Igor Yevtishenkov.

School Stories in English and Russian

Igor Yevtishenkov,2016



Learning the russianway

Moving over tothe window, Peter threw his wrapper into the bin and bit into the sweet. Injust aminute, the headache disappeared. Sugar helped, but Peter couldnt understand why he had tolearn complicated formulas with his other classmates. Inthe classroom he tried toquestion the beer-bellied teacher about the more difficult exercises, but the large man just smiled and said that it would help him one-day Weird!

Peter was tired, but his homework wasnt yet done. He wished that he could just answer some ofthe questions like can the residual oftwo figures be more than their sum, for example. It seemed so easy at first sight, but he was stuck on the problem for along time. He couldnt concentrate and soon his thoughts slid away somewhere else

Peter closed his eyes and relaxed inthe chair after his long day. He felt annoyed, but the reason wasnt his dull homework it was Mary, his classmate. She was cute, well educated and he enjoyed seeing her eyes on him, though it made him feel uneasy and this was when the bloody surged tohis cheeks. He didnt fancy her, even though she was different from other girls intheir class but the worst was that she knew it. Peter tried tohide his feelings and none seemed tonotice his reaction. He didnt want tobe friends with Mary, not yet. But being an acquaintance was okay for now. Or didnt he believe his true feelings? Peter did not want toanswer.

He thought about his last chat with Mary at school and sighed. Shed come up tohim with afriend, the red haired Natalie, who was rather cheeky and abit stuck-up.

Hi Peter, said Mary. Natalie rolled her eyes as if being hit byMike Tysons uppercut toherjaw.

Hi girls, said Peter, Hows things?

Okay, thanks, Mary replied. Natalie was holding her left elbow tightly. Ive got afew English Grammar questions would you mind if Ie-mailed them over toyou tonight?, she asked.

What? Tome?, he asked. He was surprised. He knew she had some private teachers from the UK and her English was far better than others. But she never asked for help. Notyet.

Sure! After all, who can explain English better than you?, Mary flattered him and raised her eyebrows.

Before he could think ofasuitable answer toher question, the girls were already bythe class next door.

It happened today and Peter thought it had something todo with the Maths lesson. Afew days ago, the Maths teacher well known alias Teddy Bear came into the class with awry smile and said, If any ofyou know how tosolve the problem during this lesson, youll get A-mark for the third school term and be let out early!. It sounded like ajoke and toPeter itwas.

Two ships are leaving piers from opposite river banks at the same time.

They are moving towards each other, whispered Alex, his neighbor he was good at Maths and it was achallenge tohim. Both are moving at different but entirely steady speeds. They met for the first time, 720m away from the shore, but then moved away from each other again. Then each made aU-turn and began totrack back across the river, meeting the next time, 400m from the shore. What is the distance, therefore, between the river banks?, Peter wished he could find the answer, but tono avail.

Do you know what the answer is?, whispered Mary over the aisle.

Not aclue, answered Peter. He shook his head, not daring tolook up, but instead rested his chin inhis hands and pretended tothink. His cheeks once again burned red through his fingers.

No-one succeeded inthe lesson, but many ofthe class promised tohave an answer bythe following morning. Except Peter.

Peter e-mailed the puzzle toRobert, his friend inManchester, but had no reply as yet. Robert must have been pondering the answer as well, no doubt, but if he did know the solution, he would surely make contact. Peter moved the sheet with the problem away and focused on something else. He thought about his private school inthe Manchester suburbs. There were afew teachers who were helpful during the afternoon classes and helped pupils with their homework. He smiled as he reminisced about his time there. Mr.McDubley was really funny always blinking his eyes when Peter couldnt understand the Maths. Mr.Watersmith patiently explained the dull and boring grammar rules, but Peter never felt so desperate and exhausted as he did here inMoscow. Hes never been given so much homework, never. It was better inManchester before

Afew days passed and there was no lucky man tocope with the Teddy Bears problem inhis class. Even Alex failed. Teddy Bear exulted over them, many classmates were really upset, but Peter didnt care. He thought it was nonsense but not achallenge.

He had afew classbooks about Maths on his desk now, as well as two or three on History and Geography. Hed heard that there were more than twenty bydifferent authors on English grammar that had been approved bythe Ministry ofEducation unbelievable! those Russians are nuts about this stuff and they like toexaggerate. Inhis early days, he thought that there were exams for each class book, but was really surprised tofind out he was wrong. It was only one exam. He wondered how he could choose the right course totake and books topass the test successfully. All his efforts though were invain no-one could explain, simply relying on teachers knowledge, experience or simply ahit and miss answer Oh those Russians!

