Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Arkhangelskoe and Beyond!

So I have been trying to explore Moscow more and I went to Arkhangelskoe with my friends Nikita, Losha, and Lindsay. Arkhangelskoe is a beautiful estate and it was a great way to welcome Spring. I am so excited that the weather is finally becoming nice and sunny. In Russia, it seems that the Autumn is constantly wet, the Winter is snowy, and Spring and Summer are sunny:) I am so inspired by the sunshine that I want to be outside all the time and it is getting harder to teach. So exploring the estates of Arkhangelskoe was a good first step. I really enjoy looking at all the architecture. It makes me sad in Russia that they don't have a government program to preserve there historical sites. It is common now to bulldoze over a site to make room for a new complex. They are trying to be progressive and get rid of all the old to make room for the new and it is a shame because if you don't keep in touch with your history then you can't know where you will go.

Losha and I:)

My sweet duck photo.....I think National Geographic will be calling soon.

All of us together.

A little boy on his bicycle:)

Arkhangelskoe Estate

Last weekend, I went to Nikita's dacha again. There was no electricity so it was a fun adventure. Now that it is Spring, everyone will be at their dacha every weekend. I enjoy going there because it is remote and you are free and separate from the world. After enjoying the dacha, I went with my other Russian friends, Yulia and Rita, to Moscow. On Sunday it was bubbly day and there was a flash mob on Arbat street to celebrate. Flash mobs are quite popular in Russia, it is when many people show up to the same place and do something crazy at once.......so we all blew bubbles for bubble day:) It was great to hang out with them. They think that I am a baby and that I can't do anything by myself, which I think is funny. I told them that I am not a baby and that I know the public transportation system of Zelenograd better than them, which is true, but they said that they just care too much and worry. In the Winter, if I didn't look like an Eskimo they would chastise me until I put on more winter gear.....they are very funny.

I really like the colors of this.....it is so Moscow.

I don't know what i am doing here, but check out my sweet leather!

Yulia and I.

Beautiful sunset.

On Saturday they went with to buy a bicycle! I was so excited to buy a bicycle because I have been meaning to do it for a while and now I finally had the money so yay! My first journey on the bicycle got me lost in the forest. There is a huge forest in the middle of Zelenograd....that is why they call it the Green City. It was kind of a wet day so when i was lost I was sinking in mud and covered in it. I just wanted to escape and see buildings and civilization again....hahaha. Eventually I did escape and it was a great adventure. So now if I feel bored and it is a nice day I can't wait to jump on my bike, listen to my iPod, and go!

After my bike adventure I met with my friends and we all went to a concert in a club in Moscow. I don't remember the Russian singer that sang but he was really funny and did renditions of Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance"......pretty funny with a Russian accent. It was great and each weekend, Nikita and I plan a new adventure for the gang to do. This weekend we are planning to shashlik. Shashlik is a special way of preparing meat.....but basically it is a shishkebab.....and then you go to the forest or your dacha and build a fire and cook out. It is a great Russian tradition and I haven't done it yet. If we go to the dacha, I am hoping to ride my bicycle.....it is in the next town over so I think that would be fun:) Well that is pretty much it for now! I miss you all:)

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Decision-Making Time!

So I have been asked to stay next year and I have decided to accept. I am too attached to my students and to my friends in Zelenograd. I am really excited about this and to be honest I have surprised myself by wanting to stay. I look forward to really learning the language next year and traveling more. I was too busy this year to do that, this year was about learning how to be a teacher and making connections. I feel that I have done this and next year will be even better.

As usual, I have been hanging out with my Russian boys. We spend about 3 or 4 nights a week together and this weekend I am going back to the Dacha. I can tell that we are going to be life long friends. I had a really good weekend hanging out with my group of Russian ladies. We went ice skating and it was so much fun! Apparently in Russia you can skate all year round, so I am thinking even in the summer I will go to the rink. I don't have my own skates here so I just rent them, but I might buy some so that I can go skating outside. They freeze over all the basketball courts. The weather here is still winter:( Technically, in Russia Spring starts March 1st and around the beginning of March it looked like Spring. the snow was all melted and it was rainy and wet, but now the weather can't make up its mind and it is just slick ice everywhere. My friends have told me that it isn't unusual for it to snow in May in Moscow.....so we will see. All in all I would say that the winters back home were harsher than Moscovian winters. Regardless, I can't wait for it to be over! I am sick of the slush, snow, and ice!

