading and so on. We had our first Russian lesson in over a week yesterday, which was nice because it was our last lesson on participles (which are devilishly hard in Russian, but frequently used in literature). Next time we'll be on to a much easier and more amusing topic.

Vicky's off washing dishes now, tomorrow will be my turn to do after-dinner duty. We've been added to the rota for that because all the adults here take a turn on it to add to their huge workload.

Nothing new with people really, I still find the cook infuriating, impolite and revolting as ever. Kids are still sweet and still crack me up. Kittens are still cute.

It's not really a grind or a drag though: I enjoy teaching, I don't mind all the housework because I know it's appreciated, and I've got good company to talk to.

Think of it as old but good, like an album that you've listened to many times. Sure, you've got your favourite tracks, and some you don't know and love so much but still like listening to. Can you tell I've been listening to London Calling by The Clash quite a lot over the past few days? What a brilliant record, simply timeless.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Спасибо Sundays/ Halfway Sunday

Today we are officially more than halfway through our time here in Orion. To celebrate we've been drinking Russian beer, eating marshmallow clams called Zephyr, crisps, and some things called Choco-Pies which are similar to Wagon Wheels. We've been playing the Science of Sleep drinking game while watching the film, which is a great film: funny yet confusing.

Спасибо this week must be said to:

- Yura for the incredible home-made sushi today (smoked salmon, cream cheese and cucumber flavour), easily the best dinner here yet in my opinion

- Maxim and Vicka for inviting us to play Game of Thrones - having read most of the rules in English Vicky and I are now much more on the ball. After I left for kitchen duty Vicky placed second out of four people. Max obviously won haha, but he's very competitive. Makes me want to beat him at it even more!

- Katya for taking mercy on us: after the 'experimental week' it has been declared that the Kindergarten are incapable of behaving themselves properly in our 'classes', and therefore we won't be looking after them from 5pm until 6.30 every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Huzzah! Instead we will have classes with the two 6-year-old girls Daryona and Sonya. (Monday update: we had our first lesson today and it went very well: a lot of improvising had to be done, but the end result seemed to be that we had educational fun.

- Vicky for being especially supportive and, as usual, hilarious, and for making sure I pay my sit-up fines for using the computer.

- Kozel for making tasty, tasty beer :P

- The students who are working hard and giving us plenty of patience while we try out new things and work on our teaching style and lesson content. The books we're working with can at times be very dry and repetitive in their lesson plans, so we're using our creative powers to tailor them to be more interesting to the students.

Additionally, I've started from the beginning of my Serbian textbook doing all the exercises, in an effort to keep my Serbian up. I don't want to come back in 4th year and look confused, and moreover I intend to go to a Serbian summer school next year so I'd like to be of a decent intermediate standard when I go.

Monday edit

Just in case you're looking for some useful phrases you might need to learn the Russian for before coming on your year abroad, I would recommend the words for:
- Help!
- Flood!
- Hose
- Mop

I wish I were joking, but seriously, we were washing up a filthy milk churn from the farm when all of a sudden the drain hose detached from the half-full sink and the whole lot of filthy water spilled out onto the floor. There was dirty water EVERYWHERE. We were mopping for a full 50 minutes to get the place clean, leaving us only 10 minutes to prepare for our 4th form lesson.

Perhaps I'll look back on this blog later and laugh, but right now, I'm still feeling horrified.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

I Never Could Get the Hang of Thursdays

Hello there, it's Thursday and I'm feeling a little fed-up.

Someone once told me if you share your nightmares they won't come true, so consider this me telling loads of people so they definitely, definitely don't come true. I've been plagued by horrid nightmares the past two nights, one involving my house burning down and another involving coming home to find my motorbike ripped apart so it was nothing but a pair of wheels, some bent chrome and handlebars, that made a spluttering sound but wouldn't start. Poor Waspie :( I do miss riding loads, and due to my broken finger over summer I didn't feel confident that I could control my bike,  so didn't ride at all.

