About me

I am a British woman of age *cough hack splutter choke*

Currently I am living in London. I am quite tired of it. Dr Johnson never had to fight his way over to Chiswick by car every Friday evening. Sadly my husband, a Moscovite, refuses to acknowledge there is life outside the capital of any given country.

I spent a number of years living and working in Russia’s capital city, which is where I met the Moscovite. No, he doesn’t own any football teams. Or drink vodka for breakfast.

I was born and raised in a small town outside London. It was the prototype for Milton Keynes. This means it’s a New Town built on the enlightened social and architectural principles of the fifties and sixties. Which is quite as horrifying as it sounds.

I have been teaching English (as a foreign language) for the last fifteen years or so. Teaching is a lot harder than people seem to think. But whatever career I once had has been interrupted by the fact that I am now a Mama. The Star, was born in June 2008 and the Comet, was born in June 2011.

The Moscovite and I are trying to bring them up as balanced a bilingual and bi-cultural as possible. This involves me watching a lot of Soviet era cartoons and having my pronunciation and grammar corrected by small people.

I am interested in language, education, living abroad, formula one and the manifestations of culture shock. After all, motherhood is just another form of culture shock.

Contact me at: s_solnushka@yahoo.co.uk

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21 thoughts on “About me

  1. Robin says:

    Our experiences are so parallel even down to the TV watching! I’m in Finland, born in Leamington-Spa, studied architecture and now . . . I don’t know, stumbling around in the dark, devising cognitive approaches for brief language/culture courses.

    TV was/is great but becoming less so for me as it becomes more channeled. I used to like the randomness of it, flipping through it like a bunch of magazines in a house clearance, turning up interest in articles I could never have come across in any planned way.

    Verbose enough? 🙂

  2. After only two paragraphs? Not nearly.

    I must say that my fascination with TV seems to be waning abit now. There never seems to be anything interesting on. This probably means I’ve been back home too long. It doesn’t mean that I actually turn the thing off, or fail to watch re runs of property programs for the fourth time, of course.

    I do like everything I’ve heard of Finland. Except for the language. There’re, what, 16 cases? And five million vowel sounds? And no connections with European languages to help with the words? Look, I’m hyperventilating already…

  3. Robin says:

    Yup, with you there on the TV front! Still keep stumbling over stuff there.

    So, everything you’ve heard about Finland? Like?

    The language is a “bit of a struggle” aka impossible! I’ve been here years and can’t handle it yet. But there are bigger problems than the case endings and syntax (are those different things, I’m tired!).

    People don’t talk much and silence is a quite and acceptable and usual response. The problem is figuring out what it means: “I haven’t a clue what you just said”, “I don’t agree”, “That’s stupid” etc. They are very economical and measured in what they say.

    Learning languages, for a bear of little brain, like me, relies upon communicating with people. I can’t learn from lists and tables. Anyway it would be a useless exercise here even if I could. There are several layers of Finnish and each one is significantly different. There is a written Finnish, and then there are the numerous spoken Finnish-es, real Finnish-es. No-one except foreigners uses written Finnish to speak with. But that’s what in the language courses.

    In the area that I live for instance there are three different ways of saying the numbers one-ten. Only one is written down, and it has taken me SIX YEARS to find out what the number ten is in the other two. The reason for this is another big hurdle. If you ask a Finn to repeat what they just said they will repeat it in WRITTEN FINNISH, not even spoken Finnish and definitely not their own cut-down local version.

    Oh, and it’s also a semi-tonal language. I love it! I have really learned here how euro-centric our branches of knowledge are. Virtually none of the linguistic concepts apply very well, from grammatical concepts to meaning/language concepts. I guess the same is at least as true for oriental, African etc languages.

    That must be getting towards verbosity?!? 😉

  4. Well, I have a friend who is part Finnish, which predisposes me towards the place.

    *Waves at Ti if she’s passing through*

    Plus, while I can talk and talk and talk, I’ve never been very good at small talk and I find the directness of Russians quite soothing for that reason. I suspect the Russians and Finns are quite similar in that respect, although that’s probably something I wouldn’t say to Finnish people directly usually.

    I like pickled and salt fish very much, and I gather the Finns are masters of that particular type of food.

    And I adore snow and cold weather.

    On the other hand… oh. My. God. What an appalling language. That’s much worse than I thought. I’m not emmigrating there in my old age. Canada has snow and only French to cope with.

  5. Robin says:

    I’ve just come across your reply -(RSS not working as it should). Finns say they’ve no time for small talk but for me that’s all they do, apart from the daily necessity of exchanging practical data.

    I had to reply because I’m fascinated by the difficulty of translating concepts between cultures. “Small talk” [English] means idle, inconsequential, insignificant or otherwise meaningless conversation e.g. “How’s Graham?”, “Fine thank you. And Julie”, “Yes, doing well. Weather’s turning. “Yes, seems to be” etc etc. “Small talk” [Finnish] includes everything one cannot directly act upon! So, discussion of emotional, abstract, conseptual, and even political topics are generally considered “small talk” politely speaking and “bullshit” more frankly. So, the condition of the skiing tracks on the lake, or the merits of the myriad of ski waxes is not considered small talk. The mass resignation of nurses from the health service was.

