Well, here we are, the 1st of October already. Perhaps "already" isn't quite the word that I'm looking for. Time has actually been going by pretty slowly. However, I have the sneaky suspicion that things are about to start going considerably faster. I'm just finishing up my 3rd week here in Tolyatti, and I'm starting to feel relatively settled. I looked at my first apartment on Wednesday, but I'm not especially excited about that one, so I'll hope that there are better apartments available. I am, however, excited about having a place of my own. When you're in a foreign country especially you need something of your own. Some little corner that you can claim for America...or at least pay to borrow for America. I have my rooms at the dorm, but it's still not quite "mine." One of the things that I'm going to miss the most and be the most thankful for is not being quite so easily accessible to people.

One of the biggest annoyances to me right now is having to switch back and forth between languages all the time. When I'm in class (logically) I speak English. A lot. This means that anytime anyone at the university tries to speak to me in Russian my reflexes and comprehension are pretty slow since my mind is set to English mode. Then in the evenings at the dorm I speak Russian with my friends. After I've had a few minutes to get readjusted I do just fine...but until that point it's pretty bad. I stumble, I'm slow, and of course I have an awful accent. I've never really thought that I had that bad of an accent, but I guess I'm usually around Russians who are more used to foreigners. They say it's "interesting," but all the same I'd like to try to minimize it. I haven't gotten a straight answer about if it's a pleasant accent or not...so I'd guess it probably isn't. Russian accents aren't usually considered particularly musical in English either though, so I guess it wouldn't be fair if American accents sounded great in Russian.

Next week I have orientation in Moscow, which should be much more enjoyable than the orientation that I had in July. First of all, I actually want to go and I won't mind being away from Tolyatti nearly as much as I minded being away from Middlebury, and second of all....well..that's probably about it, actually. I doubt that it will be the most exciting thing that I've ever done in my lifetime, or even this month, but it's a vacation from work and I'll get to see some friends. I'll also get to eat well...which I hate to admit I have not been doing lately. I promise I'll do better when I get my own kitchen! Also, my tolerance for sandwiches will probably run out fairly soon.

I'm starting to get the hang of this whole presentation/public speaking stuff. That's pretty much what I do. I don't really do any "teaching" at all because I don't see the same students very often. I have 2 groups that I see every week, but the remaining 7 groups or so I probably see every 3 weeks. Actually, aside from the regular groups I haven't seen any of the groups more than once. This is both good and bad. It's good because it means that I can recycle presentations now and then, but bad because sometimes it doesn't seem right to just jump into a topic without working up to it. I'm also starting to get really good at just talking a lot. It seems to me that the usual strategy is to just put me in a room with students and make me stay there for 1.5 hours. What I do during that time is up to me. Very often there are far too many people to interact with individually, so I just have to talk and ask questions every now and then. My favorites are the smaller advanced groups because we can actually do stuff. Very often this involves me drawing things on the white board (my method of choice). It amuses me, and generally them as well, so we all win. Bigger beginner groups usually just get power point...which isn't as interesting for any of us. The only plus is that it involves pictures.

Today was kind of odd though. I was told to only prepare something that would take up 20-30 minutes. It was the first time when the teacher actually had their own lessons plans, and I actually felt a little rushed. Generally I spend a lot of time stalling and trying to speak slowly and ask questions to take up time. Today I just went in, talked about some stuff, and left...and now I'm sitting bored in the teacher's lounge. I actually would have liked to have stayed and talked longer with this group because they seemed cool, but the teacher was watching his watch pretty closely, so I made a speedy exit. I would have particularly liked to have talked to one girl more...she spent the summer in Seward, Alaska. Seward! How random is that? Unfortunately, she did not know the Chases...but still, Seward is pretty awesome. I wanted to ask her what she thought of it.

The weather is starting to get colder, which annoys me. Let me set the record straight again: just because I'm from Alaska and I like Russia does NOT mean that I like the cold. I actually hate it. I just know what I have to do to endure it (which is maybe why I hate it?). My room in the dorm is always really cold too..which makes me glad that I won't be there during the winter (although I've been told that once they turn the heat on it will be really hot..typical dorm). After the unbearable heat this summer I thought it would take a long time before I complained about a room being cold again. Well, the current cold is far less miserable than when I had to sleep with no blankets, minimal clothing, and a fan pointed at my face...but it still makes me pouty when I have to get out of my warm bed in the mornings. My feet get cold!

Besides this not a whole lot has been going on. It's a pretty quiet town. Next week I should start taking Russian lessons. The grant says that I have to have 10 private tutoring hours or 20 hours of group lessons...and I am choosing the 10 hours. Where I will fit them all I don't really know, but I will certainly be busy. It's also hard because my schedule changes at random every week..so finding 10 hours when I'm never in class might be a challenge. I'm excited about continuing with Russian though!

No pictures yet, but that's the internet's fault. It really is bad. It does alright for checking e-mail, and it's a million times better than no internet at all...but anyone who has tried to have a regular conversation with me in the last few weeks knows that it is extremely flaky and volatile. It likes to play mind games too. Sneaky, sneaky internet. I have plans to replace it after I get back from Moscow though. The guys down the hall (who have great internet) have already agreed to help me. Can't wait!


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