Unfortunately we didn’t get to see much of the city on our drive, but I can say that it’s absolutely beautiful here. It’s very wooded, and reminds me a little of Seattle. Most likely because it’s been drizzly since we got here (and the last two days have been VERY cold—I feel like it’s November, not the beginning of September). The foliage is different than I’ve seen elsewhere though. There are tons of cottonwood (I think) and fir trees. We live in the middle of the forest. I hope I can post pictures soon, because I can’t even begin to describe how gorgeous it is.
From what I’ve seen so far people either live in high-rise cement apartment buildings in the city or in large houses in the woods. We live in the latter. I can’t believe how wealthy this area is. I feel like I’m not getting a real view of Russia because these people are just so well off. But then at the same time I guess it’s giving me a view of how distinct the social classes are. Our school is a very large manor that looks more like a house than a school. It’s four stories tall and even has an indoor pool on the bottom floor.
Tomorrow will be our first day of teaching. We’ve spent the last two days preparing lesson plans, holding training meetings and trying to orient ourselves to the school. I’m the head teacher, which means I won’t actually have my own class, but I’m helping train the other teachers who are here, and I work as a liaison between them and the school. So, that means that everyone at the school talks to me. Well, I made the mistake the first day we were here of speaking to them in the little Russian I know. I was being introduced to someone by Gulya (who speaks English). All I said in Russian was “nice to meet you.” Then they said to each other in Russian that I speak Russian and I responded in Russian by saying I didn’t. That didn’t change their minds though. So now everywhere we go in the school, all the staff members come up to me and just go off in Russian. I do my best to catch one or two words. It’s interesting. Earlier today when we went to eat lunch (and by the way the food is out-of-this-world good) we walked up to the building and this one woman, whom I don’t even remember meeting, said “Nicole.” Our conversation went like this, according to what I understood.
Her: blah blah blah blah blah blah coats blah blah blah blah blah. Do you understand?
Me: No, I don’t understand.
Her: blah blah blah blah blah blah (and her making the movements of us hanging up our coats). Do you understand?
Me: Yes, I understand!
Apparently it’s quite rude here to walk into a building (or at least these VERY nice ones) with your shoes and coat on. And that’s exactly what we did at lunchtime yesterday. We got lectured in Russian and they showed us where to hang our coats and where to put our shoes, so I guess today that woman was stationed outside to catch us before we could make fools of ourselves again.
Well, I need to get going. Hopefully I’ll have time soon to write more...