Sunday, November 6, 2011

An Explanation for My Unintentional Hiatus

My sincerest apologies to the five people who noticed that I haven't posted in months. To give the condensed version of the events which have unfolded since I last posted: I was promoted, my job became terrible, my life became my job, and I forgot what it was like to have thoughts that existed outside the realm of work related emails. There is an upside, which is that I've lost more than 20 pounds and now actually fit into those pants I've owned since I was 20, which I ought to be too ashamed to admit that I still carry around the globe with me, but am not.

Also, other things happened. I briefly spent weekends hanging out with a former student and his girlfriend, as they took me on museum tours, a boat, bickered amongst themselves, and treated me somewhat like a zoo animal. That was a bit weird, but I did get some sightseeing in. We even went to an actual zoo. I also briefly spent other weekends hanging out with some other guy and his friend, who I accidentally met in a bar the night that the former student showed up at my door without the girlfriend, demanding we go drinking, because apparently I'm that person. I accidentally went on a date with the other guy, because apparently those are the only kinds of dates that I know how to go on. He barely spoke English, and I barely speak Russian, resulting in endless meaningful conversations, all of which will be typed up verbatim at a later date. So well these dates went, that we twice went out for coffee with his friend, who actually spoke English. I then briefly hung out with the English speaking friend, because obviously. I now no longer speak to any of these people.

I'm now at a crossroads where I've determined that I'm bored of defining myself by my job, but am still going out of my way to do things that end up in me doing just that. Will fix this.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Broken Beds of Moscow

I sleep on a pull out couch, half of which slants towards the floor due to lack of support and, probably, age. If I mistakenly roll over that way and don't end up on the floor, the bed creaks loudly enough to wake the entire hall. This is a significant upgrade from the actual bed that I slept in when I lived in South Moscow. There, I slept on a shell of a frame; It looked good at first glance, until you lifted the mattress and realized that it was balanced on only three planks. It looked much like a poorly constructed IKEA bed, with the remaining, necessary planks long since discarded.

I've asked around, and it turns out that sleeping on something that can barely be called a bed is quite normal here, and I should be happy that mine still has legs on it.

I received a promotion, which is why I've been blogging less recently. With said promotion, there's really no reason I couldn't afford an IKEA bed (and put it together properly). However, I've gotten so used to my pull-out couch half-bed, and the functional half is comfortable and sturdy enough, that I can't bring myself to replace it. Still, I long just a little bit for the rock-hard, one-inch thick futon mattress I was given in Japan. All things considered, that thing was pretty sweet. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

My Home Away from Home

Every time I move to a new country, I make a point of frequenting a local shop or restaurant in the hopes of developing a sense of familiarity with the staff. It's sort of pathetic, but fills the void of not being surrounded by a large number of friends or any family at all. In Korea I found this with the Kimbap Lady. In Japan, I had a Dunkin' Donuts lady (Yes, this was the least Japanese venue I could possibly have made a point to frequent. They had a good breakfast deal). Here, I had Cell Phone Guy. Of course, my going to the cell phone shop to creep on teenagers every other day would have been weird for everybody, so have substituted this with always going to the same supermarket and cafe; I have a few favorite employees at each who smile when I come in. It's not much, but in a city where it's rare to catch a smile, it will do.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Another Day, Another Body?

I started off my morning with a somewhat productive meeting. This was a nice treat, given that I'm not quite used to meetings of the productive persuasion. The last job I had that wasn't teaching English gifted me with a meeting a week where the manager would admit that we were having a nonsense training session where we would learn how to do something that our centre would probably never actually have the tools to accomplish. It sure is nice to work somewhere that is not entirely full of shit.

I was in pretty high spirits when I entered the subway station, enough so that I even overlooked the unusual sound the train was making down below. As I got down to the subway platform, I saw that the sounds I had heard were from a train that had backed up and come to a complete halt around halfway down the platform. Odd, I thought. Odder still were the hoards of people moving down to the other end of the track. It took a minute or so for me to take a glance down at all the commotion and realize that there was something that probably used to be a person 20 meters or so down the track from me. I was far enough out that I didn't have clear sight of it, but from where I stood it appeared somewhat like a mangled rag doll.

