Hiking

Today we went on a hike to the Moscow River. As I said before, once you get outside of this compound, the scenery is beautiful. It reminds me of the mid-west, the only difference being that here there are no farms. Instead there are Gazprom pipeline signs everywhere.

We hiked to the same spot as last time, stopping to take pictures and pick flowers along the way. I picked a small bouquet, and one of my fellow Russian instructors showed me how to braid it into a flower crown. We used to make clover chains when we were kids, but this was much more sophisticated, like the ones at the renaissance festival. Ksusha (my photographer friend) is going to take pictures of us in the fields tomorrow.

We stopped at the riverbank and started gathering things for a fire. No sooner had we put some try grass on the ground, and then we saw it was smoking. Everyone was astonished that the fire started itself without a match. Ever heard of forest fires? That is how they occur. (Since we are sitting on top of an oil field, I’m hoping there is a lot of rain for the rest of the summer). Besides the utter lack of fire safety, the hike was a success. We drank scalding tea in the 98-degree weather, and then walked back to the camp in time for diner.

Trouble in Paradise

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Being an instructor leaves me very little free time to write, read, sleep or basically do anything that doesn’t involve chaperoning a child.

In the last couple of days we have played battleship with water balloons, gone on an excursion, to the pool twice, watched two movies, and had a party. Oh, and we’ve had two kids leave.

The first day we noticed that two girls weren’t participating, thinking they were shy, we let it go a little bit. But as their participation became worse, and they started affecting the other kids, we had to address the situation. Their behavior didn’t improve, and twice I ran around the compound frantically searching for them because they ran away.

Two nights ago we had a pirate themed party, and as usual the girls didn’t want to participate. Instead, they sat in the corner and cried for four hours. When the party was over and we told them they could go to bed, they refused to move, and instead laughed at us because we have an accent. After an hour of trying to reason with them (which by this point was way past their bed time) the director of the camp came to help us. The girls refused to talk to everyone, and at one point, one of the girls became so hysterical she tried to bolt from the room. There were five adults there, including the safety instructor Dmitri, who tackled and restrained her because her escape attempt became a physical assault on the adults in the room. It was by far one of the strangest nights of my life. The other girl was locked in the doctor’s office and basically imprisoned until her parents came to get her two days later.

July 4th we went back to Borodino, but this time the excursion was in English, and we got to eat ice cream. Jess and I hosted a 4th of July bond fire for our kids, and painted their faces with American flags and got them cheering U-S-A! Every night we have reflection, and one of my kids asked if I was homesick. I told him I was, because I had never celebrated 4th of July without my family. He looked at me and said, “today we’re your family, so you don’t have to celebrate alone.” I don’t think I could have asked for a better group.

Team Dragon Trainers

Yesterday the kids had to sit through 45 minutes of hygiene and safety. How long does it take to tell them they need to shower and brush their teeth? Also, guess how they teach fire safety here… If there’s a fire, gather all of your possessions and get outside. But, if you can’t make it outside, sit in the shower with the hot water on. What?

We also had sports, and the boys let me join their soccer game because they were a man down. It was a lot of fun, despite the field basically being full of potholes. I even scored a goal! (I think it might be the first one ever).

Today we had our first full day at camp. I taught three classes this morning, two on pottery and ceramics, and one on mummies. My group is pretty artistic and creative, so both things looked pretty good. We also had a game where the kids had to run around and occupy different city-states. My team blew the other team out of the water—which I think upset the other councilor.

The low point of the day was losing two of our students. They took it upon themselves to leave the building, and walk up and down the street. Jess and I frantically searched the building, and were starting to search the rest of the camp with the director when we finally found them.

We also put on a play for our Greek Theater. My kids wrote a play about (of course) dragons. It was funny, and I was really proud to see them work together so well. We also prepared a song, and one of my kids played the guitar.

Every night we have reflection time; it gives the kids a chance to talk about their day, and really share their feelings with us. I think my kids are starting to be comfortable with me and are really enjoying being a part of our team.

Moscow

We finally got to spend the “weekend” in Moscow.  When I say “weekend” I mean the break between terms, which is only one full day.  But nonetheless, it was a much-needed and well-spent break.

We took the bus back to Moscow on Friday with the campers.  We sat in traffic, until finally our bus made a U-turn from the far right lane.  As if that wasn’t strange enough, I looked out the window to see the doctor running across the car-filled street to catch up to the busses.  Apparently he had gotten out to smoke. 

