Sunday, October 27, 2013

Workplace Relationships

Here's a list of things that you probably shouldn't do with your coworkers or higher-ups in American culture.
  • Have a romantic relationship
  • Cohabitate temporarily with the Director of Studies (the academic supervisor)
  • Go to a restaurant / bar / dance club and drink with your coworkers and Director of Studies
  • Drink when the Director (the big boss) doesn't
  • Smoke shisha with the Director and the Administrative Manager
  • Watch belly dancers with the Director, Director of Studies, and Administrative Manager
  • Listen to sexually explicit music with the Director, Director of Studies, and Administrative Manager

I'm married to a coworker. Patrick and I let our Director of Studies stay with us for a few days. It was sort of weird to be in my pajamas and such around her. Our first weekend, we went to a restaurant / bar / dance club with fog machines called Petrovich, where I split a bottle of wine with a coworker although I did decline to dance and to try the local spirit that my coworkers were mixing with red wine. Last weekend, the Director took me, Patrick, the Director of Studies, and the Administrative Manager on an excursion to Pyatigorsk. While we were there we did the last four bullets on the list, and let me tell you, it's really awkward to watch belly dancers with your higher-ups. I want to look to show them that I'm interested in the performance and that I appreciate it, but at the same time, it's a little uncomfortable. Regarding the music, the Director didn't realize that it was explicit. I mean, can you imagine trying to understand rap in another language?

Other interesting differences are that I'm paid in cash and that I'm considered a very positive person in the office. Maybe all of that positive framing while I worked at Citizen Schools did make me more positive. Who knows? Also, family members of the Director and my coworkers often swing by the office with food or milk. They sometimes bring their children to the cramped teachers' room--much to my delight.

With all that being said, I really enjoyed the outings and I definitely like my coworkers and higher-ups. Workplace relationships outside the office are just a bit different here, and it'll be interesting to navigate all sorts of interactions.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013


It's (nearly) official. Pending the successful completion of our CELTA certification course with Teaching House on August 16, Patrick and I will be English Foreign Language Teachers in Russia! I am so relieved to have jobs lined up. The entire job search was far less stressful and far shorter than I had envisioned it would be. We applied jointly to a total of nineteen companies in Russia, had four interviews each, received two job offers (with two more likely on the way), and accepted one all within three weeks.

Our placement is Stavropol, a regional capital in the North Caucasus. You won't find information on this city in your Lonely Planet guidebook, and its Wikipedia page is pretty skimpy. There is some information on the city's official website and here. Anyway, here are some of the basics.

  • Population: 400,000
  • Founded in 1777 as a fortress
  • Industry: Machinery, food processing, pharmaceuticals, construction materials
  • Climate: Short, cold winters and hot summers; little precipitation
I expect many of my relatives to ask, "Is it safe there?" Well, I expect it's about as safe as any American city. I do, however, anticipate some ethnic tension. Politically speaking, Stavropol Krai, the Republic of Dagestan, the Republic of Ingushetia, the Kabardino-Balkar Republic, the Karachay-Cherkess Republic, the Republic of North Ossetia-Alania, and the Chechen Republic constitute the North Caucasian Federal District. About 30% of the district's population is ethnically Russian and most ethnic Russians live in Stavropol Krai. People who are ethnically North Caucasian are not well liked by ethnic Russians. Rather than go into the history of that here, I'll direct you to a few articles.

Frontline between Stavropol and the North Caucasus
Hijab ban

One thing that I really like about Stavropol is how green it is. If you look on Google Maps, you can see how many trees there are. From what I've been able to find, Stavropol has lovely parks, lots of trees, and beautiful flower gardens. There also appear to be lots of small houses. Another draw is that Patrick and I will be able to visit Georgia after our nine-month contract is up. Going through Abkhazia is risky and the Sochi-Batumi ferry is only for CIS citizens, so we'll go Sochi-Trabzon-Batumi.

I've yet to set foot in Russia, but I'm intrigued by Stavropol and excited to arrive in September.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Looking Back, Forging Ahead

A year and two months ago, on the eve of my journey to Georgia, I was somewhat resigned to the fact that my experience there would be my last opportunity to live abroad. Being a ducks-in-a-row kind of gal, I was quite certain of my life trajectory until July of 2014, and after that, I had a fairly concrete plan of what would happen next. When I returned from Georgia, I would be with Citizen Schools in New Bedford for two years, and during that time, I expected to move in with my boyfriend and his family, to get engaged, and to marry. After completing my AmeriCorps service, I would go to graduate school or go back for a second undergraduate degree, graduate, and begin my career.

Well, that's not exactly how things turned out. I did get engaged in July and married in November, but not to that boyfriend. I was lucky enough to meet my other half and life partner, Patrick, in Georgia. To clarify for those of you that are doing the math, yes, I was engaged to a man that I had known for four months, and we married after knowing each other for ten months. Honestly, I couldn't be happier or feel better about our decision, but I could have never forseen this.

Because I am married to Patrick, I know that I will live abroad again. Our interest in different cultures and languages is what got us out of North America and brought us together in the first place. So, Georgia wasn't my last hurrah, but rather the beginning of a new, more adventurous chapter in my life. Due to some changes at work, which are still under wraps, I will be leaving Citizen Schools on positive terms at the end of June. This means that instead of waiting until 2014 to go abroad, Patrick and I will be teaching English abroad, hopefully in Russia, this fall. That's about five months away.

These days, I'm counting down to the end of a few parts of my life and the beginning of others.
6 program days until the on-campus WOW!
8 program days until the Mock Trials WOW!
19 program days remaining
9 weeks of work remaining (one of which is a vacation week)
9 weeks until Patrick and I are together and ideally done with being in a long-distance marriage
12 weeks until our CELTA certification class begins at Teaching House Boston

Truthfully, as soon as the after-school program is over, I know I'll feel alive again. Until then, I'll be counting down the days and hours until the daily grind is over and real life begins again.