Sunday, March 31, 2013

Crazytown, Russian Federation

Since my last post, not only have things refused to calm down, but they have also gotten more chaotic! This hasn't been all bad though, and I'll tell you all about it presently.

To keep up a continuous narrative, I'll fill you in on the rest of my birthday weekend.  Thanks to amazing, caring friends lending me money, I was able to get tickets to St Petersburg! I left Thursday night on the overnight train after Lydia (my coteacher) and our wonderful students gave me a very sweet gift - Russian books, a Narcissus plant, and chocolate.  I was sad not to be able to see their Art festival (talent show) performance while I was away, but they won 2nd place and will perform again in April! After arriving in Piter Friday morning I spent the weekend seeing my friends and meeting new ones, as well as attempting to play tour guide for Nathan, who visited all the way from England.  It was the best way I could think of to spend my birthday, and I'm really grateful to everyone who helped me celebrate (especially Jackie, Emmy, Nathan, Evan, and Justin).

I got back on Sunday evening, and over the course of the week discovered that I would be sent on a business trip.  To Siberia.  Crazy cool! From April 2-13, I will be in Muravlenko, which is in Noyabrsk - the largest city in the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug.  Here I will help on a special project to rapidly increase the English level of several Gazprom teams by July.  They've been studying with a Russian teacher and now want the experience of learning from a native speaker.  I'll be working 10hr days and living in a hotel, but I'm very excited. Though I will miss my students back at Mayakovskaya, who will be taught by a different Sarah while I am away.  I told each of my classes that they're not allowed to like her more than they like me, just in case.

Unfortunately, my computer also decided to cease functioning less than a week before my trip, which caused me to freak out.  Luckily, my friend Sheila has a student who also works as an IT engineer and had him come fix everything for me - basically saving my life.  Sheila and I also went with some other friends to see Sergey Lazarev, a Russian pop singer who I happen to love and who also happened to study at our EF years ago (resulting in discounted tickets, yay us!). Most of my Russian friends have been making fun of me for this, but it was an awesome concert.  Sorry not sorry. 

As if none of this had been quite hectic enough, my soon-to-be new flatmate emailed saying that he had been offered an affordable flat in the center and asking how bad a situation I'd be in if he didn't take Chien's room.  I decided that the situation wouldn't be too desperate, and I couldn't even get mad at him due to the fact that I would've done the exact same thing.  So the hunt is back on for a new roomie, although this time I'll be in Siberia for part of it.  

Speaking of hunts, I've also gotten some really good Easter egg hunts in during the last 2 weeks as we celebrated Easter in school.  On that note, I wish a wonderful Easter to everyone who celebrates today! Wish me luck as I journey to the unknown.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Butterflies and holidays and birthdays, oh my!

Lots to discuss! First of all, I did a Life Club to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Eric Carle's The Hungry Caterpillar last month.  It was adorable, and it also led me to the realization that I am a hungry caterpillar, because I am always hungry (bet you couldn't have guessed that one).  Moving on.

I also went on a trip to Yaroslavl in February! My friend Nina is from there and invited me to go back with her one weekend.  We left work on a Saturday night and got back into Moscow on Monday morning before work.  Yaroslavl was amazing; the air was fresh, the streets were less crowded, there were beautiful churches everywhere, and I got fed a whole lot by Nina's parents.  I also got sent home with a few kilos of homegrown potatoes and onions from their dacha, as well as some homemade pickles.  Yaroslavl is a fairly large city, with around 700K citizens, so I didn't get to see nearly all of it.  What I did get to see were the aforementioned churches, the Volga and Kotorosl rivers, and every monument featured on the 1000ruble note.  It was a really relaxing/refreshing trip, and we both came back recharged (and with fresh haircuts, courtesy of Nina's friend Misha). 

On February 23 we celebrated (but were not given a day off for) Defenders of the Fatherland Day (aka Men's Day) by giving our men cookies and chocolates and things (the holiday fell on a Saturday, but none of the boys in my Saturday group showed up so the girls and I were left to eat all of the sweets on our own. Tough life).  Then, on March 8th, we celebrated International Women's Day, which resulted in a Friday off and flowers and chocolates at school from some of our students.  I took the day as an opportunity to walk through Gorky Park (which I am falling deeper in love with after every visit) and relax.  And eat cake (duh). 

This week is the beginning of another holiday: Maslenitsa.  I've never experienced Maslenitsa in Russia, but it's centered around eating pancakes and playing outside and burning an effigy at the end of it all, so needless to say I'm quite excited. 

In addition to Maslenitsa's culmination on Sunday is my most favorite holiday of all: St. Patrick's Day! I'm not Irish, but for those of you who don't know: THIS IS MY BIRTHDAY.  And my dad's birthday.  But more importantly, my birthday (hi dad).  I don't yet know how I'm going to celebrate...the initial idea was to visit Jackie and all of my other St. Petersburgers, but the universe is trying to prevent that from happening. First there was a problem with purchasing train tickets where the booking site took my money but gave me no ticket.  Then, Raiffeisen decided that my 356rub purchase at the grocery store was suspicious, cut off my card, and when I visited the branch yesterday cut up said card and told me they would have a new one in SEVEN DAYS. And there's a tariff for withdrawing cash from a teller.  So I am for all intents and purposes moneyless despite just having gotten paid, and it is tragic and will probably result in a delayed Petersburg visit.  But I shall prevail. Wish me luck!