Sunday, July 31, 2016

Russian tea haul

It's hard to stick to the no-new-teas rule. Really hard.

I broke it.

I've gone all out and have a collection.

The tea situation as a temporary student is not great. That sounds absurd- it's Russia, after all!- but it's just not happening. It's like a game in which constant upgrades are required.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Soviet mural tour

Someday, almost everything connected with the Soviet Union will vanish. Everyone who lived in the USSR will be dead. The murals will have crumbled off the sides of apartment buildings. Old rubles will be rare collectibles. This is what interests me so much- not the Soviet Union itself, but what's still around, hanging on. We took tons of photos of old Soviet stuff in Ukraine, and now it's all gone.

With this in mind, I wanted to see what was left here in Nizhny Novgorod. My friend Allison and I made arrangements with Katya (tour guide) and Alexei (driver) to travel around the city and photograph residential neighborhoods.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

On the train to...

The weekend trips were a major selling point for this language program. We'll travel here by bus, and there by train, and you'll see the country! Every weekend, though, something came up. The first weekend, a trip was planned and then canceled, being deemed too last minute. The next weekend, a massively-popular cucumber festival in Suzdal meant all the train tickets were sold out. (Bummer!!) This left one final chance to make a trip happen before the course ended....

Nizhny Novgorod train station.

... and this time, everything lined up!

Here are five clues for you- can you figure out where we traveled?

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Sleeping district

Have you ever fallen in love with a place before you'd been there? That's how I felt about Nizhny Novgorod- I loved the city for years, just from the sound of its name. (All those consonants!) I would read on the internet about how the Oka river divides the city into two parts, how a Kremlin of red bricks is perched on a hill above the Oka, and just how awesome the place was in general.

Friday, July 22, 2016

The day of blah

This was probably the best part of today- the sunset. It was one of those days when everything is off. For example, it's been really difficult to work while here, and this morning just as I was sitting down to catch up and record this week's audio lessons... cue a loud thunderstorm. For six hours.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Switzerland Park

Sveta is totally in her element as a tour guide.

We've been to a concert. To a movie. To a cafe. To the main pedestrian street. To tea in the dorms. Last Saturday she even took me to парк «швейцария», Switzerland Park, a big park that's a quick bus ride from the university. When I heard "park", I was thinking something grandiose along the lines of Kharkiv's Gorky Park.

Uh, nope.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

DITL: Russian Summer School

 A Day in the Life: Russian Summer School

6:30 AM: Wake up and make the bed.

7:30 AM: If not feeling too lazy, join a few other students for a run at the local track.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Registration Day

Instead of celebrating the 4th of July in the traditional American way (fireworks galore), it was done Russian-style this year. And let's be honest- what could possibly be more traditionally Russian than paperwork and really long public speeches?

Monday, July 4th was Registration Day at Lobachevsky University. The morning was divided up into 30-minute meetings... except for "Local Rules and Procedures", which got an entire 45 minutes. Here's how it all happened that day-

A. Find the right room in the right building.

B. Begin the paperwork. There are about 5 pages, all in Russian, so good luck ;)

C. Speeches. Introductions to VIPs and lots (and lots) of rules to follow.

D. Time for a language test! We were given 30 minutes to write a short essay in Russian and answer 150 multiple choice grammar questions.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Two nights on planes

The trip to get to Nizhny Novgorod was not much fun. In this age of instant messages and Skype lessons between different time zones, I forgot exactly how far apart the west coast of the US and Russia are. You can't simply race the sun west. It's always east, east, and then more east until you at last reach Russia.

The first plane left Portland at midnight. Are you ready for this? ;)

Monday, July 11, 2016

Snapshots of Russian Life

#1. The country's first monument to Jules Verne, overlooking the Volga and Oka rivers.

Here are 13 pictures to show you what these first few days in Nizhny Novgorod have been like. (Because, of course, even numbers are unlucky in Russia.)

#2. The dorm room.
#3. Welcome lunch at the university.
#4. Some of Nizhny's churches.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Privet from Russia!

Привет! :) Today is my sixth day in Nizhny Novgorod and the first chance to sit down and get organized. All you students out there, wow. How do you do it? I forgot what it's like to be running around from class to class to class!

This morning's first task- cleaning the floor. Ура, haha.

I leave you with some information from one of the afternoon lectures. Russians are famous for their public frowns, of course... but why? According to one of the teachers here, employment rules forbid people in certain professions (police, airport officials, etc) from cracking a smile. A smile would mean they're not taking their job seriously enough. What do you think? Could it be true?

More soon! Пока пока!

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Teaching English online

Have you ever thought about working for yourself as an online English teacher? It has a lot of perks- you're teaching from home, with interesting people, at a time that works for you. At least, that's how the clichés sell it to you ;) The reality is a mix of the good and the not-so-good (timezone woes, international payment puzzles, lousy Skype connections, etc).

I jumped into the field last March, when a Ukrainian friend asked for Business English lessons. Within a few months, she had found a hotel job in Egypt and the next student appeared. This student was again from Ukraine and a digital nomad to boot. We worked together throughout the summer and I decided to get more serious about this line of work in the fall.

Here's a breakdown of the four courses I taught, what worked, what didn't work, and how things stand now.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Medieval battle in Sudak

Here's something that's popular in Ukraine: historical reenactments.

Most of them are pretty old school. Mongols versus the Kyivan Rus, knights versus dragons, Soviets versus German soldiers. You can find a whole list of them here. And here's a peek at the “Tu Stan!” Medieval Festival near Lviv.