On Tuesday evening, I attended a book club for Russian high school students. There is an American Center here in Yekat, and a group of motivated high schoolers studying English meet there several times a month. Our Public Affairs officer has been very involved with this group of kids, and she asked the rest of us at the consulate to help out (when you have such a tiny community, everyone helps everyone else out). I volunteered to help with book club, since books are kind of my thing. The PAO led this session, centered all around scary stories and Halloween. We discussed the stories, carved pumpkins, and watched "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow." I gotta hand it to these kids - they're way braver than I was in high school (hell, they're braver than I am now). Several of them got up and sang songs or recited poetry in English, voluntarily. One enthusiastic girl even painted her face like Jack from "The Nightmare Before Christmas." They baked little bone-shaped cookies and carved pumpkins like nobody's business. Next month I'm leading the discussion, in theory. Wish us all luck.
On Thursday night, John and I attended a reception for Czech Independence Day. It was basically a bunch of diplomats and other foreign dignitaries gathered in a ball room, listening to long speeches and waiting for the free food. I spoke with some Germans, a couple of very nice Chinese chaps, an Indian friend, and a Russian who thankfully spoke perfect English. I accidentally ate a ham ball that I thought was cheese (curse all those cleverly disguised hors d'oeuvres) but made up for it with several tiny desserts and a delicious Czech beer. Over all, it was weird and awkward and doesn't need to be repeated, but at least now I can say I've been to one of those events. John, on the other hand, is going to his third this week.
Today I did something even more out of my comfort zone, if you can believe it. We're making new post videos for the consulate website, and somehow I got volunteered for this project. One of the locally employed staff members, an IT/design/film guy, is really into this, and he has a lot of big ideas. Unfortunately, one of those ideas was forcing me to be the host. Any of you who saw our little stint on reality TV last year know I'm basically a disaster on film, but I can't seem to convince him of this. So today we went up to the top of the tallest building in Yekaterinburg and stood outside for an hour, filming and simultaneously freezing to death. I broke out my Canada Goose coat last week, and already my coyote fur collar has paid for itself.
|Meet my good friend, Furdinand.|