Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Весна




The sun is out and things are looking up. Time for another "random thoughts" post! There hasn't been much happening here lately, so I'll give a few notes about life in Moscow, ESL, and the State of the Blogger in general.

  • Eggs in Russia are an entirely different matter than in Canada. Before buying, you have to open the packet and carefully check for cracks. Often, they're covered in feathers and bird crap. They're fertilized more often than not. Also, they come in cartons of ten instead of twelve. Monsters.
  • I'm seriously thinking of starting a Twitter account called "Sh!t my students say". There are simply too many funny stories to share every week. From accidentally calling Eminem a "raper" to declaring that they will use a hypothetical fortune to sell poor children iPhones, my classes come up with ridiculous quips every day. Of course, my school would not be pleased if I did, so there's that...
  • Sometimes you run into really unusual "lost in translation" issues. I gave an exam the other day and unthinkingly wrote on the board "Listening Section @ 17:30". Cue ten confused faces staring at me. Turns out that in Russian, @ does not correspond to "at", as it does in English. It seems perfectly obvious now, but is just one of those things you don't think of. 
  • I'm starting to get really, really tired and burnt out, and am eagerly awaiting the May holiday (seven more weeks!). My friends and I plan to go to Krakow, Poland and hang out for a few days. I cannot wait. I need a vacation so desperately. Thank goodness for Soviet-era Labor Day. 
  • Spring has finally sprung in Moscow. Temperatures hover at around 5-ish, the sun is out until 7:30 PM, and everyone is instantly in a better mood. However, I think that several of my students are going to pull a Ferris Bueller if we don't watch out. 
  • My aforementioned friends have also asked me to come with them to the Bolshoi! We're seeing La Bayadere in May. I'm really excited for this, despite the steep ticket prices. It really is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
  • I still have the following wish list. Fulfilling it is less a matter of opportunity than of overcoming my own laziness:
    • St. Petersburg
    • Going to Ismailovsky Market
    • Yasnaya Polyana (Tolstoy's estate, near Tula - this is the big one)
As the end of my time in Russia approaches, I'm starting to get a little worried about the future. What comes next? More teaching? Travel somewhere else? Grad school? Flipping burgers? However, I'm choosing to focus on the next few months - and doing them right - rather than thinking years down the line. I'm here to see the world. And see it I shall. 

Friday, March 7, 2014

Зоопарк



Yes, I went to the actual Moscow zoo this weekend. You see, all my friends had great plans to go out of town this weekend, and several invited me to join them, but my school cockblocked me again, so I'm stuck in Moscow being bored enough to go watch sickly-looking giraffes whose misery is palpable. "I'm sorry you had to be in Russia," I whispered to one particularly grumpy jaguar as a bunch of kindergartners hammered on the glass. I'm not against zoos in principle, but holy crap, Moscow's is bleak. Though I do believe I had a mystical experience with a cassowary.

Maybe today is just a reflection of my mood in general. March is a bad month for most teachers, halfway through the term with no end in sight. And unlike my Canadian counterparts, I don't get a spring break. Trying to get the system to make sense is rather Sisyphean, to put it mildly. I've been playing George Carlin rants and the famous diatribe from Network just to let off some steam. "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore!"

The situation in Ukraine is also difficult. Nowhere near as difficult as it is in actual Ukraine, of course, but it's very tense here. I won't get into specifics, but everyone here knows that it might have huge consequences for Russia and Russians. As a foreigner in Russia, with economic and political threats being tossed around left and right by both this country and my own, it's easy to feel vulnerable. The future can be rather uncertain here. In general, when I walk home from work, about 10% of the people I see are smoking. In the past week or so, it's been almost everyone. In the staffroom, the tension is almost palpable. I don't know if it's because of the political events specifically, or just the basic human misery that seems to poison everyone these days.

Still, this is not specifically a Russian problem, dour stereotypes aside. The whole world seems broken lately. Crashing economies, unsustainable societies populated by Aldous Huxley's Alphas. Everyone is special, and yet no one is able to make it. When I get back to Canada, what do I really have waiting for me - a job flipping burgers? The last generation left mine adrift and no one seems to know how to make a workable society. Maybe one of these days it'll get better - but to be honest, I think we are far too entrenched with this hamster wheel to ever get free. Maybe Howard Beale said it best. Still - even if we shout, no one will listen, will they?