Ksusha let us stay in her grandmother’s apartment because she is currently at her dacha for the summer.  It was a comfortable one bedroom flat, much like the one that I stayed at in Petersburg, but with a great view over the city. 

When finally got our fill of fast food eating all the delicacies: McDonald’s, pizza, KFC and even a little bit of frozen yogurt (despite the fact that it was 50 degrees). 

Friday we settled in, and then walked around Moscow.  We got to meet Ksusha’s family and see her apartment.  I think it’s bigger than my house.    We walked from the apartment, down Arbat Street, to the Savior’s Church, then on to Red Square.  I was in Moscow in March last year, but it’s amazing how different everything looks when there are flowers everywhere instead of snow. 

While on Red Square we saw a group of people dancing, but they were disrupted by police officers.  Gatherings of more than 10 people are forbidden. 

For dinner we ate at Ksusha’s father’s restaurant Il Patio.  It’s an Italian and Japanese restaurant, and the food was delicious.  We had pizza with shrimp on it, and (almost) real spaghetti. 

Saturday we woke up at 8 a.m. to people setting off fireworks outside our window, and the sounds of the police breaking up whatever party that was still going on from the night before.  Kshusha’s father drove us around Moscow in his car.  We went to the Smolenskiy Monastery, where Peter the Great banished his sister Empress Sofia in the 1700’s when she tried to usurp power. 

After that her dad showed us where he used to work.  He was a member of the Communist Party, and said that to this day he still has his party ticket. 

Most of the day was spent walking around Moscow in the rain.  We went Bylgalkov’s House (writer of Master and Marguerite) and walked through the park where everything in the book took place.   By then it started to rain pretty heavily, so we went to the movies and saw the new X Men movie.  I’m pretty proud of myself for understanding almost everything!  The scientific language went over my head, but I understood mostly everything else. 

Today was my first day as an instructor.  We met everyone at the busses at 9 a.m., and arrived back at camp by noon.  Most of the afternoon was spent getting to know the kids, dividing them into teams, and coming up with team names. 

My team decided to call themselves the Dragon Trainers: Training Dragons and Conquering the World.  Civilization is based off the computer game.  Tomorrow we start with the Ancient Era. 

I have a pretty good group, they are a little reluctant to speak English around me, but I’m hoping that will change once they get more comfortable with me.  

We Will Rock You

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I have been pretty busy the last couple of days, so here they are in review:

  • We started planning for next term (the making of crossbows, Egyptian mummies, and hiking)…
  • I went to Hogwarts Yule Ball, and had to console crying girls because no one asked them to dance.
  • We ran out of hot water… and Internet.

Yesterday I didn’t have class, because Hogwarts went on a hike around the camp.  I went with them, and it turned out to be the most peaceful day yet.  The photographer and I ended up losing the group, and meandered through the Russian countryside for an hour.  We walked through fields of yellow flowers, which reminded me very strongly of The Wizard of Oz (or a PC desktop background).  Having never experienced the Russian countryside, it was gorgeous, and I’m trying to convince Austin we need to go again.

Today was my last lesson with Hogwarts (слава богу), some of the kids I will miss, others I will definitely not.  I swear I left the classroom for five seconds, and when I came back in everyone was crying.  I’d like to say it was because they were sad not to have me as a teacher anymore, but in reality they were hitting each other. 

After dinner we had a talent show, which no one told us we were participating in.  At the last minute Zhenya came running up to us and said, “you’re up next!” We went with we will rock you, by Queen, a song I learned by heart in my childhood.  As terrible as we thought we were, the kids loved it, clapping and singing along with us.  

The remainder of the evening will be spent hacking the wifi and watching the US play Germany.  USA! USA! USA! 

Sunday Blues

Most people get the Monday Blues, we get the Sunday Blues.  I swear I never know what day it is, partly because our workweek starts on Sunday.  After having them for a whole week, my kids are starting to loosen up and show their personalities.  Some of my kids have no interest in learning English, and some of them rather enjoy it.  Some of them just like to hang on me.  Every day I have to tell Sonya that she cannot sit on my lap while I teach, and Max’s constant hugging me has led me to learn the phrase “отпусти меня” (let go of me).  Ivan and Ilya are chaos.  Today they spent twenty minutes (at least ¼ of our class) sitting in the corners of the classroom as punishment for hitting other classmates and being rowdy. 

