Thursday, January 19, 2012

The cast of characters

January 18, 2012

The cast.

You don’t move to Bishkek in where-the-fuck-ever-stan to be an English teacher and not encounter in your co-workers the usual host of oddities and societal rejects. One has to wonder sometimes what impression our students form of the world outside their borders if this is their only sustained contact with foreigners.

I went out with the Brits last night to have a beer, and it didn’t take long for the creation of nicknames to begin. It began as a way to differentiate two teachers of the same name.

“harry scary”

“Yeah, he’s…”

“Let’s all go eat dog just to fuck with him.”

“And the other one?”

“Oh yeah, the Mormon.”

“Is he really? He’s from Wisconsin. Are there Mormons there?”

“No—well, I don’t know. But he looks like he’s wearing special underwear—and it’s a size too small.”

“bearded g----“

“No, but the other one has a beard too.”

“Well, the greater and the lesser.”

“G---- the greater and G--- the lesser. Sure, that works.”

“And the girl? What’s her name again?”

“Which one?”

“The one I’d like to roofie.”

“Yeah, and then not do anything with.”

“Well, what’s her last name?”

“I don’t know. I’ve been here two years, and I don’t know.”

“How about Ritalin?”

“Too obvious. How about poodle?”


“Her hair.”

“How about calm-the-fuck-down-and-breathe?”

“Hm, yeah, but then everyone would know who we’re referring to.”

“We’ll get back to her.”

“And the gay one?”



“Oh, he’s not gay. He has a girlfriend.”

“He’s gay. He just isn’t out of the closet yet. Trust me. Gaydar clanging on this one.”

“I thought he was the Mormon.”

“No, he’s Canadian.”

“And the other girl?”

“The one who never talks? How about deer-in-the-headlights?”



“Who killed Kenny.”

“Right. Never speaks.”

“Kenny Kenny”

“Or sometimes Kenny Kenny Kenny?”

(Silence from the boys. That one fell flat, obviously.)

“And the Scot?”

“Oh, brown rice, yoga…”

“It’s all to get laid. Really. He got his first date on the flight here.”

“Led Zeppelin, Beatles…”

“How about downward facing dog?”


“Yoga move. Ass in the air.”


“Have you seen that scarf he wears?”

“Uh, no.”

“Dreadful, really.”

“And what about us. You and me. I mean, Phil’s already got one.”

“No. I don’t like the one I’ve got. “



“And you’re really going to marry her? And do what?”

“Take her to England. DO you know how much a visa costs? 800 pounds.”

“And there’s the interview. That should be fun. Does she ever not hate you?”

“Oh, about five minutes out of every day.”


“Have you Dutch ovened her yet?”

“Dutch oven? What’s that?”

“Where you fart and pull the covers over her head.”

“Yeah. Now she knows when I’m going to do it. Says I get a look in my eyes.”

“Well, that’s all right then.”

“And Stephen. Functioning alcoholic is too obvious.”

“Last name…”

“No, nothing with cereal.”

“We’ll get back to you. And Justine?”

“Remember that joke I told about ginger babies?”

“What, the abortion joke?”

“Justine ‘pro-choice’ Derrick.”

“Fine, but it’s not my real color.”

“It’s not? What is?”

“Changes. Depends on the season.”

“Mine’s the same.”

“Hm. Justine ‘stiletto’ Derrick.”

“Justine ‘fishnet’ Derrick.”

“Justine ‘bondage’ Derrick.”

“Hey, wait! How did I end up with dominatrix nicknames?”

And so it went, with everyone continuing to riff on various nicknames. I’d gone out to lunch with the Brits, and that conversation covered farting (again), gay sex (with a story about someone admitting to sticking a toothbrush up his ass), a former girlfriend who was a Japanese jockey (who brought her saddle with her sometimes—burning a mental image that I will never, ever be able to erase)…

But also teaching. The Brits are both experienced teachers, so we discussed problems Russian speakers have with English and how to target these problems. We discussed the upcoming curriculum redesign that we’re going to be doing. We discussed the plan to give the students kindles. We discussed ways we can help the newbies be better teachers—without their knowing that we’ve intervened.

