Teaching, Fever, and Pumpkin Pie

Every once and a while I look around me and think about how incredible it is that the US government is paying for me to fly over to a country on the other side of the world, study a new language, and have all of these incredible experiences. I’m sitting at my computer warming up in my big Macalester hoodie after walking back from the host-grandparent’s house in a fall drizzle. The cool September weather is a reminder of the looming, much talked about, Siberian winter. I’m not afraid of cold weather, but I am interested if the claims of forty below zero are an exaggeration or reality. I’m learning Russian (as opposed to Kazakh), so I am almost certain to head north when I receive my permanent site placement, and hence experience the coldest winter in the universe. We were over at the grandparent’s house to eat a recently slaughtered sheep, and I’m not sure whether it was the sheep that tasted different, or if I was just eating parts of the sheep that I haven’t eaten before. A plate full of of greasy brown meat stared at my from a chipped tin serving platter, and I did the only thing that I could do, eat as much as I could stomache.


In general though, I am completely spoiled here when it comes to food. For example, for breakfast this morning I had two servings of porridge, three pies stuffed with meat, pumpkin, and onions, and a slice of actual pumpkin pie. Okay, I might have overdone it, but one cannot judge me until they’re faced with the same feast after going for a sunrise run in freezing rain. The volunteer who stayed with my host family last year evidently taught my host mother how to make pumpkin pie, and she outdid any pumpkin pie I can remember eating. I may be getting ten times the amount of fat and carbohydrates than is generally considered to be healthy, but I’m pretty sure that everything I eat is more organic than any food that Whole Foods plies to the healthy and wealthy. Oh, and I’m learning to love Nescafe. I think that my brain is slowly conditioning to associate the bitter and bland taste of Nescafe with the absurd amount of caffeine that comes with it. Now, a cup or two of Nescafe Classic is my favorite way to meditate in the morning before cramming my brain with Russian or teaching English classes.


I’ve now taught two English classes all by myself, and I honestly never thought that teaching could be as fun as it’s been. I have a pretty cushy job, as I’m teaching a class of six [eleventh graders] in a private school, so they’re generally very good at English and want to learn. It’s so much fun to be in front of a class and engaging students with activities that I’ve come up with. I thought that it would be a total shock, but I’ve been very comfortable in front of the class, actually to the point of feeling like I’m coming off some sort of high when I’m done. I think that’s due to a couple things, first, it really helps to be a young American male teacher. To be young and American is nice to get the students interested, and being a guy is also a novelty. And I also feel as though being a teacher at Southwest Community Ed. Summer Program really has provided me with a base for being on the spot, being responsible, reading a class, and coming up with activities on the cuff.


All in all, I’ve been eating well, gotten pretty sick with a fever and better again, not improving too much in Russian, learning to teach, taking more risks, and have finished Dostoyevky’s The Brothers Karamazov, and have moved on to more light reading with Joseph Conrad’s Lord Jim. I hope this finds you all healthy, happy, and well.

Peace and Love,


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3 Responses to Teaching, Fever, and Pumpkin Pie

  1. Beth Russell says:

    How fascinating your life! It is fun reading about your adventures and hearing the details of the days. I’m glad you are taking advantage of this time and opportunity. I saw a film years ago about a camel in either northern Russia or Mongolia. It was so interesting. Anyway, it was way up north and they showed the family living in a yurt even in winter, riding their camels from town to town. Anyway, it was interesting. Keep taking great photos! If you ever see any textiles the family make, I’d love to see photos of the handiwork the people make. I enjoy reading the blog. Who knows? Maybe you will end up a teacher in your Mom’s building!!

  2. Mary McCrossan says:

    Wow! You sound like a natural teacher. I know exactly what you mean about the high that you feel after you have successfully worked with students. It also sounds like you might be in danger of gaining weight. Are you able to run or is it too dangerous with the wild dogs? Whatever you do, please stay safe!

  3. jmacs says:

    Nice writing. Now if you’d just stop exagerating about the cold, the snow, and the dark! You’d think you were in Siberia or something.

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