Log in

My mom

I posted about the horrible happening with my mother a few months ago but have never updated.

I sent her The Straight Privilege Checklist and she immediately apologized. I was shocked.

Instantly, she was on my side and has been since. Don't ever think you can't change people's minds.

We're in Colorado Springs, Colorado

We've driven 25 hours from San Francisco since Tuesday morning. Rather, Nikol has driven. I've been in charge of entertainment.

Today we spent the sunset hours in the Garden of the Gods park, our destinatiion. It was amazing. So beautiful. We're going back tomorrow morning for opposite lighting. And then immediately driving back to SF.

I feel really shitty about blowing off friends in SF before we came here and am too mortified to check in on FB. I had vague plans with them and none sounded terribly interested so I think it's okay, but I'm still beating myself up about it.

One of my very dearest, oldest, dearest friends made it sound like she'd be visiting us in SPb last June and she simply ran silent and I had no hard feelings but I fear most people are not like me.

It's actually a lot deeper than that: my best friend chooses drugs over me always, my second best friend is rarely available to me unless I genuflect to her and mostly I'm not willing, my old friends were not ever really good friends, they just like the idea of me.

Recently, I lost two friends of over twenty years because they did all the "work". Okay. I don't miss them. They made demands and I can't meet them.

I'm a terrible friend, if you want more than infrequent emails, Skypes and phone calls. If you're suffering, I am a constant friend and this is what pains me the most. When I suffered most, my only friend was my drug addict friend. She was there for me, constantly. For the friends who dumped me, I was there every single day, maybe five times a day for them when they suffered, multiple times. But no more.

Traveling on the road with Nikol is sublime to me because we are the perfect travel partners. She says, "You had a huge coffee, you must need to pee." I do and she stops. "Baby, you must be thirsty. You act like a camel when you're driving but do you want water?" I ask and she does and I run in and grab her one. Plus, I love having her to myself. It's so rare. (Our first night in America, one of Nikol's clients called SIX times between midnight and seven a.m. Good gourd!)

I've met some very lovely people in Nevada, Utah and Colorado. The billboards sicken me but the people are nice.

I sincerely hope

That every woman I know votes. I have voted in every election I've been able (though I've overwhelmingly been on the losing side) but I take voting very seriously.

I've had three girlfriends (with whom I lived) who were completely apathetic and so I got to vote twice. Do not be apathetic! That's how fuckers win (unless you have a gf like me). I'm proud of Nikol because she voted in the National election even though we were in Istanbul. She made a point to go to the Russian Consulate early in the morning.

I read rapturously and in great detail exactly-- the many propostions, the small time supervisors/educational seats-- there was no political vote beneath my extensive research. Every vote is incredibly important.

In Russia, I still vote. I'm now unable to vote in California (of course) but I can vote on a national level. And I will. I hope you will, too.

Remember, we were only allowed to vote 89 years ago.

I see, now, on so many blogs, women making excuses for what's going on now. It's NOT okay! Last I checked I was a human being with choices. That may soon not be the case.

Pure evil in Texas.

We're cattle/chattel!

We're only incubators, not human.

I believe, here on LJ, I'm preaching to the choir. Nonetheless, I need to purge.

We Have Come To The End Of The Book

This is always a helter-skelter* time in classes or in individual lessons. Because will they pony up for another book or will they just lean on me to print print print?

To be honest, most students do not ever get their own books and this makes it very hard on me. I usually end up buying them a book because it's cheaper than printing/copying them or looking up worksheets and printing those up. Now that I'm going into my second year teaching at this school (actually more than my second year) I think I will insist that students buy their own books. I'm tired of paying for printing.

If you want a conversation only lesson? Yes, I will come with only my mouth. If you want to learn grammar or vocabulary or grammar? You need to buy your own book.

I prefer books (and I know which ones now are the best) because there is a natural progression and repetition that is not possible to replicate on your own. I will always add my own materials when I see where a student/class is lacking but I'm not going to scrap lessons together anymore. I don't NEED to anymore, I have a mighty arsenal of the best of the best, but if you want to learn the language, you're going to have to pay an additional 1000 rubles ($30).