So yes, while these two guys have some obvious issues (both the products of a British public education, by the way: incredibly smart, but also incredibly fucked-up), they are both competent professionals who care about the job they do and their students (sometimes a little too much; see reference to pregnancy in conversation above).

After the beer at the bar, the two gentlemen escorted me home. They did stop on the way, however, to buy seven and a half liters of beer and five packs of cigarettes.

Monday, January 16, 2012

January 16, 2012

Staying alive

Recipe for one-skillet: Soak and boil beans. Flavor as desired. Keep in fridge, ready to go. When hungry, take out one serving of beans and place in skillet. Add just a little bit of water. When water starts to bubble and the beans start to stick a bit, slide beans to one side of skillet and crack egg in the free space. Cover. Wait a couple of minutes, lift lid, and place slice of somewhat stale bread in the space between the egg and the beans. Cover again. Wait until egg white is set but yolk is still runny. Place beans on plate, add two slices of overly salty cheese, scrape egg from pan and place over cheese. Place bread on side. Enjoy.

Recipe for one pan: heat oil. Add ½ of Maggi chicken cube. Add sliced onion. After a while, add some spices—whatever happens to be around. Add sliced turnips and carrots. Continue to stir-fry. Add sliced cabbage. Continue to stir-fry. Add water. Bring water to boil. Add more spices. Boil the shit out of it. Serve with chunks of overly salty cheese and slightly stale bread.

Recipe for one bowl: mix plain yogurt and overly-sweetened liquid yogurt. Add one cube of chopped chocolate. Add slight stale muesli. Add some raisins.

Breakfast: wash and cut one apple, removing spots where bugs have entered (and left). Cut a couple of wedges of cheese. Take two slices of slightly stale bread, butter one side, grill in skillet. Add weird green jam. Enjoy with Assam brewed in hard, tap water.

Weekend: try food in local markets and restaurants. Only do this Friday evening, after teaching, or Saturday. Give yourself Sunday to recover.

Where to find things:

Mustard: in the Turkish or Russian supermarkets

Muesli: in the supermarket just south of me.

Tuna: I saw some once in the Russian supermarket in the center (right next to the Turkish supermarket)

Pork products: from the English butcher in the center of town

Apples and produce: from any of the markets. Do not buy from the supermarkets.

Eggs: from the closest supermarket. Otherwise, they’ll all break before you get them home

1.5 % milk: sometimes at the supermarket south of me. Sometimes from the supermarket north of me. It depends.

Sliced German cheese: I saw it once at the supermarket south of me.

Plain yogurt: can occasionally be found at the Turkish supermarket in the center of town.

Loose-leaf tea: everywhere

Mayo: everywhere

Bread: White is everywhere. Wheat more difficult to find.

Unidentifiable sausages: everywhere

Chocolate: everywhere

Curry: still haven’t found it

As you can see, part of moving to a new place is figuring out where to find things…

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

January - Morning Walk

Sheep grazing in a Bishkek park.

Park in the south of Bishkek.

Park in the south of Bishkek.

Admit it, you're jealous. You know you wish you lived in Bishkek...

January 9, 2012

January 9, 2012

First day of classes. I teach from 2:30 to 8:30, but I’m observing two classes this morning, one at 8:30 and the other at 10. It will be a long-ish day, I’m thinking. Right now, I’m going back and forth between feeling nervous and feeling excited. I both hate and love teaching. It’s not really a job; it’s more an emotional rollercoaster. I wonder if one day it will become a job. I wonder if that’s really a desirable thing. If I’m alert and awake in the classroom, the experience can be so dynamic. If not, well, I feel sorry for my students.

Every teaching job that I have, I want to be a better teacher than I was before. I want to try new ways to get my students to learn. What can I do to help them learn better? To learn more? To learn more deeply? I find myself experimenting more with behaviorism, with activities that are disguised drill-n-kill exercises. Turn it into a game somehow. Ultimately learning a language is about communicating, but if the pieces aren’t there, ready to go, ready to be pulled up automatically, then fluency is lacking—and accuracy is compromised. Having seen now the results of fossilization at the higher levels, I want to start fighting it as much as I can at the lower levels.

