Today is the anniversary of my arrival in Russia. It is the first time I have spent an entire year outside England, or in any country other than England (I left Northern Ireland, the province of my birth at the age of 6 months). It also marks one year as a professional teacher, so I’m not faking it any more, I’ve made it. A teacher is what I am now, and I seem to be quite highly regarded by my colleagues, employers and students.
Do I miss the UK in general? Not really, with all the chaos over Brexit it seems like a good time to cut my ties. When I compare my new career to my old career my only regret is that I didn’t switch up years earlier. I can still speak to my friends through email and social media, though of course I miss seeing them in the flesh. I haven’t exactly adapted to a Russian diet but I’ve found enough food here to keep myself healthy. I do miss certain specific foods (eg Marks and Spencer brand chicken Jal Frezi meal; salted caramel ice-cream) but I suppose if and when I return to the UK they will be extra special treats to look forward to.
I miss my big powerful computer and my enormous flatscreen TV but my laptop mostly does a decent enough job filling in, provided I don’t try to do more than three things at once. And I keep seeing shows, events, gatherings and opportunities in and around London and Brighton that I regret being unable to participate in any more – I am getting a steady stream of call-outs now for extras work in TV shows, something I was just dipping my toe into before I got this job. Even if I stayed in the UK I would be having a more interesting life now!
Do I have any other regrets? I feel I am not making the most of my opportunity to learn Russian – perhaps teachers make the worst students, but I find it so difficult to knuckle down and do the hard work needed to make the useful phrases and grammar stick in my head. But I am proud of the fact that I can travel around Russia and make myself understood just about enough to get pretty much anywhere I want to go.
It has been a strange year – the initial “bedding in” phase, the merry days when there were 6 or 7 of us English-speaking teachers all hanging out together, the Christmas theatre shows where I played Santa opposite numerous Grinches, the cold -20C winter evenings, the busy period during January and February when John and I had so many lessons every week after some of the other teachers left; the Spring thaw and the arrival of new colleagues; my experiences in Moscow, at Summer Camp, and in the East, and the sweltering 40C summer with so few students that I’ve been sharing classes with Russian teachers teaching 3-5 year olds!
Now I’m the Senior Native English Speaking teacher (I arrived a day before Peter) I expect this year will be very different – the lessons will be more familiar, hopefully some of the students will too, I know what to expect in winter, in summer, and at camp, and there are always new teachers and managers appearing for me to get to know! I’ve been working less at Voroshilovskiy branch over the summer and more in the central office, so maybe that is my new “turf” (it used to be John’s) – Wesley has been getting a steady stream of Voroshilovskiy students in my place, while also covering Dzerzhinsky; I still have 1 day each week at Sovetskiy branch, and regular trips now to Traktorniy and sometimes Spartanovka. Our schedules are no longer being planned by Svetlana, she has left and we have a new International Department liaison called Julia. And Anna Markovna, the supreme leader has been having some small say in my schedule by recommending I sit in on new student placement assessments for important students.
Today was the first cool day of the summer since I came back from Vladivostok. It rained last night and continued to rain during the day. It was still warm enough to walk around in shirt sleeves, but today it was shirt sleeves and an umbrella. Tomorrow is September, the schools are all starting again this week, autumn is clearly itching to get started. Bring it on.