Settling into a New Normality

Starting our new routine

Week 2 sees the kids starting school and us settling into what is to be our new normality, far removed from our old one at Blind River.   Alarms are set for 6:30am so they can be out the gate to catch the school bus at 7:35am.   It was a bit daunting putting them in the hands of a complete stranger for a 45 min ride amongst some of the maddest drivers in the world, without having even seen the route they are going to travel.  All goes well and they make the bus, which was surprising as they couldn’t even make the planned 8:00am departure from home to get to Spring Creek School on time, usually arriving there 5 mins late at the earliest….   Anyway we received a text from Mrs Olga, to say that they had arrived safely and were settled into school.
PE Teacher
Now that reminds me of the visit we made to the school to check it out the week before, I have previously mentioned how the average Russian Joker looks like every Russian movie villain ever, well at the school even more of our westernised Russian stereotypes were reinforced.   The security guard was this older, plump, blonde lady who didn’t speak any English, but motioned for us to do everything we had to do like put plastic bags on our shoes, etc while still blabbering away in Russian.  The classic was the PE teacher who emerged from the “gym”, probably pushing 6 ft tall, reasonably solid, blonde and wearing a tight fitting white tracksuit with a stop watch around her neck and a clipboard in her hand.   Angela and I looked at each other and struggled to hold back the laughter as we both recalled scenes from various “Police Academy” movies.
While the kids were at school we were making the mad commute from our home in Prospect Vernadskogo over to the office in Fili, which during this week we frustratingly found could take as little as 45 mins, or as long as 2 1/4 hours on the buses.   So mid-week we decided to try taking the Metro to the office and save the time getting caught in traffic, as we had taken it from the office to home a couple of times so knew which lines to catch and it was always on time.  Well all was going well, we caught the bus on our street, jumped off at Prospect Vernadskogo Station, caught the train into Biblioteka ima Lenina Station, found our way to the Alexandrovskiy Garden station through the underground corridors, and got on the train to Fili station.   Great we thought, had made good time getting there in about 45 mins from home, just a 5-10 min walk and we would be in the office, well bugger me, we must have exited the platform from the opposite direction to what we had been entering it previously and came out in an area that might as well have been Mars.  That feeling of utter hopelessness filled me as I couldn’t recognise a single landmark, had no idea of what we had done wrong, and because we hadn’t been able to work out how to recharge our pre-paid Russian cell phones, neither of us had any credit on our phones to make a call to the one person in Moscow who may have been able to help us out.   So here we were, in the rain, walking around the alleyways, etc, looking for anything that looked like a way out, no-one spoke English, and the more we looked the less familiar anything seemed.   After about 20 mins of searching and asking people, we finally found someone who recognised the name of the shopping mall we asked them to point us to and followed their directions to find our way there and then onto the office, with a feeling of great relief.
First day at school in Moscow
First day at school is fine, it is a bit different at The International School of Tomorrow, Moscow to Spring Creek School, Blenheim, as they are a christian based school with a PACE programme much like Richmond View School used to operate, so the kids work at their own speed (i.e. do what they can of their set work in class or finish it for homework….).   So Molly turns up home with 5 1/2 PACE lessons out of 6 to complete on night 1.  They both seemed to enjoy the first day, but Day 2 was a bit difficult as Molly is teased about her weight meaning that there was no way she was going to school ever again.   We managed to get her back for Day 3, after which she was quite happy and wanted to go to a cafe to do her homework like her classmates do, so was a good excuse to pop down to the local Yakatori bar for an afternoon snack and a beer while she caught up with her schoolwork… Luckily she has now settled into the system and has made a few new friends and is enjoying school, even if she is also doing French which she didn’t want to do after day 1.   Jim has settled in like a duck to water, his only problem being the cheap trousers I brought him from the discount store down the road.   He must have split the crotch one day so he had to remove them and stand around the class in his jocks while his teacher mended them, rather embarrassing apparently.   At school they get served breakfast and lunch which weren’t too appetising to start but which they have started to enjoy by the sounds of it.
So far in 2 weeks of school they have only missed the bus once, so hopefully that is the last, as we don’t even know how to get to the place if they miss again….   Last week they got to go out on school excursions, Jim went to the Moscow Zoo, while Molly went to the Museum Of Astronautics, where she got to see the preserved remains of the first few dogs in space, as well as a few Russian space capsules.   As Angela is working generally, I have to meet the kids off the bus each afternoon, is a funny sight to see these too rough country kids emerge from the bus in t-shirts, while their school mates are all rugged up in jackets, hats, gloves and scarves.
On the Saturday of this week, Angela’s boss invited everyone out to his farm for lunch, we were to be ready at 12:00 noon to be picked up by his driver.    At 1:30pm after standing around in the drizzle and cold since noon, he arrives and we head off into the country, arriving 90 minutes later at Pavel’s farm.  We sat down to a grand lunch on fine china that had all been grown on their property.   The meat was duck which was a first for the kids, who just loved it, not sure if it was because it was the freshest meat they had eaten since arriving, or just that they did like it, but they couldn’t get enough of it.   We had a look around the “farm” which is about twice the size of our property, it had about 3 houses on it, 2 horses, 1 cow and calf, about a dozen pigs, 50 chooks, 100 ducks and about 100 rabbits and 7 staff we could count….so looks like we will be making some big changes to our farming operation when we get home…   So after tea we hit the road again around 8:00pm for the trek back into the city, witnessing the aftermath of a fatal accident which left 2 bodies lying on the road and a hardly recognisable piece of metal wrapped around a concrete truck, just another day on Moscow’s roads.   At one point on this stretch of road, we passed a line of probably 20+ wrecked cars parked up on the side of the road, with a manned ambulance sitting at the ready at the end of the line for the next accident, seems to be classic Russian mentality.

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Tony Fitzpatrick
Architect, Dad, Traveller & Head Rover at Around Rock 3
After a brief flirtation with Japan in the early '90's, and some occasional trips to Australia since, I have had an unrequited love affair with Japan and general desire to explore the world for the next 20 years while reality prevailed and I found myself pretty much stuck in my home country of New Zealand (not that is an entirely bad thing...).After a chance opportunity arose in mid 2012 to relocate our family to Moscow, Russian Federation I finally set off on my OE with my family in tow. It has been an amazing journey that has seen us experience life in Russia, Japan and now Finland, as well as visiting around a dozen countries so far in our adventure to date.While my family situation has changed along the way, I am continuing to explore the world with my tri-lingual son and enjoy sharing the adventures we have had with my followers.

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