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 improve your English and of course, learn something new. My name's Katya. I'm your host for today. And my beautiful guests today are..
Ken from the Philippines.
So we have today a very interesting but very personal topic actually, which is big decisions, changes and so on. But I think that before we move to the topic itself, we got to spill the beans. Ken... Wink, wink. Do you want to spill the beans and share the news?
Well, okay. Firstly, I want to say that I've been working here at the BigAppleSchool for 4 years, and it's been a wonderful experience, you know, ups and downs. But at the end of the day, it's all part of the experience. And I'm still thankful that I've had this experience here and, you know, not just the school itself, but to be able to live in Russia, Mother Russia, which is one of my favorite countries. Really. For real. And, yeah, today is my last day and my last podcast episode with you guys, so. Well, it's unfortunate, but as they say, you know, life goes on.
To new beginnings. So where will you be heading?
You're going to become a marathon runner.
Well, that was my dream when I was a kid, so why not? I'm going to Africa.
for real, though? I mean, if you want to keep it a secret.
No-no-no.. Well, you know, I've been a fan of Slavic countries, so I've been here for 4 years. And well my next goal is to go to Minsk in Belarus and yeah, I'm going for the eastern Slavic countries.
Oh.. So what's next? What's next that can be on the list? So we have Poland, you know, Slovakia, Slovenia, Ukraine.
The former Yugoslav republics. Exactly.
You know, if you learn a Slavic language in like kind of an eastern southern Slavic countries, it's like you learn one, you get 5 for free. So you know some Slavic, you know all the Slavic, basically.
But I really promise myself to learn Russian this time because anyway, people in Belarus, they also speak Russian. And this time around, you know, I feel like a loser because I was in Kazakhstan for 5 years, Russia4 years, and my Russian is still comparable to that of a 4 year old boy.
Have you ever heard a 4 year old speak?
I mean, trust me, they know so many words...
They probably speak better than me. Yeah, but yeah, seriously, I really want to learn Russian in the same way that some of the foreign teachers here like Ben. He really studied Russian and I feel like it's about time. Like come on Ken, what are you doing?
So, guys, I think that for this episode, you just you just have to send, you know, hundreds of comments to Ken saying thank you for everything that he has done for us and for the school.
But thank you also to all the listeners and our students for, you know, being loyal and supporting our school in whatever projects that, you know, we've had.
Yeah. So I think, you know, this news is kind of good for for the topic that we have, which is, you know, big changes.
And I want to ask what kind of events maybe or in general, what is usually considered a major change in life? So what kind of events would fall into this category?
If we follow the lifeline, yeah, like.. Starting school, finishing school. Starting university, graduating from university. Well, that's the first maybe half of your life. And then maybe starting a family, but it's not for like everybody..
Yeah, get your first job. That's really..
Before you think of, you know, getting married, you got to have some money first.
It can be even more life changing than starting a family. Really.
Then what else could it be?
Well, after getting married, you know, years later or even a few months later of preparing yourself to be a parent. Raising kids.
Well, it could be before or after..
Or at the same time. It depends on the person.. Maybe having children like one, two, three, four. I don't know.
For some people is getting a divorce.
Major event. And for many people, actually, it's also moving to another country.
Or even to another city in the same country..
Is also kinda changing, yeah. Or maybe changing a sphere of your job, yeah. Because, like, maybe when you are at some point of your life, you start to think like, maybe I'm not a doctor, maybe I'm a builder, actually. What if..
I wanna ask the panel here, have you ever thought of doing another job or have you done a different job other than teaching of course? Have you done that?
Well, when I was a student, I worked in a bookshop. Well, it's not.. It was, of course, a part time job, but still, I loved it.. Bookshops, you know.
Yeah. Were there any cats in your bookshop?
No, unfortunately, that.. If there were cats, probably.. If there had been cats, probably I wouldn't have changed this job.
We wouldn't see Masha here.
I would still live in Novokuznetsk with those cats. I don't know.
