Monthly Archives: October 2010

Happy Halloween (almost)!

So I know I’ve been remiss in keeping things up-to-date over here.  Basically, after I got back from Moscow, I had lots and lots of work to do between lesson plans and my Russian lessons and everything, and so it’s already been almost three weeks since I got back from orientation, crazy.  I also haven’t really been doing anything out of the ordinary, so there’s not much to say about the day-to-day stuff.  Additionally I still haven’t taken any real pictures of Voronezh (sorry Mom) so my guilt has kept me away.

But I will try and give some brief updates.  We had our first snow this week, which is pretty good considering it’s practically November.  There seems to be quite a bit of drama about guessing how cold this winter is going to be.  Some people are saying that it’s going to be the coldest winter ever, while other people are saying it won’t be so bad.  Some people say that because our fall has been so warm it means that winter will be extra cold, while others are saying that the warm fall means a relatively warm winter.  By the way, I have no idea who these people are that are saying this, or where this information is coming from, but once people hear it then everyone starts telling everyone else about it.  It’s like playing Telephone but about the weather, and no one knows who’s turn it was to start.

I’ve also become quite the movie-goer, compared to last year or even this summer.  I’ve been to three movies so far: Wall Street, The Other Guys, and then on Thursday I saw Paranormal Activity 2 (it’s Halloween, ok?).  So far The Other Guys was obviously the hardest for me to understand, because it’s all jokes and swearing and stuff.  I guess I’ll stick to dramas and horror movies.  It’s easier to understand when there’s lots of crying and melodramatic pauses.

I’ve also been given an extraordinary chance to catch up on my B-list American movies, because one of the tv channels I get plays a movie almost every night I think.  XXX (with Vin Diesel, not some other type of movie thank you very much) is playing right now.  Last night they played Wanted (with Angelina Jolie and James McAvoy), I’ve recently also seen Back to the Future parts 1, 2, and 3, Crank, that one movie with Reese Witherspoon and Mark Ruffalo that didn’t do well, and that other movie with Richard Gere and Winona Rider that didn’t do well.  This tv channel seems to pick the movies based on their B- or C- list status, and inexplicable and inappropriate use of classical music during action sequences.  It’s actually interesting because I usually have seen parts of the movie in English or kind of know what’s happening anyways, so it’s not impossible to figure out what’s really going on.  Oh, learning by osmosis, so fun.

I’ve also been lucky enough to see part of the countryside around Voronezh, and see some of the holy places outside of the city.  Last weekend I went to a town called Zadonsk, which is in the neighboring region.  It’s famous for its monastery and because a famous saint, Saint Tikhon of Zadonsk, lived and was buried there.  I saw some different parts of the monastery and churches as well as the купель, which is like a baptismal font, and a holy spring.  It was really interesting.

As for this weekend, it’s Halloween!  I made pumpkin soup to celebrate.  Thursday is a holiday here (who knew that my half birthday was a national holiday in Russia) but there’s still lots of other things to do before then.

Hopefully I’ll take pictures and post them soon.  Until next time!

time flies?

Holy Smokes! I just realized that I’ve been in Voronezh for six weeks and one day. This is already one week longer than the longest I had previously been in Russia, which was for five weeks during the summer of 2008.

Right now I feel like things are getting better and better. Because of orientation last weekend, I’m starting to feel like I’m a better teacher, and I feel like my students are finally getting used to me. The information they gave us at the teacher-training was just enough to get me thinking about how to improve and come up with creative ideas.

I also feel like I’m meeting more people all the time, which is really great. I’ve met so many nice and wonderful people who make me feel like this is really my home. Oh, cheesy, yes, but true.

So things are going really well here. I am hopefully going to take some pictures of the city today, so you all can imagine it better!

Caffeine

Today, I bought some coffee for the first time since I’ve been here. As my friends and family know, back at home I’m a bit of a coffee addict. There were days last year when I bought 5+ cups of coffee in one day. I cringe to think about it now, but coffee was my life-force. I basically stopped drinking it this summer because I’m lazy, except for the days when I would wake up and my mom had already brewed wonderful and delicious coffee for us to have together.

Here, I’m used to drinking tea, because there is more variety and because it’s everywhere. It’s also kind of a thing – if someone says, “Let’s have some tea,” it means, let’s sit down and update each other on our lives. Also, in the short breaks between classes, mostly all the teachers drink tea, to help them maintain their voices.

So last weekend, in Moscow, I had coffee for the first time in a long time, and I remembered how much I love it! The big problem here, though, is that it’s much harder to find coffee of the non-instant variety. It’s also more expensive – it’s difficult for me to justify spending 100 rubles on a small container of instant coffee when I can get pretty tasty tea for half that, or a quarter of that.

Well, even so, I have to say I am really enjoying my cup of instant coffee. And I am also already looking forward to the day when I’ll wake up in California and my mom will have just poured some crazy delicious blend like caramel or vanilla bean…

Pictures from Moscow!