The problem is that we never have enough time in the classroom. There’s always too much to cover. Two pages in 90 minutes. New information in every class. Time required to check homework. If you make the most of your time, you can perhaps do 15 – 20 minutes of review. Cut out some of the material in the book. But what? Say you have a listening text. You absolutely need to do some pre-reading, activate schema. Then, the listening. 2 times, right? Then responding to the pre-listening activity in some way. Then checking for deeper comprehension of the text. Dealing with questions about content, vocabulary, structures. Some expansion activity, something that has the students respond to the text in some way. Set up the homework. You’re already over time, so you can forget about the other review activity you were hoping to get to, something to close the class. A couple of minutes to review what you did

January 8, 2012

January 8, 2012

It’s all about managing expectation, about releasing the old routine and the old patterns and developing new ones. So I can’t wake up and exercise. Fine. I’ll wake up, enjoy my tea, and work. Later in the day I’ll go for a long walk. When it warms up and all the ice melts, I’ll embrace the challenge of building up my endurance again. Until then, I find other ways. Once I start teaching, I’ll be so worn out, this excess energy I have won’t be so much an issue.

There’s a point of release—several points, actually—when adapting to a new culture. You fight and fight (at least, I do), trying to hold on to your old life, your old patterns, your old lifestyle. Bit by bit, you release these old things and find new ones to take their place. New routines. Each experience like this—moving to a foreign country—is new, but the emotional pattern is roughly the same.

And I feel like I’m reaching a point where what I’m going through is less culture shock and more homesickness. That’s not to say that there is no culture shock—that there haven’t been bits of it and that there won’t be more. But I’ve always had problems with missing my family and friends. When I’ve spoken to other teachers over the years, the one thing I’ve noticed about the ones that have spent several years traveling and teaching is that they don’t really have close ties to their families. I could never live the way they live. I don’t envy them or feel sorry for them; I just accept that my emotional situation is quite different.

But enough of that whole deep, introspection thing. You’re here to read about Bishkek in January.

Took a walk to Osh Bazaar today. The first couple of days I was here, it was sunny and almost warm-ish (well, warm enough to melt some of the snow during the warmest part of the day). But the last few days? Cold and grey and overcast and… you get the picture. So, in preparation for my walk to the bazaar: long johns, jeans, wool socks, yak-trax on my hiking boots, a long-sleeved tee-shirt, a down coat, a wool coat (yes, two coats), gloves, mittens over the gloves, a scarf, a hat. Oh, and a map of Bishkek (not really necessary as the city is on a grid. On the other hand, all these communist-era concrete structures all look the same, so…) Oh, and side note: streets have two names.

And I set out. Forgot to mention: I brought a copy of my passport with me. You know, just in case I get stopped by the police. Which, in my estimation, was very likely to happen given that I wasn’t wearing the local costume: fur-trimmed black puffy coat with a belt, stylish black hat, knee-high high-heeled black boots, black leggings, shorts or skirt over said leggings. No, I am the stereotypical frumpy American. No make-up, no concern about fashion or how I look. My blue-tinged lips may have led some to believe that I was wearing some shade of counter-culture lipstick—but I sincerely doubt it.

But back to the bazaar. There are several things I both love and dread experiencing when I’m in a foreign country. One is transportation (ALERT: Mom, skip the rest of this paragraph, please). Talk about a thrill. You never really know what you’re going to get and, in some cases, if you’re going to get anywhere alive. I’ve experience some harrowing rides in my time. I wonder what K’Stan will bring.

The other is bazaars. Overwhelming, stressful, and likely to catapult someone into the depths of culture shock. But I was prepared. Well, not really. But I at least knew that I didn’t know what I was getting myself into and how I was going to react. And I had an escape plan.

Bazaars are all remarkably similar while being quite different (yes, I know, as far as descriptions go, that one is useless. By the way, what’s the genre or style of writing where the narrator comments on his or her narrative style as the story progresses? ‘Cause I do that a lot. And if there’s no name for it, I’ll have to invent one.)

But, Bazaars.

