Saturday, 23 November 2013

For one night only...

After fighting tooth and nail (and Russian theatre bureaucracy), I finally managed to secure the tickets.

The State Academic Voronezh Russian Folk Choir (if you think that's a mouthful try it in Russian: Государственный академический Воронежский русский народный хор) ...performing for one night only in their sell out 75th anniversary concert!

At bargain £6 a seat (given it was 2 rows from the back!), I wasn't entirely sure what to expect.
What we got was SUBLIME.

As a Londoner born and bred, I spend a lot of time in the theatres of the West End (those of you that know me can vouch for the fact I am a theatre nerd!). However, I can safely say that The State Academic Voronezh Russian Folk Choir was hands down the best show I've seen in a long time. The bright traditional costumes, the mixture of polished folk dance and traditional music, the highs and lows of haunting hymn like songs contrasted with sprightly tunes you can imagine being sung at village festivals - it was truly magical.

To me it seemed the epitome of Russian culture - the cossacks in their fur hats whirling like dervishes, the choir girls like enchanted Russian dolls gliding across the stage, balalaikas being strummed in the background.

Definitely the highlight of my time in Russia so far...

The choir and band...true professionals

My favourite dance of the night...the boys tapped rhythms with the tambourines which were repeated by the girls using their feet to kick the tambourines with kicks and leaps.
 COSSACKS...yes they even did the squatty kicky dance (weird way to say it but you know the one I mean!)

Sam underneath the poster... a jolly night was had by all.

And what better way to end the night than to wash it down with a couple of bottle of cheap Russian champers...would be rude not too :)

With love from the Motherland x

P.S. Sorry about the picture quality...I'm pretty sure my autofocus has stopped working :( Back to PC World I go on return to the UK!

P.P.S. ONLY 5 DAYS TO GO UNTIL THE BOLSHOI...expect lots of lovely Moscow pictures soon!

Saturday, 16 November 2013

The highlight of my week...

So first things first, sorry for the leave of absence from all things blog! I'd love to tell you all that I have been too busy warding off bears, constructing igloos and winning vodka drinking championships but that would be a lie. Truth be told, when you've been around a while you just get stuck in the routine of the every day and nothing strikes you as interesting enough to write about. Classic blog block, if ever I saw it! But I promise that I have returned (with a vengeance!) and have a few posts in the pipeline (soon to be coming your way!). Cheers for bearing with me.

So the past few weeks have been filled with pretty much the same old thing...I go to uni, I do my homework, I eat copious amounts of food given to me by my landlady. There is, however, one part of my week that could never be monotonous and that is teaching.

I am lucky enough to teach both at Voronezh State University (ВГУ) and Linguist Institute.


As I live so close to the university English department, I was asked if I would mind taking the evening student's conversation classes. I now teach two different groups (one fourth year and one fifth year). I am pretty much left to my own devices when it comes to lesson content and filling an hour and twenty minute class is sometimes challenging (Ideas are always appreciated!!). Topics so far have included a tour of UK accents with a cockney rhyming slang masterclass and British stereotypes introducing students to the north/south divide and the welsh penchant for sheep, as well as obscure British festivals like the gurning world championships. More 'text book' style lessons included feminism and environmental problems and next weeks lesson on the welfare state. Every week I am amazed at how much the students know about Britain (weird traditions and strange habits included). Often my students know more about Britain than I do! As for their language skills, though they doubt themselves a lot, they speak well (a lot better than I thought they would!). They would put my Russian to shame! ВГУ - always a pleasure!

Linguist Institute

There is a famous saying 'Never work with children or animals'. Those of you who have not taken heed of such advice, you will understand the crazy, fun filled mess that is a class full of energetic kids.

Teaching at Linguist is always a highlight of my week. Russian children go to school six days a week. The kids we teach at Linguist give up their only day off a week to learn English with us. It shows so much commitment and their enthusiasm is infectious a lot of the time. Rather than basing our classes around text book learning and grammar (SNORE!), we run an immersion club based on work towards projects. Russian is BANNED from club and is punishable by a performance of 'I'm a little teapot' complete with actions. Our club is split in to two halves, the American Club and the British Club and there is often friendly competition and banter between the two groups (and that's just between the teachers!).

The project we're working on at the moment is politics based. With most of the kids ages between 9 and 15, there is no point in sitting them down to a complex diagram of the British political system! Instead we've begun a two week project (culminating tomorrow), in which the kids have created their own country (complete with flags, maps, national anthem, national holidays, sets of laws etc) and will tomorrow construct a political system with parties and manifestos ready to hold an election at the end of club!

Their imaginations never cease to amaze me. Our country is Fishumbria...a medium sized country, located in a bubble under the Atlantic ocean. Our capital city is Fishington, our currency is pearls. They worked so hard on their individual sections of the project and we can't wait to start writing our manifestos tomorrow!

Here are some of my favourite pictures of last weeks club and the results of everyone's hard work:

Our big, crazy ideas board.
The design process...hardworking flag makers

The finished project...very location appropriate I feel.

Our very talented coat of arms designer's finished product. 
Our country motto 'I believe I can swim' was a later addition.
Our equivalent of Ordinance Survey carefully constructing a map of Fishington, our capital city

Finishing touches

The final product...complete with 3D elements.

   With all the busy bees hard at work, I quickly popped in to American club to see how they were doing. They were discussing the serious problem their country was having with a border country. Their neighbours were in the midst of a civil war and their country was in serious debate about what to do with the refugees coming across the border. All this whilst my kids at British club were painting jelly fish on to our flag... each to their own I suppose ;)

With love from the Motherland...x