So you were working in a bookshop before you..?
Yeah, as a.. Well, not a shop assistant, probably. I don't know, like a consultant. We were called consultants because we needed to really understand what people's needs were and to help them choose. Because people never know what they want to choose.
It's true. Well, Varya you have had a major changing in career..
Yeah, well, I started working when I was 13, babysitting. And so we lived in a certain neighborhood where all of us friends would rotate from house to house. And back then, babysitting, we got paid $0.50 an hour. And we were always..
Was it good money for back there?
Yeah, well, yeah, I guess for $0.50 an hour, I could buy some fabric and make my own clothes. So I had cool clothes. Yeah, so that was very good. But we were also required or expected to wash the dishes and clean up the house as well. I don't know why. I have no idea why we were expected to do that but we..
As a part of a babysitting job..
Yes, yes, yes, yes. I guess because we had nothing else to do but, you know, clean up or..
Just somebody wanted to save money on, you know, having a housekeeper.
Yeah, I just get a babysitter.
So wait, that was your first job, and then..?
Oh, well, I was a cocktail waitress. Yeah, for a few years.
You never cease to amaze me.
Well, I've forgotten. I mean, so many things I've done, I don't even ever think about my cocktail waitress days. But, yes, I had a nice little tray and..
It's lovely. And then most of your career, you were.. A dance.. You were a dancer?
You were in general in this industry, you know?
Yes. Yes. And, oh, I remember when I first got my first ballet teaching job, that was an exciting time. As you're saying, your very first job that I really thought really meant something.
Oh... How did you end up being an English teacher?
Um, I.. I graduated from college and I was changing my career. And I fell through the ads and saw online teaching with kids in China. That's how I started. Yeah.
Wow. You were in China? You lived in China?
No, online. So I lived in the States and I had jobs with Chinese companies. Yeah.
Online teaching kids. You're my hero. I cannot even imagine doing that with kids. Ken, what about you?
I've always thought all my life, like, I haven't done any kind of, you know, I mean, other jobs. And that's why I also ask myself if I could do a different job. But that's the thing, because I just can't imagine myself doing something else.
It sounds like you found your calling. One of very few lucky people, actually.
But I would like to be able to do other things, too. But then again, I asked myself the same question. But I can't seem to answer that question, at least not for now. But who knows in the future.
I sometimes, you know, also wonder like if I were not a teacher what would my job be? You know, in most cases I say a baker or, you know, some sort of a pastry chef because I used to work at a bakery. I used to make cupcakes, you know, as a side hustle, basically. While I was already working in a school, so that was fun. But actually, it's fun that all my, you know, university days, college life I kept saying, Teaching — no, I will never be a teacher. Hell, no, I will be a translator.
I got my second degree in translation. I had, you know, a job in a translation agency. It was fun when I translated a meeting in a company that produces detonators and everything. That was fun. That was very fun. Can't say more because of an ... , but still. But then when I started working in a translation agency, after one year in a school, I was, you know, like typing something and then I thought, Oh, there's no one to talk to. Okay, okay. So back to my computer. I always had this need to talk to people, to, you know, to chat, to discuss something. And so after two months, I was actually fired. They said, you know what, we don't think you'll fit in so well. Like you have a different type of personality. Like you won't be able to do that for long. You'll get you'll get bored, you'll get tired, so it'll just save you, you know.. What is it like? Save you the effort. So just..
Very wise. Very helpful. Really.
Actually, yeah. At first, of course, I thought, How? What? No, I would know better. No, they knew better. So I started working with adults and that's how I found this. And now I've been enjoying it for the last, what, 8 years. Wow. So, yeah. Okay. Oh, that's really, really interesting. So and what would you say was a decision maybe or an event that kind of changed the whole course of your life or maybe several events?
Oh, my God. This is going to sound dramatic. Because..
