Before my friend left I took her with me to the hairdressers in the building next to my home, where she could assist me in giving accurate instructions along the lines of “a little bit off the top, very short at the back, and a high fringe please.” A little different to my previous barber where all I had to say was “number 4 please.” As I had my locks chopped, there was a TV spectacular playing in the shop – they still love their big TV spectacular shows here – it was a nostalgic look at the hits of previous decades, and to my immense surprise half-way through Samantha Fox showed up on the stage, singing “Touch Me” and “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Me Now.” So if you’ve ever wondered “whatever happened to Samantha Fox?” (and I know I have) there she is, doing Russian TV shows.
March 8th was International Woman’s Day and in Russia this is such a big deal they have made it a public holiday. It is a tradition for men to give women flowers, there are complicated rules about how many flowers and what type should be given depending on the situation. Because it is a holiday, the celebrations for work colleagues is normally done on March 7th. My methodologist Michael asked me to make a contribution so they could appropriately celebrate the women of the central office, and I couldn’t really refuse. He invited me to the celebration on Tuesday lunchtime but I had to decline as I had lessons in the Sovetskiy office that day. I felt it incumbent upon me to do something for the Sovetskiy office which is entirely staffed by women managers and teachers, so on the way in I picked some nice looking flowers for a fraction of my Central Office contribution. The ladies were thrilled – no-one else had brought flowers – and promptly invited me to their office party later that day, after classes! They went on to a karaoke bar, but I was worried about getting home – taxis are much more expensive and marshrutkas stop at midnight, so I headed home while the routes I knew were still available.
The flip side of the Women’s Day celebration was explained to me by one of my students, her family are florists and it is the busiest day of the year for them, for her it is not a holiday, instead she has to help out all day in the shop!
Since then life has been quite routine. Mondays I’m at Voroshilovskiy, Tuesdays at Sovetskiy, Wednesday mornings I can lie in and have a handful of lessons at Voroshilovskiy in the afternoon, Thursdays and Fridays I have early lessons in the centre followed by long gaps where I can prepare for my later lessons, and Saturdays have recently got a little easier when one of my lessons involving younger children, which I really found difficult, has stopped as they decided to start attending one of our other offices instead. I had a surprise observation last Friday from Michael, which could have been hugely intimidating and off-putting, but at such short notice I didn’t really have time to think about it, and the lesson went well with him giving me a generally good report
I have had a could of “special” lessons with children wanting help with poetry recitations. The schools hold competitions and the students take them very seriously (often under the thrall of their parents). There seem to be some rules, you have to stare into the sky with a faint look of angst, you have to move your arms to match your emotions and you have to enunciate with extreme feeling. The Dead Poet’s Society this ain’t. But I enjoyed the lessons, the pronunciation tips were easy, deciding which words should be stressed, which should have an upward intonation and which a downward was a bit harder and sometimes depended a lot on personal interpretation. I also liked matching the gestures to the words, encouraging a student to show her teeth every time she said the word “sneer” or “sneering.”
We also had an in-house talent competition for under-7s where I was asked to be one of the judges. My role was purely ceremonial, I had no say in which student won which prize, and every student was guaranteed to win something. They had a drawing competition where all the students drew an imaginary animal. I was honoured that the first one named hers “Stephen” but thereafter each of the other students in turn all confirmed their animals were also called Steve or Stephen. It is nice to know that my legacy here will live on in herds of imaginary animals.