Posts Tagged ‘teachers’

Call me crazy, but I like it: this week every day, I’ve come home tired, slightly stressed by the evening’s to-do list, sometimes sore, and sometimes cold. But unfailingly ecstatic about it. Woohoo!

I even got to reorganize my desk, which means moving the once hugely useless and in-the-way computer monitor to a closet, adding its speakers to my laptop, and using the keyboard tray as a dictionary holder. Hoorah!

The semester’s finally taken off to the start I’d wanted it to. My classes are lined up with about 99% confidence they won’t change, I’ve got a nice selection of extracurricular gigs with a few more options promised to be on their way, my classmates are awesome (the Americans and the Russians), and (shh, don’t tell the feds) I might have found a way to bring in some moolah. Here’s the schedule. (more…)


On Tuesday night, I ran into another extra-curricular “committment” to keep myself well distracted from the significant, but shrinking, pile of work I have ahead of me this weekend. Hooray!

Irina Melentievna (grammar teacher), that wonderful woman, her, got her hands on tickets for the Irkutsk Dramaturgical Academy Theatre’s production of Romeo and Juliet for us. I should add that “get one’s hands on” is a good Sovietism expressed in the verb “dostat,” which she seemed especially intent on inculcating in us with some “practical meaning,” so to speak, behind it. I like that teaching style…

Patrick had tried to tell her that the show was sold out. She would not stand for this. Barely asking whether or not Romany and I wanted to go (which we did, but still…), she stopped class, picked up her cell phone, and “made a few calls.” Five minutes later, Romany and I were promised 2 tickets in our hands the next day. Irina Melentievna concluded, slightly ironically (“not ironic” isn’t included in her understanding of communication), but totally seriously, “Guys. Just look at how great Russian corruption is.”

The show was advertised in cyrillic as “Romeo and Dzhulietta,” so it was obvious it wasn’t going to be in the original. Great, we were thinking. It’s hard enough when companies do Shakespeare with British accents, let alone Russian ones.


December has a special meaning (kind of) for Eastern Siberia (the region of the middle of Siberia, not the Far East), if not just for Irkutsk. For better or for worse, it has nothing to do with the Mandy Moore song (blog post’s title) or the Disney movie Anastasia about the last Russian tsar, in which the song is featured.

The history. The unsuccessful Decembrist Revolt against the tsar of Dec. 14, 1825 by the so-called “Decembrists” (dekabristy), a relatively small group of high-ranking members of the army, bureaucracy, and society, resulted in a variety of sentences for the group’s punishment. Most were sent to the area around Irkutsk to do hard labor in mines for a number of years, and then were required to settle in Siberia for the rest of their term before they were allowed to return to the European part of the country, excluding Moscow or Petersburg.

The expedition. On Wednesday, our grammar teacher, Irina Melentievna, organized an expedition for us 3 Americans and the German/Austrian/Swiss group of international students (6 of them came) to Irkutsk’s Decembrist Museum, which is the renovated house of the wife of the Decembrist Sergei Grigoriyevich Volkonskii.


Since registration has officially taken place, my schedule for the rest of the semester has turned out as such:



For my mainstream course, I’ve chosen to do the first semester of a year long course in “Economic Theory” which covers the microeconomics side of things. However, when I use “chosen,” it was one of my very few options of classes that would fit in my schedule. But, although there are probably more straightforward subjects I could take, it worked out, because the workload (that is, once I make up the first 5 weeks I missed, due to my not knowing what class I’d be doing) will end up being quite light: just preparing for class, doing a problem or two, and then writing a 10 page term paper on an industry of the Irkutsk Oblast, which will be pretty straightforward reporting with little analysis required.

The professor, Svetlana Konstantinovich, is good, and she’s very happy to work with me one-on-one. I take this class with the first-year (17-18 year olds. . .) Commerce and Chinese Language specialization group at the MezhFak (International faculty).

Note: When I’m giving the long, complicated first names and patronymics, I’m not just showing off. For one, it has taken even us to get the 5 people’s 10 names down pat. Secondly, the equivalent respect of using “Mr. Smith” or “Professor McGonagall” or “ma’am” or “sir” in Russia is expressed with the first name and patronymic.

Baikal Studies

Romany and I basically sit and listen to Pavel Aleksandrovich share his knowledge, about as deep as the lake itself, on Lake Baikal’s geography, geology, biology, archaeology, ethnography, industry, anything–but unfortunately, for 3 hours with only a 10-minute break in the middle.

Not very much discussion, not very much reading, but lots of the “absorption” listening and following along on the handouts, which makes for good cocktail tidbits, I suppose. Workload: occasional articles to read and a 12-page term paper on a topic related to Baikal of our choice.

Writing and Speech Practice

I don’t know how Aleksandra Vladimirovna isn’t Irish, but she’s not, despite the looks and strict face atop the loving words. We basically sit and talk, sometimes about trivial things, sometimes about things we all disagree on, (our theme this week was mostly about culture stereotypes and travel advice), for the class period, sometimes after a 20-minute essay free-write or listening to her read an article or something.

Her signal when we make grammar/usage errors is her tapping on the table three times, which is actually very helpful and not as annoying as it sounds as I write this. And when she plays devil’s advocate, she gives us her deeply apologetic look and says “I am the provoker,” which, again, sounds as ridiculous as Arnold Schwartzenagger saying “I am the governator” when I type it, but is actually very cute in real life.

Homework includes small readings, most of which I feel are slightly below our level, or short writing assignments.


Irina Militievna is kind of a badass and has a fun swagger that’s slightly more gangster than your average middle-aged Russian woman, which is both entertaining and helpful when she is giving us examples of how to communicate the question, with completely not offensive Russian words, “Are you a f***ing dumba**” in idiomatic verbiage–with verbs of motion and prefixes, of course. Very practical grammar, indeed.

We do exercises (like grammar ones) in class, which is helpful especially since there’s only 3 of us, so we get lots of practice and get the instant feedback when we mess up, the attitude included. If Aleksandra Vladimirovna is the “The Provoker,” then Irina Militievna would probably choose “The Automater” as her superhero name. Homework is usually just a few exercises.

Russian Literature

Olga Vladimirovna is the sweetest and cutest little woman ever: she stands so prim and proper at the front of the class, usually kind of folding her hands in front of her, or lightly dabbing her nose with her handkerchief, and when she is inspired with yet another word of (very helpful) explanation of the poetry and short stories we read, she writes it on the board and explains it. And with such passion and eagerness for us to understand. Love it.

I definitely enjoy this class the most, and I like that it comes at the end of the week–it’s like dessert. For each class, we usually have a short-ish reading assignment or just have to look up words we don’t know in the poem for the following class, plus a little essay about what we did in the previous class. Both parts of which I do carefully, because I feel like this (wel, and soon the econ class) are the only times I’m actually doing intellectual work. Which, after a summer and now another year of pure language learning, I’m missing.

. . .
So with the classes officially under control as of this week, the homework load continuing to be light, I’m feeling like I can start to commit myself to other things now. This coming week, I’ll finally make it to church, the pool, and the middle and high schools, at which I’ll be observing, volunteering, and possibly doing some teaching practice (AHH!!). And maybe even the art museum to blow some of the 1500 rubles Midd gives us for “culture experiences.” Ridin’ the Panther all the way.

And the ice cream stands and the specter of looking like John Travolta in Hairspray continue to follow me.