More than once, when I’ve told people what my surname is here, they’ve burst out laughing. “Haha! Kaplan shot Lenin!” they say. That would be Fanni Kaplan, a Russian Jew and leftist revolutionary who in 1917 at the age of 27 made an assassination attempt on Lenin, believing him to have betrayed the spirit of the revolution. Maybe it’s not the best reason to have tried to murder Lenin, but hey, she was right about him being a traitor to the ideals he stood for. Unfortunately, she didn’t do him in. This is her mug shot:
You can look her up on J-Grit: The Internet Index of Tough Jews. Seriously. Anyway, I’m not really sure what’s going on under the laughter. Are they laughing because, “too bad your namesake didn’t really kill the guy” or because I should feel a little bad that somebody bearing my name almost undid Lenin? (I should add that my name in Cyrillic is Каплан, and can turn into a K or C). Anyway, don’t tell anybody in Russia, but I’m proud of her…
Well, I am way overdue on blogging. School started on September 1st, which across the country is called the “Day of Knowledge” in honor of the start of school. Since work has begun, I’ve been working hard to get prepared, to make sure I understand at least the majority of what is said to me by my coworkers, and to get adjusted to simply being at work (and wearing, you know, grown up clothes). In my spare time, I’ve been trying to study Russian, learn from watching TV, or just hang out with the people around here. I finished “Ours” and I’ve been reading this book called “Kakie My, Russkiye” which I’ll roughly translate at “What Kind of People are We Russians”:
Look! It’s Tolstoy, Prokofiev, Peter the Great, Pushkin, and the poet Anna Akhmatova… and some peasants. I also got a sweet collection of early 20th century poetry at the used book stalls at the Arbat. It was only after I opened the volume that I noticed the amendations supplied by “The Librarian,” who, based on the inserted journal clippings and hand copied this Gumilyev poem, “Sixth Sense” into the back cover, was very kind enough to supply me with poems that the editors had left out.
Anyway, today I taught eight classes from first through fourth graders. The elementary school kids are really wonderful and cute. There’s a boy in third grade who keeps introducing himself as “Schwarzenegger”. (His real name is Rostislav I finally found out… can you blame him?) The first grade is unbelievably, heart-meltingly cute. They seem extra shy and overwhelmed by having class in English and it is very charming. There is one girl who I would especially like to kidnap who has short blond tously hair, a My melody T-shirt, and round, puzzled eyes. I prefer these Wednesdays to Mondays, where I teach in the middle school. There’s a pair of twins in my 5th grade class who look exactly like Justin Bieber. The boys in my classes are mostly okay, it’s really the girls who can have lousy behavior. For example,
Teacher: put your sweater back on. Tank tops and bare shoulders are inappropriate in school.
Girls: blah blah blah I’m hot blah blah I’m going to lodge a complaint with the head of the school blah
Me (in head) If you’re hot, why are you wearing your Burberry wool scarf right now?
English classes are taught in a mixture of Russian and English. I’m supposed to pretend I don’t know Russian at all, but a lot of the teachers aren’t great at English and will whisper to me in Russian in class. When that happens, the kids really perk up. It’s pretty cute actually. And sometimes I’m just dying to help them out by giving them instructions or a definition in Russian when the other teacher is busy, but it’s not allowed. Booo.
Anyway, I’m trying to decide whether I want rent a room to live in Moscow part of the week, if I could possibly make this an affordable thing to do. People tend to clear out of here on the weekends and on some evenings, and it gets a little bummerific for someone who wants to be out with people enjoying Russia. We’ll see. Anyway, I’m going to go to village store and buy all the oranges they have.