Sunday, July 29, 2012

Ukraine, children, and moving

Unfortunately, my blogivation (that's blog motivation, duh) took a critical hit in early May when I realized I had lost my camera/reason for going outside.  Luckily I'll have a shiny new one in tow in about a week, but for now I'll do my best to recreate the past few months without the benefit of those precious visual aids, my photographs.  In lieu of these, I will substitute modified images ripped off of Google searches or my own MS Paint-ings.

Since my last post, I traveled to Ukraine for vacation, moved from the suburb Mytishi* to the heart of Moscow, and spent two strange weeks in a small industrial town called Obninsk** distracting 8-year-old campers from having fun for 40 minutes at a time by making them learn English.

*The spellchecker doesn't recognize "Mytishi," and offers "fetishism" as a replacement.
**The spellchecker suggests that instead of "Obninsk," I might try "onionskin."


Ukraine was a beautiful country, and it was on this spring holiday that I discovered that I hate riding platzkart in overnight trains, especially at a border crossing.  We arrived in Kiev at 6:00 on a warm, sunny morning after a good, solid 20 minutes of sleep, with 6 more hours to kill before hostel check-in.  Overall I give Ukraine full marks for niceness, and a 10%-20% edge over Russia in the category of dude-hotness.  Surprisingly, many more people in Kiev speak English than in Moscow, including the employees at the McDonalds, and the adjacent fast-food restaurant, McFoxy, the story behind which I still do not know.

Just google image search "Kiev" and assume I saw all that stuff
I don't know Ukrainian, but from what I gather there are a lot more differences between Ukrainian and Russian than I first thought.  I saw many very basic words which are different, from breakfast to potato to the months of the year, which seem to be named after features like flowers and grass.  I do adore listening to Ukrainians speak in Russian.  Whenever I tell this to my Muscovite students, I get the sense that they are holding their tongues and humoring me, and they have a rather urban vs. redneck view of Ukrainians, but I think they have a great oomph to their speech, and I love the way "g" sounds soft, like "h."  Ty hovorish' po-russkiy?

Most of the time in Kiev was spent at restaurants, and I'm not sad about it.  I ate horse for the first time.  An appetizer on the menu was translated into the mouthwatering appellation "Meat Sticks of Horse," but unfortunately the promised sticks were jerked and salted until they resembled a product of seafood and leather, so I still don't know what our equine friends taste like.

After Kiev, I headed once again on an overnight platzkart ticket to Donetsk, where I stayed with my friend Chris.  Donetsk is in the eastern part of the country, where people speak Russian instead of Ukrainian, and many people prefer to self-identify as Russian.  Donetsk is big but it's more of an industrial city than a cultural capital.  Still, the park and the river were lovely and there was a respectable number of biergartens and smiling people.  Chris showed me around and we went with his friends to a club called Litsa, or "Faces," where the evening ended in a bit of a fiasco involving a dispute between some aggressive bouncers and, unfortunately, my friends' faces, or as they say in Russian, litsa.

Many thanks to Chris for risking life and limb to show me a good time in Donetsk.

Camp Dubravushka

Abouth a month after my vacation it was time to say goodbye to my school in Mytishi and hello to two weeks living in my nightmare, surrounded by children at a summer camp a few hours by car outside of Moscow in a town called Obninsk.

The camp is called Dubravushka, and for just 30,000 rubles (around $1,000), parents can get rid of their kids for two wonderful weeks by sending them off to this peaceful hamlet settled around a nuclear power plant, where poor harried native English speakers like myself as well as some unexpectedly chipper Russian camp counselors will occupy their time with lessons in English and computer skills, as well as organized games and activities.

Okay, okay, there were maybe one or two children there who were totally adorable, but that didn't make it worth the two weeks I spent living in a patient room in the medical building, avoiding the camp's English program directors, lest they ask me to do extra things.  The theme of the session was "Sea Adventures," and I spent most of the time talking about sea creatures and sailors.  And don't ask me about the time I had to dress up like a pirate and sing a song called "Captain Bold" on the stage with some other pirates.  That's between me and the other captives English teachers.

Here's a tip if you ever have to keep some children quiet for 45 minutes:  Mr. Bean.  They go NUTS for that shit.  So I guess we have something in common after all.

Goodbye, Mytishi

I've moved now from Mytishi to the central school, and I'm living in the center of Moscow, near Kitai-Gorod, which means Chinatown, though there's nothing Chinese about it.  Mytishi is fine and all, but you can't beat the big city.  I wish I had a picture of the view from my balcony, because it's so amazing it just shouldn't be allowed, but I'll post one next time.  I'm not too sad about leaving Mytishi, which is not to say there weren't good things about it.  For example, I liked that it was cheaper.  Plus, I had a solid crew for my first three months, all of whom I liked.
Elliott and his #1 track suit, Ilya (#1 dancer), and Sarah (baker and #1 roommate)
I do have actual pictures of them, but whatever.

Unfortunately, moving into this amazing flat wiped me out so hard financially that I haven't been able to do any of the cool stuff I can now actually see from my window.  Next month will be easier.  For July, I've been living an ascetic life.  An ascetic life with like, the internet and my kindle and my ipod.  I guess it's just a regular life, but without any snacks.

In about a week I'll be heading to Ireland, where I'll meet up with my mom and my sister and get a dose of the West.  There's pretty much nothing I love more than a vacation.  We'll be starting in Dublin, then driving around to other cities.  We'll be staying on a peninsula called Dingle for two nights, which I cannot get over, but there will be plenty of time for dick jokes after the trip.

Until next time,