After lunch we started working on making the giant map that is the center of the Civilization program.  We traced and painted it, and it doesn’t look half bad if I do say so myself.  (Although we have two terms of civilization and if we can’t find a way to salvage this one, I have no interest in painting a second one).  

Parents Day Round 2

The plays that my kids practiced went well, considering we hadn’t practiced in two days.  My lower level English class struggled a bit, but they still did well.  Seth videotaped them, but they were so quiet you can’t hear them over the crowd. 

We spent most of the day sitting in the gazebo in the rain, waiting for people to come play English games with us.  A few people did trudge through the foul weather, but for the most part we were by ourselves.

For the afternoon, I tried Skyping with Greg, which worked for a while before the Internet completely died. 

We had a small English planning meeting to begin preparing for the next term.  Austin designed a program based off of the game Civilization, and I am being upgraded (or downgraded depending on how you look at it) to a full instructor.  The entire two-week program is an English immersion program, and has the potential to be really cool, but also a lot of work.  

Borodino

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Today I finally got to go on a fieldtrip!  Finally I got a day outside of camp.  Don’t get me wrong, I like it here, but I haven’t left this site in 22 days, and I just needed to get out.  Thankfully the fieldtrip meant that I didn’t have classes for the day. 

We left right after breakfast (mac and cheese…) and headed to Borodino, a large battlefield.  Borodino is like their Gettysburg; in 1812 Russia triumphed over Napoleon and his army.  Napoleon brought over 500,000 soldiers to Russia, and left with only 80,000—the mean Russian winters and Russian army killing off most of his men.  In the middle of the battle field there is a large monument, and a museum off to the side.  The trenches and bunkers are all still there, which is pretty cool. 

We then headed to a nunnery not far from the battlefield.  The nunnery sprang up after the war, founded by widows of the soldiers.  Today it is still a working nunnery, and we saw many of them walking around the grounds. 

The excursion only lasted half a day, but it was refreshing, and reminded me that the culture is really what I love about this country.  I’m hoping our bi-weekly trips into Moscow will help break the monotony, if not, my trip to St. Petersburg in August certainly will.

Tomorrow is Parents Day, which means I once again do not have class.  I only hope that the plays we practiced will go flawlessly (somehow I doubt it).  

-10 Points to Ravenclaw

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Thankfully breakfast was somewhat normal (lumpy oatmeal, cheese and the like).  I was three minutes early for breakfast and they made me stand in the hall.  They’re very strict about time here, you cannot be early, and you cannot be late. 

Finally, classes were terrible.  I made both Ivan and Ilya stand in the hallway because they were misbehaving.  We did an exercise where they came up with their own spells, and they wrote a few choice words in Russian as the spells.   I had to bring it up to the director of the program, who said she’d talk to them, but I’m expecting the same behavior tomorrow.  At least from Ilya, because he started hissing at me and trying to hex me at the end of class… (I did threaten to take 10 points away from Ravenclaw–their house).

I spent a relatively quiet afternoon finishing yet another book, which makes me realize I should have brought an entire library with me.  Not that I’ll have this much freedom the next two terms.  (I’m just enjoying the fact that I actually have time to read for the first time in four years). 

My first class, Slytherin, loves me.  Or more specifically, one girl (Sonya) loves me.  Any time we’re outside of class, she tries to sit on my lap, hug me, or hold my hand.  It’s kind of cute (and since it hasn’t been above 50 recently, I don’t mind).  I like to think that the rest of my class likes me too.

I did hear some interesting news at the planning meeting… apparently we lost two children.  One, the councilors simply forgot about and left somewhere.  The other, ran away.  They found her (apparently she returned to her room), but it was strange nonetheless.  

Frozen

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Today breakfast was cold egg casserole, peas, and hotdogs.  I know that Europe and Russia are big on lunch items for breakfast, but hotdogs?  Ew. 

Classes ran as smooth as I guess they can go.   I’ve started to notice that I do have on problem child, Ivan.  He talks out of turn, has to touch everything, and constantly pretends he can’t understand what I say in Russian.  (When he speaks English it’s at an octave higher than it should be, but I won’t hold that against him).  

Today we filmed interviews, and I spent the afternoon editing them into a video, which I’ll post to YouTube later.  Side note: don’t bring cloaks, wands, and witch hats to class as it distracts the children.

If it doesn’t warm up soon, I’m going to freeze before I come home.  It’s been 41 degrees for the last few days.  It gets up to about 50 during the day, but not higher.  If it drops a few more degrees, we might see snow!