Why is it that when terrible things lie in the distance, we have the urge to go and take a look? I didn't, in the end. Good choice, as now it's probable that I will sleep tonight. However, since I didn't go look, I'm not really sure if somebody died, if they threw themselves in front of the train, if they were trying to save somebody else,  if they got pushed, or if they just collapsed on to the tracks before the train got there. Judging by the way the train conductor was wiping the front of his train, and then later completely backed that train out of the station , removing it from immediate use, I'm going to say that whatever it was, it wasn't good.

The rest of my day was significantly better than this. 

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Bra Shopping Experience - (Let's try this again)

When I lived in Korea, it took just one trip to the bra shop to determine that my shopping for undergarments there was not going to become a regular thing. I chose a nice enough looking store in Pusan National University area. I don't remember what it was called, but it had a pink sign, which ought to effectively distinguish it from exactly 5 stores in all of Busan.

I had reasonably low expectations upon entering the shop. I figured that it was unlikely I'd find anything in my size, but that it wouldn't hurt to look around. I hadn't counted on the shop owner, who was a middle aged man, following me around every step of the way. During the two minutes I was in the shop, he tried his darnedest to get me to buy some frilly pink things with precisely 18 bows affixed to the front (how does one even wear a shirt over bras like this?). This was all a bit too strange for me, so I said my thanks, left empty handed, and never returned.

For a number of reasons, I assumed that I would have more luck in Moscow. For one thing, without too much trouble, I can actually buy clothes that fit here. This is both good and terrible, because it means that I now have a closet full of fun clothes, but much less money than when I lived in a country where I was considered to be quite the fatty. I've also found that in Moscow, the shop people are far less likely to ride your ass and follow you around the shop; This is probably at least in part because half of them don't give a shit that you've entered the shop at all, and most of the other half are angry that you dared to interrupt their very important making-bitch-faces-at-the-wall business. As a result, I was completely unprepared for what awaited me at the local bra shop.

On the rare occasion that a shop assistant goes out of there way to actually do their job, I make an early point of advising them that I speak a little Russian, but terribly. Most of them will go out of their way to be nicer and help me at this point, presumably because I've actually made an effort to speak Russian, and just generally not acted like a dick. When I made this point clear to Bra Shop Lady, I figured that she'd just leave me alone. I was quite mistaken. Not only did she help to determine my size, but she spent the next ten minutes walking in and out of my fitting room (as I was in the middle of changing) with more bras that she thought I might like. At first I thought this was a bit invasive, but I quickly noticed that she was doing it to everybody else, too. Apparently barging in to the fitting room as your clients are in various states of undress is totally acceptable and not all weird here. Okay.

In the end, I spent a disgusting amount of money on bras, so invasive or not, Bra Shop Lady served her purpose well that day.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

My Cross-Cultural Bra Shopping Experience

I wrote an entire post on this matter, then my computer decided it was hungry and ate the entire thing. For fuck's sake.

In short, while still a bit strange, bra shopping in Moscow was infinitely more successful than in Busan. I'll elaborate on that later, at a time when I want to punch my computer slightly less. 

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Just because it looked good on Thursday doesn't mean that you should still be wearing it on Saturday.

This sentence inexplicably confused many people connected to my facebook profile. Frankly, I'm not entirely sure where they're all getting lost. It's simple, really.

Let's say that you buy a great dress, or a fantastic shirt, or some really excellent pants. You put it on Thursday morning and think to yourself: Damn, I look good! And maybe you do. Then, Friday rolls around, and you think to yourself: Damn, I looked good yesterday! I should totally wear that outfit again! Like, on another day, when it`s clean and stuff!