My classes have been going well and my students continue to make me laugh:) Yesterday, I was doing a song-listen with Maroon 5's "She Will Be Loved". One of the missing words was "corner" and I was explaining the meaning and my little baby Artyome (who is the delinquent that graffiti's all the local buses) says, "Ah, yes this is where you pee!" I was so disturbed and of course I teased him for the rest of the listen and we were all cracking up, including him. I asked them if this was normal behavior for the men to pee in the streets, and they all said no except for Artyom....hahaha. After class he told me to check out the corner near Language Link because he was going to pee in it...hahaha. Got to love 'em!

I have fallen in love with another class to replace my missing FCE babies. One of the teachers was sick and I had to sub for her class and I loved it so much. I know that she hates this class because they are teenagers and they are too sassy for her British self to handle, but I am so used to it and we would have so much fun! So I asked her if I can have them and she is thinking about it. She hates them but she doesn't really want another class in their place, so she has to decide. But I am hoping that she says yes because I know that they would have more fun with me, because the students all know that this teacher doesn't like them and it makes me sad:( They shouldn't have to feel that way so I am trying to save them....hehehe.

My Russian friends made me get Russian facebook so now my students have friended me on this and they put pictures up of me that I didn't know they had taken. Sometimes when I was teaching I would see turn around and see them taking photos....I felt like I was in a zoo, but what could I do? So on the Russian facebook they have made photo collages of us. It was so cute that they took the time to do that. They all gave me presents for Women's day too. Women's day is March 8th and it is a national holiday and you don't have to go to school! So all these reasons are why I love Russia.....and why I will stay next year:)

Putting on our skates:)

Alla and I

The gang: Oleg, Alla, Rita and I

Shayla in action!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Playing Catch-Up!

So I have been a terrible blogger and haven't written in over a month! I apologize and I will give you the long and short of things. So I celebrated the Super Bowl at a whopping 2:30 am in Moscow on Monday morning. Myself and some fellow Americans went to a Sports Bar and ate American food and watched the Saints win! Unfortunately I had to teach at 3pm that day......so it was a rough day.

My teaching schedule has been a little hectic lately. I have been teaching 6 days a week and doing overtime. It is okay because I love my classes and my kids. My new boss arrived and he took a class from me, but they didn't like him and wanted me back so that made my overtime worth it, to know that they wanted me to teach them. So I am content with my classes right now. Actually my favorite class just ended because they are taking their exam next week and the last lesson was so sad. One of the girls cried and it made me so sad. I really don't know if I can leave next year just because I feel like these kids need me to represent America and to relate to them. They have so many hopes and dreams and I feel like it is my job to foster them. I am truly in love with them and no words can describe it.

I have been making more Russian connections lately as well. I have been hanging out with a group of Russian guys and I went to one of their Dacha's (cabin) this weekend. It was really fun and lots of people were there. I am proud to represent America, because they have lots of questions and impressions and they like to hear what my input is on the matter. They teach me useful Russian words and cultural aspects. We have a great time and spend almost every day of the weekend together. Because of this new friendship, I have been neglecting my other Russian friends, so we are going to hang out this weekend. Also I made one more Russian friend, Sveta. She was an individual student of mine and now I teach her privately because she could not afford the price of Language Link. She wants to go to St. Petersburg with me in May and I can't wait. It will be so much easier with a Russian....hahaha. I was surprised that she wanted to hang out with me because she is so serious but she is really nice and we bonded over watching 'Friends' in English and discussing the episodes in class...hahahaha. So far every Russian that I have met that is my age and speaks English has become my friend so I feel like a success as a person.

I have been trying to keep up with my culture in Russia as well. I visited a famous art museum, the Tretyakov Gallery, and saw some beautiful Russian paintings. My favorite artist is Vrubel. I am basically falling head over heels in love with Russia and I really don't think I can leave it next year. So that is the short and skinny of the situation as of now.

