Hey there and welcome to the BigAppleSchool podcast – the weekly English show where we speak about everything under the sun. The major goal of this show is to help you with your English and of course learn something new. My name’s Katya, I’m your host and today with me…
Is Ken from the Philippines.
And Benjamin from London.
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So, yeah, make sure to say hi to us. It won’t take much time or effort, right, but it will help us a lot to become even better. Alright. So and I remember we had an episode where we, you know, had a little bit of a walk down memory lane.
So we are going to do the same thing today, only instead of talking about the most memorable events, we are going to talk about the most memorable period maybe which is childhood.
So and can you tell me a little bit about your childhood? I mean, what years was it in, what decade, what country were you in and what was the state of the country at the time. Cause I think it’s kinda important, it kinda reflects on the childhood that we had.
You know… Okay, firstly, I wanna say that I spent my childhood in, well, it’s like a small town, it’s kinda village -ish kind of place. So definitely not in the city and at that time that was the early 1990s, it was politically stable in the Philippines. We just had a new president who replaced the previous one. The previous one was the first female president and then we had somebody from the military who became, you know, the president.
I can say that my childhood was a happy one. I had a lot of fond memories and by the way, it was my grandmother who looked after me. And I grew up together with my two other cousins, all of us were boys. So you can just imagine how chaotic it was at home.
Yeah. I must say, you know, we gave her such a big, well, headache. I don’t wanna say like pain in the, you know, but it was. We were kind of a headache to her. We would fight, you know, typical things that boys would fight for. It could be about food, it could be about toys. Sometimes the attention also of our grandmother.
Now to our listeners for today, they might be wondering, why did you live with your grandmother? Well because our moms were working abroad. My mom at that time she was in Japan and the mother of my two cousins was in Singapore.
So basically our parent, sort of, like our mom and dad, was our grandmother. We didn’t feel, you know, as though we lacked anything at all, because she was really kind to us, she provided everything. We were like prince, like princes.
I have a question. So since, you know, your moms worked abroad, did you feel a little bit, maybe superior when they brought something from abroad? Like and you were like oh, look what I have. Maybe you, maybe kids around you didn’t have what you had.
That’s a very interesting question because when it came to toys, especially, or chocolates, oh my god, especially those Japanese chocolates, I must say I was a bit of a show-off because I had, for example, Batman. He was my favorite, you know, superhero. And to this day, he still is.
I mean I’m pretty sure everybody would show off, I mean, come on. You’re a kid and you have something that other kids don’t.
Oh and my Lego collection! Oh my god as a child, you know, as a boy, growing up, I was so proud of my toys – Lego, Batman, remote control cars. All of those stuff. It was a really happy childhood.
Fancy! Really! Aw, that’s so great! Benjamin, what about you?
So I had a really interesting childhood, happy childhood. I grew up in many different places, my dad’s English, mom’s from America. And I was born in Brazil. And my father was working in Brazil which is why I was born there.
And I went to a British school in Brazil. So I had a really interesting mix of cultures in my childhood. And I grew up speaking, well, English is my native language but I grew up speaking Portuguese as well.
That’s how you ended up being a polyglot.
Yeah it definitely helps. If you grow up speaking another language, it definitely gives you the confidence to learn other languages and yeah, I’m very privileged in that respect, because I don’t… I’m not scared of speaking and making mistakes.
I’ve always been a little bit jealous of those bilingual kids.
Okay, before I, you know, insert something, I just wanna ask you a question. Can you still speak Portuguese?
Yeah, to a certain extent. So I learned Italian at university and that kinda really messed with my Portuguese because it’s a Romance language and also dabbled a little bit in Spanish too. So it’s kinda washed away a lot of Portuguese.
But I can definitely hold a good conversation in Portuguese and I can probably pick it up again and if I put my mind to it. But yeah, it’s a fascinating language. Of course Brazilian Portuguese is very different to Portuguese in Portugal.
So wait, until what age did you live in Brazil then?
So I guess I was born in Brazil, lived there for one year, went to New York for 2 years and then back to Brazil. I moved and lived there until I was 8.5 when I moved to London.
So what was the country’s state like when you were living in Brazil?
It was relatively stable. Previously I know Brazil had a military dictatorship. But during that period it was a rather I mean, Brazil was not particularly stable, but it was relatively stable for Brazil. I mean, Brazil was a pretty… It can be a very dangerous place to go.
It’s not like you leave the plane at the airport and you get robbed. I mean, might do, but it’s not dangerous as people make it out to be. However, my family, we were lucky enough, nothing bad happened to us. At least I don’t think anything bad happened to us. But.
At least nothing you know of.
Yeah, nothing I know of. But we have friends who were kidnapped and…
It can be really dangerous.
Yeah, I can’t remember all the details of a story, but I remember one friend was driven out to, not a forest, but to a remote area and yeah, robbed. All the items and personal possessions were taken and he was left in the middle of nowhere.
First I thought that there was like a ransom.
It was kinda like a ransom. I have to be honest, I don’t remember all the details of this story.
And by the way, you’re an only child, right?
No no no, I have a younger brother.
Only almost two years younger, so one year and 10 months. He currently lives in Los Angeles, just outside of Los Angeles.
