I just sent the girls off shopping without me and I'm home alone in the peace and quiet. They call me mom, just as kind of a joke, but I have to laugh at how mom-like I feel at times. I gave them the money with instructions on what to buy, and as they were walking away they kept asking questions about what ingredients we had left in our cupboards. I didn't feel very good yesterday and today, so I decided to skip out on the grocery shopping to conserve my energy for yet another weekend of touring. And I must say, I'm thoroughly enjoying the alone time. I'm really a very social person, and I missed the girls already when I told them goodbye, but as I walked up our steps and unlocked the front door, I found myself grinning with excitement and the prospects of having the whole apartment to myself. Then I realized I'd left my boots at the school, so I just had to turn around and go right back. But I was glad I did. The director of the school and his family were all there picking up their youngest son. They were teaching him to ride a bike out in front of the school, so I stopped and talked to them and a couple of the teachers for a minute. Only a minute because that's all my vast Russian vocabulary allows. And while I was there I decided it's very important to learn people's names. We can barely communicate to each other, but it feels so good to have people greet me by name as I walk by. Maybe it feels extra good because I can't understand much more than that! Anyway, back to the director and his family. We actually live in a guest house over the garage of his house. They have a guardhouse in the front where the guard lives along with some of the other help. Then in the middle of their grounds is their house, and our apartment (along with two other rooms for the housekeeper and groundskeeper) is in the back over their three garages. They have two houses in Spain, and Oksana, the wife, is trying to learn Spanish. Since I got here she has been wanting to trade me Spanish for Russian lessons, and we actually were finally able to start last week. It is quite an experience.
First, just being inside their house is an experience in itself. I'm at a loss of words to describe it. It is quite large, but it's not the size that gives it its grandeur, but how every room is so tastefully decorated that it just emanates wealth. From chandeliers in every room (even the children's bedrooms) to the china cabinets with treasures they have purchased all over Europe to the handpainted portraits of family members, including one of the husband, Andrey, in his military uniform and Oksana posed over his shoulder in an elegant evening gown. Then there is the theater downstairs lined with velvet walls and two rows of leather recliners for the parents, and a mini version of the same theater across the hall for the two boys. Oh, and we musn't forget the indoor swimming pool and, my personal favorite, the table in one of the front dining rooms where the center of it can be raised to revel the bottles of alcohol underneath.
As far as the lessons go, I'm sure it would be very entertaining to watch one from the outside. We agreed that Oksana should speak Spanish and I should speak Russian, which works pretty well well most of the time. She speaks hardly any English, and my Russian is minimal, to say the least. Thankfully her Spanish is descent—she can't think of how to say a lot of things, but she's very good at understanding. So if I have no idea how to say something in Russian, I revert to Spanish and she can usually understand me. And if she can't manage to get something out it Spanish, she says it in Russian. But if I don't understand the Russian then she says it in French. It's quite interesting to try to “converse” with someone when our common language is not the native language of either one of us. It is surprisingly quite functional, however; I always come away with a page of notes of new Russian words and their Spanish translations and she has her new Spanish words with Russian translations. Basically, it reminds me of this episode of I Love Lucy where Lucy is almost arrested by a Frenchman who can't understand her. But, a French and German speaker, and German and Spanish speaker, and Ricky all show up just in time to bail her out. You can watch it here.