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.

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