The reason that I'm getting all confused over here is that the last part of that second thought, the whole bit about maybe not being rather stank and wearing the same thing two days in a row, doesn't seem to really be a concern in Moscow. It seems to be totally normal and not gross at all to just wear the same outfit for two or three days on end. Now, I suppose that it's possible that the many, many Russians who do this, are doing laundry every night when they get home, and not in fact wearing a dirty outfit. More than likely though, they just don't think it's dirty to wear the same outfit for two or three days in a row. And maybe it's not. I guess that I'll never know; I can't muster up the courage to try it out for fear of being able to smell myself. This is rational.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Over the Culture Shock Thing

For now.

I'm too busy with work at the moment to really worry about anything else. I'll probably post more about that another time, but at the moment it's nearing 3am and I should probably sleep. I must wake up early tomorrow so that I can cut squares of paper! It's very important that they're all the same size.

("Early" means before noon.) 

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Pangs of Culture Shock

I moved around so much last year that I wasn't really in one place long enough to get past the lovely honeymoon period of culture shock. Though I was well over Korea by the time 2010 rolled around, knowing that I got to leave in two months meant 8 weeks of goodbye parties rather than bitchy sentiment. After that, I spent a few weeks in Canada before going to Budapest for CELTA. Budapest seemed shiny and new, in spite of not actually being either of those things. I was only there for a month, so my memories of it are almost entirely fond. The summer following that was spent slaving away at a miserable job in my hometown, but knowing that the end was start up cash for my fall job in Japan made the time fly. Then there was Japan, which was 3 months of fall glory. No, I didn't have to experience the less pleasant phases of culture shock last year at all. To be honest, I was starting to think that I was such a seasoned expat that I had become immune to the whole process. Foolish, wasn't I?

I don't really count my first couple of months in Russia as a real experience, since I spent much of them just waiting to move to a more centrally located apartment. I more or less put my social life on hold until that happened, and just assumed that everything would fall into place and be amazing after moving. I wasn't totally off base. It has been amazing, I've made more friends, had more fun, and am probably healthier for it. Yet, in spite of all the good that has come my way as of late, I still came home feeling like a wad of crap last night.

It took a few minutes of analysis to realize that I was probably beginning what is possibly now going to be a Bad Russia Week. I find it incredibly odd that I didn't feel like this my entire first two months, when everything actually did sort of  blow, but only finally felt the pangs of culture shock after a day filled with great people, amazing food, and some glorious Victory Celebrations.

On the bright side, while I may not be immune to culture shock after all (duh), I know from experience that things will shortly be pretty fantastic again.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Finding a Corpse on the Streets of Moscow - an Expat's Rite of Passage?

Last week, I was walking out of the subway station near where I teach private lessons from time to time, when I noticed a man lying on the ground just to the left of the door. He was very still, and not in the "aw, he's passed out in an Armani suit" sort of way that I got used to seeing all over the place in Korea. Across the way, to the right, there were some police officers interviewing who I can only assume were the least white looking people they could find (I assume this, because, so far as I can tell, there are a large number of officers here who's primary duty is to ID the least white looking people that they can find. I do wish I were kidding on that).

Racial profiling aside, there was another officer checking out the scene who walked back to take a good look at the man on the ground. He made no effort to wake him up. He merely took a look, shrugged, then began questioning anybody who stopped to examine the man on the ground. As I neither wanted to be questioned by the police, nor did I really want to confirm if the eerily still man was in fact dead, I opted to not go any closer and just continued on my way. Nobody else really seemed all that bothered by it all, so I figured that I may as well not be either.

I passed this story by a few of my coworkers here, and everyone of them said the same thing: It happens. I've seen corpses on the street here, too. 

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Another Birthday Passed.

I celebrated my birthday in the new apartment last night with some coworkers and a few others that we know from here and there. I've rarely held parties, and this afternoon when I awoke to the faint smell of half empty beer cans and feet, I was reminded why it is I don't do this more often.