No, more set-up. When I was in Jersey, I went to Columbus a couple of times. It’s a bit flea market and Amish market south of Princeton. Picture, if you will, the epitome of North American chaos: cars parked in neat rows, fences around the flea market enclosure, tables set up in orderly rows with clear demarcations between them, wide, easily navigable aisles where visitors stroll leisurely, stopping to examine something that catches their eye then moving on. And the produce? In a separate section, across the parking lot, with prices clearly marked.

Now picture a tornado going straight through this scene. What you have left might begin to resemble your typical non-Western bazaar. No straight lines or rows, tarps overhanging booths wedged in to winding, tight alleyways, nothing marked with prices, no sense of where anything is. I have no sense of how large the bazaar was because it was impossible to follow a line from any one end to the other. You simply cross a street, take a deep breath, and plunge in. People hustling and rushing and bumping into one another. Everyone is on a mission; no leisurely browsing. If you stop to look at something it’s because you’re interested in it and the negotiations begin.

Now, picture all of this on top of an ice-skating rink. Because this is, after all, Bishkek in winter—and there’s no salting, no sanding, no shoveling. Children are sliding down inclines (because yes, this is on uneven ground) into the people below, women and holding onto one another for balance, teenage boys are trying to not slip and look like fools. And I’m in the middle of all this, in my frumpy North American wool coat, brown hiking boots and Yak-trax (great on icy, packed snow but pretty useless on solid ice, I must admit), my Pacific Northwest-looking blue striped hat, my wide eyes and vacant expression, trying to pick my way gingerly across the ice, slipping occasionally, arms flailing…

And now I’m in my room, on my second pot of tea. Boiling a chicken thigh to make some soup. Mentally steeling myself for the challenges to come. Because tomorrow, I meet my students.

To be continued…

(And yes, I know it’s hackneyed. But there you have it.)


Just spent ten minutes on the Russian Rosetta Stone. My brain is SO FRIED right now. Wow.


In trying to figure out how to address the now boiled chicken leg in a pot of water (a pot which I will need to make soup in), I wandered into the bathroom, sat on the toilet (with pants still up, mind you), and set the pot of chicken + water on my lap in order to pick the meat off the bones. Let’s just say that Pavlov was on to something with this whole stimulus + conditioned response thing. Now I have a pot of chicken in my bathtub, and empty bladder, and no idea how to proceed from here. (For those of you who are still confused, I had to set the pot in the bathtub so that I could use the toilet).

Yeah. I’m definitely tired.


Things that make America great (and no, NASCAR is not on this list):

Water fountains, frozen vegetables, the to-go container for hot beverages (wasteful but brilliant), peanut butter, fast food restaurants and gas stations that don’t charge you to use the toilet…

See, if we could just export some of the stuff on this list, fewer people would hate us.


Why has my music program classified Thus Spake Zarathustra as romantic music?

Saturday, January 07, 2012

First images of Bishkek

Ride at your own risk, I think.

No one has the Soviets beat for creating beautiful, durable structures...

Yup. It's Lenin.

Thursday, January 05, 2012


Having met one only other teacher here (the one who arrived the same day as me—the teacher who taught in Libya. Cushy gig, as it turns out), I’ve been wondering what the other teachers are like. Most have been on vacation, and the ones who are still here have actually seemed a little unfriendly—or, at the very least, not very curious about the presence of two new teachers.

Ahem, but anyway, now I know. I think I’m living in a frat house. Middle of the night, woken up to music blaring. It’s a Thursday night and I know that at least some of the teachers need to work tomorrow, so I ask, “WTF?” I’m tired, I’m jet-lagged, I’m stressed about starting a new job, and you’re going to blare your music and have the world’s f-ing loudest conversation in the middle of the night? This does not bode well for my relationship with the other teachers. Ass-monkeys.

The other teacher, the one I’ve met, is your standard-issue Brit: steering the conversation to make himself look intelligent, clever one-liners that have clearly been repeated to every new person he meets, conversation that appears confessional but is surface-based, bragging about the American women he’d bedded because of his accent. I’m not impressed, but I’m behaving myself. So far.

And yes to my language teacher friends reading this, I know that list does not have parallel structure. But I’ve just been woken up by a teenage boy who’s gotten drunk for the first time since going away to college and is now playing the first thirty seconds of every song in him music collection (probably for some local girl he’s trying to impress).

