I found myself during my first year of employment with Language Link working in three different places in Russia. Far from being a wearying experience, I found the opportunity I had been given to travel a bit and meet a multitude of new friends (in the shape of teachers, students and kindly babushkas) an experience I thoroughly enjoyed.
My arrival and reception in Moscow (courtesy of Language Link) went swimmingly. Before moving down to Oryol some 350 kilometres to the south of Moscow, the school for which I was employed, I was able to set out and see the sights of Moscow.
New Delhi, India has its Red Fort while Moscow has its Red Square Ч equally impressive (though admittedly, it's more of a 'Brown Oblong' than a Red Square, which is my excuse for not actually realising I was standing there until I returned to my flat and consulted my guidebook, somewhat perplexed as to its location)!
If Moscow is to be likened to New Delhi, then I guess Oryol is (geographically speaking) Jaipur. I can't pretend to be an expert on Jaipur as I spent the great percentage of my brief stay there parked in some filthy latrine. Having spent six month in Oryol, however, I am going to say a word or two about the place.
Though hardly a place of natural beauty, its people exude such extraordinary warmth that the former fact scarcely matters at all. From the first night onwards I was repeatedly invited to folks' houses where I dined regally and was in every respect treated like a king (the customary box of chocolates that one takes out of politeness to your host's flat became such a favourite with me that I began to invite myself to my own abode Ч chocolates in hand).
Additionally, though there were no monkeys in Oryol like there were in Jaipur, some of the babushkas working in the main post office had hair in the most unlikely places.
I think that it's true to say that I left my heart in Oryol and it shall take some time to get over it. Such was the strength of the many friendships I developed there. I also left an awful amount of clothes too, as six months of hand washing had left much of my undergarments looking as tattered as if they had been constantly pummeled and wrung in the Ganges.
And so it was that I entered Volskresensk for my last term of employment. Brief, working in a place like Volskresensk proved invaluable. Situated a mere 88 kilometres outside of Moscow, one is able to make weekly visits to the city and (while residing in a perfectly quiet town) can thus have the best of both worlds.
The six weeks which I spent in Volskresensk were most enjoyable and although there is no Taj Mahal (I am forced by logical sequence to liken the place to Agra) it does have a hill!!! I don't recall ever being more ecstatic in my life than when I spied a hill in a neighbouring field to where I resided (O.K., you've guessed my passion). Oh joy!!! Needless to say I was up that hill quicker than a monkey up a telegraph pole.
I write these words while still residing in Russia. I fly back to Blighty tonight yet am inexplicably looking forward to my return. Surely a tribute to this beautiful country which has treated me so extraordinarily and let's face it, to Language Link without whom none of this could have been possible. Maybe in the next year I shall navigate another Golden Triangle Ч the slightly larger one of St. Petersburg, Sotchy and Siberia. After all the Russian people do many things in threes Ч including vodka binges. Just a word of warning: if two lads come knocking at your door one evening, vodka bottles in hand, do as I did and refuse them entrance. They pleaded with me that they needed a third companion with whom to consume the dread liquor, but I was adamant "English lads eat chocolates in 'ones'" I simply stated and finished off my box of delights in peace alone.
Steve did return to Russia and at his request was placed in Pushkin, near St. Petersburg. Rather than undertaking further travel adventures, he discovered and married the love of his life. No longer a bachelor, Steve found happiness teaching during the day and playing violin (his second love) from his balcony in the evening. Steve now has two children and lives in England.
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