I also got fed-up with having my hair in my eyes, so I cut my own fringe! I've done what I'm sure is a terrible job, and it's a little too short, but I can see again so the outcome on the whole is good. Anyway, by the time I come home it'll have grown out again, and frankly, these people gave a 6-year-old a mullet. A mullet! Poor girl. I rest my case against hairstyling finesse here.

Friday edit: I got fed-up with the disgusting way Galya the cook leaves things out in the dining room after breakfast: the lemon was covered with fruit flies, and the cheese and butter had also been left on the side, so I tried to nicely explain to her that was unhygienic and that it'll make everyone ill. She said I was being angry, but I wasn't, I was just horrified. I corrected her when she said there was no room in the fridge, as I'd just cleaned and reorganised them the day before yesterday. Then we covered all the things in clingfilm and put them in the nice clean organised fridge. I left with a smug sense of victory. Seriously though, if a health inspector had clapped eyes on that kitchen before we had our mass clean up he would have instantly shut it down. Now, he'd probably just close it for a few days. I can't believe I eat anything that cook prepares. The way she's missing fingers tells me she shouldn't even be trusted with a sharp knife.

Another observation of the strange ways of life in Orion: apparently the best way to catch mice is to cover a piece of cheese in glue and leave it on the floor. When Galya linked the conversation about seeing a cat catch a mouse in our house to the tube of glue that she was holding, my and Vicky's first reaction was to call her mad. However, upon taking this up with Katya, she informed us that this is in fact the best way to catch mice, and that the alternatives are a) Cats, who make a big mess of the mice and leave blood everywhere, or b) Traps, which don't work. I don't think my worries about the inhumane nature of disposing of mice by gluing them to cheese even factored in Katya's mind. As far as they're concerned these mice are as revolting and as unfeeling as dirt. I've kept pet mice, and I can't help but think they're cute.

Though not fed-up with Russian food entirely, I really miss a lot of British food. Until I came here I didn't appreciate the wide variety of cuisines I usually consume on a weekly basis, or the selection of herbs and spices that are used to flavour some of my favourite dishes. Here we eat seasonal vegetables, and I haven't seen a floret of broccoli nor a leaf of spinach since I arrived; I'll even admit I've previously failed to appreciate the year-round availability of fruit and veg of all types in the city. So together Vicky and I compiled a list of all the food we miss, with a view to appreciating the abundance of delicious food available in jolly old England when we get back. Additions marked with an L are entirely my cravings, while a V corresponds to Vicky's own hungers.

Lois and Vicky's pig-out on return to England:
- A whole tin of Ambrosia custard, with a spoon
- Roast dinner - peas, gravy and roast potatoes, mashed swede + carrot
- Indian food - mango chutney + poppadoms
- Chinese food
- Dominoes
- Cheddar
- Cauliflower cheese
- Proper sausages - V - leek and cheese veggie sausages, L - Linda McCartney veggie sausages
- L - My lentil, spinach and coriander soup
- Chocolate buttons
- Baked beans on toast with cheese
- Jacket potato
- Jaffa cakes
- V - egg, fried, boiled, and with soldiers, scrambled or poached
- Chocolate biscuit cake
- scones with jam and clotted cream
- crumpets - with golden syrup
- hot chocolate - white
- Starbucks chai lattes
- Mexican food! - Doritos, nachos, enchilladas, fajitas, salsa, gaucamole
- Spaghetti - L - carbonara, bolognese, V - her own pasta sauce
- Cereal - Shreddies, L - Choco Flakers, V - Frosties
- V - Chicken caesar wrap from Frankie & Benny's
- Cherry tomatoes
- Cucumber
- Cocktails
- Toasted sandwiches including panini
- Mango juice
- L - Fish and Chips, proper chippy style with lots of salt and vinegar.

Comments people! Which foods do you think you'd miss most if you were away from home for 3 months?

In a bit,
Your fringe-y author x

Monday, 8 October 2012

The Blog In Which Things Get Better

Part of the whole self-improvement jazz is to try and sort out all those niggling problems that make your life unpleasant. On the other hand, without unpleasantness, there's no contrast to make the pleasant visible. Everybody's got to do some of the jobs they hate, because Mr Muscle only cleans bathrooms.


