Today, I woke up with the shittiest mood I've had in a while. I didn't want to make eye contant with anyone. I didn't want to talk to anyone or take any part in the only lecture I had the strength to get up to. The whole morning, I've spent listening to some of my favourite music, seemingly apart from the world. "The right music can help you survive anything".
During the lecture, I've spent all my time researching material on learning Russian: tips, tests and books. It was the only thing I was engaged in. All because right after the lecture, I had my first class of tutoring Russian with Patrick, the American engineer I've mentioned over the last couple of Pubskis.
Teaching is something I've been aspiring towards for a while. It's something I'm aiming to do after the uni, at least for a little while. See if it works for me. Private lessons are of greater appeal because they allow me to solve a different problem every time. This person knows X and wants to improve their Y and Z, while this person knows nothing yet, so everything is fair game.
Patrick lives in an old house with his wife, Alexandra, who is a native Russian. The conversation went bilingual for a while between the three of us, until Patrick and I have sat down in his study, after a corridor full of books. He showed me the material he had accumulated so far, as well as the rich collection of various student and exercise books he and his wife have acquired over the years.
Patrick is 69, and he still wants to learn something new. He met his wife almost twenty years ago in the US, where they've been living for a long while. Alexandra's parents back in Russia turned ill at one point, and she had to come back to her homeland to take care of them. Seeing how this isn't going to take a short time, Patrick sold his possessions in the US and moved to Russia soon after.
He feels a little lost here. He speaks the little Russian that he picked up back in Alaska, but this isn't enough to communicate with the locals on any meaningful level. He can't order food, ask directions or explain to his students what he wants from them in the language they're most familiar with. Pat wanted to learn the language for a while now, having lived here for three years. I told him I could teach him. "Are you serious?" Absolutely. "Are you sure you can do it?"
I could only smile back. He told me how he got many of his big projects as an engineer: by being a bullshit artist and then delivering on the bullshit (all his words). I was the bullshit artist now. I've never taught anyone anything, but I had education and certain expertise - and, most importantly, the desire.
I was surprised to learn that simply figuring out how much of the language he already knows took us an hour fifteen. Still, we've made some progress. He's curious about every single thing he encounters, and I have to keep him at bay to make it a structured experience he will have an easier time to draw from later. He enjoys doing exercises but wants to get to actual speaking. His pronunciation is decent - he's intelligible - so even if he doesn't work on that, he'll be able to uphold a fine conversation in Russian, given enough experience.
Afterwards, when the lesson came to an end, Patrick reached into his wallet and gave me just enough, like we agreed before. "Oh shoot, I thought I had more money. Alright. I'm going to give you more money later." But... That covers it. "I know. I used to teach a guy English. You may know him: Pavel. Do you know Pavel? I taught him, and he payed... generously. And you got me started, and you gave me something. So I feel like I should be generous as well."
I wasn't to argue. cgod told me to enable others to be generous towards me; something I read a bit about since. He has solid ground under his feet, and I'm establishing mine. I could use the money.
In a hurry to reach my friend after the lesson that took a bit too long, I completely forgot to enjoy the fact of earning my first money. Now that I had the opportunity to look back and review, I feel joyful and proud of having reached that point. I wasn't afraid to reach out to the person I appreciate. I wasn't afraid to spend time with him. I wasn't afraid to take the opportunity when it arose. Damn, I'm a teacher now! - and I earn money that way! Just like that. Day's worth of change, to build a different path for myself.
Can't escape the feeling that this is what Hubski has been expecting me to be all this time. Taking care for myself. Be not afraid of taking risks. Holding my own in the battles life issues. I've been a very different person when I came here. The way people deal with things here... It's mature - and people expect everyone to live up to that standard. I found it difficult at first - and now I'm here.
Maybe this is what I needed. To help someone directly. To know someone relies on me for something and I'm willing to deliver. When I was a curator, the thing that kept me up despite all the tire and burden was the knowledge that someone needs me. A group of people utterly unfamiliar with the university, its way of life and even the city it stands in needed me to tell them what's everything about. I never had anyone like that - our curators didn't explain us the ropes - so to fulfill that role for someone is a blessing.
There's also something empowering about teaching an older person. Here he is, full of experience and history to share, having seen a lot and been through as much, - and now, I'm teaching him something?
I hope I get to teach in the university someday. I think it would be amazing. The idea of being considered a colleague of a university lecturer tickles my whiskers.
I'm not out of the rut yet, but I'm getting there. Private lessons of Russian might be just the thing to get me out of there.
P.S. _refugee_, if you're still up for learning Russian, ping me in exactly a week. By then, I will be able to provide you with a decent recommendation on the books and texts to take; maybe even an outline or a programme.
Teaching also helps you clarify your own knowledge. My parents did a combined ten years in the Peace Corps and my father is fond of referring to the two years he spent teaching engineering to the Quechua as the best engineering school he ever took. He maintains that so long as you're a week ahead of the rest of the class, you can teach anything.
And now, by the way, you understand why I'm such an intolerable know-it-all.