I think that's fair. When I took private Russian language lessons in San Francisco, I had to pay $2500 for 50 classes (one hour each) and I had to buy a book ($50). If I canceled a class? That was $50 right out of my pocket; I was never able to reschedule. You can't make it? You still pay. It was much stricter. If teacher canceled? I had the choice of rescheduling or getting a $50 credit. (I mightily disliked my first teacher but really liked my second so I was happy I rescheduled.)

Here, I have students who cancel cancel cancel and they prolong their lessons ad nauseam. Oy, I like to finish them and move on. (I'm not counting holidays, of course, and I AM out of the country a lot--because of my visa needs or because of Nikol--I don't begrudge my mistakes.) I just wish my school would be "more professional", in the terms in which I understand "more professional".

I love my students and often am a self-sacrificing dork for them but if I'm spending more than what I'm making, no. I need to say "No!"

*Not to invoke Charles Manson nor The Beatles--my understanding of helter-skelter came from Charles Dickens.

One thing I don't get about Russia

Why is their TV so difficult?

So many British shows are available here. Nice for me, except Russians (apparently) like echo translations. Meaning the English is spoken first and then the Russian is shouted over it one second later. Wouldn't it be better to have Russian subtitles? OR full dubbing? I mean the echo dubbers are so distracting in their emoting that I can't hear anything but them. The echo translations make me a bit crazy. Can I please hear the English? Maybe? Or no echos? The combination makes me nuts.

This is the bastard child of dubbing and subtitles and it sucks.

I'm guessing Russian broadcasting systems couldn't care less about deaf people. They have no closed captioning in Russia. (This is what my gf tells me. With Irina and Alex in San Francisco, we simply watched movies in CC mode and everyone was happy.) Need I say, again? It's not possible in Russia. I have to hear some man interpret everything. In crappy women's voices. UGH.
I want to write them here (and archive them) because my archives have been very useful to me. In order of when I first procured them:

1. Vasili - From JUNE of last year. I don't know if the school has a time limit for when students can pay and then take lessons but, if they do, surely Vasili's time must soon be up. He only wants lessons on weekends. He canceled his last lesson in early February (one hour before, I still get paid) and I have not heard from him since. I adore him (I adore all my students--Russians are endlessly interesting to me) but he only has three more lessons. His eyelashes are insane! Only on my brother have I seen eyelashes that long. He only bought thirty hours. I love his mother. She's maybe a decade older than me and is so fashionable and decked out every time I see her. All the young men I teach live alone with their mothers. Vasili's mom cuts up fruit and herbs, lays out pickled tomatoes and mushrooms, and an array of teas and coffees when I arrive. I'm like royalty. I tweaked his CV and cover letter and he got a new job, in Dubai. He's no longer in SPb very much.

2. (Int. Bus. Class-these classes I've had now for 12 weeks) - Valery - He's so freakin' funny. Where Vasili is very serious (and just over thirty), Valery is nearing 40, married and he can make great jokes in English. His face is so cute. He has black hair--very short, deep brown eyes and a tiny mouth. He's very, very intelligent. He began in the Pre-Intermediate class and the day I was going to ask him to jump up to Intermediate (he dominated every conversation and was clearly not Pre-Intermediate), he asked if he could jump a level. YES! He's the salesman of the company and I can tell. When he gets something wrong and I explain it he says a very small, "okay". I know I have to explain it with Valery. I could never just say, "Incorrect".

3. (Int. Bus. Class) - Nikolai - Nikolai is the student that is most often gone from classes but he is the funniest. His hair is short grey and he has the most typical Russian face, to me. When Nikolai is in class, I know it will be a fun class because he can spin role plays into pertinent everyday causes. He is able to take English easily into philosophy which is why I wanted to run Intermediate into Upper-Intermediate as soon as possible. Nikolai can often overtake classes because he has a lot to say. Our first lesson, Nikolai offered me a ride home. I didn't take it (Nikol always drives me home) but I thought that was sweet. He also only has daughters so he is fiercely in favor of girls.

4. (Int. Bus. Class) - Vladislav - Vladislav is a very nice man. He's the most reserved of the group and I often stop to ask, "What do you think, Vladislav?" Valery and Nikolai could easily run over him with their big personalities. When he starts to speak I wave off the others and make them listen. It's funny to me because he told me on our first meeting that he has the biggest problem with listening. NO, he doesn't. He has the biggest problem with speaking. He's a great reader, has excellent pronunciation but he rarely interjects. I have to make sure to be a traffic light for him. He is the best at word puzzles. Lately, he's been saying, "I am great in English." Yes, you are, Vladislav!