I'm a product of a broken family. In fact, my parents were never married. Um, I don't know if it's nice to say that I was born out of wedlock, but anyway. But that's the thing. In fact, my grandmother was even against that, you know, the relationship between my mom and dad and, um. Why am I saying this? Because as a child, I was kind of jealous with the other kids whose parents, you know, would, you know, go to them, to school and supported them. And.. Well, it's not like I was alone. I was raised by my grandmother, although at the time I felt like there was something missing. There was no father figure. So it was just my grandmother. She was a very strict disciplinarian. Um, oh my God.. But I loved her.
We have had many stories about this wonderful woman.
But despite that, um, yeah, I really worked hard at school because, you know, whatever attention I couldn't get at home, I tried to make up for it at school. And so what is the aside? I did very well. I really studied hard because I wanted attention, I guess. And there were even times when I saw some of my classmates who weren't doing very well at school. I'm not saying they're dumb, okay? Maybe they're just lazy or whatever, or maybe not as motivated as I was then. And I just thought to myself like, What am I doing this for?
Sure, my grandmother would encourage me, you know, she helped me throughout my education. Um, and so, yeah, that's why I got involved in a lot of activities at school. And so I told myself someday if I'm going to be a parent, I'm going to make sure that my son or, you know, my daughter or whoever will not feel the same kind of feeling that I had growing up. I even had hatred towards my mom. But, you know, things have been settled now. I'm good with her and I have a very open mind and a very forgiving heart.
Just my evil mind sometimes. And I told myself, Okay, so despite that, I did not allow the circumstances to overcome me as a child, and I still wanted to have a good, happy life, which I'm glad I was able to do. So mostly at school and then after school I told myself, I'm going to live a happy life. I'm going to travel the world, see, you know, and explore the world and experience different kinds of cultures. And that's, you know, what got me into working in different countries. And I'm going to my third country now. So, so that's basically my motivation. I just want to live life, enjoy it and whatever or I mean experiences that I didn't have in my childhood. I'd like to make up for that in my adult life.
Yeah, actually, I'm going to go ahead a little bit, just, you know, for one question, because that was supposed to be my question for Varya and Ken. But that's okay. So but how did you find the courage, you know, to actually move to another country? Because very often people, you know, contemplate. They think about it like, Oh, that would be great, that would be great. But you actually did that. And a country which I believe is totally different from the Philippines.
True. Well, to be honest, in the Philippines, we, you know, even as a child, we've already.. They kind of implant this in our minds that you have to be somewhere outside the Philippines to work, because it is our belief that we're going to earn more money. And because we are family oriented, we are to work abroad so that we can support the rest of the family.
That's the rest of our family.
Exactly. That's how we're raised. And it's funny because it becomes an obligation for children to actually help the parents. Right now, of course, I have a different mindset. I don't believe in that. But having grown up in the Philippines, that's how we were raised and that's what I thought. And initially, that was my motivation to go abroad. But now, of course, things have changed, and, yeah, I don't actually believe in that.
Yeah, that's that's called remittance. And it adds to the economy of the country that you're sending the money to. So it's very important for the economy there.
Can you say, can I say that again, what is it called?
So it's like, you know, you earn some money, you send it back to your home country.
Oh, so you kind of support the economy..
And it helps the economy. It's true.
And some countries really rely.
True. And that's why we are called in the Philippines modern heroes. You won't believe that. But that's how they call overseas Filipino workers. OFW for short.
That kind of explains why there are so many workers from the Philippines all over the world. They I believe to be very hard working.
Yeah, Canada, anywhere, anywhere.
But let me just go back a little bit to your question, which is.. What were my thoughts about.. Well..
How did you find the courage?
Right. Right. So the courage was already there. I didn't have to find it. It found me. And I had some, you know, idealistic views because, you know, I heard stories that, Oh, if you work abroad, your life is going to change, you're going to be rich, you'll be able to support your family. And I believed in that. But if I got to be honest with you, with my first year in Kazakhstan, it was a real struggle. I wasn't prepared for that. Firstly, you know, a change in the environment, the language. Oh my God, I didn't know any Kazakh or Russian when I went there. It was just, Oh, my God, nobody understands me. What, what the heck? And then I had to adjust to, though, Oh my God, the climate, my first winter experience, although the first few months were great, but and then I fell into depression, you know, because of, you know, ...
