Saturday, October 27, 2012

Russian Lessons and Living

My mishaps with corporate security guards have just about ended.  I like to think it’s because I’m feeling brave enough to speak a tiny bit of Russian with them, but in reality, it’s just that now they recognize me. Speaking of speaking Russian, Kyle and I have now spent almost 30 hours studying with our teacher Gyeorgy.  Gyeorgy is a fine Russian man, with plenty of teaching experience.  His age is difficult to determine due to the long years he’s spent addicted to nicotine, but I’d venture a guess between 50-65 years old.  It’s clear his favorite student is Kyle, not me.  That might be because of the fact it takes me twice as long to sound out each word. Or that I ask the same questions multiple times per lesson (wait, how do you say ‘money?’).  Or that I mispronounce the word for ‘please’ Every. Single. Time.  Or maybe it’s because Kyle likes to show off the vocabulary he’s been studying.  Or that every time we come to new material and Gyeorgy asks if we know it, Kyle nods his head fervently while I squint my eyebrows and say, “Uh, I don’t think so..” Luckily, when I say Gyeorgy favors Kyle, I’m not saying much.  For instance, during our last class, per usual, Gyeorgy instructed us, “Look at this picture and ask each other interesting questions.” It was a picture of a house.  Anyway, we complied.  A few minutes into it, I turned from Kyle and glanced up at Gyeorgy to get confirmation on my word choice.  The man was sleeping!

During the work weeks, there is little time for grocery shopping, let alone sightseeing.  With such an overwhelmingly active city, the plan is to visit at least one tourist site each weekend.  However, traveling to all ends of the city for our classes can be an experience in itself.  The city is truly beautiful, with parks, trees, statues, and monuments at nearly every turn.  The buildings themselves are pieces of artwork.

Kyle standing with Dostoevsky
Last weekend we rode into the center of Moscow to visit the Tretyakov Gallery.  Pavel Tretyakov was a successful business man during the second half of the 19th century.  As his wealth grew, he became deeply involved in philanthropy and art collecting.  The Tretyakov Gallery is a tribute to him and his collection.  We spent the afternoon milling through the rooms of the gallery, admiring the paintings and sculptures.  I overheard the different languages of the tour guides and watched the elderly volunteers falling asleep at their posts.  We found portraits of Pushkin, Tolstoy, and Dostoevsky.

Me with Tretyakov outside Tretyakov Gallery

Kyle with a portrait of the famous Russian poet Alexander Pushkin

A portrait of Dostoevsky

One of my students asked if I’d be willing to give her extra English lessons on weekends.  She’s in her mid-twenties and at an intermediate speaking level.  Rather than charge her for these lessons, I asked if she’d show me around the city and buy me a cup of coffee.  We’ve visited the famous Arbat Street, walked by a few of Stalin’s Seven Sisters, and had coffee in Moscow’s old telegraph building. 

I think it’s now time to show you around our apartment.  As I mentioned before, it’s quite dated, but feeling more and more like home as the weeks fly by.
Our kitchen with the 60 year old oven

Kyle hard at work in the kitchen

Kyle's room - he cleaned up for the photo

As a final update, we had our first snow flurry on Friday afternoon. It’s going to be a loooooong winter!