A Day in the Life: Volunteering in Russia
Vicky Warrell is studying Russian at the University of Nottingham and is currently volunteering with her friend Lois, author of '10 things I wish I known before leaving for Russia', in a small community called Orion, which is about an hour outside Moscow. For the latest updates check out her blog, and in the meantime here's a day in her life as a volunteer in Russia...
8.30 - We wake up, and have showers. There are two showers, but frequently at least one of the two boilers breaks down, which led to one of us not being able to shower, so I’ve taken to getting up earlier to try to eliminate this problem!
9.45 - Breakfast time! Today we have ‘omelette’, at least, that’s what the cook refers to it as, but it’s essentially a very thick chunk of egg, which can be made to taste more exciting by melting cheese on top of it. The whole community eats together, and today we sit at a table with a few of the children, who always talk to us. I find that sitting with them is better than sitting with the adults, as the adults discuss serious things to do with the community, and don’t often have time to talk to us like the children do. The volunteers’ coordinator gives us our timetable, and it turns out that the hour that we’d counted on for lesson preparation has been swapped with a lesson. This means that we have to hurry with our chores in order to be able to have time to plan our lessons!
10.15 - We start our usual job of washing up after breakfast. Today they have replaced the tap which had broken two days previously, but we still have the challenge of having just one plug, but three sinks! However, due to the added pressure of lessons needing to be planned, I get through the washing up in extra quick time, and after wiping the tables and replacing the serviettes on each one, I rush off to plan.
11.10 - Time for our English lesson with the 6th form! Our lesson goes smoothly, although their usual classroom is being used, so we have to use the computer room.
12.05 - We go in search of our next class, the 5th form, to find that their classroom is also being used. Luckily another room is free, and as they are learning numbers up to 100 in English, we play Bingo, which, as well as being enjoyable for them, has the added bonus of being great revision.
12.50 - Free time before lunch, which is good as it has been a busy morning!
14.00 - Every lunch time they serve some kind of soup, and today it's lentil. After lunch, we’re free for about half an hour, which gives us time to digest!
15.00 - Time to clean the banya (sauna). It’s a tiny wooden building, which always needs sweeping as it is covered in leaves – part of the banya experience is being hit with silver birch branches (we have yet to do this!)
16.00 - I go and clean the porch of the school. This is where they leave their shoes, as it reduces the amount of mud being walked around the school. This means that it’s very muddy, and needs to be cleaned frequently!
17.00 - Time to do some laundry for the community, as well as iron some towels. Russians appear to iron everything; I’ve even been told to iron tea towels here before! We then have free time before dinner.
18.30 - Dinner is peppers stuffed with rice, which is a little stodgy, but is edible. One thing I’ve found is that it is no use being fussy here – if you don’t eat something, there usually is nothing else. Before I moved here, I was a vegetarian, but that is not a practical option here! However, since I honestly cannot stand fish, the cook made me fried eggs yesterday for dinner while everyone else had fish, which I hugely appreciated!
19.00 - In the evenings we don’t always have things to do. Once a week, I have evening duty, when I clean the pans and trays from dinner, as well as cleaning the floors. Twice a week I have Russian lessons with one of the adults, which are really useful. I also go to the local shop about once a week, to buy chocolate and fruit juice, which aren’t often available in the village. Sometimes I'm invited to other people’s houses for tea (you will drink a lot of tea in Russia, and don’t expect to have it served with milk; that is only for children here to cool it down!) and a chat, which is always nice!
23.00 - I normally go to bed around this sort of time, which may seem early, but I need the sleep!