The culture shock, the ... everything.
Culture shock. Everything. It took me about a year to finally adjust. It wasn't everything that I thought of because I had such great ideals. But yeah...
I think it's kind of a good illustration like to all those people who idealize moving to another country, they always say, Oh, once you do that, well, you know, like how people believe that the grass is always greener, basically, over there. So yeah, because I experienced the culture shock when I moved to the U.S. and people like, How can you be depressed or sad or anxious you're in America. You're like, Well, let me tell you something is just totally different from Russia. So I'm adjusting. Yeah. Varya, what about you?
Yeah, I want to speak to that idealism because when I was working on my thesis in grad school, it was a Russian theme. And I had my, my Russian, my Russian slash Soviet professor had told another professor that I was idealistic. And so my desire to move to Russia was.. I was just stuck in idealism. And I always was kind of like resentful of him saying that behind my back. And I knew it was him who said it because who else would have said that? He would said it. But it's true. You do get stuck in that idealism. Yeah, definitely.
So with my courage, the same way when you know that you have to do something, you know that this is a decision that you've made. I have complete trust in my decision making abilities, even though people said, Oh, no, why are you doing this? Don't, don't go, don't go. I knew I had to. Finally, this was the time. I was, you know.. This was the time. This was the moment. It was now or never. That was really it. And so I did not need courage. I just needed to do what I needed to do. However, after I came, that's when I really needed courage to stay and to deal with all this. It was, it was, it is very difficult. It's not.. I don't I don't live the life I thought I wanted, that I wanted to live. I don't have the choices to do such things. So, yeah, the courage to stick it through that's..
And you came here in 2019, right?
So right before the pandemic...
It was like something like 7 months before that. Yeah.
So I can imagine, you know, the struggle and how difficult it must have been mentally to stay through the pandemic in and other countries.
Oh, I don't know about that because I do well in isolation anyway. So I.. That was not the problem. The pandemic was not the problem.
That was.. That was, actually a, you know, a vacation for me. But just dealing with, you know, life here that that has been and did for courage.
How has that changed your life?
Oh, just a stepping stone. You know, another stepping stone of closer to what I really want to do. Probably, that. Yeah. Yeah. So, so grateful for the opportunity and the fact that I'm here every morning. Every morning I wake up and say, I'm so glad I'm here and not there. Every morning. Yeah. So there's as I say, I stand by my decision.
This is the first country you've moved to?
I guess so, because I have lived in other countries for 8 months, 6 months..
I guess when you live, I think maybe a year it is probably something..
Yeah, I think so. Yeah. So, yeah, this is the first time I've lived a year in a foreign country. Or more.
What other countries have you stayed at?
Yeah, I stayed, I lived, I worked in Iran for 3 months.. August, September, October..
Yeah, in Iran before the revolution. So that was in 1978. So that was August, September, October, November, December. And I finally left.
And she still remembers. Wow.
Yes, Yes. Because the Shah was exiled in February and I left before the Shah was exiled.
Yeah, Iran. And then Japan two times. Okinawa.
How come that has never come up in our conversations?
You just missed it. You've just missed I I'd say the same stories over and over. Yes. So in.. On Okinawa, maybe March, April, May, June, July, August..
So this is this famous island. It is famous for the centenarians.
Oh very famous. Oh, my God.
Oh, I wasn't thinking about that. I was thinking about World War 2.
Yeah, that association. Right.
Right, right, right. Of the war. Yeah. Yeah.
Because now the Okinawa is so famous, because this is one of the places with the longest life expectancy in the world.
And the the highest number of centenarians actually in the world.
Oh, I didn't know that. Yeah.
Oh, wow. Iran, Japan, Russia. I am.. I admire you.
Oh, this is a very long, long experience.
