Saturday, January 27, 2007

The Irina blog

Got a text message the other day from my friend Irina. She said “Why haven’t you updated your blog? I need something new to read during lunch.” Alright Irina, alright–this one’s for you. I did two entries but haven’t posted them, so after reading this, scroll down to read more. The fact of the matter is that I’ve been a bit lazy as of late. Maybe it’s the dead of winter got me in its spell, wanting to sleep longer than usual, dragging my ass to the pool, but still I get up at 6 and go down to the pool, not wanting to break the routine. Actually I’ve been doing a lot of reading as of late, Truman Capote’s “In Cold Blood” (masterpiece darlings) reminded me of my trip through Kansas last year at this time with my friend Matthew. We did have an option of seeing the Clutter farmstead and visiting Holcombe but I think it was rather off the main road and we opted for the Barbed Wire Museum instead. Had I known what I knew now, we would have been all over Holcombe. Now I’m reading “Answered Prayers” Capote’s last and what a difference. So jaded, trashy and vapid but still his writing style is enjoyable. Last night I was reading some Roald Dahl short stories and thought how nice it was to just lay about and read. I haven’t done that in so long–no need to rush out, no ESL work to do (well this was sort of ESL work–selecting some short stories for reading), just relax and enjoy the book. Guess that’s one of the pluses of freezing cold winters–keeps you inside more.
Here we are at the end of January already and my February calendar is already booked solid with students, workshops and travels. Going to Almaty, the big apple next week and then down to Bishkek (the capital of Kyrgyzstan for you geographically illiterates) for 4-5 days at the end of February. Already there’s behind-the-scene planning by schools, city Dept. of Ed people and who knows else to get me to stay forever. Find the right salary and maybe you got a deal. But really I must get home. The cats, the house, the garden, the business–it all needs me. So hard to put your life and soul into everything, everywhere. It can be such a burden. One must make choices I suppose. Maybe I can come back in September or October to do some staff development for the city, that could be fun. Three months at a time, OK. We’ll see.
My life has always been guided by serendipity so I don’t worry a lot about what will happen next. The road unfurls before and I go with it. Enough of that. Did you chime in to hear the ramblings of a would be philosopher?
The other day I was in the bank and ran into this guy who was at the night club the night of my debut as an exotic dancer. We looked at each other as if there was some recognition, well there was I remember him, but I didn’t stop to say Hi how are you. Wonder if he recognized me with my coat and big fur hat on. Who knows. Speaking of guys, I put my profile on a local gay Internet site to see about meeting some local guys to hang out with. Hold your horses! Don’t freak out!! In modern times, this is how people meet and I’ve been chatting with some nice guys here in Astana (online). I’m not looking for a boyfriend, but just some sane local gays to talk with. Please, all day with women who are more interested in making you their husband than the methodology you are teaching them. A gay man needs a release ya know. I’ve been chatting with this guy Hermann and he gave me his number so we talked a few times and decided to meet up for dinner. He has a boyfriend in another city but just wants to hang out and practice his English, which is fine by me. He’s a nice guy, intelligent, financially stable, good English, my age–someone to pal around with and talk about other things other than ESL and why I’m not married. He used to be an air traffic controller in Almaty, now he works for a Japanese firm here. Planning to move to Kaliningrad where his family and boyfriend are. We had a lovely dinner at Neapoli, the Italian restaurant by my office. We’ll probably hangout again next week some time.
The site we met on, Gay.Kz has been down the last week so to date that is the extent of my exposure to the gay life of Astana. I’m sure they’ll figure out their site soon and I’ll meet some more locals. Don’t worry though, I’ll be careful. I’m sure many of the local guys will be terrified of my stairwell so they’ll never want to come over. Many of my snootier students comment on my stairwell and that I could find something nicer if I tried. Hey, it’s your reality darlings plus why blow all my salary on rent (my company pays only $500 toward housing). If I got more, hell I’d be living in the “Titanic” apartment building on the river embankment (they call it the Titanic because it looks like a big boat to many I guess).
Thursday was “Tatyanin Den” another goddamned celebration here–how many can you have really!?!?!? It is a Russian Orthodox name day for all the Tatyanas of the world. You’re supposed to congratulate each Tatyana you know, give a little gift, have a little tea party, etc. It’s also Moscow State University (MGU) Day when all the students and alumni of MGU get together and party. Now I must check my calendar for “Maslennitsa” the Mardi Gras of the Orthodox calendar when we need to party, eat as many blini as we can before the beginning of Lent. Sometime in February, as is Chinese New Year. Jesus Lord would these holidays stop already!! I can’t eat or drink that much!!!
Yesterday, Friday, I was invited to School 22 to speak to the English language students there. Of course I forgot my camera so didn’t photograph the event unfortunately. Like a town hall style meeting I was seated in the middle of the room surrounded by about 50 students. I’m used to this set up and what to do so had no problems blabbing away about myself for a while until I took questions from the audience. The kids were great, not shy about asking lots of questions. The girls found it interesting that I wasn’t married and didn’t want to get married. They said it was unusual to meet someone like that, they never have. Asked my opinion about Bush and Iraq “Bush is an idiot!” I replied and expressed my embarrassment to have him as our leader and also my dismay with the quagmire he’s gotten us into in Iraq. Some of the kids were taken aback by my sentiments toward the idiot in the White House, one girl saying “But we love our president”. “That’s great,” I said “If he’s doing a good job for the country, love him, respect him.” “In the US we don’t have to love or respect our president, especially when he’s doing a bad job.” They even asked what I thought of Hillary as president. For the record, I don’t think she’ll win and maybe not be the right person for the White House right now, but hey if she can makes us all feel good as a nation, deal with Iraq and raise our prestige again in the world, why not. Maybe it’s time for a woman to run the country. I know many people hate her but after Bozo, she can’t be that bad.
Our hour long Q & A period was interrupted by a dance performance by the award winning, fabulous Kazkah traditional dancer (and student of School 22) Asel Alibekova. She was great, so lithe and tempting as all Kazakh female dancers should be. As I found out after the performance, men, traditionally don’t dance, only the women. The women dance and swirl about as the men drink tea and watch. It’s sort of part of the traditional mating ritual, they dance and then the men ride horses and fight to win the heart of their beloved dancer. That’s not done much anymore since the guys drive cars and not horses but at festivals like Navruz in March, you can see these ancient traditions revived.
I love working with kids and could have stayed all day but I had a student waiting so had to go home. School 22 is a wonderful place and the teachers are great. I’m sure I’ll be back again. They want me to come work for them, run conversation classes, etc. but really I don’t have much time for that. I’m sure I can do some conversation groups for free during school time once a week. Oy vey, at this rate I’ll be sick of teaching English and desperate teachers by the end of February. Til then I’ll carry on courageously.

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