Our rubbish shoot is clogged with something or other, as has apparently been the case for months now, so the apartment now smells of empty beer cans with nowhere to go. On the bright side, I moved all of the empties to the kitchen and closed the door, so only a corner of the apartment smells like yesterday. The issue with the rubbish bin ought to be resolved some time in the next couple of weeks. The current solution, of walking all of our garbage down the street and dumping it in a trash bin behind a sketchy park, is really not okay at all. Until the day comes that I actually am, I refuse to live like a homeless person.

On the table beside me is a large vase overflowing with some lovely flowers that I received from one of my coworkers. When a couple of the girls at work heard that it was my birthday yesterday, they wanted to come visit me at my new apartment on their lunch hour. Of course, I had no idea what my address was, so we decided that it would make more sense for me to just visit them. This being Russia, and Saturday being my birthday, I could not just go to work empty handed, so I brought in a cake and we celebrated together in the staff room on their lunch hour. I'm not really sure why it is that you have to buy your own cake on your birthday in Russia, but that's how it goes so I played along.

Overall, I give this birthday an A-. It wasn't quite the experience that waiting for the sun to come up over the Danube in Budapest with my CELTA buddies was, but it was quite nice for what it was.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

I moved. Am Alive.

I moved earlier this week, then taught and taught some more. I'm exhausted, but alive. I'll update the blog with something more substantial later this weekend or early next week. Expect it to be my usual level of substantial, which is to say not really at all.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Dear Foreigner on the Metro,

With the sullen expression and impromptu shining of the shoes, you almost had me fooled. You even had a shoe shine brush! That shows dedication, and for that I salute you. You put up a valiant effort, but it wasn't quite good enough. With your bearded face, curious eyes darting back and forth, and England flag proudly beaming from your tuque, you still stood out like a sore thumb. Better luck next week.

Yours truly,


Sunday, April 10, 2011

Tired of Saying I Hadn't Been to Red Square, I Finally Went

A month after arriving, it started to be a bit embarrassing to admit that no, I hadn't bothered to go to Red Square yet. My excuses, that it was far from my apartment and would still be there next week, did translate to survival level English, nor did they impress my English speaking coworkers. So, almost a month after arriving, I went. The centre of Moscow is considerably more impressive looking than my neighborhood.

Bolshoi Theatre. From what I found on Google, it's more impressive inside. They're currently renovating it, so who knows.

GUM, a department store, because of course there is a massive structure full of overpriced goods framing one side of Red Square. Nice looking building, at least.
St. Basil's Cathedral. This is exactly how I used to imagine my dream home. When I was 5 years old. I'm pretty sure that the domes you see here taste like candy canes. At the very least, they are definitely edible.

Lenin's tomb and the wall of the Kremlin. If I so desire, I can wait until it's open, queue for hours, and view whatever it is that they've done with his body in there. I do not desire to do this.

This Pity Party is Over

As previously stated, I promised myself that I wouldn't bitch and moan too much until my first 30 days were over. Then, when I realized they were over, I had a totally cranky pants week full of bitching, moaning, and complaining. Also, I was menstruating, which didn't help. You're welcome.

Yesterday was probably my worst day here. I worked, and that was fine. I'm always fine when I'm teaching. It was after, when I realized I had nothing to do but go home and think about how far away from everything I live, how gross my apartment is, and how I haven't made many friends yet, that I had a full blown pity party. I napped three hours, ate chips and pizza, and watched terrible TV shows that I don't particularly enjoy. Yes, I'm talking about you, Big Bang Theory. I followed this up by sleeping in today, and then taking a nap shortly after waking up. All in all, it was a pretty pathetic 24 hours for me.

When I was younger, I used to throw temper tantrums. Serious temper tantrums. I have family members that still refer to me as "waaaah!" when they see me at weddings (Yes, "waaah!" is a real nickname that people have actually called me. No, I will not be using it as a future blog moniker). At some point I became an adult, and according to society it was no longer acceptable for me to throw tantrums. I had to learn a new way to vent.

