Entry 23: November 15, 2011
Since coming back from Moscow, my mind has been homeward bound. As much as I will miss the people I have met here and the experiences I've had, there is a large part of my heart that is ready to be done with adventures for a while. Three weeks out of a year is not enough time spent at home. I was preparing for a lecture I'm giving later this week on Tourist Attractions in America, and I stumbled across National Geographic's National Parks of North America and Historical Atlas of the United States, both of which are filled with pictures that reminded me of the vast range of beauty we have in our country and made me glad to know I was going back to it soon. I also have an intense craving for pumpkin pie.
Last Tuesday, a friend of the Brays who lived with them for a few years in Alaska and is now married to an Orthodox priest here in Nizhny Novgorod, Olga, came and paid me a visit at the university. We went down to the cafeteria for some coffee and to talk for a bit, as she wanted to practice her English with me. She had told me that she wanted me to meet her daughter so that her daughter could have the opportunity to talk with a native speaker, but I have not heard from her since last Tuesday.
After my day was over on Wednesday, Jackie and I met up at the Arts and Crafts building on Bolshaya Prokovskaya street to do some souvenir and Christmas shopping. The last time we had been there, there had been practically no one in the store. However, apparently everyone decided that Wednesday night at 5 pm is prime arts and crafts shopping time. I was mildly successful in what I found, and Jackie did much better and found everything she wanted. We stopped into a bookstore afterward, which I should just know not to do. I had decided that I didn't want to buy any Russian novels to take back with me, because I can get them for cheaper on my Kindle and they don't take up space or make my suitcase heavier in such a format. However, I did not anticipate my getting stuck in the children's section of the store. I found several fairytales and short stories there with absolutely beautiful art and was unable to persuade myself away from buying two of them. I've told Jackie I won't go into any more bookstores with her, though. They're just too dangerous for me. We finished off the evening with some warm drinks at Shokolodnitsa and have decided that before we leave we have to try the chocolate and fruit fondue there.
No one showed for the Idioms club this week, but it didn't bother me. As I hadn't been there the previous week, I expected a low attendance, and I also knew that there were free Chinese lessons given at the same time. I was also raking my brain for a topic for the following week and had been unsuccessful in coming up with something clever. Therefore, I can just use the same material for the final meeting on the 17th. I hung out with Aliza Thursday evening, and we showed each other pictures from Moscow and other excursions here in Russia. Apparently, there is an American student in her group of foreign students, and he lives on the floor above me. I'm not sure how long he's been here, but I'm surprised no one mentioned it before.
On Friday I had a short meeting with Ludmila Mikhailovna, for whom I would be subbing in the following week while she was away. I would be teaching 5 classes for her, but at the same time as one of the classes on Monday, Margarita Sergeevna wanted me to lead one of her classes. Therefore, dear Katya, who was a student in the latter course, would be taking over the other course for me while I went to her class. My first official time being a substitute, and I already had a substitute. I spent six hours straight on Friday working on lesson plans for the following week. Luckily, two of the lectures topics I would be using with two different groups so I only had to prepare for five different topics total. I'll explain a little more in a moment.
On Saturday, Jackie and I met up for a day of homework and fun. We met at our halfway point, and headed back to my dorm. I forgot to mention that on the previous Thursday, my internet payment was due, but when Aliza and I went to pay for the next month, the machine told us to “seek a higher payment service”....which naturally greatly confused us, especially as her other roommates always used the machine that was so blatantly refusing us to pay their internet every month. However the internet still worked all of Friday. Saturday morning, however, it promptly ceased working. Thus, I decided to try to pay once more so that Jackie and I could get online if we needed. If it wouldn't let me pay, we were going to take my computer across the street to the cafe with WiFi where we had planned to eat lunch. Luckily, the machine was not snippety with me this time, and I was able to pay for two more weeks of internet.
We worked on our introduction to the book we have been writing for our Capstone project, and then we grabbed lunch at Cafe Caffeine before hopping on a bus back to Lenta to buy large amounts of Russian chocolate to bring home with us. When we got back to my dorm we picked out the pictures we wanted to use in our book and then proceeded to watch some Russian cartoons I had been given.
Sunday was a pretty relaxed day for me. I prepared a little more for the lectures for the coming week, did some reading, and packed one of my suitcases.
On Monday, the first class I was to teach began at 9:55. I would be watching the film Little Man Tate, which is about an extremely gifted child, with a second year class. I planned to periodically stop the film as we went along to explain certain cultural things. Katya was going to finish the film with them and have them write up discussion questions that they would then discuss as a group while I was giving a different lecture to the fifth year students. However, when I arrived, Yuliya and I discovered we had some technical difficulties. The disk with the film that Ludmila Mikhailovna had given us was not DVD compatible, so it was not readable in the DVD player. Yuliya had downloaded the film onto an external hard drive from the internet, but it was in 10-15 minute clips that I would have to search for, and I didn't want to deal with that. I had the film on my own computer, which I had, of course, left at home for the day. I have left my computer at home two days in the last two months, and both times they have been days when I actually needed it. Thank you, Mr. Murphy. I quickly ran home, grabbed my netbook, and came back to see if everything would work smoothly. Luckily it did.
At 11:35, Katya came and took over the class. My topic with the fifth year students, who are training to be English teachers, was the first three articles of the US Constitution, voting, and any questions they had on contemporary politics or the American system of government. I spent several hours on Friday rereading a large part of the Constitution and Bill of Rights and ended up drawing up a table of the Legislative, Executive, and Judicial branches in addition to two diagram: one that visually represented checks and balances and one that showed the process of how a bill becomes a law. In addition to this we talked about the electoral college, executive orders, Libya, Obamacare, and the upcoming 2012 election. I always enjoy that class because they are very intelligent, knowledgeable, and know how to keep me on my toes with difficult questions. I had hoped to be able to get back to the first class a little before the class time was over, but I was not successful. I found Katya in the American Center, and she gave me an overview of how the class had gone. I have the same group on Friday for another session in which we'll talk about the educational system in the US, major tourist attractions in the US, and how to write a resume or CV. I will also have two sessions with another group of students on Thursday where we will go over these same topics.
Long story short: my last two days at LUNN are going to be rather full. I would like to update this blog once more before I leave in the early morning of the 21st, but depending on how the rest of the week and the weekend goes I may not do so. Hopefully, I will have no reason to post a long saga of the travel home...but from my past experience with international travel, I fear there may end up being a story there.