Monday, 17 December 2012


The snow has arrived. I have been waiting for it.

Weeks ago as my bus crossed a railway bridge a train passed underneath. Its endless carts filled with jet black coal made the patches of snow on top of each one flash more brilliantly as they sped by. I wondered where exactly this welcome taste of winter had come from and how long it would be before the clouds that turned its black loads to white would reach Moscow and cover the grey. I grew tired of waiting, and nervous at the thought that this winter could be as restless as the last.

But now it's here, falling in big sticky clumsy spots, filling up my window with TV static. The landscape is quickly re-drawn. Like fresh, white bedclothes stretched out along pavements and fluffy pillows stuffed into corners the snow cushions against the sharper edges of the city and muffles its yells.

Everything begins to settle. As the evening light changes the ground from white to blue, the sounds that remain are soft; the creak of boots imprinting the fresh canvas, a bird folding its wings as it settles on a branch, and our voices, calm and clear, filling up the small space between us and spilling out into the dark.

The air shimmers as it turns to ice and the glittering frost prickles my skin. It rushes up my arms and crackles across my shoulder blades like an electrical current.

As we walk I fight the urge to push you into a mound of fresh white snow, to tumble down with you beneath the soft white duvet, to fall with you, sinking slowly into the earth.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Embrace the Chaos

Today my tolerance of idiocy has been severely tested. I will never understand why some people actively reject learning.

Our first day; meeting and photo-op with the
Headmaster and the English dpt. head
"A chance to improve my knowledge and develop language skills that will be invaluable to me in later life and make me a million times more employable in a few years time? thanks. I think I'll just sit here, change my profile picture on my phone and keep working on my 'OMG yOu ArE LiKe Sooo saD!' face." 

It amazes me that after an entire class did so appallingly on a simple test that was intended just to be a quick revision of something they should know well, that I dedicated another hour and a half to going over the language again, some of them could repeat exactly the same test and score lower than they did the first time, before I pretty much gave them all of the f@*%&*£# answers! I mean what is wrong with these people?!

Friday, 7 September 2012

Recharged and Ready to Go

Because my contract at work runs slightly out of sync with the academic year, I found myself able to carry over some of last year's holiday. Cue five lovely weeks at home in the UK seeing friends and family,  witnessing good friends getting married, helping my mum clear out some stuff around the house, getting acquainted with my dad's chickens, eating way too much,  and coming down with a serious case of Olympic fever.

Something had been happening to my country whilst I was away and I wasn't sure if I liked it. People were getting excited about things. They were brandishing flags without any association with football or nationalism and having street parties with the neighbours they usually pretend don't exist. It was weird. I missed out on all the jubilee fun, and I wasn't around for the royal wedding last year either so this new thing of being genuinely enthusiastic about something without any sense of irony or shame is a bit of a shock to the system.

Friday, 22 June 2012

Where's Uncle Joe?

The problem with living in a place like Moscow for an extended period of time is that you begin to take for granted a lot of the cultural and historical attractions the city has to offer. It's not that you don't want to see these things, you really do. I mean, why else did you come here if not to absorb some Russian culture? But there's always a reason not to; I'm not a tourist; I have a lot of work to do, friends to see and alcoholic beverages to consume; I'm going to be here for a while, so there's plenty of time; I'll just wait until friends and family come to visit and I can be all smug and play tour-guide etc.

That's all well and good, but here I am, 14 months into expanding my cultural horizons/laying the groundwork for a career in ELT/avoiding the 'real' world back home, and I have yet to visit, among other places, the Kremlin, the Moscow Museum of Modern Art, or Lenin's Mausoleum. Shameful right?

Friday, 8 June 2012

Russian Correspondence II

The second letter is a little creepier.

Last weekend I found myself at a bit of a loose end, so partly out of necessity for leaving the house and partly due to a craving for junk food I found myself wandering down Novyy Arbat in the rain. I took shelter in Wendy's and settled down with my curly fries and a copy of A Very Short Introduction to Linguistics (oh yes, I know how to party!). 