I haven't enjoyed taking Kindergarten. Fact. Things they like include jumping on me, using me as a horse, shouting "Cartoon!" in Russian until we put a film on, and hitting each other for funsies until someone gets hit too hard and starts crying. Due to their bad behaviour, and the way they didn't listen to a word we said in English or Russian, we came to the conclusion that it was impossible to teach them any English, or any games for that matter. They also didn't seem to be able to explain Russian games to us. For those reasons we gave up on playing with them. We did put a lot of effort into producing pictures for them to colour in: three letters at a time we went through the alphabet. Then we ran out of letters, and just watched a few films while Sonya and Daryona the 6-year-olds went to Kitezh last week, leaving us with Nastya and Danya the 5-year-olds. Now they're all back together, we'd just been doing colouring in that involved more than one word e.g. a farm scene, a pond.

Today was a giant leap. Katya had told us that she would be in our Kindergarten lesson, would do a few games with us all and have a talk. The upshot of this talk was that the 4 of them like our lessons, and want to continue, and would like to have better classes. Together it was concluded that this must be achieved through respecting us - treating us as they would the other adults - and by introducing rules to improve behaviour. However, if by the end of this 'evaluation week' their behaviour is still unacceptable (so if they're still driving us barmy), then our thrice-weekly lessons will stop. I'm not sure I like that idea, seeing as today after Katya left and they finished their colouring they actually wanted to play a number game with flashcards. Even Nastya pronounced the numbers 1-5 correctly from the written English, even though she can't read Russian! I was very impressed. Katya has told us what English the older girls do know, and what games they know how to play. This will prove incredibly useful.

The action plan is to make proper lesson plans, with 3 or 4 activities on, so that they can see that the cartoon will come after the colouring in and games and such. This way we might actually only watch 30 minutes of film each time, rather than ending up watching them for an hour! I'm cautiously optimistic that maybe we might be good at taking Kindergarten after all. It would be a shame for them to miss out on what help we can give them with English, which they will all study at school.

The 4th form's behaviour also improved today. Not good by a long shot, but Vicka only pretended to fall asleep twice, and little Katya stopped saying "No Lesson!" once we'd shepherded her into the classroom. They enjoyed drawing self-portraits and labelling them.

5th form seemed happy to work on some English today after a few doss lessons of watching Racing Stripes. Though we went in with no lesson plan, Maxim handily turned up on time while the others were 10 minutes late. This meant that Maxim could show us where we left off in the book and we had time to look at the lesson plan quickly and translate what we could. With 2 pupils to a teacher we could keep an eye on the pairs of boys and give them lots of support. They didn't seem bored, only a little frustrated, but then I think it's been a while since they've had a proper lesson and they've not been in language-learning mode.


On to the awesome!

Yesterday Maxim tried to teach us how to play the incredibly complicated Game of Thrones board game. It's ridiculous - the rules make up a whole booklet! There are so many little bits and pieces of card or plastic to place on the board or in front of you. We managed to play less than 2 rounds in over an hour before the whole village came upstairs for the Therapeutic Community Meeting. He has challenged us to a rematch though, so Vicky and I have found the rulebook in English on the internet so we can put up a fight against him :D I really appreciate his friendliness, and patience with us.

Today we had an 'Autumn Festival' in Orion, complete with beautiful bouquets of yellow roses (my favourite!) in the dining room, and a play. The play was really sweet, based upon saying goodbye to Summer for the year and welcoming Autumn in: the girls performed a dance with leaves in hands, there was a game involving gathering paper leaves, children acted and recited poetry. There were riddles to solve with sweets as rewards, and also a Summer vs Autumn poem competition. I contributed a silly little rhyme:

"Summer is great, Summer is fun
We all eat ice-cream in the sun
Our ice cream melts, and then it falls
Onto the ground, oh hang it all!"

Yeah, it's not Pushkin, but I did think that up in about 10 seconds! I read it out, and then Katya translated it to Russian, even making it rhyme :O She didn't translate 'hang it all', but I think my tone of voice explained the disappointed sentiment and intended humour and got the intended giggle.

