last updated: October 7, 2001

The background

As her time in England drew to a close, my sister had to make one of those sucky life choices: What next? She had arrived in England fired with enthusiasm after completing her University degree, ready to take on the world and spread her knowledge as a teacher, but the harsh reality was that she more often then not was without work, and when she did work, the children were, shall we say, less then idyllic. After much searching she landed a wonderful job as an aupair/nanny with a marvelous family in Yorkshire. But now here time was drawing to a close.

After much thought, lubricated no doubt by many a pint, she decided to volunteer as an English teacher with the VSO, a British organization. Her original list of possible destinations was at once exotic and bloody scary: Vietnam, China or perhaps even Outer Mongolia! But fate being a fickle bastard, this was not destined to be. Her placement, Russia. To be exact, a town right on the Urals, in the Asian portion, called Yekaterinburg.

So after almost two and a half years in England, my sister left on Saturday, July 11 2001 for the snowy slopes of the Urals on a pilgrimage to teach English to the Russian masses. Ever since, she has been producing a steady stream of emails documenting her experiences, and they are too good not to share. So this page serves as an archive of all the emails she has produced. Some of the emails have been edited to protect the innocent ;-)


Yekaterinburg is in the middle of Russia, on the Asian side of the Ural mountains. You can see a large map of Russia here, courtesy of the CIA and the University of Texas at Austin online library ( The area is very polluted (see this news snippet from the United Nations Environment Program) and can get very cold. To see the current weather conditions, just mosey on over to Yahoo ( For an encyclopedic reference to the city, try this link courtesy of

The communiqués

So this is the fun part. Listed below are many of the messages sent out to the world by Ondine. Some were intended for a large audience and appear virtually unchanged. Others, intended to be more personal, appear somewhat edited, with the more sensitive passages removed. If you have any mails that do not appear here and you would like them to, or at least portions thereof, send me the snippets that you want and I'll include them. I'm interested in things that are either screamingly funny or that really show how different life in Russia is. My email address is:
gemors* (copy the address into your email system and change the * to an @, this is an attempt to prevent spammers snagging this address).

The communiqués are listed by date with the newest at the top:

Date Sent Subject My Comments
September 11 2001 And all that I wanted was a flushing toilet...... Exploding toilets and bizarre night life
August 28 2001 Russian Fairies and other tales..... This letter had me laughing so hard I hurt myself
August 14 2001 Mechanically dropped meat and other tales..... This is why Ondine is leading a mostly vegetarian existence
August 8 2001 [none given] More on the wedding and the surreal aspects of being in Russia
July 23 2001 [none given] Ondine talks about the food, Russian weddings and being drunk under the table ;-)
July 20 2001 Re: It's Jasmine time Some info on the country and the cars
July 17 2001 What I would give for a washing machine........ Some of the romance seems to be wearing off
June 29 2001 Hi Details of the placement
June 24 2001 Chapter 1 : Pet Bears and Lots of Stairs!!! Russian lessons, bears and stairs, oh my!
June 17 2001 I'm here!!!!! First impressions of Moscow
June 11 2001 I'm Off! Leaving for Russia
March 23 2001 Cosmic practical jokes... The one that started it all