Lindsay at the dacha.....Nikita had crazy clothes for us all to wear, including a pancho, fur vests, and a safari hat. There was also a real bear rug with the head on it still....so Russian.

Nikita, Lindsay, and I at Nikita's dacha

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

"You're not our teacher, you're our friend!"

One of my resolutions this year is to keep up with my blogging and so far so good:) I am in the middle of my third week of teaching since returning from America. I have officially decided not to return to Russia next year and since I have made this revelation, I am a new woman. I feel anxiety free while teaching my classes because I don't have to deal with the repercussions next year....hahaha. I know that sounds bad but I am actually a better teacher when I am more relaxed. I am still trying to do a good job because it is in my nature and I am working toward some raises. But I realized that during my experimental year of teaching that I have created some behavior problems in my classes and I am not as resolved to fix them now that I know I won't be returning. My students think of me more as a friend than a teacher and I am at the acceptance stage of this problem.

Yesterday, when I was laying down the law in my English in Mind 2 class, which is filled with 13 year olds, I told them that they have to listen to me because I am the teacher. They said to me, "You are not our teacher, you're our friend!". My heart sank at these words and I put my head on my desk and sulked. I felt like a failure as a professional. After some time though, I realized that I am okay with this. These students go to Russian school all day and their teachers are very strict. Then they have to come to English after school because their parents make them. The nature of English class is to speak, so I do talk to them like friends and I make them talk about what is happening in their lives and their hopes and dreams. And I can see how this "theory" of theirs developed. The bottom line is that I want them to enjoy themselves so that they enjoy English and will continue learning it in the future. I am trying to instill passion in them and to give them a different perspective on life from my American point of view. The American POV and the Russian POV are vastly different when it comes to hopes and dreams. In Russia, before they attend University they must take a test like our SAT or ACT. Their score on this test determines what occupations they are eligible for. It all comes down to one test! And once they are in University they complete two years of generals, which are the same for everybody--no choices. Then they must choose a path that they were eligible for via taking the University entrance test. So there is not a lot of room for exploring knowledge and having hopes and dreams. Everything is very practical and that is why when I ask my University students what they are going to be, they all say, "engineer". It is not there dream to be an engineer, but it is there 'lot in life'. So although, I would not necessarily teach exactly the same in an American classroom, I think my teaching style suits an EFL classroom.

I had a relatively good week. I found out that I will be getting my old class back of FCE level teenagers. They were given away because a teacher left and I had to take her classes. But now we will have a new teacher and he will take that class, which is not my favorite, and I will get my favorite class back. It was one of their birthdays on Friday and the girl told her teacher that she had to go to take a phone call and she snuck out to see me in the teacher's room. This is the third time that she has done this in the middle of class. She told me that it would be the best birthday present if I could be their teacher again. They were forming a conspiracy and were preparing to raise arms against the administration if they wouldn't give me back to them. I really feel like I am not just a teacher, but that I slightly impact these students' lives and that is what gets me through the day. Russia is not the easiest country to mentally handle. I am isolated linguistically, socially, and remotely. It is depressing to not see the sun for days, to watch how many people are drunk in the middle of the day, and to hear blatant racism talked about like it is the weather. It wears on your heart and soul. So when I tell these stories about how much my students love me, it isn't to brag, but rather, to preserve memories that keep me going. Sometimes I compare Greece and Russia. Greece was very inconvenient but I was always a happy camper, whereas Russia is very convenient, but it is very depressing at times. I can easily see why the people drink so much. To see how the drinking has destroyed the people makes one sad and to never want to drink for fear of ending up like them. Sorry this has taken a depressing turn.

So to counter those depressing words, let's talk about my exciting weekend! On Saturday I hung out with my Russian friends. Their names are Alla, Rita, Julia, and Katia. Alla's parents were at their dacha (country house) and so she invited us all over to her flat. Other Russians were there too and we all made pizza and played Mafia. Not everyone spoke English so I got to practice and expand my limited Russian, especially while playing Mafia because you need to discuss who is in the Mafia. Mafia is such a popular game in Russia and it will always be near and dear to my heart. We also tried to watch a movie. I told them to play it in Russian because everyone spoke Russian except me and a couple of people didn't speak English and those that did had limited English knowledge. So in the end, they couldn't decide and we gave up and played more Mafia with "The Holiday" playing in English in the background. They were all amazed at the sound of the actors' and actresses' real voices. In Russia, all the voices are dubbed. They also gave me a Christmas present! They gave me a Zelenograd T-shirt and a Matryoshka doll; they are so sweet. I will really miss them and I hope to return their kindness and hospitality if they come to America.