Just a few. I’m not very photogenic so I apologize in advance.

I apologize for the blurriness, but these posters were everywhere because they were having big celebrations for John Lennon’s birthday this weekend. They love the Beatles here!  I’m in the right place.

Red Square at night!!!! AH!!!

Looking back towards the main gate where we came in..

Proof that I actually took the pictures…

This is my favorite.. Looking back towards the main gate, GUM (a huge expensive department store mall thing) is all lit up on the right.

Again, back towards the main gate..

St Basil’s Cathedral up close!

Keep your eyes out for a panoramic picture of Red Square, coming soon..

Moscow

I just returned this morning from a quick trip to Moscow for in-country orientation. It was pretty great, not going to lie. The information and teacher training they gave us was really helpful, and it was great to compare experiences with other Fulbright people.

I arrived Thursday night, and was pretty happy to successfully navigate my way to the hotel – a Holiday Inn of course (actually the hotel was great – close to a metro stop, great food, I was very content).

On Friday we got to go to the embassy! We got a security briefing, had a presentation about NASA and the international space station and how the Americans and Russians happily work together, and a bunch of other people also gave us information about random stuff. After having lunch at an American-style steak restaurant, we went to the American Center of Moscow, which is really awesome. They have an American style library and often have great people come and speak. It made me jealous of all the Fulbright Fellows in Moscow, for sure, but it was still great.

On Saturday, those of us who are doing ETA had a training session, which was so helpful. I feel so much more prepared now, as though I actually have people who can support me with materials and ideas as I go through this year, and it’s not just me by myself.

Saturday night I got to see a friend from school who is living and working in the Moscow area. We went to a fantastic Georgian restaurant – it was seriously SO good. It was great to see her too, and to compare our experiences and just cheer each other on.

Sunday we finished up training, and I just had a little bit of time to catch up with some of the other ETAs before catching my train back to Voronezh. The train I took on Thursday is a new express train – only 8 hours!! – and to compare to Metro North in Connecticut, it is less expensive than getting from New Haven to Grand Central. Riding back I took an overnight train, and met some really nice women in my part of the platzcart. Platzcart is the cheapest overnight train, where there are lots of beds and everything but no separate compartments. I had never ridden it before, so I was a little nervous, but it was great!

So, back to school for another week! I’m hoping to use some of my knowledge right away to get the students more excited about English.

the joys of central everything

As you may have guessed from the time the water stopped working, central water and heating are still alive and well over here. It’s starting to get cold in Voronezh – it’s been in the 40s (I’m talking Fahrenheit) and getting down to the 30s in the mornings and evenings. I still get alarmed when I see 0 degrees (Celsius). Anyways, it’s getting chilly, but to make it worse they haven’t turned on the heat yet.

Of course, it’s not that different from living in Silliman at Yale and waiting for them to turn on the heat…but I think the rooms were a little bit warmer there. I did some sleuthing on the internet and I think they’re planning on turning on the heat on October 15 if it doesn’t get too cold before them. The fifteenth! I was not so happy to see this today as I was shivering in my room watching the news. My secret dream is that when I return from Moscow early early Monday morning, there will be a surprise for me in that my place will be nice and toasty and they will have turned on the heat.

Of course, if you’ve read about the crazy heat waves in Moscow this summer you may have also read about how during the heat some of the heat was still on and so many Muscovites were simply sweltering. It sounded awful, but right now I would love to be too warm. My nose is cold. Luckily I finally bought tapochki, which are slippers to wear inside, so my feet aren’t so cold. Still, I’m dreaming of life after October 15th when I will not be so chilly all the time. My mom is always cold, I think it’s better that she’s waiting to visit me until the real winter starts and it’s nice and warm inside.

Уалл Стрит (Wall Street)

Last night with some American friends and some new Russian friends, I went to the movies.  I live really close to two different movie theaters, but everyone considers one of them way superior to the other.  We went to see the movie “Wall Street,” which I suppose just came out but I don’t know how long it’s been out in the U.S.  The movie theaters sell all sorts of usual concessions (one of the guys got caramel popcorn – yum) and of course beer.  Beer is everywhere here.

It’s nice for me to see how much I really understand, going to a movie and watching tv and everything.  I guess it doesn’t hurt that I understood the context of the movie and financial crash, but overall I really understood most of the movie.  I’m curious to see how it’s doing in the states.  I thought it started out really interesting and it had momentum, and then all of a sudden it was realllly long and drawn out.  Longest two hours I’ve had in a long time.  I also felt bad that Carey Mulligan’s character just cried the whole movie.  Another thing that’s interesting is how they dub movies into Russian – they actually did a really good job with it, picking different voices for different characters and whatnot.  Overall, I would say it was 220 rubles well spent.