5. (Pre-Int. Bus. Class) - Sergey - Sergey always calls me "Jenice" and he didn't until about two weeks in so I feel reluctant to correct him now. In my business classes, he's struggling the most so I don't want to confuse him. He's adorable! Like a blondie teddy bear. So small and so cute. And he loves his family so much, he talks about them nonstop. We had three individual lessons together but he still scored lowest on my end-of-book placement test. Yet, he's often the first to supply correct answers in lessons, so I'm confused. What can I do to help him? When I gave that placement test he looked completely crapped out. That is not like Sergey. He's usually so bubbly. I am very invested in his success. We went over "say, tell, ask" like mad and he still got them wrong. I think it may be because he talks too much and doesn't listen. What else can I do?

6. (Pre-Int. Bus. Class) - Vladislav - (Russians have the same names over and over--I know at least 20 Natalya/Natashas, Sergeys, and Tatyanas/Tanyas) - He asked me in the first lesson to call him Slava, so I do. Though Nikol tells me it is highly disrespectful. Slava is the big boss of the building. Once I knew this, it made it difficult for me to call him Slava but when I call him Vladislav he slowly shakes his head at me. Okay, so, Slava, is far too advanced for Pre-Intermediate. I would have suggested he go up to Intermediate, too, with Valery. BUT Slava is never in the building. He has been to maybe four lessons out of the last sixteen. When he is there, he looks crapped out. And he gets fifteen phone calls. It's stressful for me to have Slava there because he so clearly needs to be somewhere else. I think he's very nice, to me, and I want to help him. He rarely joins in the conversation and when he does he is always correct.

7. (Pre-Int. Bus. Class--NOT my Advanced Elena) - Elena - Front Desk/Customer Service. (I can always tell a (y)Elena, no matter how they're dressed. When we go to the bowling alleys I know who exactly is a Elena. Elenas are the hidden intelligentsia, in my experience.) Elena is the one person of this class I had little hope for, because she was so disjointed in her English understanding, in the beginning. The smartest women who hide behind their intelligence are always Elenas. When I gave my end-of-the-book test, Elena scored High-Intermediate. But she will not speak in class. This makes me want to goad her all the more. Maybe offer free lessons.

8. Timofey - I only have six more lessons with him. He's gorgeous, in a male model way, and I adore him but we won't have enough lessons together to really connect. He's kind of a misogynist ass anyway.

9. Julia/Yulia - I love the way her mouth moves. It's not American at all. Of course not, she's Russian. I think I'm teaching her and then she sends me such horrific sms-es (texts). Next lesson it's all about writing. Good grief, I know her main point of English contact is email.

10. Advanced Elena

11. Evgenya - Advanced student. My boss and coordinator. I think she's amazing. I would do anything for her--okay within limits. She's brilliant and my main concern with her is that she realizes how amazing and unusual she is. There is no one like her. I recently decimated her CV and cover letter and haven't heard back (they were too long!) but I know her. I know it's because she's busy with her life. I did the same to Vasili's (see No. 1) and he came back, chosen out of 532 CVs, with a new international job. I know my power with resumes.

12. Natasha - Advanced student. Another coordinator at my school. I love talking to her because I am endlessly interested in quizzing Russians. She's so sweet. We have excellent conversations. She's a great student. Our time together flies by. I often hang out ten minutes after because we're so rapt in talking.

13. Marina - cutie pie (beginner) 11 year old. I bought her books which cost me/Nikol $90 but much cheaper than printing out endless worksheets. Plus, I think Marina really deserves an excellent education. I have 14 lessons left with her. Enough for a whole book. If your parents won't buy it for you, I will.

One thing I've found in teaching English: very wealthy parents make their kids work very hard. Sasha (an old student of mine who was 14) had to not only go to regular school, but had to go to extra-curricular schools, had to mentor younger students, had to keep a strict schedule and was happy for it. Because she saw how she was getting ahead on her own merit--granted on the dime of her parents, but because of her! SHE was making the rest happen.

Yulia, Ilya, and Nikolai (old students of mine, in their teens) had very wealthy parents but they were also plopped into hotel service as un-paid interns "to learn the merit of hard work". And now they're established in the business. Later, with their parents' money, they will know how to run businesses.