On Sunday guess what I did? That's right, I went to Starbucks with Abby and walked around Moscow! It never gets old. Sometimes I am amazed that Abby and I don't run out of things to talk about because we call each other during the week and talk for a couple of hours when needed and then we talk constantly for hours every Sunday. And we are pretty much the only people we talk to....hahaha....I told you socially limited by choice. Well that is pretty much it and I better go to get ready for work.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Out With the Old and In With the New!

Wow, I can’t believe that it has been over a month since my last blog entry. This clearly shows how much I hate blogging even though so much has happened? I went home for the holidays and had quite an adventure getting there. I flew out of Moscow on Dec. 26th and had short connections in D.C. and Chicago. Needless to say it was a harrowing journey because of the extra security measures due to the terrorist attack in Detroit on Christmas Day. After having gone through security in Moscow, they cleared everyone out of the gate and rechecked everyone by hand, including our shoes and carry-ons. Because of this and extra security paper work my flight was delayed three hours. So I therefore would theoretically miss my connecting flights. Well, the pilot made up an hour of flying in the air but it was still a tight squeeze. I had anticipated these difficulties and I had brought only a carry on so that I could quickly go through customs in D.C. and not re-check baggage and thus make my connecting flight. In the end I had about 15 mins to run to my next flight and I SO would have made it but as I was running to find my gate I saw it was cancelled. This is probably why they called my name out as one of the unlucky ones who would be put up in a hotel for the night in D.C. I thought I would still try for the sake of trying, so instead of going the custom service line, which was a 4 hour wait, I went to the next gate bound for Chi-town. I got on stand-by and was second on a list of what would eventually be sixty. Despite my efforts United airlines insisted that I would be staying the night in D.C. or Chicago and to basically stop fighting my fate. Wow, I just realized this story sounds a lot like my favorite classical tale, the Aeneid! So anyways, I got on the Chicago flight and thought I would still try to make it to Minneapolis. I arrived in Chicago at 9:45pm and saw that my original Minneapolis flight had been delayed several hours and was leaving at 10pm so I still had a chance! I ran through the airport and made it just has they were making the last call. In the end I arrived at 1am and I hadn’t even had enough time to tell my parents to come pick up in between airports because of all my scurrying. So I called them up when I was in Minneapolis after I had told them hours before that there was probably no way that I would make it home and would be staying the night in D.C. The moral of the story is never give up at an airport and never let those airlines tell you what to do!

Once I had finally made it home, I had a delightful holiday. I slept at my parent’s hotel and then in the morning my immediate family had Christmas together. I saw my brother and sister and gave everyone their presents. Then it was off to Grandma’s! This is why I had to get home on time, I had a schedule to keep. My extended family usually meets at my Grandparent’s house in MN and this year they waited until Dec. 27th to have Christmas because of me. It was really nice to catch up with everybody again and to talk about my experiences. I saw my cousins and I can’t believe how much they have grown up and I am so proud of the little adults that they have become. I realize that I have done a lot during the past few years and I have had my share of growing up as well. It felt good to pass on my wisdom to them. After Christmas, I had some quality Gran time and we played Rummy Cube (Granny’s favorite game). I stayed the night and then the next day I drove up to the Cities to stay with my good friends Andy and Kelly…..for writing’s sake let’s call them Kandy.

