I have now been in Volgograd for over a month, including the whole of September. It is time for reflection and celebration. This is the longest time I have ever spent outside the shores of the United Kingdom (beating my 3-and-a-bit-weeks in Australia). If anything the overwhelming sense I have is of surprise at how quickly I have adapted, and settled, and how I am starting to feel at home.
Of course life here is very different. I don’t speak the language and have to plan very simple tasks in advance, and sometimes seek assistance. I can’t use my Oyster card and travel so far afield, but everywhere I need to be is covered within a few square miles. I can’t buy my favourite foods from Sainsburys, but I’m finding enough to eat, and plenty of small tasty pleasures to keep life tolerable. I miss my old friends and acquaintances and regular events, but I am making new friends, and keeping in touch with people online, mainly through this blog.
There are frustrations, of course. I couldn’t bring my desktop PC so my “main” computer is now a laptop with a tendency to regularly freeze and crash. My new landlords are a little more laissez-faire about addressing problems and fixing things than my previous landlord, Matt. Things are harder to source and obtain, my neat little logical world where you buy A from shop X and B from shop Y doesn’t work here. Shop X sells plenty of C,D and E, and if you’re lucky you might find a small A under a pile of W.
Of course, I am not just embarking on a new geographical experience, but a whole new career. I seem to have fallen into the role of teacher the way a coin falls into a slot, smoothly and effortlessly, perhaps with a satisfying click. I have zero self-doubt that I don’t know what I’m doing – I know exactly what I’m doing, though I’m not always able to execute it perfectly. In any given lesson I know what I’m teaching, why I’m teaching it, and what it will achieve. And it is much more fun than lawyering!
So I am proud at how I have adapted, proud at my progress as a teacher, and proud that with all the limitations on my time I have found time to document my experiences in this blog, both to reassure my family and friends that I am not just coping but thriving, and perhaps also to inspire and inform people who might be wondering what life is really like in Russia, how easy it is to be a teacher, and what kind of problems do you face when moving abroad.
So to celebrate my first month I treated myself to steaks (with apologies to my Vegan readers). I have not had steak since around February, and promised myself that I would not succumb to such extravagance again until I received my first wage. Well I got my advance last week, I’ve finally been paid for the TV work I did a couple of months ago, so it was steak time! I’ve been looking out for suitable steaks in the three supermarkets I pass, I like them thin but most of the ones here are very thick and super-expensive. And in the Voroshilovskiy Okey supermarket, I found some Black Angus… I’m going to say silverside after studying a butcher’s chart and comparing with the diagram on the packet. I fried it up with some onions and it turned out lovely! I’m sure it’s not especially healthy so I won’t make a habit of this, but it’s one more string to my diet.
Tomorrow is a day off. It may also be the last day of internet until I move to my new apartment – so if my blog posts dry up a little, that will be why. I can theoretically post from work but a blog post is a personal endeavour and I feel a little self conscious typing proto-thoughts where other people can see my screen.
Da-svedanya my friends!