In my early 20's, my coping method was to simply not cope at all, but to bottle everything up instead. I thought this was working out just great, until one of the greatest people I've ever met advised me otherwise. She said something that as true as it is face-slap-worthy: You have to let yourself feel your feelings. It's okay to be pissed off, frustrated, and be a bit negative from time to time. I'm not a terrible failure of a person for giving in to. The key is that after feeling negative, I move on rather than letting it own me.

Now, fast approaching 30, I neither deny problems which exist, nor do I throw temper tantrums. I wait until the appropriate time to feel like crap, allow myself the appropriate time to feel that way, and then move on. Depending on the magnitude of the issue, this is usually a 24 hour cycle. Thankfully, most of my issues are pretty trivial.

Today being a new day, negativity washed away, and all that, I've decided that I should try to get into Russian music. It will be good for my listening skills, and give me a conversation piece for when I finally make some Russian friends outside of work. Tomorrow, I'm planning on photo hunting decrepit looking buildings and absurd parking jobs; I will not have to leave my neighborhood for either of these things, but I will anyway.

Worry not, for it's all pretty much good.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

It's Been a Rough Month. I Deserve to Look Like a Hooker.

I recently passed the 30 day mark, which means that I'm due for a real complaint session. Now, I've hinted here and there, without even a touch of subtlety, that a number of things here really blow, but I think I've kept the whining to a minimum. Pointing out something negative is not the same as bitching about it, after all. I'm due for a quality bitching session. Unfortunately, I seem to have lost my edge over the years and consider whining about things I can't change to be an exercise in futility. Instead, I have decided to cope by giving my wardrobe a more Russian flavor. That is to say, I look more and more like a street walker with each passing day.

Now, a lot is said about the expense of buying clothes in Moscow, and most of it is correct. It is expensive to buy clothes here, especially if you're too lazy to find sales. If you are like me, and shop according to the price tag, it's not necessarily so bad. For example, when I purchased a spring coat (black, of course), a blouse, and a t-shirt from H&M, it only cost about $75. This is reasonable, and probably slightly less than I would have paid at home for the same items. Of course, I made up for that by buying $200 street walker boots, which was absurd. There were $70 hooking boots that would have done just fine, but they sadly did not come in size gargantuan. Also, the salesperson in that store was a bitch, so fuck her and her tiny shoes.

Yes, keeping things honest, my first month here pretty much stunk. Often literally. On the bright side, not only might I now be confused with the real prostitutes roaming around here, but I am probably moving in a couple of weeks. Should this happen, I might be able to use the 3 hours a day I spend commuting on making friends. That would be neat.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Dear People of the Moscow Metro System,

Blowing gum bubbles into your significant other's mouth is not cute. No, this is not a special moment that you two ought to be sharing with other people. Blowing gum bubbles in to each other's mouths? This is not a thing that real people do. This is most certainly not a thing that real people want to see. I say this with not a hint of jealousy, only concern for the well being of everybody who may have the gross misfortune of catching sight of your amazingly unattractive stupidity. I can not stress enough how totally fucking repugnant you look. Stop it.

Kind regards,


P.S. To the very thoughtful fellows that keep leaning over the arm rest into my face rather than taking one of the five empty seats beside me: For the love of all that is good, take a seat. There are five of them.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

My Students Have Much More Money Than I Do - Part 1

One of the activities in my lesson today called on the students to imagine what they would do if they could own their own hotel. Where would they build it? How big would it be? What would they charge per room? Blah, blah blah. Now, I only had one student in this class, because nobody else bothered to show up. Nobody else ever bothers to show up, it seems. I decided that we were going to do this activity anyway, just the two of us, because it was a good chance for the student to get some fluency practice, in addition to reviewing use of the second conditional. Also, this was what I had planned. While I'm usually pretty keen on going off track, I'm trying to nip that habit in the bud, at least until I get used to the new curriculum. Regardless, the activity didn't go exactly as planned.

Me: If you could build a hotel, where would you put it?

