I have no idea what this guy's actual job is. He works (I think) as some sort of administrator in the Lingva (international language) department, which is the department through which I give all of my presentations to the English-learning students on Wed-Fri nights. His desk is in the main office, where there is a second desk for other professors stopping in to use the computer, a large table on which sit many books of language instruction, a REALLY nice flat-screen TV (no idea why it's there seeing as the department doesn't even have projectors or computers that were made after 1995), and several electric tea kettles and a cupboard full of dozens of teacups, tea, coffee, and cookies.
I go to this office to rest between lectures, and he always welcomes me with open arms. He does not speak a word of English, but speaks very slow Russian for me. He sits me down, makes me a cup of tea, and sometimes gives me an entire unopened box of moon-pies to take home for snacking on. When I asked him where the bathroom was (after my fourth cup of tea the other night), he insisted on taking me by the arm and walking me through the maze of hallways about 200 yards away to point it out to me.
There are also always students in the office chatting with him, drinking tea, eating cookies, or watching tv. The students generally know who I am and they also stop and speak with me--some in Russian, some in English. I really like the atmosphere in the office, and I really like kind ol' Vladimir Ilyich.
2. Anna Voronina.
Anna is one of the professors that I teach in the intermediate group. She is in the economics department and works specifically on agricultural economic forecasting. She is probably about 35 years old and actually knows a good deal of English (maybe she should be in the advanced group). In class, she sometimes give me looks like: "I already know all of this..." and "This seems dumb." She is almost always the first one to answer my questions (even if they are not posed to her), although when she does answer them, her grammar is often far from correct...so I'm keeping her in the intermediate class.
Last night's class got to be visibly challenging for me at one point because one of the professors was being very difficult and others did not seem to understand what I spent the previous hour talking about even though they did not ask any questions when I asked if everything was clear.
After class, Anna came up to me completely on her own volition and asked if she could speak to me for a minute. She looked very serious, as she normally does, and I was expecting her to ask to be moved to the advanced class or to tell me to do things differently (and to be honest, I would not have been surprised if either of these was the case, and I would have even welcomed suggestions).
However, Anna wanted to sympathize with me. She wanted to give me words of encouragement. She said that I was doing a great job, and that she and everyone else in the class understand how difficult it is to teach for the first time. She even said that she could only imagine how hard it was working with people so much older than I. She told me not to pay attention to the fact that many of them talk amongst themselves in Russian during the class---that it is simply them trying to explain to one another the concepts I am covering. She assured me that I was making things interesting and they were not bored. She even said it was a relief for all of them to be able to 'switch places' for 6 hours a week and sit and listen to lectures rather than deliver them.
THEN, she invited me to join her and her family whenever I wanted to be shown around Moscow and beyond. She said that she knows it must be hard in a new country, and that if I ever needed anything or wanted to go on an excursion with her family, I could simply ask. So ask I shall.
3. Dmitry and Timur.
Dmitry and Timur re two second-year Lingva students that I give presentations to on Thursday nights. Last night, after what I felt was a disastrous class with the economics professors and after a cup of tea and two moon-pies with Vladimir Ilyich, I went to give a presentation on the American South to this group of students. It was a KILLER presentation. They loved it. I loved giving it. STELLAR. I didn't even get home to eat dinner until 10pm.
Afterwards, several students came up to me to thank me for my energy and my presentation. Dmitry, gave me his 'business card' and invited me to visit his home village and his family outside of Moscow. His father is an army translator and his mother is an English teacher. He said we could take a weekend trip to his village to meet his family and we could speak both in English and Russian. He was very excited to have me over. I just don't know when I can manage it. I get so many invitations for weekend trips that all my weekends from now until July will be filled within a couple more weeks...
Then Timur came up to speak with me. I had met Timur the week before, and was immediately struck by his appearance and demeanor. He wears very very very baggy clothing. Jeans that hang well below his backside and massive sweatshirts with 'Air Jordan' logos. I asked him if he plays basketball, and he said "No, but it gives me pleasure to watch it" (I should note here that Russians don't have a colloquial equivalent to 'enjoy'...so their anglicized versions of this phrase sound quite strange). Well, last night Timur had a giant smile on his face after the presentation and wanted to talk to me about music. I had covered rock & roll and its evolution from Elvis to Jimi Hendrix to Aerosmith, etc. and I made a big deal about Woodstock. Timur thought it was awesome. Then, he commented that I sounded sick, and asked me what I was doing to feel better. I said drinking lots of tea with honey, and was really impressed. He explained to me that honey is a part of Russia's tradition, and I had to explain to him that in America it was not taken quite as seriously...it was a real shame to him. Then we talked a bit about the American education system, which he also found fascinating.
Dmitry and Timur and two cool guys.
I got a lot of other invitations from other kind people, including one to a reggae festival (what three girls believed to be the equivalent of Woodstock in Russia). The funny thing was that one of the girls was the same who asked me about 'war reinactors' in the US...she then gave me a 15-minute explanation that she just got into this reinactment gig and has already done 'shows' depicting the 1812 Russian victory over Napoleon at Borodino and then a WWII show where she was the nurse for a mortar team. Interesting, but kind.