My prediction: the guys here will all have local girlfriends, but none of them will have made any effort to learn either Kyrgyz or Russian. Except for the one granola guy who will be fluent in both—but he’s a little weird anyway. They will all be at the extremes of various scales: alcoholics, pot-smokers, seekers, anti-social... There will probably be a couple of other females. At least one will be granola-punk. The other might be a lesbian. (Or this might be the same person). At any rate, I will be the only normal person here.


I was able to get back to sleep around 2am, and then I was woken again at 4am. Fine. I’m a morning person. I made some tea, organized some of my files, then decided that it was time to get started figuring out my prison workout possibilities (prison workout because I have to be able to do it in a small space, for those of you who were wondering about that one). I’d been avoiding it because of the whole not wanting to disturb my downstairs neighbors thing. But let’s face it—nothing motivates you to pull out the jump rope at 5 in the morning more than knowing that there’s a drunk frat boy living beneath you, trying to sleep one off. (For the record, I hate jumping rope. It makes me feel uncoordinated and out of shape. That sh!t’s hard. But for some reason, I’m starting to feel a lot more motivated about doing it.) Anyway, the workout routine will probably be based on the cross-fit format, where I pick a few exercises and do them a bunch of times. When the weather’s nice, I’ll try to get out and run, but I’m thinking that I can’t really depend on being able to do that. I’ve heard that there’s a yoga studio down the street; I’ll probably go and see if I can find it. I’ll need to stay active, especially in the winter when I’ll be stuck indoors a lot.

Ok, back to prepping classes. I’ve made up a self-assessment rubric for speaking, reading, writing, and listening that I’m going to have the students fill out once a week. I’ve never done this before (idea inspired by ETS and my increasing interest in finding ways to develop learner autonomy), so we’ll see how it works. I’m sure the idea will need to be tweaked…

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

The Kitchen

My digs

Tea. Maybe.

January 4, 2012

6:30 here. Just woke up (well, been up and down the entire night, but I do feel rested). Currently eating an apple (yum), yogurt (too sweet, but I have yet to determine which yogurt isn’t sweetened, so I went with what I recognized), and some bread (white, but with a good crust). Normally, I’d also have a tea. It’s starting to bother me, not having the ability to prepare myself a cup of tea. It’s not the caffeine that I need—I only drink about a cup or two of caffeinated tea. It’s more Freudian than that, I’ve decided. My version of sucking on my thumb, I guess. Self-soothing. When I kept waking up last night, all I wanted was to be able to fix myself a nice, hot cup of some fruit tea. The answer to this is to get an electric kettle, I know, but I’ve been holding off just in case there is one in the potential kitchen (I’ve been trying to figure out how to refer to it. Potential kitchen isn’t quite the effect I’m going for. Sometimes you can pair a noun with an unexpected adjective to create a noun phrase that is unique but also carries meaning beyond the two words. But in this case I haven’t found the right adjective yet. Damn, I really want some tea.) So, not hopeful kitchen, not unexpected kitchen, not expected kitchen. Hoped-for kitchen? Not unique in any way, but perhaps the phrase that best captures the situation. The HFK. (Now that sounds like an acronym for the secret police).

But here are my moments of yea (so far):

- Walking into my room for the first time and discovering that it was warm

- Seeing the washing machine in the hallway & the drying rack in my room

- Finally finding the beans in the supermarket (I had looked in three supermarkets had hadn’t seen any. When I found tahini in one place, though, I figured there had to be beans. Just a matter of not giving up.)

- Big one: seeing a person at the airport with my name on a sign. I had been told that someone would be there, but, I’ll admit, I had my doubts.

Things that intimidate or concern me:

- Not having a stove or sink

- Having to buy meat from someone standing behind a counter. I don’t even do this is the States because I can’t identify the parts of some animal. Now I have to do it in Russian? (See why I was so intent on finding beans?) The yea part of all this is that at least I probably won’t have to learn the words for the parts of a pig (muslim country, you know). On the other hand, there’s that whole mutton thing to deal with.

