Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Monday, September 21, 2009

Signing Out

I'll be in Budapest till Saturday.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Another Reason Why I Love My School

Me talking to my boss today: Hey, Tammy, was I supposed to go to Budapest next week?
My boss, Tammy: Oh yeah, I need to talk to you about that. Here's your schedule. I'll get you your tickets tomorrow.

Turns out I'm chaperoning our participants in an ACSI student leadership conference in Hungary. Now, I know what some of you are thinking: Joel, you would be my LAST choice to chaperone students on an international trip on planes, trains, and automobiles. And you are right. I was last choice. But I'm also the only choice (way to go multiple-entry Russian work visa!). My job of chaperoning is going to be cake, as I'm chaperoning the three best kids in the school. These kids speak multiple languages and play multiple instruments; one was last year's basketball team's leading scorer and another scored the highest possible score one can get on the ACT (I know this because I am the school's ACT supervisor). Oh yeah, and I get to take a week off of school to go relax and hang out in an EU country.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

This is St. Petersburg

I went to another Zenit game. It was a good time. As I walked up to the stadium with my friend we saw one fan up on the roof of an apartment building he then proceeded to "hang" in effigy a member of the opposing teams and unfurled a huge banner saying "Dreams can come true." We were searched a few times as we entered (I was patted down a total of 3 times). Zenit ended up scoring right before the half and the stadium went crazy, with the guy in front of me grabbing me by my jacket and jumping up and down. Zenit scored one more time in the second half. The day got even better as I learned a new bad word in Russian. As we were exiting the stadium one fan, parodying the popular chant "Vperyod za Piter" (Forward for St. Pete!), began to shout "Vperyod za pivom!" (Forward for beer!), and, since alcohol is banned in the stadium, many joined in with him. One of the reason alcohol is banned in the stadium is to prevent crowd trouble. I did notice several Zenit fans at the other end of the stadium tearing up chairs out of their section and throwing them at the riot police guarding their section; I guess the alcohol ban just makes them angry.

Friday, September 4, 2009

New Digs

This year I'm in a new apartment. It's really a pretty nice place and I even moved a little closer to the school (it's about a 30 minute bus ride from my apartment). I like my new place, but there's just some strange things along with it:

1. Weird Junk
Most of the apartments that foreigners rent here come somewhat furnished already which is great, but what this also means is that you will have, literally, piles of weird junk that has accumulated from the last 10 occupants. In my apartment, we are packed to the gills with weird Russian junk. Below is a picture of doll collection and odd/unusable/commemorative crockery that occupies our foyer/hallway. There's also a large collection of Russian books that belong to the landlord. So, you never know what is junk left by the previous occupant and what is actually being stored there for when they come back.

2. Laundry (Pt. 1)
Below is a picture of my dryer. We were not fortunate enough to get a dryer in this apartment. But considering how our last dryer was deafeningly loud and actually made everything MORE wrinkly, I'm not complaining all the much.

3. Laundry (Pt. 2)
This is our bathroom. That hose you see coming from our washing machine empties into the tub. This can be weird if you are showering while doing a load of laundry. I'm sure there are people that do this in US, but I've never seen it. It's fairly common here, as most apartments were built without washers in mind; that's only for lazy Westerners.

3. WC
This is our toilet (which is in a separate room from the bathroom). The seat does not go up. It's not a huge problem, but it's just one more thing that I've noticed on several occasions here. The nice thing is that the previous occupants decorated our water closet up a bit.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Inner, Inner City, Inner City Pressure

The second day I got back, I went with my roommate and some of his friends and old students downtown to go hang out. One of the students, Alex, I had met before. I remember him because he was this tall, skinny goth kid with long hair that was wearing leather pants. He's kind of an odd duck. Anyway, we were walking and we heard some music and saw a crowd of people. Oh, it sounds like hip-hop, he said to me. I asked him if he was going to show me some dance moves. He said he might, as he had been studying hip-hop dancing for a while now. I thought it was a joke...

We walked down to the crowd and it was a promotion for Puma and they were inviting people to sign up to participate in dance battles. The group convinced Alex to sign up. He signed up. This is when I realized that he really had been studying hip-hop dancing. He got his chance to dance and proceeded to fling his freakishly long arms and legs at a high rate of speed (presumably to impress the audience). We stayed and watched for a bit and saw some pretty talented amateurs. But then the dance crew rolled up (see picture above). They were fantastic but it's hard to take Slavs break dancing seriously (especially when they're doing their poses and flashing their signs). Bizarre.

Speaking of urban promotions, at the supermarket I go to (Ideya) they always have these weird things going on. You know how in the US beer advertisements usually aren't aiming for "classy"? The same is true here. I walked in to my Ideya and there is this girl standing just inside the door in a skimpy soccer uniform. Her job was to recite a spiel about this beer every time a male customer walked in. You just can't get away with stuff like that in America (and probably quite rightly).


Well, I'm back in St. Petersburg. It's nice to be back and settled in somewhere. I got back on Friday and started work on Monday. I'm really looking forward to this school year for a few reasons. First, there's the new school building that we signed a five year lease on. It's a great building; it used to be an Estonian Orthodox Church built for the merchant families of the Baltic countries who lived in that part of the city (which is near the port), and St. John of Kronstadt was there to dedicate it at it's opening. So, it's now returned to it's original purpose of ministering to foreigners living in St. Petersburg. Also, the school has a great faculty this year. There's always a lot of changes, but this year it happened to work out pretty well in that we've had more comings than goings.

But we've also had a bit of sad week. One of our Korean students drowned in the Neva River last Monday. He was supposed to be one of our 11th graders; the kids have been great, though. Many of them went with the family to the airport as they went back to Korea, and two of the students organized a memorial that the whole International Academy community ended up attending. I'm continually impressed with the students I have here and I recognize how blessed I am by them.