Wednesday, August 8, 2012


Halfway through the first week of training to teach English as a Foreign Language (EFL). So far it has been an exciting, fun, and stressful few days. I'm not going to tell you a list of all that we've done or even necessarily state the day things happened, but I will run through some interesting things about the job and life around Moscow.

Language Link does not teach English through translation and therefore some of the interns actually do not know Russian or know about as much as I do, however they will be teaching full time and we could be at various levels. Their practice, as with most EFL programs I guess (although I did not know that coming into this) is to teach always speaking English, but at varying levels. It works by getting the brain to pick up language much like babies do. When adults speak to babies they adjust what level of speech they use, but there is no translation into a baby language. We will do the same thing and use gestures, pictures, and a variety of other ways, but we do not translate. Those who are interested in learning I guess actually pick up the language. Just like if one immerses oneself in another culture without speaking the language, but they slowly learn things. Once I thought about this it makes sense because EFL students who come to the US from various countries actually take the same course. It is not as though the EFL teacher actually translates from the various languages.

This terrifies me a little bit thought because that means that's how my Russian class is going to be as well. Perhaps I should have taken the intern job to just teach the whole time and earn more money. Or perhaps even though this is different than any language class I've ever taken (which all focused more on translation), this will benefit me and I might learn Russian faster than the interns who work full-time. Only time will tell. I'm also supposed to have my host family only speak to me in Russian to help my immersion, but so far they haven't kept that up. I think they want to practice their English and learn English from me and so they're intentionally refusing to follow that rule.

We have already had to start practice teaching. In my small group (the 30 people are divided into 3 groups of 10 for the entire day) I ended up going first. Yesterday. It wasn't terrible, but I don't like the idea that I have to do homework. I knew I would have to do that, but after four years of grad school I wanted the ability to come home at the end of the day and not do anything. Sadly I still have things to do and I had to come home from the first day of training only to prepare a lesson plan for a 15 minute session. No bueno.

While training is not entirely the same, I often think both to my homiletics course and to my training to be a canvasser for Citizens Campaign for the Environment. The drilling and formulas is very much like CCE, but the feedback and speaking in front of a crowd feels more like the situation from preaching.

Language Link (LL) also has feels a lot like the crowd from CCE except for now we have to dress up professionally (Maryli if you're reading this, I'm totally thinking of preparing for my interview: Me- "I'm told for jobs here in Connecticut I need a suit. Do I need to need to wear a suit?" Maryli- "Please God NO!! Don't!"). Well, ok, I'm not wearing a suit, but no jeans during the training sessions. Dress shirt, "smart" trousers/skirts, are a must, ties optional. And tattoos should not be showing. After a few weeks of teaching and once you've established with your students that you are the authority jeans are acceptable and tats can show. Dang. I want my short-sleeved dress shirts now. It is hot to keep my sleeves down, although they have let quite a few of us get away with rolling them up partway as long as we still appear professional. I mean one of the main staff has also been showing his forearm tat and another main staff person has sleeves, some on the back of his hand, and one on his head mostly covered by hair, but some shows, I guess a slight show of tats isn't too bad. Although the latter definitely keeps his shirt sleeves down, so only his hand and head show in class. He was my Skype interview back in January. I now know why he only spoke to me and did not do video. His appearance does not follow the dress code that we are allowed to break once we've established ourselves with the LL community and our clients. Lastly, the guy I argued with about beer on Saturday night apparently is one of the directors. Oops. So far he has been good to me though.

Speaking of tattoos, they are becoming more popular in Moscow just like they are becoming more popular in the US, although they're still far less popular here than there. They're still just mostly associated with prison, military, and gangs (organized crime more than street). And while a handful are quite good, I must admit I'm a little disappointed with the quality that I've seen. Maybe most of what I've seen are prison of some sort and the studios are good, I don't really know, but a lot of them are just really really bad. The ink isn't spread evenly so while it's all filled in, some areas are dark and others light.

Another interesting thing I've noticed is that many people in suits don't have the suit pressed or ironed. Many do, sure, but they're usually the ones trying to look crisp, sharp, with polished shoes clearly demonstrating their wealth, but others who may even be pretty wealthy or upper middle class at least have wrinkles. And suits here are usually reserved for certain types of work. Many people just use dress clothes like my job or even polo shirts. Oh well, perhaps some of the status comes just from wearing a suit.

One last sucky note. I believe I got giardia. I thought I was good about drinking water, but perhaps I got it from some food washed in contaminated water and I actually think I got it in St. Petersburg before coming to Moscow. I bought metronidazole and it seems to be working, but still sucky. However, I will say that was the cheapest I've ever paid for medicine and thankfully I can just go get it. No prescriptions here. If you know you need something you ask the pharmacist and they give it to you. If you don't know what you need you visit a doctor and they tell you what to get, but you still don't need a prescription. Everything is behind the shelf so you can't pick up Tylenol, but ask for metronidazole. You'd ask the pharmacists for Tylenol too, but still, pretty nice system. As for price, yeah 78 rubles which at 32 rubles to a dollar = $2.44. That's 20 capsules, high powered anti-biotic, couple bucks.

To end on a more exciting note, can I say that I love the metro here? Like seriously. 12 lines (it's huge), but awesome. I will honestly take an hour commute (like it was to get home today - rush hour is a beast) on the metro over driving for 30 minutes in a car in the US. I can walk, move around, still listen to music, read a book (if it's less crowded than rush hour), and even when it's crazy like coming home today, it's not stressful. Nothing like sitting in traffic even when it's only stop-and-go for 5-10 minutes of that 30 minute drive. Beautiful. And unlike BART, it's the same price to go all over the city. Could you imagine going from Dublin-Pleasanton to Daly City for 85 cents? Amazing!!!

Well, I should be off for now, but more exciting adventures to come. 

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