Peter came back tothe Maths again. Teddy Bear usually explained exercises for ten tofifteen minutes, as it took the other kids alittle longer tounderstand his speech. Two or three more exercises took them another twenty minutes why the hell did this man demanded afurther ten tofifteen more exercises for homework? Teddy Bear didnt care how long Peter spent on this boring work and nor did the other teachers. Each ofthem thinks theyre the Lord ofthe manor and the pupils are mere slaves. Ofcourse, they know more than the pupils, but homework always seems tobe more than the lesson why? Why should they do homework tree-four times longer than at school? Again, theres no-one toexplain.

Tomorrow theyll have six lessons, two ofthem would be PE. Alex told him once how long it would usually take todo this boring Maths shit. However, Alex was ageek one ofthe best inthe class, so Peter could only imagine the efforts that, Mary or Natalie, for example, would have togo through todo the same. Awesome. If they really tried todo homework theyd have todo it well into the night. And no night clubs and parties, ofcourse.

Peter imagined ateacher making all these exercises alone. He wondered if there was anyone who could endure it? Highly unlikely. He thought ofDads stories about his old good times when they had only one teacher. The man taught them all the subjects for the whole year and there was another one who inherited them inthe following one. Peter thought if there were such asystem inthis Russian school, the teacher would not be able togive them so huge home exercises. He simply wouldnt be able tocheck up the following day. Too much for one person. Even for Teddy Bear. Peter tried togauge how long it could take him tocheck up their exercise books. The result was shocking: three hours per each class daily. Five classes meant fifteen hours. It was impossible. Even if ateacher were agenius and were never tired, even if he could read faster than any ordinary person, even so he wouldnt be able tospend less than five-six hours per day for checking their home work. Without any coffee break and smoking! It was impossible toimagine. He understood now why his home works stayed unmarked so often. If they do not care ofwhat they ask for, why should we do then?, he sighed and fell tothinking.

It was China he reminisced about. Two years ago Dad convinced Mum togo altogether toChina. He had some partners over there and planned toset up abusiness with Government inthe South ofChina. It took him two years tounderstand it would be not so fast and his partners could not do all routine job without him. But life inChina was anightmare for Peter. Dad was crazy about his own childhood and the way he was educated inaJohn Deweys school. He wanted Peter tofollow his way. He made Peter work at afactory inChina for awhile. On Sundays. There was no air conditioning and the food was lousy, always. But Dad said Peter had tolearn life the way it was: no sugar, no sweets, just pure water, hard work and perspiration all over the body. The humidity was always 100% and the temperature was over 30Centigrade all the day long. It was adisaster. Peter barely survived. At school they studied six days aweek and almost ten month ayear. But there was no home work at all inthere. Strange. And now he was inRussia. Not much better but he had no perspiration every day at the very least. Dad said the future would belong tonuclear energy, and he was sure the Russians had some good ideas on that. Dad is avery smart man. But hes as stubborn as amule. So, he even convinced Mom toteach inThe University ofForeign Languages inMoscow tomove about.

Peter smiled and eyed another pile ofpapers. Damn, Geography! Inthe afternoon he hesitated about how tofill inthe maps and how tofind the coordinates ofsome cities and mountains. He didnt, however, now. He knew Google Maps would never-ever let him down. He entered the data and got the first reply. With asafe conscience he jotted down all the necessary latitudes and longitudes on the maps and gave astretch with delight. Even though he was against the boring homeworks he did not want toupset his Dad. Doing too much was not the right way tosuccess, he thought. Peter was tired. Hed be better off leaving all this behind now. He was thirsty and died for some tea. But he kept one eye on the monitor. There was aflickering envelope inthe right down corner. New incoming mail? His heart missed abeat. It was like email apnea. He could not say how but he was sure it was Marys email inthere. He clicked the icon. Damn, it washer!

Hi Pete, could you help me totranslate the text below, please? was number one inher list ofwishes.

H-m-m, she could do it herself But after looking through the pages Peter understood their English teacher alias Dragon was inavery bad mood today: the text was about fiber optic glass and its physical characteristics. How could they translate it from Russian into English? Even he could not For some time this job absorbed him and he did not notice the second question inthe message. After pressing the Reply All button he saw Natalies email inthe address line too. There were also afew words about it down there: Please, helpus with Natalie because she is my best friend and we wont translate the text without your help. Iowe ualot, Pet! My aunt! It was unfair. Peter wanted todelete the message but decided toscroll it down. And inthe end he found one more thing.

