Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A Day In The Life

Last night I set my alarm, which is also my cell phone, for 8 am, and then I curled up in my sofa bed with the book "Alexander II" by Edvard Radzinsky and read for half an hour or so before falling asleep (I always read when I go to bed).

My alarm went off at 8 and I hit "snooze". It went off at 8:04 and I hit "snooze" again. This continued until 9 am when I finally got up. If I had simply set it for 9 I would hit "snooze" for an hour and end up late for work. It's always better to set the alarm for a time earlier than you need.

After a shower, a cup of instant coffee (I don't own an actual coffee maker) with whitener, a smoke and a scan of the headlines on Yahoo! Canada news, I walked 1/4 of the way to work. It was -20 C and, despite fleece-lined pants, a hardy Ottawa-winter-worthy coat, scarf, hat and gloves, I said "Fuck this" and hopped on a marshrutka mini-bus, which deposited me in front of my work.

My DOS, Ms. Tennessee, had gone home to America for the holidays and many of us have had to cover her classes. Because I don't really give a damn whether I teach her 10-year old starters any English or not, I decided that the next two weeks would be movie time! I watched "Elf" and "Home Alone" with her classes, and then, because it's the Christmas season (even if Russia doesn't celebrate Christmas...a left-over from the atheistic Soviet era) I decided to watch "Elf" and "Home Alone" with my classes, too!

After work, around 8 pm, I stepped outside under a dark star-filled sky for a cigarette and thought "Fuck this!" The temperature had dropped to a biting -25 C. I called up Quagmire, who lives 2 minutes from our school, and told him I was coming up. "Come on over." He said.

Ms. Australia arrived a few minutes after me, and, because I had my Dell laptop loaded up with movies I've downloaded, we watched "A Christmas Story" while Quagmire made dinner. He's a superb cook and whipped up a sauteed chicken breast-mashed potato-diced vegetable feast. Then Wonderpants arrived. We called up Mr. Irish and invited him over. With his arrival every teacher in Mytischi was under one roof, and a simply fire would have taken out the entire Mytischi operation.

With all the English teachers at the kitchen table we watched "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation" on my laptop. When it had finished Mr. Irish and I bundled up in scarves, coats, hats, etc and said our goodbyes.

Then we went outside and hailed a gypsy cab. A young guy in a rusty Lada pulled up, his girlfriend in the passenger seat, and asked where we wanted to go and for how much. "150" Mr. Irish told him and the guy said "Get in". The interior of a Lada looks pretty much the same as the exterior; small, boxy and utilitarian. With a grinding, sputtering engine he drove us down Novamytischinskiy Prospekt, past snow-covered buildings touting clothing, alcohol, stationary, food and dancing. We zipped through intersections where other Ladas, mixed with BMWs, Lexus', Toyotas, Citroens and Fords waited. Pedestrians buddled up like the sand people from Star Wars hobbled along the sidewalks. Finally we reached our building, I paid 100 and Mr. Irish paid 50, we said "Spaseeba" and "Das Vidanya" to the driver and his girlfriend, and went inside.

This seems to be a fairly typical day in my winter life in Russia. Then, after writing this entry, I'll set my alarm (which is also my cell phone) for 8 am and curl up in bed with "Alexander II".

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