I was so excited to see them and to hang out with them and other friends in the area. One of my besties, Sarah, came and stayed at Kandy’s the whole 3 nights I was there too. The first day we went to Mall of America and got our fill of shopping. Oh how I missed Gap and Old Navy! It was great and we ate Subway! I had missed that as well. Then we went and hung out at the apt and played Tie One On….I pretty much dominate at the game and so I always want to play it….hehehe. The next day Kelly had a dentist appointment so Sarah had to babysit me and we bonded at Starbucks for a couple of hours. Then the three of us resumed our shopping habit and girl talk. I didn’t care what we did as long as we were together and it was so great to see them. You would think that I am used to long distance relationships so I would be good at them….but I’m not. I love talking face-to-face, I am not the same via Skype or AIM. So these were great days that I could spend with my girls. They have been so supportive of my travels and even though it is a friendship strain, I know that they will always be there like nothing has changed. On the third day I dragged them to the Minneapolis Institute of Art because I wanted a little culture. We had a good time looking around and we all got a little nostalgic around the Egyptian collection. I love just looking at beautiful and interesting things. After this we went to Chipotle, because that was also on my to-do list. I missed my Mexican food! After three nights with my friends, I thought that I had better head back to Wisconsin to see my family.

I had only seen my family for a few hours on Sunday so I was looking forward to catching up with them for a longer time. I played games on New Year’s day with my family and I went to a movie with my high school friend, Sarah. We saw Sherlock Holmes and caught up on each other’s lives. I hung out with her again a few days later and I realized that it is nice to just sit and do nothing. For the rest of my week home I caught up on sleep, TV, and my family. I flew back on Thursday Jan 7th, and I had a similar experience going home as was my arrival. I had to completely change flight paths which led to the loss of my baggage. I can talk about all this very calmly now, but surprisingly very little English is spoken in a Russian airport and filling out lost baggage forms for people who you can’t communicate with is interesting. After a very frustrating two days I made it home to Zelenograd and slept for 19 hours straight. Next I am just going to foot the bill and fly direct! My bags were returned to me in the middle of the night four days later when I was awoken by a Russian man who I couldn’t understand and who couldn’t understand me ……..but somehow we figured it out….hahaha.

I had to weekend to adjust to Russia again and then it was off to work on Monday. In the beginning, I was really depressed to be back because America was so awesome and I felt trapped like I was in prison or something and couldn’t get out. But then I realized that Russia is amazing and I might as well enjoy the experience while I could. I was nervous for work to start because I figured that they would have changed my work schedule again. Lo and behold they did? They got rid of my favorite class and gave me some new classes in an effort to even out the teachers’ hours. I was sad and my class was sad. They are trying to get me back as their teacher but I don’t know if their efforts will prove fruitful. On Tuesday, my administrator informed me that my roommate and I will be moving at the beginning of February because my land lord no longer wants to rent to my company. So that was a shock because I had finally gotten internet set up and I had a washing machine and life was grand. I don’t like sudden change like this, not after I had finally gotten used to my apt. So who know where I will end up now but life is an adventure, right? What will be, will be and all that jazz. So I think I have gotten you all caught up on my life and I can go to bed now…yay!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Christmas is Coming!

Howdy! I am so excited for Christmas! In only two and a half weeks I will be home in America....everything seems possible all of a sudden. I had a really good weekend too. I worked on Saturday and after work I went to a sushi bar with a colleague. I am obsessed with sushi lately. I literally crave it all week, but I only eat it once every two weeks because it is too expensive.....but on that day watch out cuz I work those chop sticks and go to town! On Sunday I hung out with my Russian friends. They drove me to Mega Mall. Mega Mall consists of many shops and Ikea. We explored Ikea and I bought a few more trinkets to pimp my pad and jazz up my joint...hehehe. I really love hanging out with these girls. Everything is so easy with them because they know what they are doing and how to do things the easiest way. After Ikea we went shopping in the mall and had a blast. They are so funny and ask me really strange questions like, "Where do you buy your cosmetics?". I don't really know what to say to them. They, like most Russians, have a skewed perception of America as well. They asked me why American history books give credit to America for WWII, when clearly Russia won the war. I just explained that a lot of credit is given to America because we ended the war with the Atomic bombs. They come back with the counter argument that Russia lost 23 million people and America only lost 400,000. This is true and I feel awkward arguing about this sort of thing nor do I necessarily agree with the fact that America is given the most credit, but I don't know what to say when Russians assume that every American should be held accountable for the whole country. So I just explained that history books are biased and that in every country the history books try to make their own country look good. Conversations like this really made me realize how America is bashed in the Russian school system. I have been asked personally, "Why do you hate Mexicans?" and "Why do your school cafeterias serve soda and chips for lunch?" These questions kill me because, first of all, Russians assume that I am personally responsible for all these issues and, secondly, because it is so hypocritical of them. Russians are the most racist people that I have met yet. Their school cafeterias are exactly the same as ours and their history books write a skewed perception of history as well. They even still try to take credit for the moon landing, claiming that the first creature on the moon was a Russian dog. Everything is a contest between America and Russia and I can't win. So I pretty much just let it all go and try to give them a different perspective, where neither Russia nor America wins, rather the countries are just different. Life in Russia is just funny sometimes and I just get to see the effects of the cold war first hand!

