Thursday, June 20, 2013

the macabre and snow in june with a wet anniversary

Written June 15th.

I’m struggling to find a way in which to describe this past week. I guess I’ll just run through the details.

My intermediate class on Monday did half of my favorite lesson out of their book (and the extra material I bring in). I posted a little bit about that lesson when I taught it with my other class in January. The story in the book focuses on Jack the Ripper to help teach the grammar point of “Question Tags,” which is when we add a short question at the end of a sentence, usually one we are sure we know the answer to. (Your name’s Jones, isn’t it?). Since I grew up in Nevada and all the victims of Jack the Ripper are prostitutes, I taught a lot of vocab that surrounds the world’s oldest profession such as “ladies of the night.” This sex industry language, however, is only a short part of the lesson.

Moreover I took the great opportunity to teach about the macabre (the greater part of the lesson) and people such as Edward Gorey and his wonderful contributions to PBS mystery series, and about Edgar Allen Poe, an abridged version of “The Masque of the Red Death” and then the song “The Red Death” by Thrice, which is based on the story. While this is the macabre, it also teaches a lot of good vocabulary such as: swirling; revel(ers), opulence, cloak, chime (as a clock chimes 12 times), hues, and others. Personally, I just love this lesson. It's also one of my favorite stories ever because it says that no matter how wealthy we are or how much we try to escape death, death finds us all. One might find this dark, but that is more because they are uncomfortable with this very real truth. One doesn't need to encourage death, nor expedite it, but I think to fear this very real state of being can also be problematic. Life is beautiful and I think people should enjoy it as much as possible, but death is part of life. From a religious perspective death is the transition into something greater (and some might argue something worse). From the non-religious perspective, we need death for the greater life to carry on. Without plants and animals dying we do not live, but without our death the circle of life does not continue. I like this story and song because it exposes the folly of fearing death and it exposes the illusions of safety we set up around ourselves. We put in place all these security measures but in the end they do not work. There are many other things I like about both the story and the song, but these two truths are definitely the biggest. One might even say that the darkness is scary and rightfully so, but the macabre is eerily joyous. Maybe? I mean Edward Gorey's pictures were somewhat cute while dark and he never portrayed actual demonic figures. And E.A. Poe had dark stories, some more sinister than others, but all exposing truths about the world. Anyway. . .

This week was short, however, because Wednesday was Russia Day and was a holiday everybody had off. My Tuesday upper-intermediate class was small with only three people and only 5 of the 7 showed up on Thursday. Daria and I took advantage of having Wednesday off and did some much needed summer shopping (I know, buying things right before we leave, but since we’re moving to LA we might as well get some temperature appropriate clothes to act business like when we first arrive and we’ll leave things behind). We also bought our tickets so we have an official return date on July 28th.

Sadly my bank account was hacked this week too. Apparently I withdrew money in Montreal, Canada while living in St. Petersburg, Russia. I am disputing the claim, but it just adds unnecessary work that I would much rather have avoided.

Karma got a new nickname from grandpa: Madame Хвостова which can translate as Ms. Tail because of her waggy tail. Хвост - tail and ова - is a normal ending for many Russian names for women as the ов - is for men.

Lastly, we wrapped up Friday, our 5th wedding anniversary, with a dinner cruise on the Neva and we’re currently traveling to Tallinn, Estonia (although I won’t post this until we return to SPB). I sought the help of a Russian colleague to make reservations for the cruise, however it turned out that wasn’t as necessary as I had thought. It was quite empty, even for a Friday night, and so we were able to enjoy a pleasant dinner looking out across a rainy city without being disturbed by other people sitting nearby.

Speaking of rain, while a week ago was dominated by unbearable heat causing a rise in the sale of fans, this week we have seen cooler and wetter weather. I will also say that we have officially hit the White Nights. We still have sunset and sunrise, but the dusk/dawn shade of grey is quite light. I have adjusted to being able to sleep in it with the curtains closed, but it is still a beautiful sight to behold. I'd also like to say that during the heat and rain we have seen snow here in SPB. And by snow I mean all the cotton floating and descending from the poplar/cottonwood trees. Seriously it blankets the ground and is everywhere in the air and if you have your window open for the heat, it's on your floor. Oh, and with the floor I'd like to apologize for last fall saying it appeared that the grandparents didn't do much of the dusting. I'm now quite confident they did more than I thought considering how much dust we've cleaned this spring on a regular basis.

Only a couple pictures today since I posted all my glass ones and then the Tallinn pictures will come in that blog.

Daria at the anniversary. You can see behind her that the boat is quite empty.

Me as we were passing the Hermitage.

And this shows our "snow" on the ground, but I also thought it was cool as the bird on the left was feeding the bird on the right. While the sizes are almost the same, the feeding and then the markings on the feathers told me that the one on the right was born this year and the left is the parent. They are eating some sunflower seeds I broke open and tossed to them.

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