Those of you interested only in the substance of the teaching mission not only have my utmost respect but also might skip this fifth blog post; while personal matters will be kept to a minimum, some may have an interest in the mechanics of taking my (small) family to Russia. As you might expect, almost all my predecessors did this alone, or at most with a spouse, no matter where they taught in Eastern Europe.
My wife Laura is an attorney practicing family law. We have offered to have her lecture about the US practice in divorce and child protection, in a different program from the one in which I will teach. While away, Laura will arrange for other attorneys to cover her practice, as she is a ”solo.”
My son Matthew, who will be eight by the time we leave the US, is another story. We hope the educational aspects of the trip will compensate for missed school time, and we will take as much homework with us as possible; my understanding of the housing arrangements and weather is such that I think he will have lots of time for homework.
Attorney Andrew Nea, who practices with a well-known firm in Virginia, has preceded me in teaching at Belgorod and has graciously shared some of his experiences. He tells me that the faculty and students are warm and friendly, so I have no real apprehension. However, the mechanics of his life in Belgorod would require some family adjustments.
The housing he was afforded was quite adequate but attached to the University and not necessarily child-friendly as, for example, there simply were none. I will explore renting a small apartment although for such a short visit that will likely prove difficult.
The food at the school was, says Andy, not quite what American palates expect, let alone an eight year old. I am not sure that cheese and herring purchased at a nearby supermarket will satisfy Matthew and I’m not sure what to try to bring with us. I am told that food is plentiful and inexpensive, but I bet you could wait a long time for a Fenway Frank or a cup of Boston Clam Chowder. I wonder if I can start training Matthew now by going to local Russian restaurants (there are a few in the Newton/Brookline, Massachusetts area, reflecting a transplanted population).
I also expect that Newton Russian is unlike Belgorod Russian….