Sunday, September 28, 2014

California visits and moves to SPB and old women's summer

So a lot has happened in the last month. More of the story will probably be told by pictures, but I will also try to account for a lot here.

Classes have been well under way now and most of them are good. I have two adult classes (a pre-intermediate and an intermediate), two teenage classes (an elementary and an intermediate), some 8 year -old twins that are private in their home at completely at their beginner level, and then some old students  have signed up for a private class together with me. The adult classes are great and I enjoy the students, however, I'm not entirely happy our pacing schedule has changed to 120 academic hours instead of the old 144. That's a huge change and it means we must go through the lessons faster. I want to see what we can do about getting back the old pacing b/c the faster pace is really hindering some of the lessons. The elementary teen class is great and one of my students even wore a University of Michigan sweatshirt the 2nd day not knowing it was my alma mater (she didn't even know her shirt was UM b/c it just had the block M and said Michigan). The intermediate teen class is mostly fine, but one particular student needs some discipline and I had to send him/her (for privacy I won't say which gender even) out of class. His/her behavior really gets under my skin. I have to seek out more about how to teach the twins b/c I don't know how to teach 8 year-olds to begin with (I had a terrible time subbing elementary 7-8 years ago) and completely starter EFL is a whole different business. The old students are taking upper-intermediate and are great, plus it's just nice to be back with them again.

Aside from classes I've spent all but one weekend at the dacha. Karma and I went out again on our own, spent time with Olya, Nadia, and their family for a little while, and I relaxed and finished the book  "Father and Sons" by Turgenev. I also split some firewood for them, and while it was relaxing, it was different than my preferred splitting. I like logs and to use an axe; they had old scrap boards that they collected from various people doing repairs and I used an electric saw. Oh well, it was a great weekend anyway. Daria arrived on the Thursday, the 18th (I was super glad that she was here), and so that first weekend we went out and it was really good for her to see Olya and everyone. It was also nice that weekend b/c Olya's husband Vova came (I hadn't seen him yet) and so I was able to spend some time talking to him. That first night even Olya and Daria caught up in one room and Vova and I sat in another room and caught up (it was good practice for my Russian too). And then today, Daria and I went out to the other dacha at Lisiy Nos to see her other grandma (the first time since I've been here that I met up with her). We picked a bunch of apples from her apple tree, I carried water in larger quantities than she can from the well, we walked with an old friend through the forest, and we ate some delicious food like a vinegrette salad, soup with pickles and potatoes, some fresh salad, potatoes and mushrooms, dried apples, some applesauce, and they had cutlets. We were also sent home with two backpacks full of apples, one shopping bag full, and some jars of applesauce, and of course my favorite, some dried apples. Many of these apples will go to my colleagues.

So going back in time, I met with some of my other students the Friday after I last wrote. I learned that one bought a dacha, but really just the land and it'll take a few years to build. Another one graduated university and is working as an engineer, and another one is inspired to become a coroner, which frankly I think is a good job for her.

Some congregants at the Church of the Epiphany where I was working last year in SoCal were doing a tour of the Baltic Sea and one of their stops was SPB for 3 days. I met up with them for about 20 minutes in a cathedral near my work (they had a strict tour schedule), and it was great to see them. It would have been nicer to show them some of my favorite hideouts the tourist agencies don't show, but hey, it was great nonetheless.

As I said, Daria arrived a few weeks ago and it has been great to have her here and to get settled in together. We ate at a pie place near my work that was a favorite of ours. I used to only buy the cabbage or the mushroom pies b/c they were the cheapest. I decided to try the chicken one (I never ate it the whole last year here) and it was incredibly delicious. Unfortunately it's twice the cost for one slice, but oh so yummy. We also have cleaned up a lot of our room by moving one desk to a different wall, moving another desk out of our room and to the living room (which grandma actually really likes it there now that she's seeing it there), and a few other changes. Yesterday we also bought a shorthaired carpet which will get delivered midweek. One of our hopes is that it'll keep the dust down. However, the room does look really good. We also bought real cotton sheets instead of the polyester ones that grandma bought when we got the new bed last year. Oh so much nicer. And the bazar that we bought the carpet and sheets at had a lot of cool things like cheap fruits and veggies (which is normal), but also live fish that they would catch for you and butcher right there. And at the metro stop near the bazar was an outdoor market with lots (and I mean lots) of honey, various wool items, some wood items, meat, and who knows what else.

