This week, I started at the twins. They live in a typical, classical pre-revolution block of flats in a good part of town, on one of the main roads that leads to the Kremlin. I can only imagine that these flats where once reserved for members of the Russian population that had high positions within the socialists dream team as they are grand and imposing to look at. It can be hard to find a flat in Moscow, as you won't often see one block of flats with a building number on it but many blocks all positioned around a courtyard or grassy play area, looking like huge monoliths to a socialist housing experiment, intended for another time and for another population. They cast their shadows over the courtyard and will swallow you up if you let them intimidate you with a thousand windows looking down on you. Each block, can have a dozen entrance doors all painted the same colour. These blocks must have once looked very grand, fifty years ago but now look mostly old and tired, like much of Moscow and in fact like many cities around the world that were built and designed long ago, for a different population and for a different set of ideals that are now dusty pages in our history books.
On the first day of teaching, I eventually found their block after spending ages looking for it. I took the rattly, cranky old lift with broken floor buttons, to the required floor and pushed the door buzzer. The mother answered. She is a nice enough women who clearly loves her kids, she is in her late 40's to early 50's, I suspect her kids may have been born by IVF. Her kids have three nannies. The kids are over five but don't speak any English, the mother wants them to take an entrance exam in a few months to enter a a foreign English school here. I called the school to ask what level of English was required to enter the school? I was told by the school they need to be at a native speaker level. I am not Jesus or a magician and cannot perform a miracle in five months to get two non English speakers into a school but I'll give it a good try. I made it clear to the mother that it would be a hard job, as I don't believe in just taking peoples money and running. I have a conscience when I should not, as we are all here to make money and survive, shit or be shat on is the new life mantra that I find hard to subscribe to. Russian's are used to buying and negotiating what they want with hard cash but the school that twin mum wants her kids to go to, does not apparently accept bribes.
Their flat is not "bling" by any level of blingness (you won't find this word in any dictionary, so don't look for it). It's a two room flat, with a small living room, with a sad looking parrot in large cage, the kitchen looks 1980's and has mirrors on the ceiling. They have an old worn leather sofa, covered in dog claw scratches and a drinks cabinet with full bottles of alcohol, so they don't drink very much or replace the empties very regularly. The twins share a room that's stuffy and squashed. Books are squeezed onto every shelf in the flat and the whole flat needs a face lift, the Russians call it "remont". This family is obviously liquid and in the money but not at all aesthetic or slaves to showing off what they have, which in a place like Moscow, is very refreshing, where the rich must show off what they have and often show it off in the worst possible taste. The family have a dog the size of a small horse, it has short hair and huge bollocks that swing from side to side when it walks. It has slobbery chops and leaves long trails of saliva everywhere, that look as if a giant see slug has just crawled along the sofa or floor. I left their flat the other day to take the metro home. On the train, I looked at my hair in the train window as I am so incredibly handsome and noticed I had a long trail of saliva slime in my hair, far better and stronger than any hair gel and free, so thanks Mr dog. I'm allergic to dog hair, so I spend most of the time sneezing but money keeps me as its slave and I have two kids to feed, so dog and me will have to get along for now, until I get fired, shot or taken to hospital to use a nebulizer.Both all strong possibilities.
I have met one nanny at the family who seems friendly enough, I briefly met the other one who seems to have a slight attitude and I only hope its not going to be a repeat flashback to the nanny I had to suffer at child X. Nanny jealousy can be hard to deal with. They don't respect foreigners, especially when they earn in two weeks what a foreign teacher earns in week. Working as teacher here, without a contract or without any rights, is a big gamble, you can be fired in a day, fired after a few days, or fired after a few weeks or months, you are at the mercy of the Russian who hires you. Cash is paid and no questions are asked.