Thursday, August 30

Back in English!

My shipment arrived yesterday. It's so nice to have my stuff, it makes it feel more like home. And now I have pictures of my boy too so I can show him off. And I have internet at home! Of course, this means my productivity at home is likely to go down. And I think the arrival of my stuff has led to my nose, which has been behaving so well to suddenly revolt. My right nostril won't stop running! Boo!

Tuesday, August 28

My stuff

Arrives tomorrow. I can't believe it. They told us that it'd arrive mid-September, but here it is, end of August. I can't wait to unpack my kitchen gear, then this place will really feel like home.

The shoes!

I can't believe the shoes some of the students wear. They're what I'd refer to as "Hooker Heels" back home. 4-5 inch heels, thick platforms, straight out of porn. It's insane to me but the norm here.

First Week of School

Well, the first week of school has come and gone. Tonight is "Back to School Night." My department head told me to expect 70% of my parents - last year at JO'C I think I had 3 show up.

The teaching is such a contrast. Very little behavior mangement and lots of teaching. Students approach me in the hall to ask me questions. They seek me out in my cave of an office (since I have no room of my own) with their questions. Yay math!

I'm teaching 5 classes, 3 of GR 10 Higher Level, 1 GR 11 Higher Level IB and 1 GR 12 Math Studies, which is a lower level, but even all those kids do their homework and come ask questions. We're on a rotating block schedule, so I teach 2 classes day and then 3 the next. On the third day, it's back to the same 2, but in reverse order and the 4th day I see the 3 classes again in reverse order.

My bug appears to be mostly gone, but I'm still not operating at 100%. I managed to work my oven last night (you have to light the pilot yourself) and bake brownies for my advisory class. Which also means I found cocoa, flour and sugar at the store :)

Oh and at 28 years old, I finally bought my first tv. It's a small widescreen LCD, about 17" or maybe 15". I also got a Russian brand DVD player that plays dvd's from all regions. I tested out the Die Hard 4 I bought at Ismaylava a few weeks ago and it skips towards the end! Grrr. Hopefully Pirates 3 will work better, I'll let you know.

Alright, really time to get back to planning for that day I teach 3 classes!

Friday, August 24

And it lingers

Well, it appears my bug is viral and about 2/3rds of the school has it. It's getting a bit annoying. But because of it I've discovered that soup does not come in cans here but instead in foil packages. Also the bakery section of my local grocer sells hot mini-garlic bread loaves perfect to share between two people. Also you can get a cream filled wafer covered in chocolate type candy bar called темпо (Tempo) that you can get for 6 rubles, roughly 20 cents.

And even inspite of the bug, I came in early today and swam a bit and two nights ago a few of us went to our local Georgian restaurant for dinner. It was delicious and relatively inexpensive. Of couse we mostly ordered and shared appetizers, but even so I was satissfied with my meal and I got a big German wheat beer for $16.

And now it's happy hour, so I'm off!

Monday, August 20

Moscow Thus Far

I just wrote this in an email and thought others might enjoy:

Thus far, Moscow has been then antithesis of the American stereo type. There are billboards for Rolex everywhere. Red Square is flanked by a high price fashion mall. It is very clean. There are roaming herds of wild dogs - apparently the govn't couldn't afford to keep the shelters open so they just let all the dogs go without neutering them! So that can be occassionally scary. Fashion is bizarre here, most young people are well dressed and the girls wear insanely high heels all the time - even on cobblestones. Everyone wears jeans, they're sold everywhere, no more black market for that! Most of them are very friendly once you talk to them, but if you just smile at strangers they look at you like you're crazy.


I seem to have developed some sort of stomach bug. Thus, yesterday was my hardest day here. I felt like crap and since my shipment has yet to arrive I had nothing to entertain me. Normally I'd lay around watching Robin Hood or When Harry Met Sally, but without I could only lay around mimicking Harry by moaning: "mmmehhh, ..., mmmmeehhhh."

I did manage to do some work prepping for the first day of school. I guess today is technically the first day, but it's only an open house. So I met a few new kids and some returning ones. I don't think I'm prepared to teach seniors - they're so big! Apparently I've got a few notorious names, but I'm wondering if they'll be anything like my "darlings" at J'OC.

Tomorrow's the first day they go to all their classes, but since we have a rotating block schedule, it will also be the only day they go to all their classes and only 25 minutes each at that. I don't think my "procedures/expectations" worksheets will have returned from the copy center yet, so I'll just be handing out text books. But then Wednesday finally begins the math! I'm excited and maybe a bit nervous.