Lastly, after Daria arrived I got my haircut. It's ghastly. Ok, maybe not, but it's not me. It honestly would look good on another person with my facial features, but it's the shortest it's been in 13 years and I'm not pleased about that. When the front was hanging around my front lip he asked if everything was "like normal" and I said I wanted "a little bit more." Apparently I should have said, "2 centimeters more" b/c "a little bit" took it from my lip to my eyebrows, thus the rest of the hair was trimmed short enough to be even. Aggjaoisdjfoasijdaojsadjfosda is how I felt. Again, it's not bad, but it's totally not me. Perhaps by Thanksgiving or Christmas it'll be the length I was  wanting it cut to.

Weather note. After I made the mention of summer leaving and autumn being there, we had an Indian Summer, or as they call it "an Old Woman's Summer" (a term common around Europe, I don't know why, but one source says b/c that's when the old women (men usually died earlier than women, so widows were rather common) really started preserving the harvest while all the young people were still enjoying themselves.

Alas, I think that is all. The rest will be pictures.

Meeting with John and Stephanie Harbourne (Church of the Epiphany folk) outside Kazanskii Cathedral. 

A more distant view of that side of the Cathedral from the park across the street. The picture with the Harbournes is at the central door in the center of the picture.

Former students Tanya and Sasha (engineer and future coroner). 

Tanya and Evgeny (bought a dacha). 

I don't know why, but walking home from meeting with Tanya, Sasha, and Evgeny and crossing Anichkov Bridge and I thought this was a cool view. I still think the picture is cool in a strange way.

Karma being a super calm dog on the way to the dacha. This is on the train.

OH MY GOD!!!!  Look at that deer we shot in our front yard.

Oh, wait, that's not a deer, that's just Karma rolling around for probably 4 minutes, the silly dog.

I liked this sky picture while I sat reading my book in the front yard. Similar to one from last post, but I think much prettier.

Karma all curled up at my feet while I'm reading my book (ok I promise, while there's lots of pictures of Karma in this post, I won't flood the blog with just pics of her. It's just that there were a lot of cute things she was doing).

We cook on a regular stove now, but this is a woodfire stove in the middle of the dacha (to transmit heat all around and it's quite warm). You can see a little glow of the flame in the curved rings in the middle. The bottom left is where the wood goes, the bottom right is an oven if one were making food, and the large center is where you could put frying pans, tea kettles (occasionally I'll leave an already boiled tea kettle there to keep it warm) and you can close the doors to trap more heat in. There are 3 flue adjusters visible and a makeshift shelf attached to the wall to hold cans for grains or sugars.

More Karma. Spoiled dog. I'm making tea and I come in the bedroom and what do I see.

Another day in the yard. Karma says "what's with all the pictures, I'm just lying here."

A really beautiful evening at Kazanskii Cathedral (opposite side from where I met the Harbournes a week or so prior). I really liked that evening and I really like this photo.

Same evening from the front of the Cathedral instead of the side. Or the front left anyway as I obviously didn't get the span of the colonnade. 

Out at the dacha with Daria. Yes, those are leaves on the ground. Yup, Autumn is here :)

Slightly colder at the dacha, Karma needed to stay warm while Daria and I were out, leaving her at the house on her own. We also didn't light a fire b/c we were out. Yes, we put Karma like this. No she didn't really adjust much.

If you zoom more on this picture you can see the leaves falling after being blown by a gust of wind. It was beautiful and I think a larger picture shows it quite well.

Just a nice view of the pond from the forest.

Proof that Daria arrived, and you can tell who's acclimated; I'm in a sweatshirt and Daria is in a thick coat (having just arrived from very hot SoCal.

