Summer is here properly!  I have been walking to and between work in short shirt sleeves enjoying the sunshine.  Since my last upbeat post I caught a cold but I’ve recovered now and a slight cold spell where the temperature dropped back to 2C is just a memory now.

A few things have happened.  The day after my last post I judged an interesting competition in a school in Tractorniy comparing Britain and Russia – there were some interesting entries such as How to Re-use Everyday Materials, a piece about the Queen and her collection of “fantasy hats” and an instructional analysis comparing the career paths of Admiral Nelson and General Kutuzov.  The winners were a pair of children describing schools around the world.


Arkady and Anton


The following week I did an event in a different school “Mr and Miss English” which was a kind of talent contest, I had to judge students reading poetry, doing short theatre/dance performances, and singing – one pair of boys did the Johnny Cash version of “Hurt” then sang “Dancing Cheek to Cheek.”  Both the winners were singers, though I was not familiar with the songs they sang (but they sang very well).

I had a bit of a disagreement with the school last week about whether I should be allowed to take a whole week as holiday.  They initially said no; I expressed my disappointment in pretty strong terms; and they gave me what I wanted.  So I shall be visiting Moscow very shortly, watch this space!


Locked out!


On Friday I again found myself standing outside an office with the shutters down at 9pm, when I was supposed to be having my Russian lesson.  This was the central office, however – it turned out the cleaner had called in sick, she usually opens up the office.  My Russian teacher joined me and gradually various other staff members who didn’t have keys, until one of the more senior managers arrived and let us in.  I only had 3 lessons later that day and I arrived home not feeling tired, it occurred to me this was the first time this had happened in a long time!

A lot of my lessons are reaching the end of the course at the same time – this is natural, as the courses are generally 64 lessons and the students generally have 2 lessons a week (one with me, one with a Russian teacher).  I had the pleasure of giving out some certificates on Friday, one of the students was one I had started teaching at an intermediate level, she had switched up to Upper Intermediate and then I was reassigned to teach her new class!  The problem is that just because the book is finished doesn’t mean the course is finished and the students’ parents are still paying for us to teach material to their children – meaning instead of the easy life of following a programme and teaching set material I am going to have to spend more time thinking and planning and finding different things.

Saturday was a nice day.  Over the last few months I have been rushing around trying to get to different offices in time for my lessons, but my schedule is becoming much easier and I was actually able to walk between Central Office and Voroshilovskiy Office with plenty of time before lessons – I even had time to call in at home and have a bite to eat!

I noticed as I walked over the Voroshilovskiy bridge that there were a lot of people down in the gulley clearing rubbish and vegetation.  I didn’t know why, I hadn’t really seen anyone down there before.  It piqued my interest and later that day I walked down into the gulley myself for the first time.  I couldn’t get past the railway line, and towards the river it was nothing but a big building site.  I did take a couple of pictures of the bridge from down below.

When I got home I did a bit of research.  One of my students had mentioned in passing she believed the bridge was called the Astrakhanskiy bridge (the bridge heading towards Astrakhan) and she didn’t know why it was there because there wasn’t a river underneath.  I found out from this site that in fact there did used to be a river there, but because of repeated flooding over the years, they had collected the water and it now flowed into the Volga underground.  In fact this river was the Tsaritsa river, after which the city got its original name – Tsaritsyn.  The city was founded at the confluence of the Tsaritsa and the Volga – pretty much exactly where I live, which is why nearby Primireniya (Reconciliation) Square on the northern side of the bridge has a monument to the foundation of the city.


Astrakhansky Bridge


I don’t know when the bridge was built, but it was repaired around 1913, and it was bombed until it collapsed during the Second World War.  According to the site I read, all the building work going on in the Tsaritsa gulley is a commercial development which will eventually result in some of the river being allowed to flow again at the surface.  It appears the big building which has just appeared in the gulley will be a commercial centre and will join up to the embankment.  The railway is also part of the development.

On Saturday evening I went back to Bar and Grill with Peter, John, Wesley and (later) Francesca.  I was the only one who had been there before, but the decoration and menu had completely changed since my last time.  The staff were delighted to have English-speakers and gave us the best table.  I had a very nice steak – I think the others enjoyed theirs too.  The Russian waitress was very disappointed when I requested it “well done” but there was plenty of soft pink parts in the middle when it arrived, and this time I had no problem with that.  There was live music – a band singing a range including Adele, Amy Winehouse and Jamiroquai.  Later on a Russian gave us a bottle of Crimean wine (I think John took it home in the end!).


At the Bar and Grill


We went on the the Alaska bar – a speciality beer cellar.  Last time I had been there it was jam packed but today there was plenty of room and we even got a table with seats.  When it was time to go home, Peter was surprised exactly how close to our flat it was (about 10 minutes walk).


The Alaska Bar


So it was a good day, a good evening, and because Monday is a public holiday, we could all look forward to a long weekend.  Life is good!


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