Friday, September 27, 2013

Центральный парк культуры и отдыха имени Горького

What can I say except that work has been running me ragged. Kindergarteners who won’t be quiet, teens who try to put dirty words in their homework. Yawn. I’ve survived the first month, and things are definitely getting a whole lot easier. My other job (I recap television shows for a blog) has started up with the new TV season, and honestly? It’s a great stress-buster. Hooray for pop culture, you have saved me again.

Moscow is starting to chill off for serious. I almost broke out the gloves today, but I’m still hoping not to give in until after my birthday. See, once the gloves go on, you’re officially in for the long haul, so you must put it off as long as possible. Can’t wait for snow. Which I assume I will promptly get sick of.

I made a promise to myself when I got here not to waste my days off. Sure, there’s cleaning and errands to be done and some days you just kind of have to sit around and watch TV the whole time, but as an introvert by nature, I know I have to make myself get out and do things. So I’ve made a list. Today’s destination – Gorky Park. 

What can I say? It's a little slice of peace in the middle of one of the busiest cities on earth. For decades Russians have come here to relax. On a sunny Friday afternoon, it was very empty but everyone there was enjoying themselves. 

I love autumn when the sun is out and people still feel they can have fun. Rollerblading seems to be a big thing here. I just sat around with my coffee and took pictures. 

I'm glad I went. 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013


I’m closing in on my first month in Moscow, and it feels like a blink. What was it they said, the days drag and the years fly by? It’s been wretchedly rainy lately, but as I was leaving work this afternoon, the sun was out and shining in that painfully bright way that makes you think “Oh my God, it’s not overcast today? There’s light sometimes?” It made my grey suburban neighbourhood look utterly beautiful, and I felt – well – lucky.

Now that I’m settled, I’m ready for some honest-to-God exploring. A long list of things to do has sprung up! Several of the other teachers have reached out to me socially, and are full of recommendations for various things around town. They’re a pretty cool group. I’ve had a few fun nights of pizza and gossip, which is about my speed – being a total introvert and all. My birthday’s coming up soon and I’ve already got people to spend it with!

Work is demanding but I’m getting the hang of it. Today I actually had a modicum of control over my preschool classes, which is unheard of, and yesterday (after teaching five classes on my day off) the director actually praised me. WHAT IS HAPPENING, PEOPLE. Actually, I’m pretty happy that it’s going well – it’s been a rough adjustment. Maybe I’ll stick around long enough to experience Moscow winter after all.

In other news, however, our wi-fi has died yet again. It’s really annoying to be so cut off from the world when you have absolutely no home base to start with. I can pick up email at work, but it’s the fun stuff I miss – the blogs, Facebook, everything that’s frivolous. The Emmys are coming up and ohhhh how I want to follow it. (Basically, I’m team Kevin Spacey all the way, my devotion to Mad Men notwithstanding.) No more endless meandering through the web, I suppose. Sigh.

Overall, however, life is looking pretty rosy these days. I can’t wait to enjoy the beautiful city ahead of me. Next stop – Gorky Park!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Спасибо, Билайн!

Just a quick post to let you know I finally have wi-fi. This is a momentous celebration. Oh, yeah, and I'm still teaching and having fun and stuff. But wi-fi. Yay.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Москве в вечере

Today I was going to head to Gorky Park, but the weather is rotten and my cold has flared up with a vengeance. Since I have a busy week ahead (starting with a 6:30 AM wake up tomorrow – blech), I elected to have an “inside day”. Apart from a brief supermarket trip, I’ve just been hanging out and relaxing at home. Currently I’m curled up with some delicious crème brulee ice cream, catching up on last year’s Oscar nominees. Note: The Sessions is absolutely excellent, particularly the performances of John Hawkes, Helen Hunt and William H. Macy.

Last night I met up with a friend of a friend, originally from Montreal and now living in Moscow, who took me to an awesome little underground music bar in Kitay-Gorod. Russia is, I think, a much more culturally-focused society than in North America. The arts are truly alive here. In three weeks, I’ve seen more people reading classics on the Metro than I have seen reading at all in four years of Toronto and Vancouver transit. This friend tells me that there is a thriving poetry and music scene in and around the Moscow nightlife. I’ll have to check it out as the year goes on. It was good to hang out with someone who sort of understood, who knew Moscow from an expat’s point of view, and who could tell me what to see and do in Russia. He let me know that I had the power to choose my own path, and that there is a lot out there to experience. And it was some pretty good music, too.

I’m starting to build confidence. Teaching is not by any means easy, but there is a certain knack to it, and I think I’m catching on. A couple of days off really helped. If I could just ditch this cold, get my wi-fi and catch up with the world, life would be close to perfect. I’m run-down and busy, but I’m enjoying myself, and that’s what counts. 

Maybe this will turn out to be an adventure after all...

