Wednesday, January 30, 2008


January 30, 2008. I carefully dressed, from long underwear to a sweater to my scarf and hat. As I departed the building, I was hit by warm air, sunshine, and chirping birds. Could this really be January in Russia? I didn't look at the thermometer, but it must have been nearly 40 degrees. Incredible.

I was late to the orphanage. I got to the first group and the little girls came running. I took out their lesson...which wasn't there. I had accidentally printed it twice, and then left both sets at home. Hmmm. Thankfully I had remembered to bring the girls' new copybooks, which I had been promising since September.

I only had one copy of the assignment. "We can make a photocopy!" the girls shouted in unison, and scampered off. I was saved.

Galya has matured a lot in the past year.

I have a new student! This is Nastia, ten years old. She took English at her previous orphanage, and is doing well.

Katya and Nastia, innocently doing their assignment:

Don't I look thrilled to be having my picture taken?

When I got to the next group, I had to compete with both the tv and the Nintendo. Sigh.

Look at those intent gazes. Stop poisoning your minds!

I hate that machine.

We did eventually sit down to have an English lesson. Once again my lesson planning proved inadequate. I had wanted to have them draw weather maps. This involved drawing a map of the world and labeling major cities and their current weather conditions. Moans of "This is too hard!" filled the room. I couldn't blame them. I can't draw a map of the world either.

Here is someone's rough draft:

One young man spent a long time coloring and managed to get away without writing anything in English:

These next two did a good job.

Every once in a while, Misha would wander into the room. Often, one of the other kids would whisper some nasty words. At one point after this happened, Misha flew into a rage and ran out of the room crying. I took his picture to print for his "English passport." Maybe it will motivate him to come to English class. I'm not sure what I see in those eyes. Is it shyness or pain?

Katya was withdrawn today too, as she has been lately. She was wearing new glasses, and I made sure to tell her that she looked nice in them. She was too timid to join the group at first, partly due to my map assignment, but then she began to participate. When I left, I gave her a hug, and she lit up.

Ilya is from another group, but comes to English class because he wants to learn.

The counselor was doing a lot of hovering today, which always makes me nervous. She kept saying how "interesting" the lesson was, and I couldn't tell if she was being sarcastic or not. I thought maybe she was exaggerating a bit to motivate the kids who were being idle. She also kept pressing for information about my work. I told her that I work for a non-profit organization. "Do they pay you anything?" she asked. I didn't understand what she wanted to know. Did she think I was running some sort of business? Or did she simply wonder how I supported myself? "Yes," I said, not elaborating. "Good," she said. Lately I have been thinking of her more and more as a person. Not that I didn't consider her human, but I sometimes lumped her together with the general stresses of visiting the orphanage. And I always expect her to be suspicious of me, but of course it's her job to protect the kids' welfare.

I don't know her name. :(

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