After hanging out with my Ruskayas (Russian ladies), I went ice skating. It was a really fun and a good experience. I can't wait to go again. I am going to buy some skates here and when they freeze the basketball courts I will be able to skate for free outside. On Monday we got so much snow and I am getting excited for outside winter activities. I asked my students what they like to do in the winter and they all said they loved to make snow angels, skiing, skating, and throwing snow balls at their teachers! All this talk was getting me so happy for the Winter season. My students asked to hang out with me this weekend so that we could have a snow ball fight......and that is why I love them.

I have had a crazy week at work with my students. Last Tuesday, one of my old students came into the teacher's room and handed me a letter. The letter was so cute and said how the class was upset that I had left them. I had to give away my class of 12 year old More!3 kids because of Yura, my individual VIP student. So basically the class wanted to know why I had abandoned them and why I wouldn't come back. I was so touched but there was nothing that I could do about the schedule changes. My roommate is now teaching this class and I think that she is doing a pretty good job with them. I think that they were just attached to me and connected with my personality more. My boss made me feel bad about this letter though and she said that I cared too much if my students liked me. I was sort of mad about this because I want everyone to have fun because we spend so much time together but I don't try to make them like me.....they just happen to and I don't see why I should feel guilty about this. The situation got worse on Thursday. My roommate came into the teacher's room quite upset and I asked her what was wrong. She told my boss and myself that the More!3 class was out of control and kept asking for my return throughout the class period. She felt really undermined and I don't blame her, but I was also flattered that they wanted me back.....I am only human. So I felt terrible and didn't know what to do because my roommate was upset and my boss was mad at me and my kids felt abandoned. And then I found out that the other class that I had to give away were complaining about their new teacher too and wanted me back. This class is adults though, so their complaints are taken seriously. So I will probably be getting them back and teach them again because I finished teaching Yura this week. This is exciting news for me because this adult class was my favorite class because they are so eager to learn and their enthusiasm is contagious.

All in all, everything is grand and I am counting down the days until I can see my family and friends for the Christmas season!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Long Time, No Write!

Sorry that it has taken me so long to update everybody. My Internet was gone for about about a week because they thought I didn't pay my bill but I did so I sure showed them, ha! About three weeks ago I went to one of the palaces of Catherine the Great. It is called Tsaritsyno and is in Moscow. That is what I love about Moscow, everywhere you go there is another palace or cathedral to explore. I have decided that I want to try to see something new every weekend. Tsaritsyno was beautiful and the snow had just fallen so it was a special experience. I enjoyed watching the ducks swim across the half frozen pond, they would swim up to the ice and then hop and walk on the ice until they hit water again.....needless to say I have a plethora of duck pictures. I always enjoy going into the city and exploring on the weekends with my friend Abby. We always end the day with a typical cup of coffee and usually go back to her place and hang out. This particularly weekend we watched The Princess Bride...my favorite.