Student: Well actually, my father owns some hotels. I don't like to live there though, because that gets very boring, very quick. Other people, maybe they live in hotels, but not me. I get an apartment. + [two minute monologue about the state of hotels in Moscow vs the rest of Europe, and how his father's hotels factor into all of this]

I blinked a couple of times before remembering that I should ignore that I don't live on the same plane of existence as this guy and ask some follow up questions.

Nice chat.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

I'm Trying to Learn Russian. It's Going Slowly.

Before leaving for Russia, I read that the signs in the subway stations are all in Russian. Knowing that I would be seeing a lot of those, I made a point of learning the alphabet using this site. That helped.

I also learned the numbers 1-10, which later turned to be of little to no help at all when dealing with cashiers, because most things cost more than 30 cents. I probably should have learned higher numbers to go with the money here. Somehow, I completely overlooked that I would be using money here. I had no idea what a kopek was and tried to pass one off as a ruble my first week. If you're not familiar with Russian money, look that one up and you'll understand how unimpressed the cashier was.

I'm trying to up my game. Quickly. Numbers, common phrases, basic small talk: I'm trying to cram all of these things in my head within about a week, and it's not going as smoothly as I would like. For one thing, my accent is so terrible that nobody seems to understand half of the things that fly out of my mouth. For another, the classes that I thought I would get with my employer sort of exist, but sort of don't. At the moment, at least, they're not really happening. So, I'm on my own.

In the next week or two, I'm going to try to set up a couple of language exchanges through some sites that I know about. If the language exchanges work out and I come back from them alive, I'll mention the websites by name. When you're living abroad, the Internet is your friend. Until it isn't.

A View From the 18th Floor

Stunning, isn't it?

Not only do I get to commute an hour and a half to work, but I get to wake up every morning to a view of the concrete jungle. Obviously I'm ecstatic.

Friday, March 18, 2011

My Cell Phone Has a Vagina

My employer convinced me to purchase a phone after my first full day of work. After not having had regular cell service since I left Busan (my employer in Japan provided me with a cell phone, but I could only call certain coworkers on it, so it was essentially rubbish), it isn't likely that I would have gone to get one on my own. However, given that I live an hour and a half commute from where I work, it really is necessary. Yes, really. My employer really put me in a filth hole an hour and a half from where I'll be working. They care! Lots. I've been advised that retaining foreign teachers is one of their top priorities. I fail to see how that's ever been a problem. After all, they did take me to the cell phone store and everything. Very thoughtful, that.

The cellphone store looked more or less like cellphone stores everywhere else do, which is to say that my first question upon entering was "where are the cheap ones?" For future reference, this is my first question upon entering everything. After having this translated by my coworker and being directed to the cheap ones by the adorable Cell Phone Guy, I selected the cheapest phone in the store. This is exactly how I purchased my laptop, too.

I chose the brown version of the phone, because I like neutral colors. As he was getting the phone ready for purchase, Cell Phone Guy said a few things to my coworker. I asked her what was going on, because I hate when I'm not given the option to refuse to participate in a conversation, and she told me that he felt weird about selling me a brown phone. Cell Phone Guy apparently felt a bit sad at the idea that a lady would walk away with something so unpretty, and really wanted to sell me the pink one. Learning that Cell Phone Guy was saddened by my brown phone idea saddened me, so I agreed to purchase the pink one. I acted really excited about it, too. This wasn't ridiculous at all.

As the final exchange was going down, Cell Phone Guy and my coworker were leaving me out of the conversation again, and this time he kept looking back to me as he was saying whatever he was saying, so I politely interjected, yet again, that I wanted to know what was going on. My coworker looked amused and told me that he wanted to know where I was from, then wanted to know if I had any Canadian coins on me. Obviously I didn't, because why would I, but I promised I would come back in the next day and bring him some. Apparently he collects coins or some blah and didn't have any from Canada yet. Also, I was having a great hair day. That was totally the real reason. My coworker told him I'd be back in, and he said he was looking forward to seeing my luxurious hair in his shop again.