The spongy mossy fern covered forest floor well-lit by the sun (and an opening).

Karma wondering where the others are as we're hunting for mushrooms.

Oh, there they are. And no Daria isn't the only one in a thick red coat. Perhaps acclimation is only part of it.

Not the kind of mushrooms you want to eat, but a cool trefoil-esque of them.

Ahh here are some edible ones. Of course they are small. I found 4, 3 here and 1 more later (some of the others found a few more than I did for this trip, but I was also paying attention to other things). Normally the ones I find are much larger than this, even if of the same variety.

I'm not the only warm-blooded creature in the forest and it did get warmer throughout the afternoon compared to the very cool morning. Big Vova having fun with the kids. Some of the kids did some pull-ups from the end of that dead tree.

Little Vova (nephew to big Vova, cousin to Nadia) wanted to hold Karma on his own. We even allowed him to walk Karma partway where I would walk alongside the leash, but let him control it. The kids really love Karma and I think Little Vova likes her more than the others.

Vova, Karma, and I waiting for the others to exit the forest.

Ok, not much special about Nadia's bike, but if you look closely and you can read "Yosemite" upside down on the bottom bar. Totally awesome!!!! 

Smoke from burning leaves crossing the road on our way to the train station (dacha station, not city station).

The first of a short series of photos taken near the train station. Evening was settling in and it was just beautiful.

Ok, this picture is almost the same backdrop as the one above it, but with the settings changed on the camera. Silhouette with sky versus the color of the trees.

Needs to be viewed from a bigger picture (when I did full-screen on my comp it is more what I wanted). Walking across one bridge in the city on the way back from the dacha and seeing the view of another bridge.

So, in the past 10 days or so they started to deconstruct a building across the street from the Georgian Church on our street corner. It was an auto repair yard with what I can only assume were the offices in the building, but now who knows what will become of it. Some rumors say it's the new site for the US Consulate. That would be interesting.

This morning at Lisiy Nos, getting those fall colors. And Daria.

Some more fall colors.

I want to call this picture "The Autumnal Stoplight." Gorgeous hues of red, yellow, and green.

At the other dacha (Lisiy Nos, not Gorkovskoye) some red and yellow. This was taken while standing in the apple tree as I was shaking down some apples. Literally. I picked what I could with my hands and then just shook the tree sending them to the ground.

So a lot of the squash/pumpkins that this grandma grew are normal size. However, one vine apparently climbed up the fence and how that grew to such a larger size, we're still unsure. That netting is not because we placed it there but was put there to hold it up so it wouldn't fall while still growing. Our scale only went to 10 kg (22 lbs). Daria's grandma's sister suspects it was 12 or 13 kg, but I'm the one who carried it and I would say closer to 15 (about 33 lbs). Yes, we picked it today. 

Daria and Grandma posing next to it.

And me.

And the crazy vine that climbed up the pole and used it's wiry parts to hold onto the fence as best it could.

Our apple harvest. Ok. Technically today we only claimed the 4 on the left, the top 2 second left, and the bottom right. The little white buckets and the 2 top right were already on the kitchen floor. That's 7 large buckets (perhaps 10 bushels if my memory of a bushel is right) we collected today. That's also basically one tree and if we go back out next weekend there's more to be collected, but they didn't drop today which means they weren't ready.

I was trying to capture the backyard of an extremely wealthy (understatement) neighbor. I'm guessing the property is 5+ acres, and the personalized playground for the kids is perhaps 1/4 acre just on it's own.

Daria and her friend walking through the forest. 

A really cool oak tree.

Fun glimpse of blue sky from the forest floor.

While some trees are still holding strong to their green this one decided to go full gold.

So apparently out at Lisiy Nos, Peter I, aka Peter the Great, had a much smaller second summer house (Peterhof being the first and main one). The house is no where to be seen, but these two oak trees mark the edges of where one could sail the boat from the Gulf up toward the house right behind. These trees are about 300 years old.

And a view from the other side of the oaks, with one on the right of the picture. A sign in the background tells more about the summer house that is no longer there.

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