Spring brings changes

Palace Square


I’m on leave. Yay!

I’m have a week and a half off in total and, as I write, I’m halfway through.

For the last few days, I’ve had visitors. It’s been great to have family here, and to have walked around the sights of St. Petersburg. They left yesterday, though, and so now I’ve got time to consider what happens next in Russia. There are going to be some not insignificant changes.

The first bit of news reflects the fact that learning a language is an activity for autumn through spring; my school gets very few students over the summer. As a result, most of my colleagues’ contracts end in June; almost all of them will be moving on to jobs in other countries. As they leave, their apartments – which are provided by the company – will empty out. The company can’t afford to keep them empty, so they’re surrendering the leases, and consolidating the remaining staff into a shrinking number of flats. So, I’m going to have to leave my apartment, which I have to myself, and move into a room in a shared apartment. This will only be for the summer, and I’ll be able to move into a city-centre apartment on my own in late summer. I’m not keen on sharing, but it’ll only be temporary. The huge benefit to me is that all of these apartments are within easy walking distance of where I work and – unlike my current apartment – they have washing machines. That means I’ll be saving a considerable amount of money that I currently spend each month on travel and using the public laundry. Good news!

More significantly from the POV of this blog, across the summer there will be no classes on Saturdays, and the school will be closed. This is currently a busy teaching day for me. However, from the start of June, my days off will be Saturday and Sunday, and I’ll work Monday to Friday. The result? I won’t be able to go to Andrey’s classes in Pushkin on Wednesdays any more.

I’m sad about that. I like Andrey and the other students there. I’ve been enjoying the classes and learning a lot. Andrey has a really interesting approach to systema; there’s hidden gold to be discovered there.  For now, though, I’ll have to bid them all farewell.

There is a silver lining to this;  as Andrey pointed out himself, I’ve been wrapped so tight that it’s been preventing me from learning effectively.

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been mulling things over and had a few insights. Long-term readers who followed me to this blog from my China blog (and there are  a few!) will recall that in August 2009 I was knocked off my bicycle, and was rushed to hospital with a broken wrist and a deep wound in my abdomen where I’d been impaled on the handlebars. That was on a Friday night; on the following Monday morning I took charge of a project to introduce e-learning and overhaul outdated teaching methods at the university where I was working. With a small team of volunteers, we succeeded – in the face of determined opposition from staff who were quite content with the way things were ticking over. It would have been a tough job at the best of times; with an arm in plaster and a dozen stitches in my stomach it was exhausting. That was followed by a similar challenge at a university in the UK – but there I didn’t have management support, I didn’t have a team of volunteers, and I was spending my evenings and weekends as a carer. It didn’t end happily.

So, for over four years before I came to Russia I was in fight-or-flight mode for pretty much every waking moment. Moving to a new country in a new career didn’t change that – especially when my only full day off each week was spent rushing to Pushkin for Andrey’s classes, a trip of an hour and a half in each direction. Frankly, it’s going to be good for me to have a proper weekend, with no particular responsibilities other than my teaching, and I’m looking forward to it.

So what about studying systema?

Well, there are changes afoot there.

Back in January, when I’d just arrived, I went to visit a ROSS class run by Vitaliy Denisov, who’d been introduced to me by a mutual friend on Facebook. It didn’t work out due to my timetabling issues, but we got to meet up at least, and we connected on Facebook.

A little while ago, Vitaliy got back in touch and, to cut the story short, we agreed to trade lessons: English for ROSS. We’ve started to meet up on Sunday mornings, and have had a couple of lessons. I’ve really enjoyed them, and will write them up separately.

I also left work the other day to discover a car parked on the other side of the road – with systema written all over it! It turns out that this is the local branch of the Ryabko systema school. I got a Russian colleague to call them, and it turns out that the instructor, Andrey Romanov, lived in the UK for several years and is fluent in English. Their classes are weekday evenings, Monday and Wednesday, but later than most of the other classes I investigated. With the current changes in my teaching schedule, I think I should be able to make one class a week, and perhaps both. I hope to contact Andrey directly soon, and perhaps get to a class.

So… all change. Watch this space.

car 1 car 2 car 3 car 4 car 5


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