I’ve been quiet lately so I thought I would update the world, or at least the tiny subset of the world that is following my blog, about what’s been happening.  Not a lot really.  I don’t have any pictures because my tablet has been out of operation – I thought it was gone for good from my troubleshooting research on Google, but a couple of days ago it burst back into life so I once more have the luxury of music in my ears as I travel, and the ability to take photos of anything interesting I see.  Although sometimes I resist the temptation lest my photographic proclivities are misinterpreted.

Tuesday was Valentines day, which is gradually becoming a thing in Russia, mainly through schools that teach English arranging activities around it.  I did a club on Saturday on the theme, and some of my lessons on Tuesday were special lessons with grammar and vocabulary exercises based on Valentines day and the theme of love.

I went to a regular school today (I only was told about this last night!) for a demonstration lesson.  This was not Valentines-themed, I was talking about the differences between Britain and America.  They were very excited to have a native English speaker though during the lesson only a couple of the students were especially eager to talk and contribute.  It was an interesting experience – Russian schools are chaotic places with children of all ages running around variously in indoor clothes, outdoor clothes and dance clothes.  There were displays of strangely shaped balloons, interesting smells of food, and there were two students  (in normal, indoor clothes) standing next to what might have been a school flag, like soldiers guarding a monument, or the guards outside Buckingham Palace.  They stood straight and stared ahead without smiling or reacting to anyone.  The guards switched with other students at least twice during my time there so there must have been a relay system arranged to ensure the flag was permanently guarded.

The Direktor (headmistress) had a chat with me before my lesson – fortunately one of my colleagues was on hand to translate.  She invited me back to the school on Saturday when they are having a festival of… so far as I understood… pancakes.  Something to do with the end of winter and the beginning of Spring.  I’m not sure my schedule will allow me to attend.

I’ve had a couple of experiences of work politics with my own school, there has been one conflict between the centre who want me available on Fridays for a special course they run for interpreters, which needs a native English speaker, and my Voroshilovskiy office which need me for a class of 4 students (previously 6) who can’t all attend together at any other time.  The centre were going to switch me to a later class of interpreters which would enable me to do both, as it is not possible to finish one class in Voroshilovskiy at the same time as I am supposed to start another in the centre.  Last Friday the situation changed around twice, and even this morning I was summoned for a meeting about the interpreters I expected to be teaching on Friday, but this afternoon they switched me back to the later class (again).  I’m happy to be teaching the Voroshilovskiy class again (even if I am going backwards and forwards between offices) but I really wish they had made that decision last week.

The second issue is one I was a bit more pro-active on, having been left hanging about my New Year holiday schedule until the day before it started, leaving me unable to make any plans for a vacation.  There is a holiday on 23-24 February (Thursday and Friday) to celebrate officially Defenders of the Fatherland, but unofficially, men in general.  Saturday is a normal working day.  I wanted that Saturday off so I could take a 4-day break.  I put in the request weeks ago, I harried for an answer, when I was told they were checking with my office I asked my office myself, who said they were fine with it (my classes for that day can be rescheduled, assigned to another teacher, or even cancelled).  I finally got confirmation today that I have the holiday – I don’t even have to use my holiday entitlement because I agreed to do an English Club this Sunday in lieu of my day off.  But I had already been making arrangements for my break, sometimes you just have to force the issue or do your own thing and leave everyone else to work around it.

Other than this I have been a good little soldier, my schedule as programmed has been quite heavy, just shy of 40 hours every week since New Year, and I am getting the extra interpreters and special Saturday lessons too.  One of my new students from 2 weeks ago is still coming twice a week, the other one (the little boy) will be back in a few weeks.

Finally, curry update.  The little spice shop in SuperMan mall had ground cardamom, so I had the final ingredient I needed.  I tried putting everything together and the result looked very much like a curry and tasted like a slightly spicy chicken stew.  Not unpleasant by any means, but not really a jal-frezi.  Now and then I got little hints and suggestions of that delicious jal-frezi flavour but I need to do a bit more experimenting.  I have a feeling ginger and cumin are very important elements.

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My experiments with the fajitas have gone in the wrong direction, too much spice, too much flavour, I need to go back to the restrained flavouring of my first attempt.

I still don’t have anything to crush the cumin, coriander and cloves with – the cheapest pestle and mortar I have found is about 350 roubles, but once soaked and cooked they go soft enough to eat anyway.  I just don’t think enough of the flavour is being released that way.  But on the other hand, all that grinding before every meal – can I really be bothered?

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