Yeah, it was just things I wanted to do, and people always said, Don't do it. And I go, Oh, I'm going.
I always do. I always do. Like, yeah..
So this is this is my aspiration not to be afraid of decision. You know, decision making and actually pursuing what I want to do. Oh, amazing.
Well, while you're still young and you still have the energy for it.
But I'm not so young. And you still have to keep going. WeYeah, you have to keep going. Definitely.
Don't let your age, you know, stop you from doing things.
Yeah. So if you can't do it now in your thirties and you could maybe do it in your fifties or your sixties. Yeah.
You know, I usually.. I usually have an example of.. You know, when some students, let's say, call you something and they're like, So I want to have classes, but I'm old. Usually that means they're not. So they're like in their fifties..
Usually it's like, they are 21.
But I had some people who say, like, Oh, I'm so old, they're in the fifties. I'm like, Please. And I always tell them when they're afraid of, like, starting something new or something of one student I had when I was still a student. So I was tutoring and I had a call from this woman and she said, You know, like, I want to like I want to have some classes, but very intensive because in a month or like in several weeks, I'm going to see my son in America and I plan to stay there. So and she had 4 classes per week, you know, like 3 or 4 classes per week.
And only at the last lesson I kind of like, you know, thought to ask where exactly you go. And she's like, Las Vegas. She was 72. Never stopped her. So age, social construct. Don't let a full year stop you. So, yeah. Wait, Masha, you are also a person who has moved. So you've moved from a different region. Yeah. To Novosibirsk. So how did you..?
It was not maybe so far to experience the culture shock thing, but still I guess I experienced some kind of shock. And also, as Ken said, for example, I got quite depressed after moving because, well, when I moved, my son was very, very small. I didn't work full time. And it's like I stayed at home. It was.. It was sad kinda. Upsetting.
You moved when you already had a kid? It was..
After graduation and everything..?
Yeah, of course, after graduation. I had worked for three years before I moved to Novosibirsk.
How did you find the courage to do so? Because usually, you know, people with kids, they are, well, quite reluctant to move, you know, with a baby.
I couldn't say so. Maybe I just didn't think about, um, like the consequences or something. I just. Well, it's not very far, like 400 kilometers and I.. When you think that you can go back, you can come back any time. It kind of supports you. It's like, I don't burn all the bridges.
I just.. When.. It's hard for me to make decisions, and usually it is. I just think that I can always come back. I have a place or I have some people. Well, I mean, I can. I'm back.
You know, it's like my life motto, which is a quote by Terry Pratchett in one of his books he said, Going back to where you started is not the same as never leaving. Yeah, I'm kind of like that. Like try, fail and go back is not the same as, you know, never trying at all.
And also, it's a comforting thought. Even if you don't come back. Still, the idea that you can supports you.
Oh, well, in my case, knowing that I will never go back.
Yeah. Yeah, I have no intentions of going back to my place..
I just don't have it. I don't see myself going back. I just don't see it. And I played with that idea. I thought, Oh, that's not reasonable. And I and I really said to myself, No, I think that, you know, anything can change. Of course anything can change. But when I left, I said, You know, there's no coming back. And I said, Yeah. I said to myself. You know, I talk to myself. Right? Yeah. I said..
Yeah, yeah. The best person for you. And so I said, Yeah, there's no coming back. To what? yeah, to what? To what? I've had 60 whatever years there. No there's, it's, it's something different now. Yeah, it's something different. Of course things could change. Something might say, Oh I've got to go back but I just don't see it, I, I don't see it.
I love your outlook on life really.
Have you watched the US News?
I just consume news and go, Oh, I don't wanna go back to that. Oh that. Oh no, no, I don't wanna go back to that.
Oh I feel you. You know how before the pandemic and every.. Well when the pandemic hit I still had my contract and everything with Wellesley and I thought, Well, it's going to be over very quickly. Of course it was not. And I thought, Well, I'm going to go back, I'm going to go back. I still have my contract. But the more I watched the news, the more I understand that. Do I actually really want to go back or do I think I have to go back? Those two are different. And now I understand that the only thing I want to is go back to spend a year and earn some money and actually deal with all the stuff I've left there. And then after I'm done dealing with that, you know, just to leave for good.