- Will I get lonely? I spent yesterday by myself, and even that was tough. I’m a loner by nature, but I’ve spent the past couple of years sharing an office with someone and working closely with groups of people. And then there’s the whole living with someone. I was just getting used to that, and I don’t even have a flat mate here.

- No gym and no place to run. This is a big one. I need physical activity for my sanity. For now I’ll just have to slap on the Yak Trax and try to walk quickly through the city. But this one does concern me.

- The older I get, the more spoiled I get about food. Unfortunately, I’ve finally made the link between what I eat and how I feel. This has led to me becoming extremely picky about what I eat. Less salt, less sugar, more whole grains, lean meat, lots of veggies… Yeah, I’m going to have a problem with this one.


The thing about moving to a foreign country, at least for me, is that the highs are higher and the lows are lower. Right now, the ultimate high: I have tea.

My search for tea in various countries could form the basis of a travelogue, if I ever wanted to go in that direction.


I’m trying on-so-hard to not be disappointed. Thinking about the concept of heaven or any type of afterlife, really. It’s easy to bear a great number of difficulties if you fully believe that at any moment, things will improve. I was willing to bear the temporary situation of not having a kitchen or a sink because, in my mind, I had created an imaginary kitchen with not just a sink and a stove, but an oven as well. (And some additional outlets).

Alas, it was not to be. My kitchen, so to speak, is a hot plate in my room. Same outlet that the television, fan, laptop, blow-dryer, and reading lamp will all be using. My sink will remain the tub. So much for the container of baking powder I brought with me. Seven months of stir-frys and a room that will soon smell of cooking oil.

Oh, and the washing machine doesn’t work.

And so I will cope with this the same way I cope with everything. I will feel sorry for myself for about five minutes, and then I will begin the process of adjusting to my new reality. I will go to the store and buy some cooking oil and beans, I will start soaking the beans, and tomorrow for dinner I will have a nice veggie and bean soup. And now, when I wake up in the middle of the night, I will be able to make myself a nice cup of tea.

I had been wondering why this was considered a difficult gig—a hardship gig, almost. Now I see why. For me (of all people!) to not have a working kitchen… well, that’s a bit rough. I will openly and freely admit to having become spoiled on the kitchen front.

BUT – here I am. And I’m starting to think that it doesn’t really matter if I can’t identify the meat I’m buying since it’s all going to go into a pot of soup anyway.

: )


Not to brag or toot my own horn or anything like that, but I must say, I’m quite impressed with my (nearly) indomitable spirit. Nine hours have passed since the hot plate incident and since then I’ve built a functioning kitchen and worked out a routine. First, I moved the television away from the one working outlet and placed the hotplace on the TV stand. I then moved the cabinet with the cooking utensils next to it. I went to the grocery store and picked up soap and a sponge, some oil, some spices (oddly enough, I was totally unable to find salt. Go freakin’ figure), some beans, some tea (Hurray for loose leaf Lipton Yellow Label!), some onions, some leeks, some carrots, some cauliflower, and a couple of plastic containers. The plan: make soup for dinner.

When I got home, I washed all the dishes in the tub and set them on my windowsill to dry. (When I say all the dishes, what I mean is the one plate, the one bowl, the one pot, the one skillet, and the three knives…).

Boiled a couple of eggs and destroyed the pot. Who the hell puts plastic on a container intended for cooking. Ok, I admit, destroyed is putting it a bit strongly. How about “made it very difficult to actually handle the pot when it is hot”? But lunch consisted of bread, cheese, and apple, and a boiled egg. Yummy.

Got my teaching schedule: six straight hours of teaching, four different levels. Prep is going to suck, but I’m kinda looking forward to it. It will be a welcome relief after… well, you know. I get so, so nervous when I have to start teaching, but let’s face it—I like to be in charge. I don’t know what I need to be front and center, all eyes one me. I’d much prefer to play the role of puppeteer. But, in a pinch… well, I’ll take what I can get.

Oh, and I get to write my own tests and come up with my own grading system (based, of course, on speaking, listening, reading, and writing). Should be fun.

Tomorrow’s projects: start prepping my classes, find a place to run, visit a yoga center, meet the director of the school, find salt, find a broom.