Wealthy Russian parents are very smart. They put their all into strict schedules, extracurricular studies and work experience. They do not let their kids sleep in late and be lazy. I wish my parents had done the same for me. (Not the money part, but the discipline part.) If you get to thirty and are undisciplined? It's frickin' hard to get over that.

Thank goodness Nikol's athletic discipline rubs off on me. And thank goodness I love my students so much.
I will post here, instead. (It's not THAT kind of TMI, it's just "keeping a self-reserve amongst those I may have not seen in person in over 25 years" sort of TMI.)

We went to Istanbul over the weekend, which was fun. It's always fun traveling with Nikol and our friends. Istanbul reminded me of a cross between Budapest and Muscat, Oman. Which makes sense, since on the Galata Bridge you basically walk from Europe to Asia and back again, several times a day.

The biggest thing in my mind is my meeting with the УФМС (Russian Immigration Services) this coming Monday. Have you ever seen those small yellow "Worst Case Scenario" books they sell in America? I found them fascinating. "Worst Case Scenario Camping". "Worst Case Scenario Travel". "Worst Case Scenario Kitchen". I made that last one up, I think. Anyway, I tend to think of worst case scenarios so that I'm generally thrilled those things didn't happen.

I'm not a pessimist, per se, not in every day life but with BIG life events, I am. What does the УФМС want to talk to me about? Nikol said it was unusual to be called in for a pre-meeting (April 25th is our official meeting) but Lena, lovely Lena, from upstairs assured me it's nothing to knicker-twist about. Okay.

That's the over-riding arc in my brain, everything else is small in comparison.

This morning I had a lesson with my most difficult student, Elena. Ugh, she drives me nuts. And I knew her when I had my first student, Nastya. Elena's the receptionist/front desk person/do everything human that is the face of that company. She's the one who always opened the door(s) to me on the third floor and who also offered me coffee. I also have two other students at that company so I'm there a lot! I have been for the last year plus, and I always really liked Elena*.

She is difficult because she's not a normal Russian. In my experience, Russians are very upfront. She's super-hyper-extremely advanced in English and you'd be hard-pressed to know she was Russian when you speak to her in English. But I do not get what she wants from me.

I have two other advanced students right now and I know what they want. They want to converse about really philosophical subjects, with me providing vocabulary when they become stumped and with me grading them at the end of classes, as far as their grammar goes (grading in MY opinion--I know a British person would grade them differently). My other students also want me to proofread their CVs or cover letters or presentations. This I usually do gratis because I adore them.

Elena, I only discovered this morning, has a different M.O. I was unsure of what it was until today. I thought she just liked to fight with me about the "rules of English"--which, hello, are different depending on region--but that is not it, at all. Now I know, she wants to teach me how to teach Russians better. I welcome this. This, to me, is fantastic! This morning brought an epiphany and I loved it. She is no longer a difficult student, she's a great help to me.

This morning's lesson was her teaching me how to better teach Russians present perfect tense (past simple and present perfect continuous). And *I'm* being paid. (She was half an hour late, but she always is.) How better to teach an advanced student than to have her teach ME? It's wonderful, for both of us.

I can't stop thinking about Timofey, her boss, whom I also teach--whilst we were discussing the meaning of the word "ambition"--saying, "Certainly, Elena is the smartest person here. But she has no ambition. If she did, she would go far, but she is content sitting at that desk."

I've never told Elena that, of course. It's bad form, in my mind. But Elena would make such a great teacher or a great interpreter. She could easily travel the world and she has no husband/boyfriend/girlfriend/children so she's on her own. She's free, basically. I can't understand what's holding her back.

This morning, thank heavens, I remembered NOT to drink her company's coffee. Julia/Yulia (all Russian Yulias offer their names to me as Julia, though I think Yulia is much prettier), my other student there, offered me some as I waited for Elena but their coffee machine makes some sort of espresso that makes me uncontrollably blabbery for at least half an hour. I made myself tea, instead. They gave me sixteen cookies (yes, I counted). I had none. I am FAT!

Things with Nikol are sublime. She is the best girlfriend I could ever hope for. I love her more every day. That first year was so frightening/unpredictable/discomfiting but now everything has fallen into place, as I knew it would, and we're just in love. She's such a massive comfort to me and I love her all the more for being her, now that I know her better. She's so kick ass. And kind.

