The British, History, and NOMs

Posted: September 25, 2011 in Uncategorized

I’m in Russia for two reasons. The first and foremost is to teach American English and American culture. The second is to study the Russian language. As of now, I still don’t have a schedule for when I’ll be taking Russian, but hopefully that will change in a few days. As for teaching English and American culture, I haven’t had my first culture class yet. It was supposed to be on Monday with the 4th year students, but their class has been canceled. The students in the 4th and 5th years are partaking in a conference entitled “Culture as a Resource for Modernization,” which is also attracting a visit from President Medvedev. For the most part, I have been accompanying two different teachers to their classes with 1st, 2nd, and 3rd year students. While with these classes, I learn an occasional word or two in Russian. What I’ve really been learning with these classes is British English and about the British way of life because the textbooks were all written by British authors. Despite the fact that my brother studied law at Oxford University and that I’ve met one of his friends, who is a lawyer in England, I know absolutely nothing about the British legal system. Thus, when we played a game in class about guessing professions based on a description, I was unable to guess solicitor or barrister. I also was unfamiliar with the word “chiropodist” as a synonym for “podiatrist.” Furthermore, I never knew that milk could go “off” instead of spoiling or going bad. I may still be bumbling with aspects of the Russian language, but after a year in Russia I should be able to perfectly integrate myself with British society.

Dear Mr. Clarkson, some parts of the British language and society make about as much sense as your Peel P50.

Another amusing aspect of my life is having to teach about various aspects of American culture and history. Like myself, many of my fellow Fulbrighters have studied Russian history and literature more than that of America. I have never really enjoyed American history, except for some parts of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and I hated pretty much everything I had to read in my American literature class in high school (Nathaniel Hawthorne and Arthur Miller can rot in hell). The reason for this tirade against American history and culture is because I have my first lesson on American history towards the end of this week. My students are supposed to pick a topic of American history of their interest and are to research it on the internet. Then, they are to come to class prepared to give a two-minute oral summary of what they have learned. Also, they are supposed to have discussion questions on their topic as well as other topics of interest. I gave a few suggestions (the Pilgrims, the American Revolution, the Civil War, etc.) and now I’m stuck trying to relearn as much as I can about these and other topics of American history.

I shall now avoid the annoying topic of American history and move on to one of my favorite topics: food. Okay, food is probably my favorite thing in the world. I may have an obsession with Mercedes, and as much as it pains me to state this, no car could outrank food. To avoid anguish, my favorite thing would be eating good food in a Mercedes. I hate getting crumbs all over my car, but it’s survived almost 25 years of crumbs as well as some spilled milk (it took 3 ****ing months to get the smell out of the car), among other things. Actually, many of my early memories involve eating cookies and other snacks in the backseat of my beloved Mercedes. The reasoning for all this rambling is that I saw, and immediately had to buy, the Russian version of Goldfish crackers. Goldfish have always been one of my favorite snacks and I can distinctly remember eating Goldfish crackers in the old Mercedes (both as a little child and a few days before flying to Russia). The Russian name is nowhere near as catchy as Goldfish; instead, they are called “crackers in the shape of fish.” Also, sadly, they are original flavor and not cheddar. Clearly, cheddar is the best flavor of Goldfish. The crackers are yummy and taste the same as American Goldfish, though, so I’m happy with the purchase.


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