Other things I’ve managed to accomplish:

- putting up an extra sheet for use as a shower curtain. Yeah, it gets wet, but it’s so thin that it dried super-quickly. AND it gives me a bathroom “towel” to dry my hands on.

- Determined that there really is nothing worth seeing several blocks East, West, and South of me. But the mountains are South. And as soon as it gets warm enough…

- Bought a power strip that doesn’t work.

- Bought a phone card. Oh, reminds me—I need to charge my phone tonight. Hm, charge the phone or the computer. Toughie.


January 3, 2012

Made it to Bishkek. Let me just say—it’s so, so, so nice to have someone pick you up from the airport. After a 24-hour travel experience, the absolute last thing you want to have to do is deal with the taxi drivers crowding around the doors of an airport. I would say that I’m never going to take another job where someone isn’t there to pick me up, but I know myself too well. After all, whatever happened to “I’ll never start a job where I have to move to a cold, Slavic, northern country in the middle of winter”? Yeah. See what I mean?

So now I’m in my room. Just got back from the supermarket. It’s half a block away from me—amazing. Pickings are slim (even with my nonexistent knowledge of either Russian or Kyrgyz, even I was able to discern a paucity of edible items—the store mainly consisting of aisles of Tupperware, dishes, laundry detergent, and soap (and entire aisle of soap, as a matter of fact). But I was able to pick up breakfast (and a couple of bananas, of all things) and toilet paper. So, I’m back in my room, noshing and typing.

But no tea. And therein lies my biggest concern to date. I have a room, a toilet, a bathtub, a refridgerator, and a small accumulation of pots and dishes. But no sink, no oven—in other words, no way to cook food or even boil water. This, in my opinion, is a problem. When I oh-so-delicately pointed out my situation to the academic manager who had come to pick me up from the airport, she seemed quite surprised, and thought that there was another room that may or may not have a stove in it. (Oddly enough, the missing sink didn’t register with me until after she had left. But as I have a working tub, it’s not an immediate concern of mine.) As for the potential stove, she promised she’d call and ask someone who may or may not be able to look for it today. And she left.

And then it came time to plug my laptop in and try the wi-fi access. (Yes, I know, the problems of the privileged). I looked at the walls of my room, searching for an outlet. I found one, right by the window. And… that was it. Just the one. Not even a double outlet, just a place for me to plug in one thing at a time. But what concerns me even more is what I noticed when I started looking at it a bit more closely. Turns out there’s a wire leading from the outlet to the window—and out of the window. Yes, ladies and gentlemen. My room does not actually have electricity. I have two wires, with electricity, leading into my room. One is connected to this outlet, apparently tacked to the wall but not connected to anything in the wall. The other wire? Just sort of hanging out, little pieces of metal wire coming out of the end.

Worst of all, the other new teacher who arrived on the same flight from Moscow was teaching in Libya before this, so I dare not complain about anything. ; )

My roommate in the Czech Republic, when asked what impressed her most about the Czechs, replied that it was their ability to shower without a shower curtain and not get water anywhere. I don’t have matching skills, so I’m expecting that my shower will create a bit of a mess.

Did I mention that there’s a 16 kg kettle ball in my room? It’s next to the small-ish pile of dishes.


January 2, 2012

My first impression of the airport at Moscow—this up disembarking from the plane—was that it smelled like stale cigarettes. Not unexpectedly, by the way. I was more surprised that the smell was not stronger.

Hm. For some reason, my computer keeps changing my font size, type, and color without any input from me. It also keeps changing the location of my cursor. I’ll be in the middle of typing a word and the cursor will more about half a sentence back, meaning that the rest of the word I was in the process of typing is now in the middle of a word I completed seconds before. And I feel like my computer keeps trying to change the format or style or something of this document. There is a blue line that keeps appearing in different locations. Damn machine.

Damn, I’m tired and fuzzy. Difficult to write anything substantial or interesting or intelligent when all one is inclined to do is stare at the glare of the lights on the terminal floor. Shiny floor. Nice.

Flight leaves at 10:55. It is now 7:35. And I’m tired of my cursor moving. Time for a nap, I think…