Paskha is of course known in English as Easter, and the Russians make a big deal of it – it is not just a church festival the way Orthodox Christmas has become. They have chocolate eggs, often in baskets, and the one I bought contained a novelty fridge magnet. It tasted ok – not the same quality as English chocolate but not unpleasant. However the main thing you notice at Easter is the cakes. They are everywhere. Supermarkets, bakeries, stalls. I passed a pop-up stall that sold nothing except traditional Easter cakes, which are essentially very tall cupcakes, with bits of candy in the sponge, and lots of frosting and sprinklings!
It is not a public holiday but it coincides with the school spring holidays and traffic on Friday was very slow with many cars packed with furniture and paraphernalia taking families to their dachas. The weather has been generally good – however there was a very brief thunderstorm on Saturday. I didn’t get caught in it but it seems to have hit this couple right in the middle of their wedding…
The shopping centres have been very busy, for some reason there is a big inflatable monster basking beside the main Voroshilovskiy shopping mall.
I have had a busy week. On Tuesday I was in a bus crash. I’ve been in a few collisions so far in Russia but this was the first that was really dramatic and noticeable. Fortunately I was sitting down and relatively well braced, but one of the other passengers, a woman around 70 was standing up to leave and was sent hurtling into the conductor – another middle-aged woman – and both ended up on the floor of the bus. Fortunately there was only one other passenger and he seemed ok, and both women got up, dusted themselves down and seemed undamaged. We all had to get off the bus, of course but it was going in the wrong direction for me anyway – it was just as it was turning off my route that the crash happened.
I saw the bus driver taking some photos of the damage and positions of the vehicles, so I took a snap myself!
On Wednesday I had two English Clubs in Tractorniy, inside an actual gymnasium school. We did the same club twice in succession in different rooms to different classes. I had been apprehensive when the person who collected me to take me to the school was one of the managers, I had expected this would be a typical English Club where a Russian teacher leads and I just answer any questions thrown at me. But if I was going to be the only English teacher then I would need to know the material in a lot more depth… The manager’s English was not great so I was unable to clarify if I would be teaching alone. I was just getting myself into the correct frame of mind when we arrived at the school and another teacher from our school was waiting for me! Such relief! In the event I enjoyed the clubs, the Russian teacher was happy for me to do most of the talking and the teacher from the gymnasium was very happy with our presentation.
Just as an added bonus, I also spotted a familiar face at the tram stop – no less than Mr Wavy Hair himself, the presenter of the university ceremonies! I couldn’t think of any way to express recognition or congratulate him on the excellence of his styling, so I just took a sneaky paparazzi snap. I met one of my fellow jury members on Friday night as I was walking home, she stopped me and we chatted for a while about grammar. And this morning I had a phone call from Lera – letting me know her son has enrolled at our school but with a different teacher. I actually already knew this as John had filled me in last night!
I met the Italian teacher Francesca for the first time on Friday, and on Saturday a few of us went to the Arts Café for our first proper foreign teacher social event. Peter came down from Volzshky, John was there of course, and a couple of Russian staff, Maria and Irina. I drank ginger lemonade and ate tomato focaccia bread, John was holding court with his games and logic puzzles, it was not a bad evening.
Francesca had been telling me the night before about all kinds of problems she was having in my new flat – issues with the plumbing that I had never had any problem with. It seems I moved out just in the nick of time! Both her and Wesley seem to be settling in well and their schedule is gradually growing – mainly lessons taken from John’s schedule, mine does not seem to be changing very much at all, but it is quite settled. Of course things can change at the drop of a hat, so it is best not to get too comfortable with how things are at any given time!