I hate the geese. They honk and honk like mad any time I go to the bathroom. Some of them hissed at me when I walked between a group of them. I want to kick them or something. I'm actually almost to the point where I'd be comfortable slaughtering one and eating it. In another animal anecdote, the dogs in town are really quite pathetic. They will bark like mad at you as you go by, and maybe take some steps toward you. I've dealt with it by walking towards them or stomping my foot at them. It usually gets them to back off a bit, but I'm afraid someday that will come back to bite me in the ass (!).
I was walking around town this evening, enjoying the clearish sky and warmish weather. It was about 3:30 or so and the sun was starting to get low in the sky. It was very calm and peaceful and I was feeling very content. I like it here, I’m very glad I’m not in a city (though that would probably mean a flush toilet). I walked toward the river, since I hadn’t seen it since it had frozen over. I saw some kids who said “good morning” to me (at 4 pm). They were sledding down a hill and out onto the river. It looked like fun and I wish I had joined them, because once they hit the river they would slide for a long time across the ice. Anyway, it was a really quaint site that I really enjoyed.
I also walked through the park some and took pictures of my favorite building in town, the Orthodox Church. It has two cool domed tops on the buildings that end in a point. They are checkered green and a dark red and it’s really a beautiful building. I hope some day when my Russian is better to venture inside and take a look around. It may not be as exciting inside as I hope, but I’d like to find out for myself. Walking through the park also revealed to me how much snow we really have. It’s over three inches deep now, the only difference is that in most places people walked it stays stamped down pretty thin. I’m still very much enjoying the snow, and I hope that lasts throughout the next few months.
In those same lines, Nora and I have started a contest to see who falls down the least this winter. I’m at 3 falls now and she’s only had 1. I’m going to have to be extra careful if I want a chance to stay in this. She’s already got experience on me, but I’m hoping my large feet will give me the edge in stability. I’ll keep you all updated.
English clubs are still a lot of fun, they have gotten bigger every time. The kids really enjoy the games we play, and so do I. They are active and eager, though usually pretty talkative. It’s not as frustrating as talking in the classroom though, because often they have an activity or I’m working with somebody and not trying to talk to everybody. Also, I’m teaching exactly what I want to teach, how I want to teach it, which is really satisfying. I was rewarded with some “good afternoons” by my students, which was so great to hear in the midst of the dozens of “good mornings” I get all throughout the day. My next English club I plan to teach about articles. Since the Russian language doesn’t use articles, students often forget about them in English. If I can get them using them, even if it’s the wrong one, that’ll make their English much better.
I had the chance to go to a student patriotism conference at First School the other day. I sat in a room with students from around the area and two of our teachers. Artur, the history teacher, and Tanya, the school psychologist. Artur was leading the discussion and he seemed to be doing a really good job, because the kids were active and had a lot to say. I had a lot of trouble following most of it, but I was filled in later. There were talks about citizenship and how a student body can improve the school.
They kids had a chance to ask me questions too, about American citizenship. I gave them the rundown about the Pledge of Allegiance, the National Anthem at sports events, merit badges in scouts and all that. They asked about Student ASB in schools and I didn’t have the heart to tell them that it’s really a popularity contest and the ASB has little to no influence on a school. I told them they have different positions and they work with the school staff to improve them.
Frankly, I feel I left the kids unsatisfied. I went there under th impression it was a roundtable discussion about patriotism in the socialist state (that’s what I interpreted from Artur when he first told me about it, in Russian) and I was going to give a couple minute speech about American patriotism. I had prepared about a page of material on Patriotism in the midst of the Iraq War and criticism of the government etc., which is now sitting in our coal oven waiting to be burnt. I did enjoy myself though, and am interested in what, if any, changes come about from this.
Speaking of coal, I tripped over a mountain of coal on my way to the bathroom last night. It was pretty dark out and we had just had the coal delivered that day. It was in a line about 2 feet high right infront of the gate in the fence. I didn’t see it, tripped, rolled and cursed my way to the ground. I was wearing my last clean t-shirt and my only pair of jeans. The jeans made it out alright, they only have a couple dark spots, but my t-shirt took the brunt of the abuse and now one shoulder is colored almost entirely black. I wasn’t too happy about this.
I ran into some students outside of school the other day who were laughing and having a good time (possibly booze was involved). It was the evening and I was on my way to the store to buy a pepsi and snickers bar that I could eat alone in my room. It made me think about how much we rely on relationships to get us through, and how absolutely necessary they are to survival for most people. I love my family, but it's our friendships and daily contacts with people that really make a huge difference in our lives. Being able to joke casually with people around you, remember past events and just relax is really important. Right now, I feel pretty isolated from all of that. I don't have the ability to do that with any of the people I know right now. Nora is in town, and really helps when I need to talk or vent or whatever about something, but it's relationships that grow over a few months or years with people you see every day that are the real life savers. So all you guys back home reading this, just know that I miss you a lot and appreciate how cool you all are. Even Ian.
Now I want you all to go back and make sure you noticed my awesome use of a pun. That's dedicated to three people who I'm pretty sure dont' actually read this, but somebody should let Tyler, Alli Sr. and Alli Jr. know to check it out.