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Advice on BKC International House Moscow?
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Joined: 17 Nov 2004
Posts: 7
Location: Guadalajara, Mexico

PostPosted: Thu Mar 03, 2005 10:37 am    Post subject: Sweeping Statements... ;) Reply with quote

Dear Xenophile, you are absolutely right of course. One week is too brief a time to get a real idea of what BKC is like. This is precisely why I log on today to add to my ongoing report on this (very interesting, I might add) BKC experience.

I promised to be honest and report the good along with the bad, here are some good things I've experienced recently. My new flat, though by no means wonderful, is reasonably acceptable. The building entrance and stairwell are not covered with graffiti. But... what's really good about it is the location. BKC gave me a flat that is about 15 minutes away from my class-location for Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Another thing... my classes on those days have been blocked into a single chunk, which is a wonderful thing for a teacher in these kinds of schools. The people in timetabling and the people in recruitment have all been nice and helpful.

Like I said before, I believe the limited housing quality that is consistently mentioned in BKC teacher rooms (as far as my 13-day stay has allowed me to notice) is NOT because people don't try to help or don't care. On the contrary, I feel that they have done their best. I think it's simply the way that the organization is set up; it limits what the recruitment department can do for you.

The point that you make about winter and spring is absolutely valid, and if the gossip (mind you... not all that I say is based on teacher's-room gossip, some opinions I've heard are definitely much more than that and have been given in much more serious situations) changes when spring arrives I will definitely mention it here and I'll be happy to do it.

Well, that's what I have for today... I actually have to go into the Central Office and get my definitive schedule for Tuesdays and Thursdays.

People who read this, don't mistake my writing for a terrible opinion of BKC. I don't have a bad opinion of the organization (if I did I'd be back in London, Mexico, or China by now.) At the risk of being repetitive I will insist on saying that I feel it is a place full of good and professional people who actually do their best to help, but are limited by the setup.
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Phillip Donnelly

Joined: 24 Mar 2004
Posts: 43

PostPosted: Fri Mar 04, 2005 1:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Gedís summaries of BKC are quite accurate for the most part, Iíd say, which is remarkable considering his lack of experience, and I look forward to his updates.
However, Iíd have to agree with Xenophile that we must remember that for many teachers, grumbling is something of a hobby, and Iím no exception myself! Iím not sure if teaching attracts grumblers or if people become grumblers through teaching. HumÖthereís a PhD in there somewhere.
Like Xenophile and Ged, Iíve worked in many schools in several countries. In some, the salaries and terms and conditions of contract were amazing while in others they were disgraceful. However, the amount of moaning seems to bear little relationship to terms of conditions. I know itís a paradox, but thatís what Iíve found! Xenophile is also correct in that February/March really is Moscow at itís worst, and people feel pretty glum at that time of year. I know I did. Iím not saying, I hasten to add, that life is a bed of roses, and teachers must be insane to even consider having a moan.
Ged is correct in pointing out that accommodation can tend toward the basic. Iíll never forget my Sunday evenings leaning over the chipped bath tub, scrubbing permanently filthy black clothes out, and then wringing them till the muscles in my hands started to spasm. However, Iím told a lot more teachers have washing machines now, so that grim task may be something from the past. In fact, hand-washing was the most common grumble from teachers in my time, come to think of it. By the way, I think BKC is spending a lot more on accommodation than they did last year.
I also canít deny that life in satellite schools is not exactly a night at the Bolshoi. However, I had nothing to do with them, so Iím keeping quiet.
What I canít really understand is Gedís last line:
ďAt the risk of being repetitive I will insist on saying that I feel it is a place full of good and professional people who actually do their best to help, but are limited by the setup (sic).Ē
This Ďsetupí sounds sinister and KGB-like. BKC is limited in what it can do to make teachers Ďmore comfortableí by market forces. It cannot pay British Council salaries and provide substantially better accommodation because it cannot afford to significantly raise course rates. If it did so, the competition would undercut it, the school would lose students and go under.
I have to go now-my wife wants to use the internet!
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Joined: 18 Mar 2003
Posts: 1144
Location: Cyprus

PostPosted: Fri Mar 11, 2005 4:52 pm    Post subject: Moscow etc. Reply with quote

I liked your latest comments, especially about how essential it is to have a washing machine there-as we all know, the air etc. is filthy in Moscow(and in Bangkok too!) and clothes get covered in grime and muck very quickly, without even thinking about what all that does to your body etc!
My best Russian friend has two very young boys who are frequently ill with coughs and other bronchial problems, and which doctors tell him is due to environmental pollution!Apparently there are toxic fumes and gases which linger just above pavement level,so kids breathe them in much more easily than adults do!
Forget trying to alert the authorities in Russia-an Austrian environmental researcher went there a few years ago and took some measurements in Moscow with quite innocent equipment-just a couple of weeks later, he was suddenly called to the police station and told he had allegedly broken the currency declaration rules etc. and must either pay a ridiculous fine , or leave the country!Needless to say, he did the latter!
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Phillip Donnelly

Joined: 24 Mar 2004
Posts: 43

PostPosted: Sun Mar 13, 2005 10:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ah yes, the joys of the Russian justice system! I'm still pissed off about having to bribe a border guard a couple of hundred dollars on a visa run to Estonia.
Mind you, Bangkok leaves a lot to be desired in that regard too. I recently got fined 25 dollars for throwing my cigarrett butt away. This wasn't in a park, you understand, but on a polluted and rather dirty street, which had so little charm that my cigarrette butt could only have improved it! God only knows what would have happened if I'd been swigging from a bottle of beer at the same time...
In some ways, life in Russia is actually more free than here. I mean, you can smoke and drink a lot more freely. I wouldn't fancy my chances setting up an anti-Putin political party which aimed to expose corruption in the police and army though. Mind you, I wouldn't try that in Thailand either.
It almost seems alien to me now, after being so long abroad, that a police force might actually exist which protects the public, rather than intimidates it.
Hum..going off topic now.
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Joined: 31 Mar 2004
Posts: 545
Location: Between Russia and Germany

PostPosted: Sun Mar 13, 2005 1:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Isn't it funny how touchy those corrupt, populace intimidating, polluting regimes are about criticism? But the other schools are just as bad. (sorry, couldn't resist).

I remember when I was a kid and I thought of bathtub enamel as one of the solid foundations of modern society, secure in the knowledge that if ever an unsightly spot of metal appeared in ours, it would be immediately replaced.

Now I regard a pristine tub as a temporary anomaly and evidence of frivolous use of money.

I recently visited a friend in his apartment in a newly built building and was astounded to find that the stairwell was not covered in grafitti and didn't smell as though something had first urinated and then died in it. I'd just come to assume that these things were included in the architectural designs. "Hey Bob, I saw that presentation you gave on the urine stains for the new line of buildings. Good job. Maybe they should think about moving you up to the Crumbling Steps Division"

BKC can hardly be blamed for these things. Might as well pin the rude store clerks on them.
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