I thought I would give ya’ll a quick rundown of my first (almost) week in Russia. It is FANTASTIC. I love it. We got to our apartment at about 2 am Thursday morning. We live in a really nice place. It is in the middle of the forest. We are living in a garage apartment next to someone’s big fancy house. There is a security guard who lives next to us and there are two guard dogs. The school is just down the street. It is a private school for really rich kids. Thankfully, it is a kindergarten so we won’t have to go in very much depth with the language.
Thursday morning, we went to Moscow. We live about a 20-30 minute bus ride away from the city, plus how ever long it takes on the Metro to get where we are going. In Moscow, we met our native coordinator, Guyla, and some of the teachers from other schools and went to Red Square. It was fantastic. We didn’t actually go into the buildings but just took lots of pictures. It will take several trips to see everything there. The architecture here is beautiful. I can’t get over it. Every building is so fancy looking. There are no cheap looking buildings. In Red Square, we did go into Gum. It is a gorgeous building that I was convinced must be some old building that the later converted into a mall. Nope, it was built late 19th century as a department store. Anyway, I loved Red Square.
Friday, we just stayed home and hung out. We had borscht at the school for lunch and it was fantastic. I’ve liked the food here so far. The only bad thing I’ve eaten was also at Thurday lunch. It was fish meatballs. They didn’t actually taste bad, nor did they taste like fish when they were in my mouth, but I had this awful fish taste in my mouth for the rest of the day. As far as meals go, the school gives us each 790 rubles a week. This sounds like a lot but it is only about $25. This covers 2 bus trips to Moscow, one on Saturday and one for church, our breakfasts Monday through Friday, and our weekend meals.
Saturday, we went to Moscow again. Pretty much all the teachers from all the schools are here now so we had a huge group and looked obviously tourist-y. Guyla took us on a riverboat tour of Moscow so I got lots of pictures of buildings that I don’t know anything about. Then we went to an old Orthodox church and saw lots of monks that all look like Rasputin. After that, Guyla took the new people to Red Square and I tagged along because I liked it so much. There are going to be massive amounts of slideshows when I get home. Then we went grocery shopping and back home. Grocery shopping was interesting because I couldn’t read any of the labels so I ended up wandering up and down the isles, putting interesting looking things in my basket. I liked the adventure of it.
So, I am doing great! I wasn’t jet-lagged at all. I haven’t had a freak out moment yet (except for with the mean lady at baggage claim that almost made me cry) and I’m hoping it won’t come. There hasn’t really been any culture shock either. I blend in until I speak, so I just avoid speaking in public. It is kind of interesting to have everyone look your way when you talk. The hardest part so far has been not smiling. Guyla stressed to us a lot that she didn’t want us smiling at people because it looks like we are flirting. Apparently, they have had some stalking issues with guys that thought friendly American girls were flirting with them. My head teacher speaks Russian so she has helped me get out of any awkward situations I have been in. Also, a teacher from another school speaks Russian so he has been a help, too. I can read almost any word. Can’t tell you what it means but I can sound it out. I’ve actually been able to find out what lots of things are by sounding words out because the words are adopted from English. I’ve also mastered the basic phrases so language hasn’t been a problem yet.
This morning, Circle, Guyla, another teacher and I went to the airport to pick up our lost bags. The rest of the teachers at my school went to to church. We have to leave our house 2.5 hours before church, take a bus, then the Metro, then walk.
Oh, also, the internet in our apartment we share with the school and it runs by megabytes and the school only wants us to use so many megabytes so we can’t do pictures or video on the internet. Thus, I can’t upload pictures or do Skype unless I go to a cafe or to the other teachers apartment in Moscow. Just so you know. I check my email and Facebook everyday so I think that is going to be the most effective way to communicate.
Oh! Here has been almost the highlight of my trip. Today at the airport, we were waiting for our ride to pick us up and this big fancy bus pulls up and unloads all these guys in athletic uniforms. Guyla told us that they were a Russian Olympic team. She asked them what sport they played and they said, “futboll.” Circle tried talking to them in English but they just smiled at us and didn’t answer. So, that was actually pretty fun.
Also, when the other teachers got home from church, they told me that the branch president had told them that the Russian Prime Minister and Putin live across-ish the street from us. So, we are pretty legit. I have Russian connections, everyone. Don’t mess with me.