Peter, uknow, Ihave aproblem. Afriend ofmine asked me totranslate afew words for her. Could you have alook, please? Ill email you all the questions inthe second message, she was really ahoo lee as the Chinese used tosay. Acunning fox. He did not want tohelp Natalie but he did want tohelp Mary. They, women! What kind ofsecret did she want tokeep from Natalie but reveal tohim? He was intrigued. Peter didnt delete his message. He waited for awhile and all but pressed Send button. It was through. But another one appeared instead on the message bar. It was amail agent notification about one more incoming tohis second account. Peter chose download option. Inafew seconds it was on the screen. And it was from Mary. What could she hide from her best friend Natalie init?

Evening, Peter, she began inher Russian way. She was nervous for sure. There were too many mistypings inher second email. He smiled; she usually made alot ofthumbos when texting, too. Ihave avery unusual question toyou. You see, Ihave avery close friend. She lives inSaint Petersburg. We have been close since childhood. Its avery long story. But now she is introuble. She has aboy-friend inthe UK. They met at Malta last year. And unfortunately, she fell inlove. But he does not reply toher emails anymore. That guy even changed his Skype account and she cannot call him now. So, she wrote him averse. Could you be so kind tohave alook at her version that Ialso tried tocorrect alittle bit, please? Please, do not comment and no jokes. It is asensitive matter.

Peter smiled. He was obviously flattered. Marys words gave him quite athrill. He no longer thought why Mary kept this asecret though girls usually adored togossip about such stories. He felt the inspiration overwhelming him. Here, he began toread:

No matter if its day or night,
Your glance is no longer bright
As it was seven days before
But you are right: what is itfor?
Why am Ibegging for akiss?
Why do Iwonder if you miss?
Why am Italking somuch
And do not dare even touch?
Who am Inow? Who areyou?
Are two too many or toofew?
If you dont love me, nor doI!
And saying this Iwant tocry
But if Ihate again tomeet
Why feeling pain is so sweet?

And nobody helps reply:
Icant help suffering butwhy?

Peter fell into deep thought and entered his own world where time stood still. Even though there were very many mistakes inthe verse, it touched him. He was typing and thinking, and noticed nothing around him. His father knocked at his door twice and even half-opened it, but Peter did not turn around. Hard worker as Iam thought Dad and went back tohis room. Peter meanwhile kept on doing his unusual homework. Finally, he was through. He relaxed and read the lines from the very beginning:

Effulgent day or stygian night,
Your ardent glance, no longer bright
As it was seven days before
Pitiless pain! What is itfor?
Why am Ibegging for the kiss?
Why do Iwonder if you miss?
Why do Idream and dare not touch;
Yet, overwhelming fear Iclutch?
Who am Inow and who areyou?
Is two too many or toofew?
If you dont love me, nor doI!
My sin inblood-red tears Ivie
But, if Ihate again tomeet,
Why is this poignant pain so sweet?

Beloved, this is my guttedcry:
Icant help suffering butwhy?

Peter was satisfied. It sounded good and Marys friends guy is likely tobe surprised. Undoubtedly. Thats what they wanted and theyll get it. Email disappeared from the screen and dropped into Marys incoming box inthe north suburbs ofMoscow. She started when the speaker beeped loudly, and clicked the envelope icon with atrembling hand. As she was reading it brought tears toher eyes. She was looking at ayoung boys picture inher hands and whispered his name. It was the guy she met at Malta the year before. She could see nothing but his face and was quietly crying.

But Peter couldnt see it. He was far away. His throat was soaring. He wanted todrink. So, he rushed tothe kitchen. Mum and Dad waited for him over there.

Sonny, you look alittle odd, saidMom.

Yes, Iam, Peter agreed and smiled.

Was your homework so interesting?, wondered Dad with awitty smile. Iopened your door twice but you even did not react.

Oh, yes, it was. Youre right, Peter said with ahappy smile.

Itold you, he nodded toMum. He is clever and can adjust toany circumstances.

Sure, you did, smiled Mum. Like father like son.

Come on, honey, do not exaggerate, said Dad. Nowadays they have completely different homework. They know so much. Its fantastic. Ido envy them. And their homework must be also interesting.

Oh, yes, it is, Peter confirmed candidly. Iwish Icould have it always as much interesting as tonight!