Anyway, it's now the International Women's Day celebration here and I have no more lessons until Monday night. Time to get cracking making lesson plans.

*The company did not pay for Elena's lessons with me. Yulia just fell so far behind in her lessons that Elena offered to take some to use that time up. Yulia agreed, the school agreed, and here we are.

Wow, I never write anymore

What's going on? I'm still living in Saint Petersburg. I'm crazy in love with this city.

I had my most challenging student this morning and it was fun. She's the most challenging because she knows the rules of English grammar much better than I do. English came very easily to me (I won every spelling bee for the ten years I participated) and grammar was just natural. Only in the last year have I hardcore studied English grammar and there's nothing I don't already know (I read etymology and "grammar update" books for years, for fun) but trying to explain it? Yeah, right. We English speakers have a certain timeline in our heads that Russians do not.

Studying and teaching English so much has rendered me somewhat unable to focus on learning Russian. I'm still illiterate in Russian (except for signs--I can tell you what every billboard says), slightly less freaked out about speaking Russian (though CRAP! The cases make me nuts. I don't speak, usually, because I have no idea how to end my words--ye, oo, yem, blah!) so I'm frozen in a block of language ice.

And then I get frustrated and refuse to speak Russian. Some days I'm just over it and I speak English to everyone. I just don't care.

Yesterday Nikol and I went bowling for about 3 and a half hours. I had a brain freeze and kept saying "hello" in Russian instead of "thank you". I must've said "hello" instead of "thank you" about fifteen times, until I got home and laughed my head off about it. I'm such a dork. I know these words extremely well but I still messed up. Rudimentary. Yikes.

It's very hard to go from being overly verbose in English--"It's like Jack Frost, himself, landed upon each of my toes and personally blew icicles under my toenails"--to speaking just slightly more advanced than a Neandertal--"My feet fingers - cold". I blame my lack of Russian grammar knowledge. I have the vocabulary, I just can't use it.

That's probably why I'm always so exhausted in Russia. I have to smart up and dumb down so many times in a day. I have to give up thinking I can speak like I do in English in Russian, because I just do not know Russian at all. At some point, I hope I'll have time to.

I'm super happy

I'm a little bit wary of how happy I am right now. Everything is going along swimmingly.

My place of employment loves me and wants to clone me, so they say. I have seven individual students and two classes (several times a week, so I'm very busy). I worry about my upcoming visa expiration but I'll (we'll) take care of it.

I'm concerned about my girlfriend's sister, a lot. She has not been doing well, but I believe she's doing better. I love Elja. It's very strange to me that all my Russian friends in San Francisco also suffered hypertension. Why do Russians have such high blood pressure? I have the opposite problem. My blood pressure is so low I just want to sleep all the time. Last time I checked it was 90 over 50. But a slow-beating heart runs in both sides of my family. Maybe this is why I feel sloths are kindred.

My girlfriend works endlessly so I appreciate her deeply when she's here. I love Nikol so much that I dream about her constantly. Every night she's in my dreams. This has never happened before. I generally dream about faceless strangers, but I nearly always dream (now) about Nikol since I've been with her. Maybe because I adore her body so much every night before we sleep. I am definitely only thinking of Nikol when I finally crash.


Last night, we were vacationing on the Isle of Wight. (Why? I have no idea.) We were on a small barge that capsized and were both thrown into the water. The waves were HUGE but we swam to shore and made out like mad. I woke up very crazy in love with her. But I swam and swam and swam against palpable waves of deep bluish-green that crested right before me. No wonder I woke up tired. I kept thinking, "I am so happy Nikol is my cousin otherwise how would I have met her?" Dreams are so weird.

Sometimes, like tonight, I think, "Will my fascination with Russia ever wear off? One day, will I just want to run back to America?" It seems crazy to me that I can maintain this level of obsession with Russia and her people, but I just do. My resounding answer to those questions are always, "NO!!!!!!"

I am endlessly fascinated with Russia and with Russian people. I love them deeply. I love them more the more I know them so it's a cycle that will only end up with me being here for the rest of my life.

"How long do you think you'll stay in Russia?" two students asked me last week.

"I lived in America for 44 years. I would like to live in Russia for the next 44."

"Wait. So you're over 40? I thought you were maybe 37," my Wednesday morning student said.

"I'll be 47 in two weeks. I just dyed my hair." We both laughed.

I'm super happy.