This evening Vicky felt like doing some sewing, but lacking any cross-stitch kits I proposed we used her materials to make some friendship bracelets. Though my first attempt failed about an inch in, my second attempt is looking good. I hope Vicky will like it anyway.

Joy was also in abundance today because I finally received a package my parents sent on the 4th of September, containing 3 bars of my favourite dark chocolate and my book of silly children's songs that I think the kids will enjoy.

Hooray! x

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Спасибо Sundays! #3

It's a crime, but I missed this last Sunday due to the aforementioned cooking for 12 people. I think today Masha thinks we're baking a cake for teatime - I think emergency Victoria Sponge skills might finally come in handy.

So, on to the appreciation:

- Lizzie at Third Year Abroad for deeming my writing worth reading; I'm over the moon to be published on such a great site, and a big warm welcome to all the new readers who are coming over from there! If you haven't seen it yet, pop over her site to read my 10 things I wish I'd known before leaving for Russia.

- Vicky for being all-round hilarious, introducing me to the wonders of the film Hairspray just now, and for correcting me. Turns out the Sumatrans are not an alien race from Doctor Who, that's the Sontarans.

- Lena for her Russian lessons. 9 years of studying Russian and I've never understood participles until now. This will make reading Russian literature so much easier, as although they're never used in speech, they are a staple of written language as they use far less words to convey the same meaning.

- Maxim for the amusing game of Pokemon pictionary and for being a fellow fan of fire-types.

- Vicka and Katya for giving us a chance to teach. Even though they're used to just doing fun-and-games stuff with us, we took our lesson plans in hand and managed to give them a double lesson on prepositions of place and names of toys. Despite their constant protests of "I don't want to learn English!", "I'm bored!", and "I want to sleep!" at the beginning, by the end we had them correctly identifying the whereabouts of my tiger and penguin toys, and doing 'Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes".

- Arina for the delicious herbal tea and for showing us her charming home. She's got a lovely story of why she's here: having studied Orion for university and having written her dissertation on the place, she decided to return at the mere age of 22. She volunteered for a year before becoming part of the community, as is the rule, and decided to stay. After that her long-term boyfriend Lyosha came to Orion to join her, and they were married a year and a half ago in the school hall, with a Carribean theme. D'aww. I think this makes Arina all of 25! With 4 foster kids! Well, turns out one of them is a 'Program Child' - his parents pay for him to live here, for food and board, and visit him when they can. Like a long-term boarding school, but living with a family? There's nothing like it for comparison really.

- and last but not least Masha for lending us the Belly Dancing DVD. We've nearly died/died laughing at the fat-burning workout - mad hopping and panting and hugging poles for support abounded. Wiggle wiggle wiggle wiggle wiggle, yeah :P Also, the woman who does the Level 1 & 2 bits, not the rhyming twins Neena and Veena, is so funny. We don't think we'll do her classes as they're less of a work-out and more of her just showing off what she can do! Also, it's more orientated towards teaching the individual moves to spice up one's dancing in clubs, rather than as a half-hour lesson with warm-up and cool-down like the beginners' course. I want a proper DVD for Channumas I think (are you listening Santa?).

Soon I'll be off to lunch at Katya's, so that's all for now.
Have a super Sunday too!

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Things that pass for normal

They say that normal is just a cycle on a washing machine, but this past week there were some things that passed for normal here, or merely somewhat exciting that I find utterly extraordinary or downright weird. Here are some:

- A baby calf was born - this was exciting. I just don't think the Russians grasped quite how extraordinary we found it when Vicky's name suggestion of Buttercup was picked for the newborn. Neither of us had never seen a newborn calf in real life, let alone had the chance to name one. The calf is just adorable with its gangly legs and it's little white patch on its forehead. Welcome to the world Buttercup/Лютик (that's Buttercup in Russian, pronounced Lyootik, still a very cute name).