Friday, September 13, 2013

Без интернет

Yup. No wi-fi. I’ve been here three weeks, and apart from a couple of email checks whenever I’ve managed to poach a signal, as well as some limited texting back and forth to Canada, my communication has been entirely face-to-face, perish the thought. Hopefully we will get it tomorrow, but I’m not holding my breath.

These days, my life has basically been work and nothing else. Apart from the Red Square visit, it’s basically been sleep and school (this is not helped by a massive cold that seems to be going around the teachers). I got tickets to Elton John for December – I’ve seen him before in my hometown, but due to some current political events I think this concert will be infinitely more interesting – and picking the tickets up gave me an excuse to explore the Taganskaya region, full of theatres and funky restaurants and opportunities for fun. I’m also heading to Kitay Gorod tonight, which should be fun.

Our kitchen got remodeled, turning it from something very basic into the best kitchen I’ve ever had. Still trying to learn Russian cooking instructions, but other than that I’m pretty much accustomed to Russian daily life. Like the nerd I am, I’ve been catching up with all my books and TV shows and movies. I’ve even been writing a bit, something I kind of forgot about in college. (Heh, present perfect continuous. I had to teach that yesterday.) Mostly it’s been recommendations from friends, stuff I heard about during my film study days, and whatever happens to be on my computer or e-reader. Father Ted, The Crying Game, Fritz the Cat and House of Cards have been some of my favourites, as well as the works of John Ajvide Lindqvist – you may know him from the great vampire novel/movie Let the Right One In (skip the American remake, the Swedish movie rocks). I especially recommend House of Cards, which is a fine American political drama with extraordinary talent both in front of and behind the camera. Kevin Spacey is utterly brilliant as the lead. Hopefully we’ll have Internet by the time the new TV seasons start.

Teaching is getting better, and I feel like I’m finding my feet. Sure, I still make mistakes, but the students seem to like me and I’m pretty much on track with the curriculum. We’ll see how it goes, but no matter how it turns out, I know that I have worked hard. The best part is definitely interacting with the students. I’ve had all age groups except the pre-teens, and there are advantages and disadvantages to each. The youngest kids are a lot of fun and really eager, the somewhat older children are just beginning to discover everything, and the teens are able to discuss more complex issues and, having learned much of the grammar, can do more fun activities in the curriculum. I’m especially enjoying my advanced teens, who are basically a group of class clowns and love to get into new topics. Their speaking exercises can turn quite hilarious. Furthermore, several of them are Beliebers, which marks the only time I will ever be cool for being Canadian. They were quite disappointed to learn that I didn’t know the Biebs, but when I told them I’d lived a short train ride from Stratford (Toronto), they were thrilled. Score one for Teacher.

The weather is starting to cool down as we settle into fall, and I’ve already put some gloves in my purse, just in case it gets that cold. Autumn is gorgeous in British Columbia, but I haven’t spent that season there since 2008. I have to admit I really am missing Canada. The limited contact with home hasn’t exactly been great. This week my cousin and his wife had a baby, and though I’m overjoyed for them, I do feel bad that I won’t get to meet him for months and months. Maybe this homesickness will dissipate once the Internet has returned. Either way, I don’t think I’m an ESL lifer. I’m going to make the most of this year, then re-evaluate. But right now, the hunch is more “adventure” than “career”. That doesn’t mean I’m not going to give it my all, of course. I really do enjoy it. And I love Russia. However – it took moving around the world to realize just how Canadian I am. 

Thursday, September 5, 2013


It’s been a while since my last update (well, a while since I last wrote – still no wi fi), mostly because there’s not much to say. It’s mostly been work and TV and sleep. not great. I had my first class today and it was kind of a disaster. I don’t know if I’m cut out for this teaching thing. Lesson plans seem to elude me, students just stare at me blankly. There’s nothing worse than a silent teenager. Except a room full of them, of course. I’ve already been ordered to go in on my days off and observe classes.

I’m the first to admit that I’m an anxious person, and not exactly interested in people. Long-term, I will probably wind up working in the back room of an obscure library or something. For now, though, I have to pull it together – somehow. It’s difficult to remind myself that Rome wasn’t built in a day, that I’m the youngest and least experienced in the school, that skills are learned and not innate. It’s not working. I still get up at the front and stare at the students and feel like an ass.

It doesn’t help that culture shock has hit something fierce. I am super homesick for Canada. It’s fall now – never one of my best times – and all I want is to see my friends and my family and the dumb stupid dog. I’m tired of constantly converting rubles and dollars back and forth in my mind, of using slang no one understands, of having to fumble my way through every interaction. The idea of failing probation terrifies me, and yet seems to be a bit of a relief too. Maybe I’m less adventurous than I thought.

Somehow, though, I don’t think so, considering that my back-up plans all involve landing somewhere in Europe and working at something else (or marrying Prince Harry). I’m not ready to finish the adventure yet, but I don’t know yet whether this one will be a success. It’s hard to imagine ever being good at this. Will there ever be a change for the better?