Friday, November 17, 2006

B Mockbe

Or, 'In Moscow' for those illiterati who don't know Russian...

So far I haven't had a chance to see any of the sights, really, although the Kremlin is right next to the metro station where we get off to go to the central school office, so I've seen it a few times in the distance now.

On Wednesday Melani (which, I've discovered, is how you spell her name...) and I walked down Novy Arbat Street, which is the big, glitzy shopping street of Moscow (fancier than Wenceslas Square, but the same idea. Melani said it reminded her of Vegas, I was thinking Leceister [sp?] Square, or maybe I mean Piccadilly, whatever's all lit up... For the Auckland crew, it's something like Queen Street [laughs hollowly]...) Anyhoo, it's an audio-visual treat. Yes, audio as well, with music blaring out from the restaurants/casinos. When we first walked past, it was playing 'Rasputin' by Boney M. The new Russia, indeed!

Walking around somewhere like that, you forget the problems of Russia. Sure, there's homeless people (and homeless dogs) in the metro, but that's common to any big city. On the metro today, however, a guy with no legs got on, and instead of a wheelchair, he had a little cart right low down to the ground, and he was holding these little block of wood thingies with handles, to push himself around. Well, maybe that's a lifestyle choice, but to me, suddenly Russia seemed very third world.

A word or two about the metro is in order here. We've been to one or two of the beautiful metro stations you see in guidebooks and so on - chandeliers, mosaics (very Soviet mosaics, at that). But woe betide you if you stop to have a look! Especially in morning rush hour (of which we've caught the tail end the past few days) the metro is beyond crowded. It's actually not too bad on the trains themselves - they come every couple of minutes and ease the congestion, and since we're at the end of the line, people tend to let a half-full train go in order to be at the front of the pack and grab a seat on the next one out. No running to catch the metro in Moscow! What's bad is exiting and entering the metro system. Coming through the doors, through the electronic gates and down the stairs/escalators in the mornings, you could just about pick up your feet and let the crowd take you where it will. People in Russia aren't shy about elbowing, pushing, or standing with their entire body pressed against you. It's not the pleasantest of experiences (note improper superlative formation), but one I suppose I'll have to get used to.

Yesterday in orientation, we had a fun little chat about 'cultural differences' in Russia. Topics included the need to get used to Russians spitting all over the show (although this seems to me to be a Europe-wide phenomenon), the fact that Russians habitually hang up the phone without saying goodbye - don't take it personally, and my particular favourite, a wee seminar on the going rate for bribing the cops (sample bribe - drinking on the metro: 200 rubles). We were advised to ignore the cops as much as possible - don't by any means seek their assistance for such things as directions, you're just asking for a 'passport check', and if they find an extra drop of ink or something on your visa, you'll get fined. They told a humorous little tale of a teacher who got robbed on the metro, a Russian pressed the call button for the police then left, and since the teacher didn't speak enough Russian to explain what had happened, he got arrested for wasting police time ahahahahahaha. Then one of our fellow inductees shared the fact that someone had waved a craft knife at him in the metro the other day. Nice! The advice for what to do if you don't feel safe on the metro? Find a babushka to hang out with. Apparently Russian grandmothers are feared by all. I actually got yelled at one yesterday - "What are you doing, young lady!?" - because I brushed against her flowers with my bag. It had the contrary effect on me, however, because I was just pleased with myself that I knew what she was saying.

Don't know if I'm any more prepared for teaching today than I was yesterday. It
wasn't an especially arduous day, but I was out of the house for some 13 hours, which is probably something I'll need to get used to in the TEFL game, judging by the lifestyles of some of my Prague buddies... Orientation wound up being a bit rushed as they were informed that the power was to be shut off at 4 pm - which they claim isn't a typical event... but who knows? Anyway, there's one more day of it today, in which hopefully we get our timetables and find out what/who/where we're teaching, which is a bit nerve-racking, but at least it will be good to know.

PS My new credit card turned up, woohoo!!!


  1. Watch out you don't go 'crowd surfing' by accident!

    1. Just seen the Moscow Tube traffic jam on YouTube - very scarey. Now I see what you meant.
      Please look after yourself.
      Mum xxx

  2. Hasn't been that bad - not that I've seen at least.
    However, the lack of pushing and shoving makes me think maybe that's not Moscow!


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