From here to modernity

I’ve never been very good at packing.

Whereas others seize the opportunity to organise, write authoritatively on boxes and clean-up as they go along, I can usually be found skiving off down memory lane with a length of fresh bubble-wrap and the first postcard/keepsake/photograph to come to hand.

Unfortunately for family, flatmates and easily frustrated removal men, moving house has become quite a common occurrence in my life, as I have a tendency to up-sticks at least once every two to three years. And, strangely, such discord between habit and talent is quite despite a lifestyle that seems to be in a constant state of flux, and a personal space that forever looks to be in the process of being packed or unpacked.

Nobody seems to have forewarned the school, however, as I was this weekend called upon to assist in re-establishing the business at its swanky new suburban premises. After a week of packing and preparation, we finally bade farewell to ул. Интернациональная and headed a few miles out of the city centre to the new neighbourhood.

Now housed in a handsome new-build just off ул. коммунистическая, the school occupies a sizeable section of prime office-space on the building’s second floor, which has been partitioned into classrooms. Coloured red, green and white, the complex is still essentially a construction site, and one that is currently shared only with workmen and cleaners putting the finishing touches to the interior. Fingers crossed for a Starbucks franchise on the ground floor.

While by no means as drastic a contrast as that between Scotland and Syktyvkar, it is nevertheless something of a novelty to be in a new part of town. Although I am not completely unfamiliar with the new surroundings — this building is just around the corner from my favourite (and least favourite, as it happens) restaurants — it’s still a welcome change of scenery.

Rather than skirting the sports stadium, crossing the pigeon-infested park and passing the mighty сыкывкар универмаг, I instead turn left where I would have once turned right and take in the student throngs of the teacher training institute, the opulence of the opera house and the ordered chaos of the Три пера (three feathers) roundabout — known locally, and appropriately, as “Stella at the circus”.

Classes naturally resumed on Monday morning (at least for the children who had remembered the change of address), and the day passed with a speed that seems reserved solely for first days. The new layout was more efficient and functional than we had been accustomed to, and with the exception of a broken kettle and a few frantic phonecalls from lost students the day concluded without a hitch.

But what to do for lunch? We were now out of Mario’s catchment area, outside DoDo’s jurisdiction and surely beyond the means of the city’s equivalent of a Chinese take-out, Walkie Talkie. (Perhaps if it had been called SatNav or Skype?) It would be too expensive to eat at Абажур every day, and I’d rather starve than return to Таверна ”Флинт”. We would have to try somewhere new.

Settling on a small student eatery on the ground floor of a nearby shopping centre, we took our places in the queue as I tried and failed to translate the overhead menu boards. On offer, the other teachers explained, was a large selection of “blini” — pancake parcels containing everything from summer fruits to seafood. Thankfully, there wasn’t a beef tongue in sight.

Playing it safe regardless with a basic cheese and ham filling (in addition to beetroot soup, prawn salad and my now customary Irn Bru), I listened intently as talk turned to the rapidly cooling winter climate. Warned not to touch anything metallic with my bare hands, I was entertained with allegedly autobiographical tales of Dumb and Dumber-esque incidents involving people getting frozen to the most unlikely of objects.

I may hate packing to move, but I wouldn’t fancy being stuck in one place either.


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