For some reason I thought that the brother you mentioned that lives in Los Angeles is your cousin.
So he is your biological brother.
Yeah my brother is a cool bro.
But what was it like being with him as a child? What was your relationship like?
Oh he was one of my best friends, he is my best friend, he is so funny.
You didn’t fight? No punching?
We did occasionally, but very rarely.
Seriously? Wow. Cause I have a feeling that all siblings fight when they’re kids.
Oh no, of course we did have a ramble and tumble, of course, but we had a fun relationship. I’m really close to my brother, so.
I have an elder… Well maybe that’s because you have like a two year old difference, cause I have an elder sister, we have a 6 year difference. And oh god, the fights were brutal. Like, really. A lot of shouting was involved, and sometimes when I look back and, you know, remember what I did, I just feel so ashamed, really.
Cause I remember sometimes, like one day she was working on a school project and we didn’t have a computer at that time so, you know, everything was drawn by hand. And she spent like hours and hours on it.
And I just came… And I think I was like about four years old and I came to her and asked if that was for school and she said yes. The moment she left for the bathroom, I took a permanent marker and just, you know, just ruined… Now when I think about it, I feel so bad.
Four. I think I was about 4 or 5.
But yeah, we had fights, shouting, screams, throwing things at each other. I’m pretty sure it would’ve been physical if my… Well, you know, if our mom wouldn’t stop us.
Except… I mean sister relationship can be quite tricky usually. I mean maybe I’m just generalizing hugely here, but do you think there’s an ideal age gap between sisters?
I don’t know, I don’t know. I feel like there is… Well, I don’t know. Cause sometimes, you know, it’s not about the age gap, but about the character. Sometimes it is about the age. But I think maybe like two years. I in general think that two year gap between siblings is kinda cool.
You can play together, cause, you know, when you have six year difference, it’s not that you play together a lot. But yeah. But when my sister moved to college to Novosibirsk, I was so happy cause I got my own room and things started to get well from there.
But I wonder though… Did you have anything in common? Because I’m just interested whether you agreed on something?
Our love for food? I mean, she’s into math and music. I am talentless, I never had any kind of, you know, love for any kind of science. So not really, not really. We are as different as that can be.
Like, even in the way we look we are just so different. We laugh that we are halfsies. Meaning I have my dad’s face and my mom’s you know, like, figure. And she’s the opposite, she has our mom’s face and our dad’s figure. So we are just so different in this way.
So I guess that explains the fights.
Yeah, I guess so, yeah. But I was, so, since you’ve mentioned, you know, and you said where you were growing up. So I was growing up in Yakutia, so very remote area, incredibly cold and I was born in 1993, so right, well, not long after the fall of the soviet union.
So which is why most of my childhood years were kinda poor years, so, you know, nothing to show off.. Although, we could, cause my mom worked in a shop, so sometimes we would get something that other kids didn’t have. So but yeah.
Was it dangerous in Yakutia in the 90s or was it okay? Cause I know a lot of cities in Russia had…
I would say that it was safe for kids at least.
00:11:51 B: Yeah. So you could walk around, you can walk back form school. Well, I know it’s freezing, but. Did you have a school bus by the way? Did you walk to school? What did you do?
Until the 8th grade I walked to school cause I was living not far from it, but I lived in a dangerous neighborhood in general, so you wouldn’t be allowed to walk, you know, during the night, or have night parties or something like that.
Even after that, when I was 16 and graduated from school, you know, most of the, most of my classmates who lived in the center, they partied until like morning, they were having walks. And I lived in that neighborhood, so I had to be home at like 9pm. So it was…
What exactly made the area dangerous? Was it just, what, alcoholism or was it?
Yeah. So, yeah. But all in all, I think I just didn’t know about all the dangers when I was a kid. Like, you know, until I was like 10 maybe or something like that. Cause, yeah, it was just okay, it was just a happy childhood. We didn’t’ think about it.
I have a question to you. Did you… Cause I know you’re obviously not soviet, but it was an old soviet tradition for kids to have like a key on a necklace round their neck and they would walk home with this key round their neck. Did you have a key round your neck?
What was that for though?
Yeah cause I listen to this show on youtube called the Ushanka show, they talk about the soviet union and he was talking about how…
But if you ever see, you know, pictures of kids having their mittens on a rubber, you know, rubber band that goes around your neck, then you have the mittens. We had that, so we don’t lost the mittens.
Okay. Really interesting.
So yeah. So and what kind of a kid were you? I mean, were you an introvert, shy kid? Or were you like sociable? Fighting a lot?
You know, that’s funny because I thought I was not exactly Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hide, but okay, let’s just put it this way. I had maybe like two personalities, one for the home, the other one was for the school. At home I was rather quiet.
I wasn’t very, you know, like talkative and I remember, after, you know, living some time in that, you know, part of the country, we moved to Manila and then I had even more cousins to deal with. Take note deal with because we had such different personalities. So I was I would say I was quieter at home, didn’t speak that much. But at school I was like a wild animal, I was really…
I have a feeling that it’s mostly the case. You know, cause when I was working at school and the kids were just driving me crazy, you know, running, breaking things. Maybe you remember the story how 11-year-olds broke a fire extinguisher at a school I was working at.
