A handshake and a slap in the face.

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December 22nd 2005
Published: January 29th 2006
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Our teachers at Yartek.Our teachers at Yartek.Our teachers at Yartek.

Anya, Yulia, Larissa, Lena, Olga and Viktor.
A last morning of being shouted at by Marina Ivanovna. My suitcase wasn't in the hall by 9 o'clock. I was going to bring it out of my room when I left at 9.15, the van wasn't coming to collect it until 3 so it made no difference, but it didn't stop her treating me like a mischief as usual. I dragged my suitcase through the snow on my own instead, so that I didn't have to go back twice.

It was minus 9 this morning, and Chiara guessed closest again so she wins for the week. I will have to buy her a drink in Moscow! It is a beautiful day - the air is clear and it doesn't feel too cold.

Our only lesson today was an informal speaking exam with Viktor. We each chose three topics from sixteen cards that were on his desk, and gave our opinions on them. My tasks were: pretending to bump into Ellie on the street in ten years' time and talk about what I am doing with my life, giving advice to my friends at home who are about to go to Russia, and acting as the Education Minister giving a talk to a board of school governors. My Russian started off quite well but I faded towards the end. Finding the right words has got harder the more tired I have become and my vocabulary is shrinking rather than growing at the moment.

In the break we went to the staff room to watch the recording of 'Morning Tea', the the television show that our classmates were on last week. They were all extremely nervous apart from Chris J but their song (and costumes!) were great.

Then it was time for our graduation ceremony. Viktor made a speech wishing us well for the future, then we went to the front of the class to shake his hand and collect our certificates. Eida the odd music teacher played a song to accompany us - my tune was 'Les Marseilleuses' for some reason! Our grades were on the back. My marks are good but I'm disappointed with them, I worked as hard as anyone in my group and received less. The Oxford girls did an impromptu cossack dance to 'Kalinka' to start the party.

We had a buffet of chocolates and biscuits in the main room where the teachers and students got together, and Valentina Ivanovna fussed over us making sure everyone had too much tea! She may have been annoying at times but she has been very helpful too. And hilarious.

Then it was time to walk to the shops to finish my shopping list. There was a wind outside by that time, so it really did feel like minus 9. I found a sky blue hat for Katya to take on her snowboarding trip next week and had a last walk around the market, which has a completely different atmosphere in the winter. It's much more peaceful and the people, now sitting down on chairs by their stalls getting covered in snow, talk to you rather than at you. Afterwards I spent an hour in the bookshop on ulitsa Kirova looking for the novels that the teachers recommended, and bought collections of poetry by Sergei Esenin and Aleksandr Pushkin. Even when I don't understand what is written the rhythm of the poems is relaxing so I will take them on the train to Kiev to pass the time. In the music shop on the way back I found another Yulia Savicheva album, so my platskart adventure now has a soundtrack too!

I finished packing my travel bag for Moscow and Lugansk and walked to Yartek to leave them there overnight. There will be a last gathering later, then I'll walk to Katya's building at 10 to say 'see you in two weeks'.

It has been a very busy day. I will come back to Yaroslavl on the 6th January but this is the real end. The experience stops here. There are a lot of things that I will miss, but tomorrow is the right time to leave.


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