I started my day by stopping at the small convenience store near the school before heading to my classroom. I’d had a really busy weekend and didn’t make it to the grocery store to buy candy. I owed the boy’s team in Elementary some candy after their win Friday at a new game called “I Dare You.” Because there were few sweets to buy, I ended up getting each of them a small package of malted milk balls. They seemed happy!
It was about 8:45am when I entered the shop. The girl behind the counter knows me by now. She’s very accommodating and lets me go behind the counter, since she knows I know almost no Russian. You don’t pick things off the shelves in these convenience stores. Almost everything is behind the counter and the attendant gets them for you. What I hadn’t expected to find at this hour of the morning were two men, drinking beer and quite tipsy. Beer was only recently considered an alcoholic beverage in Russia. It’s illegal to have an open bottle or drink in public, but you see it often. It also seems to be OK to buy the beer in a shop and drink it right there—even though it’s not a restaurant and there are no tables. These men were reeking of alcohol, and wobbled if they didn’t use the wall for support, but at least were happy drunks. I looked over the candy selection (which was behind glass) and pointed at the individual packages of malted milk balls. Forgetting myself, I asked for 7 packages, in English. The shopkeeper held up two. “Nyet.” And I held up seven fingers. One of the drunks said in English, “Seevan. Underastan? Wan, too, tree, four, fiwe, seex, sewen,” as he counted on his fingers. I was impressed! I complimented him on his English. “No, no. Leetle English. Russki?” “Neyt,” I said, and went through my half dozen Russian words, which made him laugh (yes, no, dog, hello, goodbye, vampire, juice). Possibly anything would have made him laugh then, though. He asked, “What name?” “Beth” is unpronounceable by more than half the world, so he struggled with the “th” sound. We finally agreed to “Bet.”
He wanted to talk more, but that was the extent of our shared language, I fear. Also, I had to teach class.
I’ve survived my last day teaching In Russia! I’ve gotten approximately one million calories worth of candy, cookies and chocolate in the last two days, as well as other lovely trinkets. I’ve never gotten so many gifts for being a teacher! And I got even more hugs (calorie free!)
Tonight the owner is taking me out to dinner to celebrate a successful summer program. She’s very pleased with my work and that makes me feel good. She said she thought I was the best possible teacher they could have found! Honestly I wasn’t sure how she felt. This isn’t an expressive culture. She’s never said anything bad about my work or suggested any changes, but I guess we are all a little insecure. Anyway, I’m feeling validated at the moment!
Unfortunately, I did the math on my stay here. I had free accommodations, but by the time I paid for food and transportation (Flight here from Madrid and another to my next location in Mexico), I didn’t make any money. The Ruble is weak and has fallen since we agreed to the contract. Still, it’s good experience, very interesting, and you can’t put a price on that!
The owner, Yulia, took me out last night to a very nice restaurant to celebrate a successful summer program. We ordered the locally brewed beer and the largest glasses imaginable came to the table. These were the small size. Her chicken with vegetables was beautiful. I had grilled pork with marinated onions. The pork was very tender. I had a couple large pieces, then started to take a first bite of the greens on the side of my plate. A garden slug slithered out of the parsley! I’m a farm girl, so this probably didn’t bother me as much as most people. I thought it was kind of funny and started laughing. (after all, the French eat them) Obviously the salad greens were very fresh and hadn’t been cleaned quite thoroughly. Yulia was mortified. The waitress went pale and I thought she might faint. She took my plate back to the kitchen, holding it at arm’s length as though it were poison. The restaurant offered to fix me something else, but I decided I wasn’t hungry anymore. I felt sorry for the waitress who had to come over and apologize to me, in Russian along with the few English words she knew. We got my meal for free.
Today I pack up everything and prepare to leave early tomorrow morning. It’s a 3+ hour drive to Vladivostok, then 9 hour flight to Moscow. I did laundry yesterday and it’s raining so my damp clothes are still strewn all over the apartment. Hope they dry so I can finish packing.
Tonight I’ll spend a last evening with Lubov. It’s raining, again, so we may go to a cafe.
This is one of the apartment houses in my neighborhood. Most are concrete, but there’s a block of wooden ones. None have any paint. It’s hard to see, but there’s a couple drain pipes from the second floor where “water” goes directly outside. No one uses a dryer, so there are always clothes hanging.