And then I talked to their parents and they were like no, we don’t’ believe you, he’s such a quiet and shy child. I’m like a what now? Like, these are definitely things your child is not.
That’s why… Okay, let me just continue. That’s why when one of my playmates, you know, back home, found me, I don’t know, like how… Okay, I just discovered one time that his… It was his brother who actually went to the same school as, you know, I did.
And he was surprised to see me at school, I was so talkative, very active. And I made fun of, you know, the other kids at school. And he thought oh my god, I never thought you could say such things.
You could’ve pulled, you know, a trick and say that you had a twin brother.
Yeah. Oh well. Maybe, you know, I guess a part of the reason why I was like that it’s because I was mainly, you know, apart from being surrounded by other kids with really big personalities at home, my grandmother was really strict too, she didn’t want us to misbehave, we had to, you know, we had to behave properly.
How would she punish if something didn’t…
Oh my god, it was corporal punishment and it did really matter…
Really old school. It could be a belt or a stick. She would hit me. And I know that I’ve said this before in one of our podcast sessions. I would even beg for her to choose the, I mean, some parts of the body such that it won’t hit my bone.
So I would say can you just hit me on my bottom? But you know, it was indiscriminate beating and I like, ouch ouch! You know, I was trying to already negotiate with her which body parts she should hit.
Is corporal punishment still legal in schools in the Philippines?
But back in the day when I was… Well I know, we’re going a little off topic here, but…
I remember you told us about a teacher who was like punishing the kids.
With a ruler or something?
That was the 1990s, the early 1990s, outside of the city. Teachers were basically allowed to, you know, hit students. Which I was kind of envious because when I became a teacher and okay, I’m sorry, okay, I’m gonna sound…
No, I can relate, I can relate.
You know, there are some, let’s just say, stubborn students, who I really wanted to beat but that’s illegal now, so I can’t. And I just thought t’s unfair, cause as a child I experienced some kind of beating from teachers.
I believe in Singapore it’s still legal for boys to.. I think it’s with a… Not a ruler, but with a special cane. It’s like a flexible cane. And you can do it. Looks quite hilarious.
Hilarious? Well unless you are a kid who’s, you know, gets beaten by a cane. Wait, Benjamin, what about you? What kind of a child were you?
At times I was really well-behaved, and other times I was a nightmare.
Well when I was a teenager let’s just say I was an idiot.
Well, teenager, no, we don’t talk about teenage years.
We’re talking about childhood childhood?
Yeah, let’s talk about, let’s say, until the teenage years. So until 12 included, so until 13.
You were a nightmare in what sense?
Well, to be honest, as a child, I wasn’t really a nightmare, I was just very energetic. I liked to run around a lot.
Well that’s what kids do. They have a lot of energy, they have to somehow express it. They can’t just sit still. So I think that’s totally fine. Did you fight?
Well at school. I mean that was maybe a bit later. But not really to be honest.
I’m just interested to ask this one, to the both of you. Did you cause some problem to your parents? Were your parents ever asked to go to school maybe?
All sorts of naughty things.
Oh come on, give us some details. Spill the beans.
I used to love throwing stuff out of the window. It was a hobby and yeah, that was one of many naughty little things. I don’t know. I never did anything mean to people, but I enjoyed naughty things.
Okay. You know, now that I look back at, you know, my childhood years and the place where I was growing up and people I was growing up around, I have to say my parents are really lucky. Cause I was surrounded by kids who in no way were a good influence.
Cause at that time, you know, when I was like 11-12, well, start of the teenage years, a lot of teenagers, a lot of kids around me were taking drugs. So they would smell the glue, they would put it in a plastic bag and, just you know, get hallucinations or whatever.
Smoking, drinking, you name it. So my parents are lucky cause I did none of those things. Of course, you know, at some point you would try to smoke or something like that, but it was more like … Who would want that?
I don’t understand the glue. It’s just not fun. I don’t get. I understand maybe vodka, but the glue is….
It’s cheap and available. So and… Again, not a very happy neighborhood I would say, so. So yeah, I never caused any problems. I was a good student, I wanted to learn, I loved studying. The only time that my mom actually went to school, well, you know, usually it was like a teacher-parent conference or something like that, teacher-parent meeting.
So that one time she went to school was when I got in a fight and I got my nose broken.
Oh tell us more, tell us more.
Oh it was just… I don’t remember much. I remember that it was like in the 5th grade, so I was 10. So and we got into a fight with a girl and I hit her several times and she hit me and she hit me in, you know, in the nose. And that’s how I got my nose broken. And that’s why now I have a little, you know, bump on my nose.
So did you have to have your nose in a kind of cast?
Yeah but what do you do if you have a broken nose?
Hope for the best. Well basically we went to a doctor and he was just really pushing, like…
Trying to align your nostrils.
Yeah and then I heard a click and he was like so yeah, it’s broken. And I was like I’m pretty sure that it was you who broke it. Just a second ago. He was like no no no no no, I helped you. So and then you just hope that it grows, you know, back. I mean, not grows. I mean, the bone…
But you can breathe okay through your nose, it’s no problem.
Oh yeah, oh yeah, it’s not a problem.
You know what, while you were talking about your experience at school with this other girl that you had a fight with, I just remembered my experience too. I stabbed my classmate with a mechanical pencil. Like I just indiscriminately stabbed with my mechanical pencil. And I was in 6th grade at the time.