The next day I was not having such a great hair day, but I went in anyway. It's important to follow through on promises, especially ones that you make to 12 year olds. Or maybe 20 year olds. I just really want to stress that a lot of what I've been insinuating here is totally not okay. Regardless, I go in to the store when it's extremely busy, which was sort of assy. Cell Phone Guy is with some customers, but leaves them hanging to come over to the netbooks, which I'm busy pretending to play with. I pass him a few Canadian coins that I had dug up for him, throw around the two or three Russian words that I know, smile, then turn to leave.

Cell Phone Guy calls me back and walks me over to some display with cell phone charms and waves at them. I eventually deduce that he's telling me to pick one, though I'm not sure at this point if it's offering me one or trying to sell me something. There are about 15 people in the store who actually want to buy stuff, who he really should probably be helping, but we're in Moscow, so I guess that he probably won't get fired for this. I eventually chose a butterfly charm, largely because it was the only one that didn't have any hearts on it. Also, it reminds me a bit of a butterfly necklace that I borrowed from my mother long ago, never gave back, and eventually broke. Cell Phone Guy removed the charm from the rack, took off the tag, and handed it to me. I thanked him about 5 times, mostly because that was one of the only Russian words I knew that week, but also because I was very happy that I didn't have to pay for something I was only picking out just to be nice. Also, keeping things honest, I was a little bit moved by the gesture. People in Moscow can be nice, it's true.

I've since been trying to invent reasons to go back to the store, but have so far held off on being foolish. Except for backing into a display case on my way out of the store that day; that was a bit foolish.

Long story short, this is why I have the pinkest pink phone that has ever pinked, bejeweled with a butterfly. It's so girly that it ought to come with it's own vagina.

My Filthy Moscow Apartment

My apartment wasn't the infested-with-cockroach kind of dirty that I had seen in Korea, but a hasn't-been-cleaned-since-we-put-up-these-2009-calendars type of dirty that I hadn't even imagined before. It was a whole new kind of gross. The carpets hadn't been vacuumed, probably since sometime before I crunched my face. There was a dirty pot in the sink. There were dirty rags here and there. The toilet hadn't been cleaned. The floors were so filthy that a finger tip swiped over it would come up black. The pillow I was meant to use had been thrown in a corner long ago and had yellowed in to a barely usable mass of repulsion. The walls in each room are stained in various places, likely never having seen a rag since they were erected. All of the sinks were so covered in filth that it took some time scrubbing to prove they could still shine at all. It smelled like cat food that had been sitting out since the 1970's. I really could go on. And on. And on.

No, I wouldn't say that I'm thrilled with the accommodation provided by the school. This is probably the least thrilled I've ever been by any accommodation, anywhere, paid for or otherwise. Really, it was unfathomably bad.

It's gotten better over the past two weeks. That is to say, I have made an effort to improve things. On the bright side, there were lots of cleaning agents left behind with all of the other previous owner's garbage, so that was pretty exciting. After getting down on my hands and knees and scrubbing the kitchen floor twice, now my finger tip only turns grey when I swipe it across the tile. Also, there's a vacuum cleaner, which worked just swell after it exhausted some foul odors in response to being turned on for the first time in 20 years.

I'm not sure if it's because I had low expectations coming here, I've been teaching abroad for a while now and know the drill, or because I've decided that apathy is easier than anger, but I haven't once gotten upset about this whole thing. Maybe I just think it's hilarious that I invested all of my savings from Japan on this? It's probably that.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

My New Favorite Place

This has nothing to do with teaching, traveling, or any of that other fun stuff I do when I'm not between jobs. This has to do with how I spend way too much time on the internet when I'm not teaching, traveling, or doing any of that other fun stuff that I do.

My new favorite place is this. Going forward, I will be stealing all of my ideas from the contributors to that site.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Russia Won't Invite Me to Their Party

I'm still sitting around Canada, trying to guess how long I have to budget my savings for. Russia haven't invited me in yet!