Friday, August 17

Google maps only sort of work for Moscow

So we went on an adventure to have Indian last night. One of the guys who works in the catering department here also works at an Indian restaurant. He's Indian as well. So 5 of us went.

I was able to map the restaurant using google maps and mapped it from the nearest metro station. However, then consulting the metro map, it was only 1 stop away from us. So, it appeared to be a decent, but doable, walk direct from our apartment, forgoing the metro. Another reason to avoid the metro was that it wasn't really 1 stop, as we'd have to change lines. Moscow's streets and subway is formed by ring roads - concentric circles - with spokes going from the center out. (Is this where b-man got it's inspiration for city design???) I'd estimated that it'd be a roughly 35 minutes the way that I walk, however we s-t-r-o-l-l-e-d, so it took us more like an hour and fifteen mintues. It probably would have only taken an hour five, but the google map I printed made us walk 3 blocks too far.

Nevertheless we arrive. We each ordered an entree and a beer. We got 3 breads. It arrived and the portions were small - ie enough for one meal only, not American portions. So they were reasonable except that at the end of the night we paid 900 rr each. That's $35! No appetizers, no dessert, just a meal. Indian food at that.

Bye, bye eating out. I hope my spices and cookware arrives soon. I can't afford to be eating out. Sad!

Apartment Photos

Living Room
Originally uploaded by Traveling Em

Apartment photos are up. But I just realized I forgot to include photos of my bedroom. Monday...

Thursday, August 16

St. Basils

St. Basils
Originally uploaded by Traveling Em

I've got photos of Moscow up now. As well as a few from Portland. I've got more to put up, but really need to be working. Have a look around the different collections and photo sets.

Tuesday, August 14

Speedo Culture

Yes, that's right, I've moved to a place where the Speedo reigns supreme. Yesterday we had the "Directors Dinner." I dressed nicely and then had to tromp around in my fancy shoes through a forrest to a lake where we picniced.

Back to the point. Surrounding the lake were many teenageers as well as older Russians all either in speedos, bikinis or simply their underwear swimming and sunbathing. Boys in the underwear, women in bras, no signs of embarassment or need for modesty. In fact they were all looking at us, being fully dressed, as if we were crazy. I think I'll fit right in.

Rubicon Atlas

We received a 2 hour training this morning in Rubicon Atlas which is an internet based cirriculum mapping tool. Being internet based, I will be able to access it anywhere. I'm able to see other teacher's lesson plans and the general overview mapped out by the department heads.

Obviously, this is a great resource for an international school to build as the faculty turn over is so high. I managed to talk the training leader to giving me access immediately and all he did was switch in my name for the teacher I replaced. Of course, she and I are teaching different classes, so he just added additional course access to my account.

Now rather than leaving behind tons of binders with information like I did at J'OC, I'll be able to leave it all electronically. Genius!

Monday, August 13

First Impressions

Ok, my meeting is over and now I'm back in one of the classrooms I'll be using. Yes, that's right, I'm now one of those teachers who has to travel between rooms, however, that's only until mid-September or so when they'll be finishing the new construction of 5th floor classrooms where I'll have my own room. Hopefully it'll be cooler by then!

Anyway, this classroom is a fair size, about the size of my old room, but there's a bit more wall space and still only 1 white board. I really should be starting to plan the first week, but instead I want to write up a few of my first impressions of Moscow.

First off, it's pronounced "Mos-co" with a long "o" on the end, not Mos-cow - no farm animals in the name. Second, it's really well developed. On TV and in the movies, the potrayals are so bleak full of people waiting in lines for bread. Well, certainly that was the history, but I'm in a city overrun with commercialism. There are stores everywhere selling everything. Some things are really expensive - $4 for dental floss, I just paid $8.50 for a tiny bottle of face lotion with SPF. But then some things are really cheap like wine. The conversions is roughly 25 roubles to a $1. So every 100 roubles is $4, 1000 is $40.

My Russian is coming along. I've got my numbers pretty well and on Saturday evening I went to the farmer's market in my neighborhood where I was able to buy some nectarines (delicious!), plums shaped like torpedos (awful), home made hot sauce (in Russian it's called chili sauce, very easy to remember and it was also delicious), basil (it was good but wilted immediately), raisins. All the potatos are still covered in dirt. They were also selling huge sunflower heads. It's grand.

Back to impressions. Number 3 - traffic isn't so bad yet, but apparently that's because everyone is still away at their dacha - Russian summer home. When out walking cars speed up and try to hit you. Even though there are cross walks, only every 10th car will actually stop for them. This is not so good for me as in the states I would give cars that "I dare you to hit me as I'm crossing look." Here I think they'd take me up on it.