You see, it's about, um, you know, determining whether the chapter has already closed or not.
I feel like I had.. I didn't have some closure, you know?
Because when I left Kazakhstan, I knew that was it.
The doors closed. The chapters.. Indeed.
Exactly. You know, just to share with you very quickly. I was at the airport. I wanted to cry, but then I didn't want other people to look at me like, What is this grown ass man doing, he's crying and say, No, no, come on, hold back your tears. You can do it. You can do it. But really, I wanted to, you know, cry like a baby. Because I thought it was.. Not because, you know, I was very sad. It was just like, Okay, another door has closed. I know I got to move on. And anyway, I'm going to take those beautiful memories with me. But if you asked me now, do I want to go back there? No. Maybe as a tourist. But, you know, whatever experience I've had over there, it will stay there. And I'm I'm going to leave it like that. So life goes on.
Some doors are very easy to close. You know, when I was leaving Yakutsk, my my hometown, I was just looking at that like, I going to miss this place? No, I'm saying goodbye forever, like for good. And I still have friends who go there, you know, like every year, every couple of years. They still have some relatives there. And they ask me, Don't you want to go back to see it? I'm like, No.
And they think you're crazy or that you're not compassionate..
Like something's wrong with you.
They're like, Why not? I'm like, Look, I have my mom over here. I have my sister over here, so why would I want to go there? But don't you have extended family? Like, Yeah, this is the kind of family you don't want to have anything in common with. You don't want.. You want to have to do nothing with them. No, no. Thanks to my family, but well..
I can relate. I can very well relate, but never mind.
But yeah. So sometimes we get the closure, sometimes we don't. Oh wait. So Ken you have said about the, the decision that changed the whole course of your life. So Varya would you say that..? What was your decision?
Yeah, it was so easy to pick with.. I had been dancing my career in L.A., Los Angeles, California, and I got a little injured, a kind of a chronic injury. And I thought, you know what? I need to I need to stop this. I need to do something else. But the unfortunate thing was that there was nowhere in the whole wide world that I wanted to go. No city, no where. I was, in the city I wanted to be. So I knew I had to do something very extreme, very drastic. So that was when I made the decision to join the United States Marine Corps. That was it. Yeah. Wow.
So that was the decision basically to quit dancing?
Stop dancing, just get out, just get out. Heal my chronic injuries and just get out. And so I did. And that led to my having a baby. So that changed. That was a completely different trajectory of my life there.
So if anyone wants to read my creative nonfiction is called Made in Japan, Born in the USA, and I talk about my daughter being made in Japan. And I had to make sure that I got stateside. So that she would be born on soil, American soil. Because had she been born in Japan, she would have been a Japanese citizen. And I didn't want that. So..
How many how many years were you in the Marine Corps?
Two it's not only, I'd say. But what what did that involve? Because I, I don't think I can actually imagine what that involves.
That involved learning how to run and being physically fit. And in order to get in, you had to pass exams just to get in and stay fit and be very attuned to regimented schedules, which I am. I like organization. But when I was in boot camp, which was 12 weeks long, oh my goodness. I developed a stutter the first two weeks because I was so nervous. I actually started to talk like that. Because I was so scared. But then I got over that. But we learned all about Army, military history or Marine Corps history. How we are supposed to wear our uniform, physical exercise, all the things we needed to learn.
And Marine Corps, I assume that would involve, you know, something done on the water. So were you actually like..?
Right. Oh, so my MOS, my job was 0411. I can't believe I remember that number 0411, which means that I was in.. What did I do? I punched in downed equipment. So I had to make sure that things were combat ready. And if things weren't combat ready, I'd get on the phone and say, Hey, what's going on with that Humvee or something? And so that was my responsibility.