Abby and I are getting excited to go home on Dec. 26th. Our flight happens to be the same because it was the cheapest and we will endure the journey together. It is officially one month away, how exciting! The time will pass quickly I am sure. I am busy with school and I have a new schedule now. I teach Monday through Saturday because of a special case VIP client. My boss asked me to do them a favor and test drive this 13 year old advanced student. She wanted to see if he would like me as a teacher and vice versa. He had previously been through 4 other teachers that weren't to his liking. So I was really nervous to see if I would pass the test. Well he really did like me and told me I was the best teacher he had had so they gave him to me permanently. So now I teach him 6 hours a week. This meant that I was working too many hours so they had to take away two of my classes, which was really sad. I said goodbye to my students in these classes and they were pretend crying and I love them for that. The good news is that since I work an extra day I get paid more. Also this 13 year old boy, his name is Yura, wants extra lessons with me and he wants to pay me to tutor him privately for about the equivalent of $33.oo an hour. This is the going rate for English lessons and is more than I get paid for at Language Link so I said heck yes! He is a very strange boy though and there is a reason that he has been through so many teachers. He makes shocking and inappropriate comments to see how I will react and I just don't give him the satisfaction.....a problem my predecessors had. So now that I know how to handle him I actually enjoy teaching him, he is very smart and studying for the CAE exam, which is very difficult and many native speakers wouldn't pass it. He is also a typical spoiled rich kid and I thoroughly enjoy giving him some tough love. I have created this environment so that he really likes me and we joke around and when he is bad I simply tell him that I won't be his teacher anymore and he pretends to cry and he gets all whiny and we laugh.....so I can tell he likes me and I feel good that I succeeded where others failed. It was a big deal to keep him as a client because he is so rich and has so many individual hours......he pays about $100 an hour to study with me through Language Link.

My other classes are still hilarious. I just think they are so funny and I really want to take them home with me. One of my students in my English in Mind 2 class is a total smart-Alec and I asked him what his favorite film was and he said the Telepusiki film.....which is Teletubbies in Russian. So this has become a class joke and I make fun of him all the time about it. He is one of my regular trouble-makers as well. His name is Artyom and when his friend, Nikita, is there too the class is pretty hard to manage. So a week ago I explained to them how I couldn't hit them in school because I would get in trouble, but that if I ever saw them on the streets of Zelenograd that they'd better watch out! They proceeded to throw some gang signs at me (because they think they are gangstas) and they said that all their friends would be with them to beat me up. So I pounded my chest and challenged them to a fight in the parking lot at 4:00 pm on Saturday. They accepted and the whole class thought it was hilarious. These boys brought it up for the next few days in class about how I better watch out on Saturday.....I just told them that I could take them. When I would yell at them in class they would just say, "four o'clock!" and I would laugh......they are so funny. So needless to say I didn't show up....but I think they did because on Monday they were really upset that I didn't show up....hahahaha. I think this little stunt has endeared them to me forever. Today I threatened to give them to another teacher and they begged me not to so I think I have won them over.....even though it is unconventional to challenge your students to parking lot fights, it is effective! I really think that my little trouble-makers are my favorite students because they provide me with banter to entertain the whole class and the key to management is to get the leaders on your side. I also love Andre and Roma in my English in Mind 4 class. They are like 15 years old and I still have to send them to the corner and I am of course and laughing the whole time and so is the class because it is so ridiculous.....I love it when they beg for mercy....mwahahahaha.

So now my life has settled down again and I am getting into a regular routine. My Thanksgiving was sadly lack-luster though. It was another typical day, but I did talk to my family which was nice. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday I think....the meaning behind it is so pure and untainted. I also love how it is just about love and family. I have great memories of my Thanksgiving last year in Greece when all the study abroad students banded together and made a potluck Thanksgiving! There was no topping that so I just made potatoes and fiesta eggs and ate by myself in my room....hahaha....it sounds so pathetic.

This weekend I think I should relax and not do any sight seeing. I followed this advice a couple of weekends ago and I layed in bed watching Xena Warrior Princess all weekend long....it was the best. But last weekend I went to a beautiful park and convent called Novodevichy in Moscow. I just enjoy walking around and catching up with Abby on our weeks and our wonderful children. It was so funny, when we went to Starbucks, the cashier guy was making fun of me because I didn't speak Russian, but luckily Starbucks is an international language.....hahaha, so anyways, I was going to buy a drink and this really cool travel mug in the shape of a Matryoshka doll, but the guy told me that I could have it for free! It was like a $10 mug and I didn't understand why I got it for free......I think it is because he was making fun of me and he felt bad. I have had him before as my cashier and he always makes fun of me in Russian and I can understand enough Russian to know when I am being made fun of.....hahaha....I will go back this weekend and see what I can get for free! Maybe I won't have to buy Christmas presents after all....hehehehe.