Today was the last day of school for many students in Volgograd. There is a tradition which they call “The Final Ring” where students will dress in smart clothes, sometimes wearing hats, ribbons, sashes or flowers, and they have celebrations with their teachers – parents will take photographs, everyone will say goodbye, especially those leaving for new schools or university.
The city centre was full of children of many different ages in small and large groups. Some were dressed in neat uniforms, some more casually, there were a lot in what looked like French maid outfits (short black dresses with white trimming on the front, and lots of frills!). They were all smiling and hugging each other and having fun. I have no pictures because my tablet is currently not working but it was a beautiful sunny day and there was a great atmosphere in the city.
The flip side is that we are losing students, many decide not to continue English lessons during the summer, some go away, and of course many of us teachers have other responsibilities scheduled (oh no, summer camp is coming!). Lots of my lessons are cancelled, I get information that groups are no longer continuing while I am waiting for them to show up to a scheduled lesson, and today one of my students sadly informed me she would not be coming back until after the summer as she was going to stay at her grandfather’s house.
I used some of my unexpected free time today to start preparing for summer camp. I figure I will need some lighter, sportier shoes so I went to my favourite sports shop (the one where I know I can find the shoes I want without having to talk to any shop assistants!) and got myself a pair of trainers. I am also trying to sort out a sim card so I can have at least some internet access, but I was told at the shop I couldn’t buy one without my passport, which is still in my winter coat pocket. If I can’t get my tablet working it won’t matter anyway.
I had an interesting and informative encounter on the way home this evening. I was walking towards the Astrakhanskiy bridge when I heard a snatch of a conversation in English – the people were walking very fast in the opposite direction so by the time I realised, it was too late to try and engage them. But then I heard a second English conversation as I overtook a couple walking in the same direction as me, I turned my head in a kind of confused double take and the woman saw me and laughed. I took a few more steps while I was processing this and then, with uncharacteristic initiative, I turned again and said “You were speaking in English weren’t you?”
Thankfully they were a friendly couple – neither were native English speakers and they were surprised to find that I was. The girl sounded very American but she was actually Russian – she said her name was Besna, and her friend was Lebanese – his native language is Arabic – and his name is Mol. They actually knew the first English speakers I had noticed, and told me they were Mormon church elders. Mormons! In Volgograd! Just like in Book of Mormon! Neither Besna nor Mol are especially religious but they like hanging around the Mormons because they are American, they speak English, and they are very friendly and welcoming. In fact they had been having a games evening – board games and card games.
Our conversation only lasted the time it took us to cross the bridge and then they were away. I didn’t try and get their contact details or anything like that but I’m sure the Mormon games evening shouldn’t be too hard to find, if I’m still in Volgograd after the summer chaos subsides.
I rolled home and told Wesley what I had discovered – it seems he had passed the same group of people shortly before me. I then offered to make a curry. It’s been a while since I have made one and Wesley has said it’s one of the things he misses since he has been in Volgograd, so I thought it would be nice to have a curry night. I set Wesley on chopping duty, doing the ginger and the red pepper, while I ground some spices. It was a long process and I had to check the recipe once or twice but the end result was a pretty fine chicken jalfrezi (if I say so myself) and Wesley enjoyed it too. Not too spicy but spicy enough to warm the heart. I’m looking forward to the second round tomorrow.