And I would expect that there were not many women back then.
Right. Back then there were only 5% women. Now I think there's more. There might be 13%, but there was only..
How was.. What was that like?
Oh, I liked it. I was around a lot of guys, I liked it. Yeah, well, my, my mission was to find a husband. And if I couldn't find a husband, then I was going to have a baby. And so, yeah, yeah, I was having a great time.
I have a question non related to..
Am I saying too much? Have I..?
There is no such thing is too much.
Everyone has their own, you know, like definition of too much.
No, no, no. I have no limits, apparently.
Well, I mean, if you're ready to share it, why not do that? I have a question which is not related to your experience much, but what is..? Is there any sort of a nickname for people who are in the Marine?
Oh, like jarhead. Leathernecks. Yeah.
The reason why I ask is that in, in Russia, I know that there is this collocation, which is in Russian is Морские котики. So basically, like marine cats.
Seals? Oh the seals.. Yeah.
I usually pictured it like a cat.
Oh, we're devil dogs. We weren't seals. Devil dogs.
Yes, yes. Devil dogs and Leatherneck and all those names are associated with history of how how Marines had approached a battle. They came out of in World War One, out of the forest, German forest, like double dogs. So they're called it Devil Dogs. Leatherneck is wearing.. Has something to do with our uniform having to wear leather. So in case someone sliced us, there would be leather. In old days. Way back..
Oh my God. I'm astonished.
I guess, because they shaved their heads. You know, their heads are like a jar or they're stupid. I don't know.
Wow. Really over the course of us having, you know, the podcasts and everything.. I have.. You never cease to amaze me. Really.
I'm going to repeat that all the time. I've never heard about Iran or Japan. I do remember you once mentioned being in the Marine Corps, and at that moment I was like, What?! Fantastic. So and Masha, what about you? What would you say was your decision that kind of change your whole life?
Probably not decisions about things that are major changes were, like, probably, having a baby because it changes you as a person I guess. As I'm not talking about like life routines and everything, but I mean, like I became more tolerant, I became more patient, I became.. Well I became a slightly better version of myself. And then I guess moving to Novosibirsk. Moving from Novokuznetsk to Novosibirsk, because if it hadn't been for this thing, I wouldn't have started to work at BigAppleSchool, for example. That's kinda it. Well, I guess there are some other things, but I probably wouldn't wouldn't talk about it.
Okay. All right. I sometimes think about, you know, while I was preparing for the podcast, I thought, what would be my decision? I realized that there's only one major decision that stands out. The biggest one. It is not, you know, applying for university or anything like that. But that was applying for Fulbright. 'Cause when I was applying, I had never thought about it before. You know, it was my professor who's like, Have you ever considered applying for Fulbright and I'm like, the full, full what? I'd never heard about that. And so she told me about that. And I applied, you know, just out of curiosity, Okay, if I get it, I get it. If I don't, I don't know. Not a big deal. And then you got it.
Yeah, that's impressive. Very impressive.
Yeah. After, you know, like after three stages of this application process, I got an email that, Hey, you have been selected. And I was like, What? Wait, what? Oops, sorry. See how emotional I am? Like, Me?? Selected?? And just so you understand, I had no knowledge of the U.S. until back then. Like, I knew the capital. I knew that, okay, there were 50 states. And then I got my letter about Brandeis University in Massachusetts. I had to Google like, Okay, Massachusetts. What part of the U.S. is that? Okay, I had to read about that. And then, now I think about it, how it drastically changed my whole life. Like all this chain of events. So experiencing a new culture, new mentality. Actually, leaving to live in another country.
Until then, I've only moved to another region that was huge. So meeting people. And I think that kind of sparked my interest in pursuing, you know, further education. So now I'm like, I want to apply for university, I want to get full education like a master's degree in another country to see how different that is. So yeah, and just seeing this whole new universe just changed myself, changed me as a person as much like..
Is it..? That's great because you get to see a different perspective because when I was in the Philippines it was like just the Filipino mentality. I was just in a bubble.
