I am walking along the street towards one of our offices.  A man almost walks into me, I have to veer sharply to the left to avoid hitting him.  I turn around and see him chasing a marshrutka which is about to leave.  It pulls away, the man turns around with a forlorn “you’re kidding me” smile and starts walking back in my direction.  Behind him I can see the marshrutka has stopped.  I wave my umbrella at him with a look of warning on my face, which may or may not be the universal sign for “Behind you!”  He frowns a moment then looks around in a classic double take, and jumps into the marshrutka.

(unrelated) – one of the many down sides of marshrutka


There is a man, Dima who works in our central office.  He is a fixer, he fixes things.  He is fixing printer toner cartridges.  In England we have a recycling bin for toner cartridges.  In Russia they recycle too, but without the outsourcing.  Dima has paper spread over the office desk to catch spilt toner, and is hitting the cartridges with a screwdriver, to open them up and put more toner in, from a big container of toner.  As he completes each cartridge he is testing it in the office printer.  I need to print lesson materials.  This is not ideal.



John is preparing a lesson plan next to me.  We are obliged to include pre-prepared material in each of our lessons and most tend to begin with a tongue-twister to practice English sounds.  Today mine is a variation of “I slit the sheet, the sheet I slit, and on the slitted sheet I sit.”  I comment to John that this is a little close to the knuckle, and it is cruel to make English teachers try and say this perfectly (and avoid obscenity!).  John gives me a “whaddayagonnado” type response.  I glance at the tongue-twister on John’s lesson…



John and I walk through the park (with the fountain) outside the main school building.  There are children playing a ball game, maybe football.  A girl with short punk blue hair and piercings speaks to John and they have a little exchange, something like “hello, hello, would you like to play football, no thanks not today.”  As we walk away I casually ask “Student of yours?”  John says no.  Apparently asking strangers twice your age to play football with you is a thing here.


I am travelling to Tractorniy office with Nina, the senior manager there.  We travel on the tram.  She explains to me that some tickets are lucky.  All tram tickets have a 6-digit number.  If you add together the first 3 numbers and the second three numbers, and both sides match, you have a lucky ticket.  If you have a lucky ticket you should eat it, and make a wish, and it will come true.


You can buy vacuum-packed chicken at the supermarket.  Why?



This is Russia.

2 thoughts on “Vignettes

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