Wednesday, October 28, 2009


I roll out of bed and turn on my computer. No, not my laptop...the computer that my brain becomes when I live in Russia. It often seems like my problem-solving skills are working every minute of the day.

I don't usually write about all the details of my day, because, well, who would want to read it? However, I decided to join some friends and do it just this once. Maybe you will find it interesting.


My morning routine is pretty basic, and I'll spare you the description. :) However, one aspect is worth mentioning. When I leave each day, I feel as though I am going on a long trek. Since my schedule is never the same two days a week, I have to think through my day very carefully as I am packing my bags. It is likely that after I leave in the morning, I won't come back home in between activities. So I have to plan carefully. read more/-

I might need to take any combination of textbooks for class, teaching supplies, my Bible, my flute, clothing for different kinds of weather, and possibly something to eat. Another aspect of life is that there is always something to pass on to someone else. On Sunday mornings, for example, I often have a full bag of items to return/give/lend to someone else. But on the way home, the bag has filled up again.

Since I have chronic joint pain, I can't carry more than a few pounds with me. So I can't take everything that I might need. It's a balancing act. If I need my umbrella, I will have to leave something else behind. If I absolutely have to take a lot, then I divide it into two bags, so that I can carry something on each side and avoid pain on a certain side.

And that's how my day begins!


At one point my daily commute was about 4 hours (total), but now it is only 3 since my classes aren't that far away. Still, I try to think of how to best use that time.

I have a lot of little tasks that I do when I have a few minutes. I catch up on phone calls while walking to or from the bus/metro/etc. While on the escalator (which goes very deep into the ground), I put away hat/gloves/umbrella and read my text messages. In the metro I write text messages, sending them whenever I have service in the tunnel. While riding the escalator up, I adjust all my outer clothing again and distribute my parcels so that they're comfortable to carry.

My day

Right now I am taking 1-2 classes a day. Let's say it's Tuesday. Today I have one class. Entering the building is like stepping into another world because there are so many non-Russians milling about. I make my way (with effort) up to the 4th floor and wait until the teacher comes with a key to let us into our classroom. Students sit at desks in pairs in university here. Kind of like the lab tables in the U.S.

There is always discussion over whether the window should be open or closed, because it is customary to "air out" the room, yet if the cold air touches your skin, you will surely die become desperately ill.

My instructors are all very kind and patient to us as foreigners. Many of the students are only here for a semester or two, so the instructors are trying to give us the best cultural experience possible! Unfortunately, I'm not usually free to go on excursions and such. But hopefully I will be able to spend a little time with my classmates outside of class.

The next phase

In the afternoons, I usually teach English. On Tuesdays I visit one of the many orphanages in St. Petersburg.

This particular orphanage is one of the best. It has great living conditions and just a pleasant atmosphere overall. But it is still an artificial environment and not a "home." Case in point: I still have trouble with the security guards each time I visit. It's not exactly trouble, but they do usually ask "What do you want?" as if I am an intruder. I have been visiting once or twice weekly for five years. Sometimes the security guards change, and when they ask me who I am, sometimes I want to answer, "Who are YOU?" But I don't.

I used to teach my own classes, but the kids were too busy with all their other afterschool clubs. Now I mainly help them with their English assignments for school. Sometimes it is hard trying to decipher what another teacher has taught, especially if I don't agree with the methods. But I know that I am serving an actual need and not just introducing something of my own that may or may not be helpful.


The tram often breaks down when I'm coming home from the orphanage. I actually like the transportation in St. Petersburg because there are a lot of options to choose from. If the bus pulls away as I am approaching, I know that something else will come along sooner or later. It's not once an hour as in some places.

When the tram breaks, there might be a line of 5-10 of them. Lately it has been breaking down near the end of my street, which is still a 20-30 minute walk home. What I do is cross over to the next bus/tram stop and wait for something to come from another direction. I don't usually have to wait more than 5-10 minutes. Of course at that point it might be very crowded, but the main thing is to reach my destination.


In the evenings I normally have a church meeting, English lesson, or social event. On Tuesdays I don't have anything regular, but I am often busy anyway.

I count it as a bonus if I'm home before 10 p.m. If I'm home at 7 or 8, I might actually have time to cook a hot meal, check my e-mail, do my homework, or make a phone call.

I have to try to be consistent about bedtime because otherwise I find myself nodding off during class. It is especially hard to remain alert during these gray and rainy fall days.

I keep various notebooks by my bed for writing down prayer or notes about the next day. It helps me clear my mind before going to sleep. After all, the next day is going to be totally different.

So that, in a nutshell, is my "typical" day!


  1. I enjoyed reading about your typical day here. I didn't realize you had chronic joint pain so let me know if you need any help carrying parcels on Wednesdays. It was nice to sit and talk a bit over lunch before going today.

  2. That wasn't boring at all! It was fascinating! In fact, I think that is a terrific assignment!

    You are so right about interpreting another teacher's assignments! This must be particularly true about religion. This is my area of "expertise" so to speak, so it is startling when I can't figure out the proper answer for my fourth grader's assignments!

  3. Okay, Mary!

    Annie, I have often been told that my answers for the children's homework were wrong. The other day I was trying to help and they had copied things down incorrectly from the blackboard, but there was no textbook I could use to check for the real answers.

    And there was a recurring sentence: "He is looking up in the dictionary." No direct object. I didn't correct it because I didn't want to meddle...

  4. Liz! I found you via Annie Kitching's blog (we me in Ivanovo a few years ago). As soon as you said that "some friends" were doing a day-in-the-life, I just KNEW that you were a YLCFer too! ))) I've been reading YLCF for several years now, but have always been a lurker (I rarely comment, and didn't do the day in the life, but I almost did...). When Lanier mentioned a girl in Peter had done the day-in-the-life, it didn't occur to me that she meant YOU. Such a small world. )))

  5. June, that is so funny. :) I didn't know anyone else from YLCF was interested in Russia. I look forward to exploring your blogs and finding out more!


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