I’m trying to remember, but I think he said something to me which I really didn’t like and for some reason I was over…
Ken did you go to prison?
Well fortunately not, but I was taken to the principal’s office and my aunt had to be called in, you know, to report about what I did.
Well in my case, you know, when we had this fight, nobody was called to the principal. Nobody cared. Cause let’s be honest, I was studying at a school where worse things happened. Cause I remember once during math, a lesson of math, when I was, I think I was around 11.
A classmate of mine just cut his veins open, you know, just like… We were just like what? Okay. Then we had a health day which involved a lot of sport activities and team work and we had glass doors in, you know, in the hallway.
And one guy just took another by the hair and just smashed his face in the glass. So that was the school I went to for the first 8 years. So yeah. So that’s why our fight with just a broken nose was nothing. Nothing.
So yeah. That gives you a little bit of a, you know, image of what kind of neighborhood I lived in. But then I went to a president gymnasium as it’s called. So a really cool school. High level of education.
In Yakutsk as well, yeah?
I had to take a bus to go there. And I only got there cause my mom worked there. So that’s why they agreed to accept me. And the first year I just studied so horribly just because it was too high of a level land I couldn’t, you know, catch up on all the things I didn’t know. But then you know, I managed to.
So was this lyceum, I’m not sure how you call it, but…
A gymnasium, so was it the one special place in the Sakha Republic where intelligent students go to or…?
Well at that time it was relatively easy to get… Well the thing is that in most places in Russia, you go to school which is closer to your building, like in your neighborhood. So depending on your address and registration. So that was the case too there.
But, you know, they allowed me to get in just because my mom was working there. So technically all the kids were from the neighborhood, so from the center. City center kids, you know. So yeah. Yeah. Alright, and what were typical activities in your childhood?
Oh I really love talking about it. I mean like, what did you love doing as a kid? An what was common for kids to do in general at that time?
You know, in my case, I loved daydreaming, just looking up the sky, imagining as if I could fly. You know, I was rich in imagination. I would imagine all those cartoons that, you know, I watched. And dreamed that I also possessed, you know, the powers that they had.
Cause I did the same thing but I thought what I would do if I had that Pokémon or that Pokémon.
Especially when we were fighting with the sister. If I had this Pokémon I would tell them to do this this this to you!
In my case, however, yes, I did watch that, but I was a huge fan of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers if you… You know this, right?
Oh the Power Rangers, yeah!
That one and then sometimes I would play pretend as though I was wolverine. Oh my god, X-men, god! That was really my childhood my childhood fantasy that I was, you know, Wolverine.
So and did you spend much time outside? Did you spend much time in the street?
Well I tried to spend as much as I could outside with the neighborhood kids. Although my grandmother, she would limit us, because, you know, she would say oh those kids, they are… Okay, they’re not properly raised by their parents.
I don’t want you to learn form them some bad words. Which actually she was right. They were a bit crude, you know, they would do naughty things and my grandmother would disapprove of it. And so she would…
What kind of the naughty things would they do?
I cannot say it here. Too much for children to be talking about those things.
Maybe it’s not naughty, maybe it’s just explicit.
Okay, I guess that’s the right word for that. It’s too explicit, so I cannot say it here.
Because you know, as children, we were curious of things. I wish I could say it, but I can’t.
So what were typical things that people would, well, kids would do outside? I mean what kind of games maybe? Or, I mean, when you’re outside, what would you do?
Well we had a lot of like street games. One of them is like hide and seek. We also had this Chinese Garters. Kind of like a rope that you have to hop over.
Oh yeah, yeah! In Russian what we call it, it’s translated as elastic band. So two people would have this elastic band and you would jump like over, to the side. Yeah! You know, I love finding out these and talking about these universal things maybe. Or things that were everywhere, no matter what part of the world you were growing up in.
Right. Oh and we also used to play in Tagalog, my other language, we called it bahai-bahai. Basically the idea is we play-pretend as though somebody’s gonna be the father, the mother, the children, you know, like role play. And it was fun.
But we had to do so at the house of one of the kids, either at our house or, you know, my friends’ house. Oh, for example, one of my female friends, she would have, you know, toys for cooking and we would participate. Okay, it’s lunchtime. What are we gonna have for lunch?
We had the same. We called that mother and daughters.
Daughter and mothers. Anyway.
So did you watch a lot of Soviet cartoons as a kid?
Oh of course! That’s why all of the people, you know, now know them, well, if not by heart, at least, you know, remember some of the basic phrases.
Well we did talk about a lot of this in the cartoon podcast, but.
Oh yeah. I watched… Whatever you can imagine of the Soviet cartoons, I watched that. I watched a lot of Sailor Moon, Pokémon, Charmed. So by the way, yeah, loved that. So, yeah. Yeah, I watched a lot of tv in general. I think. Especially when we got like 5 channels or 6 channels and MTV was one of them. And I was like this is something new!
Before I ask Ben about, you know, some of the games that he played or the typical activities that children did in his neighborhood, I just wanna say that back in the day, again, that was the early 90s and we had bad reception for our television.
