There’s a cafe here called “Tovarishch,” or in English, the Comrade Cafe. It’s thrilling.
 
Last night, we finally figured out how to do laundry. The matron/reception person, a overwhelmingly friendly woman named Elena, came to our door at one point to tell me thta the machine wasn’t running. I’m pretty sure that the machine was just finished by then, but she was convinced that we’d done something wrong, and she was only too eager to help us. So she starts flagging down students that are passing through and calling students on her cell phone (phone culture is very different here; I understand it hardly at all and like it even less), asking them to “help the Americans.” As if in America, we all live in two-story houses with swimming pools and no washing machines because someone else does our laundry for us. Great. Anyway, a couple of people finally “helped” us, and then one of them, Katja (I swear, you’d think there were no other name), showed us around the dorm. There’s a piano! So Nathan got his jazz on while I went visiting around the dorm. I can now say that based on my 1 encounter with a Russian dorm room, they’re exactly like ours. Katja and her friend (also, incidentally, named Katja) share a room. There are bunk beds, 2 desks, a closet, a hall bathroom, and typical dorm decorations: posters, curtains, etc. 
 
I woke up this morning to find that Elena had hung our laundry for us because the machine finally finished in the middle of the night. I apologized as well as my Russian would allow, and have made a note to bring her flowers. 
 

I was greeted at 8:30 this morning by Tatjana, who was doing a surprise observation in my FIRST EVER CLASS. I had kind of hoped to have some time to get the ground back under my feet before I started being assessed. No such luck. It was a fourth-year class in academic writing, and we talked about perceptions of time and lateness in America. Although half the class didn’t show (I think due to a traffic jam), we had a pretty good discussion. My style is very informal (though my syllabus is not) and democratic, which I think they were surprised but also pleased by. 

 
The second class was a three-hour class for first-years. We were told time and again at Fulbright training to be flexible. People are so excited to have a Real Live American that they forget to ask us before scheduling our classes, give us instructions about curriculum, give us roll sheets (it’s very hard to take attendance when half your students have the same first name), or let us know about special circumstances. I was told only that I would be meeting with the first years, who were discussing family. And that this class would be followed by a first-year elective class. Was I going to be the primary teacher? The only teacher? Were the kids in the first class going to be the same as those in the elective class? How many students? Should I assign homework? Should we talk about family the whole time? Do you want social problems and trends regarding family, or basic information, or stories about family traditions? I knew none of these things, and therefore spent like 5 hours planning a lesson that included all of them. It went ok, I guess. My jumping-off point was this (http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/166/nobodys-family-is-going-to-change) episode of “This American Life.” THe kids didn’t really get it. Also, I was misinformed re:the number of copies I should have, and my printer was broken this morning, so we had a small handout fiasco. Onwards and upwards.
 
Except not really. We had a question-and-answer session with the first-years, in which I was grilled on border issues with Mexico. Yeah, I was definitely prepared for that.
 
I invented a lunch this morning that was nutritious, but tasted like Lay’s French Onion chips. Achievement unlocked. 
 
Nathan has two tentative job offers at English schools! 
 
It’s almost the weekend, when we will have time to finally furnish our stupid apartment! No pictures, because our possessions still live on the floor.
 
Also, I got my cell phone to work finally, so if you want the number, let me know!
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