All three sat around the table and began totalk merrily about their family matters. Everyone was happy inhis own way. The homework was done.

Teaching english at school or all is not gold that glitters

The mild and tender autumn wind hasnt yet turned into apenetrating and icy one. Air petted face and touched it as carefully and softly as if it was afraid offrightening it. Every next morning seemed tobe nicer and more charming than the previous one, and Andrey Ivanovich was fascinated with the golden days ofthat autumn. At the very least inthe mornings on his way from home tothe local school he has just begun towork for as an English teacher. As soon as he stepped across the schools threshold his mood has changed dramatically. Two months have passed and more or less the pupils got used tohim and his requirements. But, half ofthem didnt want tolearn, no matter what hedid.

Young Larisa Ivlev burst into blossom much earlier than any ofthe other eighth form girls. Meeting her inthe street, all made up inan abundance ofpaint and feathers, hed hardly recognize her as one ofhis pupils. Now, dressed up insome fashionable but cheap clothes like ayoung starlet she raised her brows high and her hair almost hid them. Her eyes, wide-open, were naive and sincere. If he hadnt known this girl before, hed say she was aVirgin Marys sister or her sister-in-law at the very least. She zipped her jacket down alittle so that zip-fastener stopped fifteen centimeters below collarbones. Until she stood straight, it was OK. Meanwhile Larisa leaned forward and planted her elbows on the desk. Her chin rested cosily inher palms. He was sitting at the desk and filling inthe class register. The girls and the boys stopped chatting and watched her out ofthe corner oftheir eyes; heads forward, idiotic look on their faces, hoodies and headsets inthe ears. He shook his head thinking his view was one-sided.

Andrey Ivanovich, she half-whispered half-curred inaseductive voice. You know, Ihave toadmit she made ashort pause like agood actress and went on, Ihavent done my home work, unfortunately. The last word was pronounced with so low and mourning voice that it took him all his power tostop laughing. He pulled himself up, anyway, and lookedup.

Thats really avery deplorable fact, he copied her intonation. My condolences But let me ask, Ms. Ivlev why did you fail todo it? he exuded charm.

Oh, that was avery sad story. But inshort, Iwas at ahospital.

Sorry. And how long did it take you? He was as kind and caring as her own father couldnt be at that moment.

Half aday. Why are you questioning about that? Did you see me somewhere?, she smiled with asilly smile many young girls used tothinking it makes them look more irresistible and intriguing.

No, Ididnt. So, you were back inthe afternoon, werent you?, he raised his brows and she let hers down.

Yes, Iwas. Idont remember exactly But youre right. Sortof.

Did you have dinner yesterday or did you miss it because ofthis unpleasant visit, Ms. Ivlev?, he asked with sympathy.

Yes, Idid. No problem, she leaned her head down toashoulder alittlebit.

Did you have your supper as well?, he kept asking.

Yes, Idid, Andrey Ivanovich. What are you implying? That Ishould be on adiet?, she pushed out her lower lip and gave adisgusted laugh.

No, not at all. But let me ask you the last question. Did you get tobed on time?

Oh, now Isee what youre getting at, she smiled openly. Yes, Idid. Alone and happy. Idreamt wonderful dreams, she began towhisper again. And Ieven dreamt about you. Imagine that..?

Id rather not, he narrowed his eyes and whispered inreturn. Icant find any excuse for you being so unprepared, Ms. Ivlev. Idont want tohear about your nice, long dreams. If you had time for sleep, you had plenty oftime todo your homework beforehand. Give me your assignment book, please.

Maybe we can talk about English inanother way? Why dont you call me Larisa?, she did not give up. She threw back her shoulders and athin line between two sides ofher zip opened up much wider than necessary. She arched her back and looked at him, raised her shoe-heel up waving it as abanner over her skirt-tightened buttocks.

Hardly we can, he said sharply and moved his head forward as if he wanted tolook into her eyes deeper.

Why are you looking at me like that?, she was embarrassed, obviously. She blushed but came back fast. The girl had too far gone tobe brought back that easily. What can you see inmy eyes, Andrey Ivanovich?

Nothing, unfortunately. However, let me have another look, he furrowed his brow, looking like he really wanted tofind something good inthere. Then apreviously unseen taste for sarcasm overcame him. Yes, Ican. Ican see the back ofyour skull and nothing else. Do Imake myself clear, Ms. Ivlev?

You are humiliating me!, she yielded. You are traumatizing my soul!.. You are trying topsyche me out!

: 1 2