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.