    Subsets of Finns, for instance journalists, have told me they are most un-Finnish because of the lively conversations they have over cups of coffee!

    “Team work” is another example. Groups of teachers I was teaching saw their army as an proving Finns adeptness at teamwork, proven in the war. A Bismarkian (?) view that is far removed from the general Western understanding of the term.

    I have wondered if the extreme irregularity of the language (in all except pronunciation, and setting aside Agricola’s “reconstruction” of it), the prominence of pronounced dialects, and the “diminutising” (is that a word?) of the names of almost all institutions, organisations, newspapers, clubs etc, is all “designed” to keep outsiders out. A linguistic evolution driven by 450 yrs of occupation in the same way as patois devloped. It seems amazing to me that such a small nation has survived culturally intact for such an extended period. Perhaps their language was a key to this?

    I know what you mean about the snow and the cold weather! Do the Canadians go in for “avanto” (bathing in a hole in the ice) ? With sauna it’s really great. I thought I’d hate the cold but I think it’s my favourite time. D**n global warming! There’s less and less snow and warmer and warmer summers now. 😦

  6. Obviously I hadn’t replied to this as I thought I had. Real life is intruding most irritatingly at the mo, although sadly not in the form of snow or even particularly cold weather.

    I have frequently wondered why languages like Finnish and Estonian survive, despite all incentives to the contrary. Of course we English still haven’t stamped out Welsh yet, although we are nearly there with Gaelic and Irish. Tells you everything you need to know about the stubboness of national feeling, I suppose.

    As far as Finnish small talk goes, a friend of mine (British) once told me that he gets all the girls in Finland because his conversation is said to be particularly sparkling. He would be the first to say that it isn’t (well, perhaps not the first), but it just goes to show you that one person’s small tal;k is another person’s profound wit.

    The closest we British get to avanto is the traditional dip in the Serpentine pond, Hyde Park, London on Xmas day. These people are considered particularly dashing, despite the fact that temperatures will be well above freezing mostly.

  7. I am an American living in Panama, living to a Panamanian and working as a teacher as well. Your blog about pregnancy was interesting as my husband and I are currently planning to have our first child. I had a miscarriage earlier in the year. It sounds like working and pregnancy is a dreadful combination. Do you expect that you will be continuing to teach full-time after the baby or will you be looking for a part-time situation?

  8. A miscarriage for you first baby is a real bitch I reckon. It really ups the ante in ways that are extremely unfair.

    I suspect I may be overegging the pudding for dramatic effect about the difficulties of working while pregnant. Really must never let the Star read this – he’ll think I hate him. In reality, right up until last week, I was fine, and I am only 6 weeks away now, so well within the window for giving up work anyway.

    And anyway, the straw that broke the camel’s back was that I couldn’t just switch to auto pilot. If I’d been teaching my normal subject to willing participants it would have been fine. Although I think I might have taken the last month off in any case.

    Of course, I’ve had an easy pregnancy really, but without work, I’d have probably gone crazy, particularly in the first trimester, which I do think is the most miserable bit of the whole experience.

    Not sure how much I plan to work and when I plan to go back. Can’t afford not to work at all. And I like working. TEFL is more flexible in terms of hours and such. But then why bother retraining if I don’t end up using it? I’m aiming for full time either way after a year, but we’ll see.

    Panama must be fun. I always had a small regret that I didn’t move around a little bit more when doing my abroad thing, and South America was always the place I think I’d have ended up first. Panama is in South America, right? Ummm…

  9. I guess it’s about time I introduce myself =) Haven’t got round to it because I’m a mother myself and have got maternal brain. Your Star isn’t that much older than my little one. I came across your blog through someone elses. You write really well and I have enjoyed reading a number of your posts! So I hope you don’t mind that I’ve added you to my blogroll (before I introduced myself hmm…)

  10. Who needs TV when we can waste all our time reading blog comments now! Quieter for sleeping babes and doesn’t allow multi-tasking cleaning.

    notsospanish.wordpress.com

  11. I had to reply because I’m fascinated by the difficulty of translating concepts between cultures. “Small talk” [English] means idle, inconsequential, insignificant or otherwise meaningless conversation e.g. “How’s Graham?”, “Fine thank you. And Julie”, “Yes, doing well. Weather’s turning. “Yes, seems to be” etc etc. “Small talk” [Finnish] includes everything one cannot directly act upon! So, discussion of emotional, abstract, conseptual, and even political topics are generally considered “small talk” politely speaking and “bullshit” more frankly. So, the condition of the skiing tracks on the lake, or the merits of the myriad of ski waxes is not considered small talk. The mass resignation of nurses from the health service was.
    +1

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