Such that I remember one night there was a thunderstorm and I had to go all over to the roof to adjust the antenna because we could hardly see anything on the television. And I think… Okay, I know you’re gonna touch on this later on, I guess that’s one of the most dangerous things I’ve ever done. But, you know, at that time I was unaware of that, I just wanted to see…
Oh I just think that kids in general think they are immortal, they don’t think about the dangers, you know. Yeah. Oh, but that’s a good point about antenna. We used to have one on the roof, and we lived in a two-floored building, but it was like with 12 apartments. But the thing is that, you know, we had three 4 or 5-storeyed buildings around, so the reception was not that great.
So my dad went to the building next to ours, which was 5 floors, put the antenna on the roof there and then just had the, you know, the wire or something like that to go to our building.
God, I could still remember… I can’t believe it. To do it in a middle of a thunderstorm was so brave of me.
Yeah that was not very wise. Brave, okay, let’s put it this way.
Probably stupid of me. But then again as you’ve mentioned, as a child you don’t really realize the danger that you get into.
Must be really scary because you have serious tropical thunderstorms.
Yeah, especially, you know, in the Philippines.
And going up in a thunderstorm. Okay. Well, we should be, you know, thankful that you are here right now.
My favorite game, I just remembered was, well in Portuguese it’s called gatumia, which means cat meow. And in English it’s called Marco Polo. So basically you go into a dark room, plenty of people and someone says Marco and then everyone has to hide and say Polo.
Oh is that when you put like a scarf around your eyes and then you have to like find people?
Exactly. That was really fun.
We had that too, we had that too. Oh that’s so fun! That’s exciting!
00:32:14 K: See, universal games for kids.
Exactly. So what other activities did kids like doing?
What other kids activities… To be honest, I liked playing a lot of sport. I liked kicking football around a lot. Yeah.
I didn’t game a games console when I Was a kid, so until…
Oh I didn’t even know they existed until I was like 10. Well not 10 maybe, but…. No, wait, we had Sega.
Oh yeah, the Sega drives. I used to… it’s kinda funny, I used to love drawing ,aps and making fake countries which was really fun.
That’s really fun, that’s so cool!
And then I used to like making fake alphabets as well of random…
That’s funny because I tried to create my own language when I was 11.
I just, one day I decided okay, I’m going to make my own country, I’m gonna have my own language. And then I started writing vocabulary.
Yeah. No no no no no, yeah, that’s very similar, yeah.
We sometimes tried to think of a code language where you would put, you know, one syllable after, let’s say, sa or si after each syllable. So for example if I wanna say cat, I would say catsa. Or let’s say I went home. Isi wesent hosomese for example. You know, something like that. You would put a syllable. Oh god. Aw. It’s so fun!
I wonder though, what toys did you have? Did you have action figures or lego?
My favorite toys guess what were…
Oh that sounds just about right.
Model airplanes, yeah, I loved them.
Just to make it clear, we’ve had already two episodes on transport because somebody is a huge transport nerd.
We’re probably gonna have more. Hopefully.
See? Airplanes, well that sounds right, that sounds right.
Trains and airplanes, I mean, I prefer airplanes. But trains are still really cool.
Aw. Yeah, when I think of typical activities, this is nothing what… Well I mean, of course we had the same things like hide and seek, and this, you know, when you try to find people in a dark room and you have a scarf over your eyes. Or like hopscotch. But at the same time we had things that were common for cold regions, you know.
Cause for example in winter the typical things were like going down the slides, the ice hills, the snowball fight, you know, all the typical things. But the snowball fight was only possible at the beginning of the winter, when the snow was still, you know, kinda sticky. Cause then when it’s -40 you can’t make snowballs. And then…
Is that true that Russians don’t really do snowballs? Cause I have spoken to a lot of people about snowballs and a lot of people say they don’t do it.
You can only o it the first couple of days when the snow falls.
Cause this is the only time when it kinda sticks and you can actually make a snowball. Cause if you try do it, you know, let’s say in the middle of winter, even here in Siberia, you take the snow and it’s like salt. So, you know, it’s impossible to make anything out of it.
Cause when I was an older kid, we, well, in England it snows once every three years, once every two years. And when it snowed, it was a huge event. I went to an all boys school, and obviously that’s a riot. And there people would not just make normal snowballs, they would put like rocks and apples inside.
And throw it. It would hurt.
An apple inside a snowball?
What about a stone! A stone inside…
Oh my god, it’s even worse.
Right? And then one thing about Yakutia is that it has continuous permafrost, so it’s impossible to, you know, have anything under the ground, so that’s why we’ll never have metro or like basements or something like that. And that’s why the houses are built on what is called stilts. So which are basically like piles that are driven into the ground, into the continuous permafrost, so that the building would stand.
And those stilts, they are kinda several feet above the ground, like, you know, at least a meter above the ground. So that’s why we often went under the buildings. You would go under the building, you just had to bend over a little bit, and we were running up there.
You could find all sorts of interesting things that you didn’t have to know about. For example we often saw empty syringes and I was like oh how interesting, how that ended up here. At that time, you know, the naïve age, I never thought about these things.
And then you’d put the syringe in your mouth and you play with it.
No, I was not that dumb of a kid.
I wish I could… Okay, I’ll leave it to the imagination of our listeners, because you talk about a syringe, I happened to see which I thought was a balloon, but anyway, I’m gonna leave it to your imagination.