The Visa works something like this: I send the company I'm going to work for copies of things via email, they apply with government or whatever, immigration sends them an invitation some time later, the company mails me the invitation, I go to the consulate with the invitation, and the consulate finally gives me my fucking Visa. Somewhere in the middle of all of that, I also have to prove that I don't have HIV. Thankfully I do not.

It seems less complicated than the Korean Visa was, if only because they don't require my weight and inseam, but is taking much longer. I'm not thrilled about this, because my plan to leave enough money in my bank account to pay my student loans for the rest of the year has officially been dashed, due to the extra 6 weeks that I wasn't planning on being unemployed. That said, if having too long of a vacation and being a little bit bored are the worst of my problems at this exact moment in time, then things could be a lot worse.

It's not the company's fault that this is taking so long, they tell me, it's just how their government likes to do things. One of these days, somebody in the office will wake up and find a $50 bill has been slipped on their desk with my file, and shit will finally get done. Probably next week.

(That's probably not how it really works).

Now, if the company had told me outright that it could take three months, I probably would have taken the job still but at least would have gotten a job here in the meantime. Instead, they were totally vague about the time line, which is awesome. To be fair, it's entirely possible that they didn't really know either. I have no reason to assume otherwise right now, other than I've hit that point at which I'm just bored enough to start making absolutely everything up

On the bright side, I've had time to learn some Russian! I can say two different hellos, one goodbye, count to 20, say thank you, ask "what is this?", "is this a...?", and answer with "It's a...."! I also know the words for book, pen, table, and chair. Also, the alphabet, except that I'm terrible with their vowels and some of their consonant clusters. In other words, I'm practically fluent now and will probably be teaching Russian within a month of my arrival. Because that's what they need in Russia: Russian teachers.

I'm very talented.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Denagging Nagoya

Nagging on Nagoya never really happened. Not so much because there was nothing worth complaining about there, but because with 9.5 hour days and an hour commute each way, I really couldn't be bothered to make the time. Oops. I may return one day, at which point I may have more time to reflect. More than likely, though, I'll be working 14 and a half hour days and only have time to complain about that.

From what little I can remember of my time outside the university walls, Nagoya was: cleaner than Busan, didn't smell terrible, had numerous potted plants sprucing up the place, and served absolutely delicious ramen. What it lacked in character and intrigue, it made up for in ... I've got nothing to end that sentence with. Nagoya lacked character and intrigue, is what I came to accept after about 5 minutes there. It wasn't a total loss, though. Potted plants and bikes are pretty nifty.

Thanks to my hard earned yen, I've been enjoying something like a vacation in Canada for the last month and a bit. I was supposed to be in Moscow right about now-ish, but the VISA process has not decided to complete itself just yet, so I remain in Canada for the time being. It was roughly -65 degrees outside today and I probably have frostbite on my lower legs, so I should be good and ready whenever it is that Moscow rolls around.

I chose Moscow as my next location for a couple of reasons, the primary one being that they were kind enough to acknowledge my application and (eventually) offer me a job. Having reached the point at which I have more than a couple of years experience teaching and a CELTA qualification, I have too much self respect to go back to the type of job I was working my first year in EFL, but not enough of anything else to seriously compete for a great job. I'm very charming and all, but, tragically, nobody seems to give much of a shit about that. Hence, 14 or so interviews later, I accepted a job to work in Moscow. I'm not even going to pretend that I mind the fact I will be getting paid in peanuts. I have a job. In Moscow. Every thing's coming up shiny for Barbie in 2011.

Once the Russians approve of my eagerness to work there and grant me with a VISA, as I expect they will sometime before 2014, I'll be making weekly posts again. Except this time I actually will, because Russia is new, shiny, and exciting. By the time I landed in Japan this past fall I was so burnt out from the traveling I'd done that year, that everything sort of lost it's lustre. Not this time. I'm pretty Moscow will be super shiny; I can already feel the glare.