What is daily life like in a Catholic orphanage, home for abused mothers, and central operating office in a large Siberian city?
Well, I’ll tell you.
I wake up at 6:40 every day, and the first thing I do is reach over to the bedside table, grab a chocolate bar, and start eating. Chocolate is a natural antidepressant, and in a large Siberian city, it’s smart to protect yourself. Then, I study Russian grammar for an hour, because I sound really, really stupid in Russian.
At 8:00, I go downstairs to the laundry room, where there is a punching bag. I punch and kick the bag, and I get a decent workout, but not a great one, because I just can’t summon the anger necessary for energetic kickboxing, despite the fact that people keep on stealing my food from the fridge.
“Remember what is divine in the Russian soul,” Joseph Conrad wrote, “– resignation.”
I eat as much oatmeal as I can for breakfast, but that’s not a ‘Russia’ thing. That’s just a lifelong habit. Then I follow it up with Spirulina and Omega-G fatty acid vitamins, because I belong to American female culture subset that fears a dull skin tone like the plague. It’s a real thing.
Smoke billows from the factories across the river, but actually, it looks kind of nice.
My work begins at 9, and I teach two girls — recent immigrants from Uzbekistan — mathematics because they immigrated illegally and can’t go to school. Then, we study Russian grammar together, though they’re pretty far ahead of me.
In the middle of the day, I often take babies for walks, which involves first stuffing them into about ten extra layers of clothing. Their moms tell me to make sure that a scarf covers their mouth. Because I belong to the American female culture subset that fears dull skin tone like the plague, I would usually wear sunscreen every day (micronized zinc oxide and titanium dioxide), but because vitamin D is one of the few vitamins that Spirulina doesn’t cover, here I don’t.
Two o’clock — lunch time. Yes! Traditional Russian food — double yes! Exactly what a body subjected to extreme cold wants to eat, though possibly bad for skin tone. Mayonnaise (to put in soup), a chunk of meat covered in carrot slivers, bread upon bread upon bread, and candy upon cookies upon sweet, sweet, sweet, hot, hot tea. Russia follows only Brazil in worldwide per capita consumption of sugar. And while Brazil produces plenty of sugar, Russia does not. Basically, whole fleets of oil-tanker-sized boats bring sugar to Russia.
Four or five teaspoons is the normal amount of sugar for one cup of tea. Yowza.
Read Franny’s first installment detailing daily life in a Russian orphanage here.
Read Franny’s second installment, consisting of musings on the city of Novosibirsk, here.
Read Franny’s third installment about immigrant girls here.
Read Franny’s fourth installment about attempting to escape a Russian hospital here.
Read Franny’s fifth installment on sadness here.