Yeah, that naïve age, when you know, when we didn’t know what things were, yeah. What else did we do? Again, because of the continuous permafrost, you know how all the heating pipes are under the ground here and in the most parts of the world. In Yakutia they are above ground. So all the heating pipes. So and sometimes it was fun just to run on them like …
So and then if it breaks, everyone loses their hot water. What happened?
I mean, they were covered with lots of layers of like different materials.
So child-proof basically.
Well it was more about cold-proof, so that’s why yeah, that wouldn’t happen when you were running on it, as a rule. But then you know, I have no idea how to call that, but you know, this thing that they put in, it’s like an insulator I think. So it looks like cotton, you know, like this cotton pad, not pads, but something like that.
Well, it’s not steel wool, what is it called?
Oh yeah, it might be something like that, yeah. But the thing is that we were like oh, it looks like that thing we have at home.
Fiber glass wool? Something like that.
Maybe, maybe. We were like oh, it looks so cool. And once, you know, we tried to play with it, it was so painful after.
I think it’s cancerogenic.
Oh my god. It can cause cancer.
I think it is and it’s really bad for your lungs because of the dust it produces.
Thanks for adding to my paranoia. I wish I didn’t know that. So, but yeah, what else, what else? So these were the typical things to, you know, to run around, to do all these things. Of course we had like all those games with a ball, you know.
Oh there is one game that we also played sometimes, so it’s called Cossacks and Robbers. Cossack as in like Казак. So and apparently there is like an English or an American…
What, Cowboys and Indians?
Yeah! I heard about another name of it, which is somebody… Cops and Robbers.
Cops and.. Of course, yeah! Of course, Cops and Robbers, yeah.
So and the idea is that you are divided into two teams, the Cossacks and the Robbers. And then you know, the robbers try to hide, the Cossacks give them you know, like a 5-10 minute head start, and then begin looking for them.
Basically the idea is that you know, it’s just kind of a hide and seek, but with more rules. But we… I don’t know where it came from, but for some reason in Yakutia, when the Cossacks found the robbers, they had to torture them to actually make them say yes, yes, I’m a robber.
So and people would, you know, like it’s okay if they would tickle you, but sometimes they would like kinda hit you, scratch you. Now I look back at it and think why? What the hell? Like, okay.
It’s kinda similar to the game It, do you know the game It?
Where you just run around and you have… I think it’s called Tag in America maybe.
Oh you run around and you touch the person then he is the one to run around…
Yeah. I kinda knew tis game by the name of like the game of tag.
And you have a piggy and the middle where you have a ball or you’re throwing something and usually you have three people and the person in the middle has to catch the ball. Yeah.
What’s the game? Oh, there is one more game which I only tried to play like twice in my life. It’s when you have two teams and you know, each team stands face to face to each other, you know. And each team kinda makes a line of people, you all hold hands together. And then you just run towards the other team and your goal is to break this chain that they have, you know, cause they’re holding arms.
But the thing is that people would, you know, use all of the force they can, so and that would become brutal. You know, people hit you and whatnot.
It is. So I tried it twice and then I was just covered with bruises, I’m like I’m not playing that anymore.
We had this really physical, I wouldn’t call it a game, it was more like a challenge and it was really horrible actually thinking about it. It was on the school bus. And I was, what, 10 years old. And you would have the six-formers.
In England the six-formers are 17-18 year olds, finishing their last years of school. Maybe they were 16 as well. And usually the older boys would sit at the back of the bus, they would have… It was the fun part of the bus. And the younger ones at the front.
And basically the older kids would tape, I don’t know, five pound note to the back of the bus and you’d have to run down the middle and try to get the five-pound note and everyone would hit you and punch you and like do everything they could to not allow you to get the five-pound note.
And we called it the gauntlet. And it was…
It was actually really nasty, I don’t know how… Cause I was young, I was like 10-11. I don’t understand how those older kids would really hit, like, they wouldn’t just like tap you, they would like really go for it.
You know, two things about kids. One, they think they’re immortal, they don’t know about the danger and they don’t care about the danger. Two, kids are cruel. That’s one thing, you know, you understand when you grow, grow up.
I remember once I got the five-pound note and they took it away from me.
It must be one of the older boys.
It is! Oh my goodness! You go through all of that! You actually agreed to go through all of that?
It was kind of… It was an all boy school, you kinda have to be…
Yeah. I mean, it was fun, but it hurt. It really hurt.
And then the bus driver hated it, it was hilarious.
He would always top the bus and he would be like sit down! Stop making such a noise!
Oh wow. Yeah. So and since we’ve briefly mentioned on kids, you know, being careless and thinking they’re immortal. So can you think of any other dangerous things you did as a child?
I think for me, I put some… I poured some water into a, what was it?
It was a jar and then I put it on top of our burner. Well I was just, I was too young. And then I was waiting…
When you say a jar, does that mean a glass jar?
Yeah, exactly. And I just put it on top of a fire, so the burner, and I was just looking at it like I wonder what’s gonna happen. And then after a few minutes guess what happened? Boom! It exploded. And thank god I had some distance away from the burner, otherwise, you know, the pieces could’ve…
Yeah, and I could’ve been blind. But thank god.
