Last week my institute held a variety of student led activities to celebrate American Culture. Students reported on the different regions of the U.S. and popular U.S. holidays. I impersonated the host of Jeopardy and tested students’ knowledge of the U.S. As one of the judges for the essay writing and poetry writing contests I realized how difficult it is to be impartial. Students also sang pop songs, break danced, performed skits from O. Henry stories, the sitcom “Friends” and a variety of movies. As impressed and proud I am of my students I wish I could have encouraged them to explore other facets of U.S. culture besides pop culture and Hollywood. I will devote the curriculum of English club to uncovering other facets of American culture as much as I can.
I am so relieved it’s all over! I felt responsible for everything and yet powerless to ensure everything went right. There was so much I couldn’t control. I couldn’t keep the projector from dying just before my presentation. I couldn’t ensure that the performances would begin on time or even count on knowing where the events would be held. I am learning how to “go with the flow” when everything doesn’t go the way I expect.
My favorite part of American Culture Week was probably baking a pumpkin pie with one of the students and discussing art. If this evening wasn’t enjoyable enough on my way home I was presented with a 12 piece spice rack. I learned her dad works for a spice company! I’ve been adding curry powder to my meat and potatoes devoutly.
The Linguistics department thanked me with a shiny bag of Italian coffee grounds. It’s funny that when instructors announced my name they paused at first as if searching for a title or my last name until they settled for saying: << A big thank you to . . . Наш Джессика!>> Hearing them call me “our Jessica” instead of the usual formal addresses made me laugh. I like hearing my name spoken so affectionately by Russians. Perhaps they get more delight from speaking my name because the ending sounds like one of the suffixes they add to names to show endearment. For instance, a woman named Anna can be called “Annushka” by her parents, close friends or spouse. I was going to insist Russians here call me by my middle name but I enjoy hearing Russians repeat my name with such enjoyment. I grew up with two other Jessicas in my classroom and considered my name to be the most unoriginal in our school (it didn’t help to have friends named Maya, Nai Fou and Elvira!). So yes, living in Russia is even making me grateful to be a Jessica.
On Friday I frolicked around puddles and took in the beautiful colors of Autumn while inhaling the wonderfully nostalgic smell of coffee from my thermos. It had just rained and the sun was reflecting light from all the puddles and wet leaves. I am told this weather is called <<грибный доджь>> but I affectionately call it <<Погода Портленда>> or the weather of Portland. At 53 degrees the weather is still warm for Volzhsky in late October and reminds me of my hometown. I’ve promised myself to savor every rain shower and blinding flood of sunlight that comes my ways while it’s still warm enough to enjoy (I can’t imagine loving it as much without snow at -22 degrees). Just when I thought the evening couldn’t get better my friend who lives close by joined me for a stroll. Afterwards we sipped the coffee (from an espresso machine my host family has!) with vanilla icecream and made a savory medley of buckwheat, veggies and spices. I couldn’t ask for a sweeter or more unexpected way to end the week!