A heroine of soviet productivity!

Well, I feel like one, anyway, whenever I tell someone that I’m heading off to work at the factory.  I have a new job since I got back working at the Shcherbinskiy Liftostroitelniy Zavod– The Shcherbinka Elevator Factory.  Can you believe it?  Though the work is wildly inconvenient–evening hours, a fifty-minute metro ride to the last stop on the grey line, followed by a half-hour jaunt on a marshrutka and a ten minute walk over icy sidewalks (my boss conveniently neglected to mention the last forty minutes when she proposed the job) I couldn’t turn down an opportunity to say that I worked in a factory in Russia.  Whatever I do in the rest of my life, this is an extremely valuable claim to be able to make.

(I want to add an aside that elevators have, in my recent life, been a constant feature of my nightmares.  I find getting into an empty elevator late at night a little disquieting, but I’m not terrified of them in real life.  However, elevators take on the most disturbing mutations in my dreams.  They have taken me to ridiculous heights–the eight-hundredth floor, for example, they have been tiny, suffocating spaces filled with desperate and bizarre people in nightmare hospitals, they have plummeted me into eerie basements, and most terribly, they have taken me against my command to dark floors, reminiscent of the floors of my music school with their rows of identical, dusty practice rooms, populated by the dead…

So perhaps it’s a chance to confront my fears by learning about them?  My students, after all, have requested that I teach them elevator-related vocabulary in English.)

Well, I really like it.  First of all, what a relief to be in cooperation with your students and not waging a war against middle-school laziness, and to feel recognized by students as someone who is there to help and teach them and not to scold them.  There is nothing wrong with teaching children, in fact, I adore most of my kids.  But I see the kids at the school so infrequently and have been forced into teaching them such a stale curriculum that I feel I can’t do too much for them.  At the factory, where I teach young engineers and management types, I have much more freedom, and I get to explain words and concepts, rather than perform them.  And I get to use my Russian there to explain and to provide vocabulary words–I feel proud that they ask me to tell them how to say certain words in English–rather then to say tikho!!!!!!  sadityes!!!! (quiet!!!!  sit down!!!).

They’re funny people and they already manage to joke around in English.  Plus, they supply me with plenty of interesting information.  For example, last week one guy told me how he jumped into an ice cold lake for kreshchenie, a two-day holy period in which all water everywhere is said to turn to holy water.  And how it felt awesome.  Today, I asked what my students thought: are fur coats for women only or can men wear them too?  Well, one guy said, I saw this fat guy on the metro wearing one, and he just looked really strange.  But suddenly this sparked a conversation about how some “very successful businessmen” have taken to wearing “men’s” makeup on the job.  I balked, but one girl said, “well, men have to take care of themselves…”

After class, one of the women gives me and Carl, the other teacher there, a lift to the metro.  I help translate as we talk.  Carl, an Englishman who has been having a miserable time dealing with the Russian system of doing work and is indignant and angry much of the time, nonetheless goodnaturedly barrels through life here, picking up bits of Russian, gesturing, asking for milk in grocery stores by grasping at invisible teats…

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One response to “A heroine of soviet productivity!

  1. ahhh I couldn’t stop laughing at the “grasping at invisible teats” description…. and yes it is amazing that you can say that you’re going to the factory.

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