March 2009


The title you see above are things we never hear, and for some of us, it’s a big deal.  The majority of the teachers here are American, and we are known ’round the world for being over supportive and encouraging.  Maybe we are a little over zealous with the praise, but when you grow up being told that you are doing a good job and to keep it up, you get used to it.  When you DON’T get it, you feel under appreciated and, well, somewhat like pond scum.  Many of the teachers in Language Link are feeling that way now.  I can’t recall ONE time that I was told that I was working hard and that I was doing a good job.  Not once in the last 4 months.  The teachers do our best amongst ourselves to encourage each other and keep our spirits up, but it isn’t the same as getting it from your boss.

The one place you can, possibly, MAYBE get a ‘good job’, is in Russian class.  Now this has become a coveted thing and one teacher has started a competition about who can get 10 ‘good jobs’ first in class.  The teacher doesn’t know about it, of course, since we want it to be unbiased.  When you are told good job in class it’s like you’ve won the lottery (to me, maybe I am over reacting…).  Our Russian teacher is notoriously hard to please, so this isn’t a frequent occurance.  In the competition, I have 4, after a full week.  And that’s a 1 on 1 class.  I do have the advantage of being the lowest level learner in the whole of Language Link and a relatively shy and embarassed person when taking such a a hard language from the beginning stages one on one with an intimidating teacher.  So, maybe half of my ‘good jobs’ are mercy encouragement, but I will take it.  I probably need them more than most anyway.

One class into the competition, a teacher quit the game because she didn’t get any and it made her feel even more terrible, which is a risk when you focus on something as elusive as encouragement in Russia.  Me?  I want to WIN!

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Just got home from the weekly Wednesday sushi indulgence. Twas good. Horray for mid week!

Last weekend most of the teachers at Language Link went on a guided tour of the town of Vyborg on the Finnish/Russian border. That was pretty fun. The weather was beautiful, or at least as beautiful as we could ask for. The sky was clear, which is even more unusual than I believed before. We learned on our bus ride up to Vyborg that St. Petersburg has an averaged of 30 sunny days a year. A YEAR! That’s a little more than two a month. And you thought I was crazy for freaking out when the sun came back. In Vyborg we saw some old ruins, a castle, the gulf of Finland, and so on. We rode a really really nice bus there and back. Like, the nicest bus I have ever been on. We watched a movie called, “Everything is Illuminated” on the way back.

The strongest emotion I had toward the trip was frustration and embarrassment, which then turned into an anxiety filled sadness that I felt toward the town. At one point when we got off the bus to go look at something old, this early teenage boy asked me something in Russian on the edge of a pitiful looking football pitch (that’s soccer field to you guys). I had no idea what he said, so I told him I spoke English, so he asked me ‘How long?’. I was like.. um, how long, what? So I asked him in Russian, ‘how many, what?’ Which confused the crap out of him, I think, so I called Liza over, and I guess the little punk was just asking what time it was. The fact that I didn’t know such a simple question sent me into that spiral of thinking that I was stupid and helpless and that Russians were mean. It didn’t help that the twerp flipped us the bird as we pulled away. Really though, at what point don’t you point to your imaginary watch? Isn’t that supposed to be pretty universal?  Despite all of that, I got some great pics of the city and the sunset through the bus window.

I felt pretty trapped, almost claustrophobic, on the ride home. There isn’t much difference between being trapped in a small elevator or being stuck in a country that is constantly reminding you that you aren’t home and can’t speak the language. I can’t get away from it… it’s even more similar to being stuck in an elevator with someone with whom you can’t communicate.

That feeling now has pretty much passed. Time is still flying by at light speed. I bought some running shoes this weekend… Not without having to run in place in the store to get my request for ‘running shoes’ across. Sad. Will start running soon, which will be awesome! Oh, and I calculated ‘half way’ using a tool on http://www.timeanddate.com. It’s on April 1st. FIVE DAYS!

Mid March, no less.  When did this happen?  It’s just crazy.  It doesn’t really feel like March, as it is basically the exact same temperature here as it was in December, plus the weeks just seem to fly by.  Having a set schedule really helps, as does having multiple set events to look forward to each week.

This weekend was pretty great, really.  I hung out with Denise on Saturday, visiting the Dostoyevsky Museum and getting some shopping done.  The area of the city that the museum is in is just fantastic!  I am not sure why, but Denise and I both got this feeling that it was more cultural and maybe residential, less touristy.  Near a very large church were a line of babushkas (old women/grandmas) who were selling goods.  Now that I actually understand them, I feel a little worse about ignoring them as they call out to me.  Deyavushka!  (like, miss or young lady)  We ended up buying (what Denise calls) a pumpkin from them for 180 Rubles.  Later I learned how to make pumpkin soup!  I spent a lot of time scouring bookstores looking for a Russian picture dictionary.  Now.. I pretty much know how to ask if a store has such a thing, but it seemed like none of them did.  Then, FINALLY, I found what I was looking for at Dom Kneegy.  This dictionary is amazing… basically everything I could want (except for something other than nouns, but… let me tell you, I have nouns COVERED with this guy).  We also found this great little French bakery near school… bad news… bad news for my body, good for my mouth.  Anyway, we came home and made pumpkin soup, watched a movie (Doubt – I don’t reccommend it highly).  Today I went to the bakery again to study and plan for this week and then I went to Lenta again with my roommates.  Later we made roast chicken and I made stuffing.  It was delish!!

This week we have another roommate, her name is Becca.  She was living in a really crappy homestay (her housemom was CRAZY!) and they haven’t been able to find her another place to stay, so she is sleeping in our living room.  This means that I am writing, once again, from the hallway.  It’s not terrible, but there is no outlet in the hallway, so I am racing my battery to finish.  Just in case this seems rushed.

Next weekend I am going up to a town very near the Finnish border – hopefully I will have some pictures to post for you!  Until then, here is the (belated) month 4 picture!

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What should I do for my 10 days off in May? My first plan was Italy. Next plan: Seoul to visit my former teaching partner, tickets were only $600 round trip.  Now tickets to Seoul are around $1200. So I made plans to go to Sweeden with my mom-friend Denise.  Her daughter lives up there and she has two little granddaughters up there too.  I thought – Yeah!  Another country!  Also, almost my homeland (which is more like Norway, but why split hairs).  Anywho, that deal fell through too, so now we are thinking the Golden Ring.  And THEN I had a really bad day here and started looking for tickets home, and I realized that during that week, tickets are only $600 roundtrip.  Ugh, another choice.  BUT NOW!  My good friend Jane says that she is wracking her brain to come up with a way to get her butt here to see me!  EEEK!  I gave up hope of that happening a while ago… but man has it been rekindled!  If she comes, I know exactly what I will be doing – having a great time on the Ring or here in Petersburg, it doesn’t even matter.  But, if she doesn’t come, should I come home or stay here, or go on the Ring with Denise or cough up the money for S. Korea?

For now I am sticking to the positive:  Jane is about the sweetest person I know, and this whole time she has been more excited that I was going to Russia than I was, basically.  She came with me to the doctor’s to get my shots, and bought me nutrients afterward.  She’s also my health food buddy, and my ride to Lake Mills buddy, and and… did I mention she might come visit me?!?!  So hopeful…going-away-1-018