I learned my lesson. I thought to myself, I’m not gonna do this again. And I’m not gonna let my grandmother know, because if she found out about it I would…
Yeah, I would be dead. Not, you know, I wouldn’t be blind, but I would’ve been dead from the beating.
That reminds me – when I was younger, I used to like to experiment with the microwave.
We would put all sorts of toys.
Have you seen all those videos where people put something like foil paper in it?
And different like metal things and then you just look at the fireworks inside.
Well that’s how I discovered the power of the microwave when I actually…
I had a cat. And no, I did not put the cat into the microwave.
I was just thinking that. Thank goodness.
I heard about some kids who decided to see what’s gonna happen if they put a hamster into a microwave. I believe those…
Oh my god, they are evil.
I love animals by the way.
Benjamin is like that was terrible and started laughing.
Thank god you only put your toys in the, you know, in the microwave and not some kind of an animal.
The cat, did it live long happy life?
No, it was not… I feel terrible about my cat now. Not the microwave, no.
Okay. But what happened to the cat? You keep avoiding answering the question Benjamin.
To be honest I think the cat died because of she had too much flea, do you know the flea medicine you put on its neck? I think maybe it had kidney failure, so I think it was because of that and not because of microwaving experiment.
God bless kitty in heaven.
So dangerous things. Anything else that comes to mind?
Well, I guess playing with some stray dogs.
Oh god, yeah, yeah. We had, and in general Yakutsk is notorious for having a lot of stray dogs. And sometimes we have a lot of cases in the city where people were killed by the stray dogs.
Cause they are running in packs.
Yeah I remember reading a story in Ulan-Ude where this poor lady had a face ripped off essentially by a stray dog.
Yeah it’s dangerous. But I love dogs and I would sometimes I would try to pet some… Yeah I’m pretty sure I’ll die trying to pet something I shouldn’t, like, in general.
I mean, I love dogs, but at least I was careful because I was like of scared of dogs. Because, well, in our village, the dogs were not so friendly. And I remember some of my friends, they were bitten. And I would just look at them, I was on the balcony and like, oh poor Eric, he was bitten by that dog. So it was like watching a film, I was just sitting there and like, okay, poor kid. I wonder who the next victim will be.
I was just watching from the balcony. But thank god I’ve never been bitten by a dog.
Did you have any kind of like dangerous animals or dangerous, I do not know, snakes? Insects in the Philippines?
Of course we do. Snakes in particular. But fortunately for me, I was saved by our cat and the cart actually had a fight with this snake. Well, in the end snake died. But I was close to being bitten, sorry, bitten by a snake, but I was just fast enough to run.
Do kids in general just try to play with them or you know, poke them with something maybe?
No, not really, because we were scared of snakes.
Alright. What about Brazil?
Oh I mean, obviously, there are lots of dangerous animals in Brazil. But I lived in an apartment, so really, it was just insects to be honest. But I do remember being a little kid, playing on the ground floor of the apartment, well, the apartment building and I remember there were stick insects just chilling around the trees and the foliage around the apartment. And it was so weird and interesting seeing these animals.
The ones that kinda look like stick stick stick stick stick?
Yeah, they literally look like sticks. I was really scared when I first saw them.
Well I mean say that to a kid who sees that for the first time in their life.
I was just shocked. I mean, I wasn’t… Scared is probably the wrong word, I was just shocked, yeah.
Okay. Cause I was growing up in Yakutia, you don’t really see dangerous things. I mean, there are no snakes, nothing like that. There are 100 thousand types of mosquitoes, yeah, but, you know, they’re not dangerous-dangerous. So yeah, it’s only the stray dogs I think. Yeah. But what we loved doing is…
Maybe you’ve seen some of those old garages around the town, you know, they’re not attached to a building, just a garage. So and we had a lot of those, so just standing, so we would run on their roofs and then jump from one garage to another and sometimes there would be some distance.
And sometimes, you know, some people fell and then you just hoped that they would not break something. And then we had those, oh, I don’t know how to say that. So basically sometimes there were separate buildings with little doors maybe and they were like storage units, something like that, but like very very very little.
So and each storage unit was assigned to an apartment, so we loved getting into those storage units, especially the abandoned ones. Going like, you know, rummaging through stuff. But the thing is that it had like kinda two floors and we would run on the second one and there were no…
Yeah, no barriers, no handrails, so and yeah, sometimes people were jumping from, off them from the second floor. And we had a kid who actually fell and I think he had a concussion.
Yeah. And we went to… We took him to his apartment, we said to his mom… We were like don’t tell your mom it was us, don’t tell your mom you were going with us. And then we took him, like, we had a little accident. And she’s like what happened? So yeah. But no, I only… I never broke anything while playing at least. So yeah. I was…
You know, the funny thing is whenever we got into trouble, you know, as kids, we wouldn’t tell our parents.
Oh yeah, yeah. It’s like don’t tell….
Cause the consequences would be even more…
I think the most common phrase, you know, that siblings have at least is don’t tell mom, don’t tell mom. By the way, so we know about your grandmother. Benjamin, have you ever been like punished or scolded for something?
Oh yeah, yeah, I’m sure, yeah.
What about the punishment? How were you punished?