Number 4 - Most of the women are really well dressed but not ~all~ of them. However, yesterday at Victory Park I did notice several women in very high heels. Victory Park is cobblestones, so this seemed like a very poor footware choice, in my opinion.

Fifth - Many of my new colleagues seem to be overwhelmed by the school and the new hire orientation. I'm not. I feel like I was really well informed and maybe my expectations were really high. My expectations have been fulfilled - the facility and the orientation are great. The school is beautiful and orientation has been very well thought out. When we stepped into our apartments, there was a shower cutrain, two towels and soap set out in the bathroom. The bed was made including pillows. And then my favorit room, the kitchen. They included a tea kettle, skillet, small pot and strainer. The cuppard was stocked with tea bags, instant coffee, a small can of Pringles, a box of cookies, sugar cubes and Cornflakes (Kellogg's even). In the fridge there was carrots, onions, tomatoes (which I immediately removed from the fridge), red wine (same note as tomatoes), Swiss cheese, delicious plain yogurt, apple and orange juices, grapes, tortellini, tomato sauce, mayonaise, eggs, milk and chicken thighs. On the counter, a bag of potatoes. They have provided transportation not only to school but for all the shopping trips I've mentioned.

Sixth - Colleagues/friends. I see how it's easy to just live inside the school bubble. I can see several of my new colleagues becoming friends and a few that will remain distant colleagues. My apartment building really has the feel of a neighborhood. It's a large building with 9 different "doors" or entrances. Each door has 9 floors with 2 apartments on each floor. Actually, it's 4 apartments on each floor, but most of them have been combined to form larger apartments. So my apartment number is 61/62, the combination of the two, which is why it's so huge. There is such a wide variety of people here. There is a couple who lived in Japan for the past 10 years, a Scottish girl who is a riot. She's traveled quite a bit as a soccer coach and is now the middle school (MS) PE teacher. The high school swim coach is Australian, but has lived in Jakarta for the past 5 years. Then there are several retired teachers who have come out of retirement to do this. However, what I noticed today is that we're all white people, with the exception of one Taiwanese/Chinese American girl from Houston. Where are all the people of color in education? There must be some somewhere right? Even at my school in San Francisco, we only had one African American teacher and a handful of Latinos. How can we hope for racial integration when our work forces don't present it.

As for Russia, it is very xenophobic here. "Russia is for Russians." However, on the streets you see many immigrants. Many people look east Asian and then it's suprising to hear them speaking Russian. At the farmer's market, the majority of vendors are from Kazikstan. I don't know where I'm going with this so I'll stop now. I hope the 5 of you who read this enjoyed it.

Frequency Concerns

I promised myself and my friends that I would begin posting regularly once I moved to Russia and I'm still going to try to, but my computer is being shipped and my shipment won't arrive for another 3 weeks. In the meantime, I'm stuck waiting for free time at school, of which there is very little, or imposing on my new friend's who were smart enough to bring laptops. However, my new Skype phone is all set up, so Skype me! I'm dying to know how well it will work but no one has "called" yet .

I've been keeping very busy and the school has been keeping me busy as well. I painted one wall in my apartment a dark, golden yellow (California Sands) by hand with a 4" brush as my roller wand seems to have been left at OBI (the Russian Home Despot). Tonight I'm going to paint the accents with a dark orange (Mexican Mossaic).

We've gone on two big shopping trips - one to Ikea/OBI/MegaMall and then yesterday to the Auchon - which is a large grocery store. It appears that I'll be able to find everything I want with the exception maybe of some spices, which thankfully I shipped. Yesterday we also toured the city going to Victory Park, University Hill and Red Square. St. Basil's Cathedral is straight out of a cartoon book. It was amazing.

The most surprising thing thus far is how warm it is and how big the mosquitos are! I'm covered in bites. Ok, off to another meeting.

Wednesday, August 8

Hrm, it's all in Cyrillic

My blogger is now all in Russian. I'm going to have to figure that out. I'm very sleepy, at a welcome dinner, obviously not being very social. But wanted to post my first impressions.

Traffic is as bad as everyone says and the cars/trucks/vans emit nasty black clouds. My neighborhood is super cute at first glance and the apartment is HUGE! 1 large bedroom, one smaller room that will become the office though it has a sofa bed, a long galley kitchen with gas stove and tons of cabinet space. 2 balconies, many many windows and walls with indentions which will make it fun to paint. Although there's a $25/wall repainting fee at the end.

So sleepy. We begin orientation at 8:15 tomorrow morning.