Not much has really been "blog-worthy" lately, I'm sorry to report. Work is really starting to get busy, with new classes being assigned to me every day. Today (Saturday) was technically treated as a Friday at the school (because of some convoluted holiday schedule put in place last week for National Unity Day), so I had to teach my Friday classes yesterday (on the real Friday) as well as today. On top of that, one of the teachers here was sick so I had to teach his classes this morning. The only bright side to this was that I was forced to wake up at 8am, something I haven't had to do since ending the Intern Training Program at the end of September! (I know, I know, my life is sooo rough...but I did spend the whole summer getting up even earlier than that so I figure I deserved a month of sleeping in!)
My usual trick to jolting myself awake on early mornings is to go for a run. It's a little masochistic, but it works and usually gives me enough energy to last until lunch. Blearily, I laced up my runners and stumbled down the five flights of stairs to another balmy (for Russia) morning. It was about ten degrees - perfect running weather. The habitants of Mytishi were already up and going about their day, which included selling very large, very strong-smelling dead fish on the sidewalk. In the past couple of months, I had gotten used to seeing people selling just about everything on the sidewalk, from fruit to turtlenecks wrapped in cellophane to bras (how do you know if it fits?) to sparkly butterfly stickers. But the fish thing - giant dead fish with their eyes gazing sightlessly back at you - has been a recent development. From what I can tell you point to the fish you want, then the babushka wraps it up in newspaper and hands it to you.
Another trend I've been noticing here in Mytishi, and one which was sadly very evident today, is the prevalence of stray dogs. They're everywhere! I have to admit (knowing that fanatic dog-lovers may jump on me for this) that I don't entirely trust dogs. And I definitely don't trust stray dogs. I think this probably has to do with my upbringing. My dad is allergic to dogs, so besides the requisite goldfish and an adorable (and much missed!) bunny named Jack, we weren't really a "pet" family. Even if my dad hadn't been allergic, I can't really have seen us getting a dog. I think the dad from the movie Beethoven sums up my family's attitude towards pets in general: "We're not dog people. We're people people."
So I'm not super comfortable around dogs. Yes, I know they're man's best friend and I do think they can be cute and fun. But when strange dogs aren't on a leash, I get panicky. And here in Mytishi, stray dogs are ALMOST as common as the flocks of pigeons (I estimate that there are probably five pigeons per person in Mytishi, and there are 160,000 people as per the 2002 census). Yikes! And these aren't necessarily cute, cuddly, harmless-looking dogs. They are mostly of the German shepherd/husky/blood thirsty wolf breed, albeit slightly scrawnier because of malnourishment. But that just makes them more desperate, doesn't it?
Ok, I know I might be coming off a little harsh here. Whenever I've been out walking with Rhea, an animal-lover from birth, she happily and unsuspectingly gushes over the dogs and pro-offers a hand to them, whereas I cringe in horror and do my best to sidle away without them catching a whiff of my tasty human meat scent. But truly, my heart does bleed for these stray dogs. Especially on mornings like today when I ran past SEVEN of them sleeping curled up in a row against a wall for warmth. And today was ten degrees!! What's going to happen to them in the dead of winter?? I haven't seen any animal shelters around, and other people tend to just walk right past the dogs unblinkingly. So I'm in this kind of weird limbo here, where I fear the dogs but at the same time want to help them. I just don't know what to do!
In other updates, I went out to buy an alarm clock today and saw...advent calendars!!! This made me unbelievably happy, as Russia does not really celebrate Christmas so I wasn't expecting to find the chocolate-for-every-day-of-Advent tradition of my childhood. It's still a little early to buy one but I definitely plan to!
And finally, in the happiest news by far, I have a new little cousin - Adelaide Bridget. I can't wait to meet her (over Skype)! Congratulations Angela and Paul!