It wasn’t… Maybe… I’m trying to think. It was just shouting mostly to be honest.
Maybe slap here and there, but nothing…
I got a few slaps, yeah, but nothing too bad.
Okay. Alright. So and what did kids want to be, like, what professions did they dream of when you were a child?
I would say like the typical ones because most of them encouraged by their parents, for example, they were told oh you have to be a doctor, you have to be an engineer. But you know, I was different. At that time I really wanted to be like Michael Jackson, so I wanted to become a pop star. Which of course, well, it didn’t happen obviously. Because I didn’t know or I didn’t realize then that you know…
But the love for music is still here.
That’s actually interesting, you know, what kids want to be when they grow up, depending on the era, depending on the country. Cause let’s say my mom’s generation, and she was born in 1963. Most of the kids wanted to be astronauts, cause, you know, she was born right after the space race, you know.
And they grew up, you know, hearing the stories of Yuri Gagarin, Valentina Tereshkova, who was the first woman in space. And they wanted to be like them, you know, that was their dream.
What was the name of the… It was revealed later on in the Soviet union? The guy who… The first.. The pioneer cosmonaut who basically burned upon re-entry?
Obviously they didn’t want to be like him or…
Well no. Usually, you know, cause you’re raised on the story of other people. Yeah. Yeah. So and Benjamin what about your childhood? What did you personally..
Oh I wanted to be a pilot, yeah.
Oh I should’ve seen that coming. Yeah. So wait, why did not you perceive…
I had a medical issue, I had a little medical issue when I was a teenager and it stopped me.
So otherwise you would’ve…
Yeah. But it’s okay, it’s alright, I enjoy being here. I enjoy languages. As I said I loved alphabet and making countries, so languages are fun for me.
Wow. That’s interesting. Cause I always, when I was like a little kid, I wanted to become Dr Doolittle, you know, and just go and… Cause I thought that he could talk to animals and whatnot. So I wanted to go into biology and until I was 13 I actually studied biology.
We conducted experiments together with the students from university, so you know, we would go to the labs. I would actually be good at biology. Now I just look back at it and think how was I good at biology? But yeah, I was. But then I changed schools and I was like I don’t know what I wanna be.
Yeah, most kids, when I was a kid, just wanted to be… Huh, that’s interesting. Cause I think they didn’t wanna be like doctors or engineers. I think a lot of them wanted to be businessmen, like, you know, the 90s. And then some of them just wanted to be accountants, something like that. But nothing like astronauts, cause that era was gone.
You know, we were not raised on the stories about them, about Yuri Gagarin or whoever. Yeah, it’s always interesting to see. Cause I know that for example in some countries it’s super prestigious to be a doctor or a lawyer, so and all the parents are like you have to be a doctor, you have to be a doctor.
Oh and one more thing by the way, I just wanna share. As kids, our parents would tell us to, hey, I hope some day you would get a chance to work abroad. I don’t know if you have such kind of mentality.
But in the Philippines it’s almost like pushed to us, we were, well, not just were, but we are to this day, are highly encouraged to work abroad because in a lot of people’s minds working abroad would entail earning more money.
Never. Well, maybe that’s because you know, we were living in a remote area, nobody ever dreamed about even going and seeing other countries. So and I know a lot of people who have never left Russia in their entire life.
You see people from the Philippines all over the world. Yeah.
We are everywhere. I was also kind of surprised, because, you know what’s happening right now in Afghanistan, right. And Filipinos have to be evacuated. And when I read the news I thought what the heck? What are Filipinos doing in Afghanistan? There are Filipinos there, can you believe that? Yeah, well.
Yeah I remember Brazil, there were Filipinos as well, yeah.
Well I’m not surprised because in some not so familiar places in Africa, there are also Filipinos there.
That’s great though. That means that you don’t have the limits in your head. Cause you know, let’s say a lot of people from distant places and remote places in Russia, they would not even dream about that. They would say how? Where? Why? How do we even get there?
But that’s great cause you are basically brought up with the idea that the world is out there and you can go and you can work and you can move. And I think that’s fantastic. This is something we should’ve been brought up with.
Well the Philippines is an island.
You are see farers. I guess.
And we like travelling, that’s why.
That’s fantastic, really. Alright. You know, this talk has brought so many memories, childhood memories, happy/unhappy.
Yeah. Yeah. So we found out that Benjamin was a rascal, daredevil! And so was Ken. And I was a little angel. Apart from that fight in 5th grade, but you know, you know, we all have our flaws. So alright, and what about your childhood, dear listener who’s listening to this episode right now? Where did you grow up?
And was it anything what we have described? So let’s compare. Cause I know that we have listeners from all over Russia, we have listeners from other countries as well, so it’s always interesting to kinda compare our experiences. So well, that was the BigAppleSchool podcast and today we discussed our childhoods.
Thank you for listening and remember, if you struggle to understand our conversation, you are always welcome to our website which is BigAppleSchool.com/podcast where you can find full scripts of each episode. So you can read the script while listening.
Also if you wanna get more content which will help you learn English, you can follow us on the social media such as Instagram, Vk, Youtube, Telegram and so on, just search our name which is BigAppleSchool. So that was Katya and my guests for today were…
Stay tuned and we’ll see you around.