- In Russia it is socially acceptable, in fact ordinary, to just eat jam with a teaspoon out of the jar or dish you are presented with. I tried this for the first time the other day, and it was very nice. However, when Arina told us to dig in to a giant Nutella jar with a spoon, I just couldn't bring myself to. It's OK if it's my own jar, and nobody's looking, and I've had a really bad day... but just like that... out of someone else's jar on a teaspoon... that's fine here?! When we spread a 'normal' amount on a slice of bread, Arina kept inviting us to put more on. I think this is the first time anyone has ever encouraged me to consume more of their Nutella.

- One can buy tarragon-flavoured soft drink. TARRAGON-flavoured. It's a luminous green, slightly sparkling drink which comes in an elegant glass bottle. It's not unpleasant but certainly odd. Glad I didn't know what it was before I tried it, or I might never have brought myself to. Not as pleasant as Birch-juice, Cherry juice (currently my favourite unusual beverage), Kompot or Peach-Apple juice though. 

- There is something cuter than small kittens. Even smaller kittens! There are three more kittens, that we didn't even know existed, only a month old and still with blue eyes! They are teeny-weeny. This brings the village kitten-count total up to 10! They really ought to get them spayed/neutered :S

- I am a cat bed. Nyusha decided that I am a mattress, and fell asleep right on my waist as I lay on my side, in a most inconvenient fashion. When I had to move to make myself comfortable, I tried to make a space in my lap for her to lie in, but she decided the crook between my arm and head would be better and essentially made herself into a pillow. Kitten-pillows are quite nice, and have a neat purr/vibrate function. 

- 10-year-olds can and will serve tea and make breakfast. While Sasha was on the farm looking after the new calf, the two 4th form girls she's looking after invited us to hers for tea, and then proceeded to make toasted cheese sandwiches, make tea, and put out quite a spread (despite our protests that we'd just eaten). 

- Making dinner for 12 is something one can accidentally volunteer for. Once Lena discovered in conversation that Vicky and I enjoy cooking, she said 'Oh! You must cook for us! Tomorrow night!'. I paraphrase, but that was the gist. We spent quite a while trying to decide what to cook, our brief from Masha being 'Something English/ We have lots of pasta/ Something with chicken/ I love apple pie'. I'm very glad I bought my student cookbook with me, and for BBC Good Food, because we settled on Chicken and Leek Pasta bake and Apple Pie for pud. The fact that we turned up on Sunday to find there were only onions, no leeks, left us undeterred. Though stressful, the experience was most rewarding: I got a big buzz from cooking, and a delicious meal, and a truly delicious apple pie. Masha gave us wine and a toast(!) at dinner, which was charming and left me red as a beetroot and very giggly. The recipe for the pie is here - I deviated and used whichever apples we had lying around, which were eating apples.

- Buying 77kg of whole walnuts is apparently a good idea. I can understand the enormous tub of honey: honey is a delicious and natural sweetener and lends itself well to many dishes. However, why on earth would it be a good idea to buy 77kg of walnuts? Flagman's living room is dominated by bins and trays full of walnuts. Every house has a bin full of walnuts. Even our house has a glass bowlful because Lena forced us to take some; Vicky doesn't like them and I don't like opening them, but they'll look nice while we watch them rot. If you know an easy and foolproof way of opening a walnut without a nutcracker, let me know in the comments.

- After no more than a few unobserved lessons' practise teaching in a pair, one may be entrusted with teaching English classes solo. Due to Katya and Yura being away in Kitezh with the 1st form for a week; Sergei being in Crimea with a group of kids and adults from Kitezh at a place in the mountains where an old guy teaches them Kung-Fu; Sasha looking after Buttercup; and Lyosha needing to go off somewhere in the car; people were so thin on the ground this morning that they had to split Vicky and me up so she took Kindergarten and I took a 4th form English class. Thankfully, they just wanted to watch the rest of Sleeping Beauty and that took a whole 45 minutes. I do want to teach proper lessons though, and I have found the teacher's book with all the lesson plans (in Russian, but easy enough to understand), so I know what I'm doing if I get asked again tomorrow.

You read it! You can't unread it! Stay tuned for more Tales of Interest!
P.S. Cookies for those who get that reference.