After half an hour or so, I'm distracted from the history of Indo-European by the guffaws of two teenage boys. I look up to see that the object of their derision is a young man in the far corner apparently dancing silently in his chair to a music video on his laptop. He's wearing headphones and seems blissfully unaware of anyone around him. I smile to myself, remember that this is Moscow, home of the crazies, and go back to a comparative grammar of Greek and Sanskrit (OK yeah, I'm just trying to sound clever now).

Unfortunately it seems there was one person our beheadphoned friend was not unaware of. Another hour passes and I figure it's time to head home. As I stand up to leave he walks over to my table. He's rather short, even by Russian standards, wearing a tweed jacket over an argyle sweater vest and there is something of the Cheshire cat about his grin. He asks, in Russian, to introduce himself to me. I throw back the old 'I’m sorry I don't understand, I don't speak Russian' coupled with an apologetic shrug and turn to go.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Russian Correspondence I

So I know this post is a little overdue but I had been struggling to think of something to write about. I could have written about my new digs, but that involves talking about my witch of a landlady and I don't want to give myself an aneurism. Men might have been an interesting topic, but I'm not seventeen, and I learnt from experience that blogging in too much detail about your personal life does not tend to endear you to those involved in it. Plus my love life is an embarrassment that barely deserves such attention. Whole books could be filled with hypotheses about what goes on in the heads (and other parts) of Russian men, and I think I'll leave that to more capable and, ahem, 'experienced' writers.

Having said that, whilst still mulling over what to post, I came across two pieces of correspondence that I thought were worth sharing. They are both letters, of sorts, written by Russian men, but that's about where the similarities end.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

I'm Only Happy When It Rains

It’s Sunday the 18th of March, sometime between 2 and 3am. I'm standing with Amy at the bar in Cherdak on Kuznetsky Most ordering Mojitos. We pay with a gold credit card that belongs to a none-too-shabby looking Swiss surgeon and return to the dance floor. This is the culmination of an enjoyable, and certainly memorable 8 or so hours of cake, champagne, karaoke and flowers in celebration of my 25th birthday. I should be pretty happy at this point. So why, half an hour later while we're waiting for the next round, when Amy removes my glasses and refuses to give them back because I 'look cuter without them' do I flip-out, snatch them back and storm out of the club into a gypsy cab and home?

Of course a certain amount of alcohol was behind that outburst, but thinking about it there was something not quite right about that situation. Maybe it was the superficial atmosphere in that bar, the small grey tube dress I was wearing that made me feel a little uncomfortable, my growing exasperation at my friends very well-meaning attempts to help me pull, or the fact that I had less than a week to find a new place to live before my landlady kicked me out. Or perhaps it was part of what my Russian friends keep referring to as Winter Depression.

Monday, 5 March 2012

Springtime for Putin and Russia

So yesterday was a disapointing to say the least, although not at all surprising. But while we wait to see if the white ribbon brigade manage to muster up a Moscow spring, I am enjoying the first stirings of the literal one, and my new hobby; Охота на сосульки (icicle hunting).

Behind Novokuznetskaya Metro

Yugo Zapandnaya (my students give me good gifts)

Ulitsa Zemlyanoy Val

Ulitsa Brestskaya 1

Sunday, 12 February 2012

To Live. To Love. To Laugh.

Life is full of ups and downs and I should have known that when things are going well and you start to get complacent something is always looming around the corner to knock you off your feet and down a peg or two. Usually it's what keeps life interesting; it makes you appreciate what you have when you have it. Usually.

Last week's knock however, was more of a sledgehammer to the stomach, from which we're all still trying to catch our breath. On Thursday the 2nd of February my friend and colleague, Crystal Veytia, died on her way to work. Shock is not really an accurate enough word to describe my reaction, and I think it will be a while yet before I can get my head around it fully.

I met Crystal properly a few days after she arrived in August. Sarah, our Director of Studies, invited a few of us to go to an ice-hockey game, she got a little lost on her way to meet us, but we made it in time for the game. She was very friendly and talkative, and also extremely enthusiastic about everything. At the time I attributed it to excitement about having just arrived in a new country, but later I realised that enthusiasm was just part of her general attitude towards the world. She fully embraced life and took everything it threw at her.