Yeah, but when I got out of my country, Oh, okay, we have this other side of the world, they think differently. And..
Now, that's why every time people ask me, So how are you? How is you're being a Filipino? And I always tell them, Well, I'm I'm not from the Philippines. I'm a citizen of the world.
That kind of feels like it. You know, when you start, when you move to another country, you know. So you see how.. Okay. I'm trying to find correct.. How different your nation is or people in your country are sometimes. Yeah. That's.. And I understand that if that had me for Fulbright, I would never have gone to the U.S. because I'm from I'm from a poor family. I wouldn't have even, you know, made enough money or saved enough money to fly there because that's expensive. But this grant, you know, since it's a fully funded grant, they paid for everything, the visa for the flight for, you know, the housing, the food, everything.
So I'm so grateful for them. If it wasn't for them, I would never have done that. And then I got a new contract. Thanks for Fulbright. You know, new people. If anyone ever told me I would be friends with professors from MIT, I would be like, No, you're joking. Yeah, here I am over here. So and if we talk about changes and, you know, new things, on a scale of 1 to 10, how afraid are you to try new things? And it's not only something major, but even like something on a daily basis, let's say.
Like a new flavor of coffee?
For example. Let's start small.
Yeah, as simple as that. Why not?
Well. Sometimes. Sometimes I'm quite adventurous to do that. To try a new type of coffee. But well, I like new things, but if I don't start to overthink, which I usually tend to do, if I don't think and just decide that it's cool, then it is easy. And then I am grateful that I have done this. But if I start to think, then rethink, then overthink, then I can never just start changing something. Which means that I just don't need to think. Don't let me think.
Well, in my case, so long as it doesn't endanger my health or, well, my life, I go for it. Although, to be honest with you, I'm that kind of person who I try to go in one lane. Like, this is my system. I'm going to go with it. And sometimes, you know, I fall into the trap of just not trying to do other things, like because I feel so comfortable. Like comfort zone. Right?
Well, people in general tend to be prisoners of habits. You know, we are we're very..
Creatures of habits. We are, yeah.
And so from time to time, I try to challenge myself like, Are you always going to be doing the same thing? Isn't that boring? Maybe you want to open your mind a little bit into something different? Of course there's a little bit of fear because you never know what's going to happen. I mean, you never know until you try it. And then once you try it.. Well, in my case, Oh, okay, I can do it. It's doable. Oh, great. And then I feel good because I've proven to myself that it's, you know, doable. I can do it and I can also have fun doing it. But of course, initially there are some concerns, like, Is it going to work? Is it for me? I'm sorry. We're supposed to be talking about small things, but I already thinking of.. Talking about big things.
No, no, no. It's anything from a very little thing to a huge thing. Yeah, yeah.
Normally that's how I think. Like whenever a new opportunity comes in, I try to think it over and over and then finally I make a decision. But it takes some time.
Yeah, I'm like that. I'm a creature of habit as well. But my inner change that 100% I've changed so much I continue to change and that inner interior change is really important and that's what's really important to me. That I can be different and grow and not be the same old horrible self. But I am a scaredy cat. Oh, yeah. Try a new coffee, you know, What's that? Yeah..
And for 2 years join the Marine Corps? Easy.
That's what I was thinking about. Yeah. Sometimes major changes are easier to make than some minor changes. I don't know how it works. Yeah, but maybe we just find it comforting to, well, to be settled down with these routines. And for example, I can maybe move to another part of the world, but with the same coffee type, for example.
So it's going to be like something that will keep you sane, maybe, you know. Like I have changed everything around me, but I still have my routine that, you know, help me keep my sanity. It's actually, you know, a good a good idea. I think this is how we.. Well not the survive.
Or how we accommodate or something.
Yeah. If we think about, you know, let's say the pandemic. It was a huge change for everyone. You know, very.. Well, for a lot of us, the whole life kind of changed. But we still had those routines, those little things.
Yeah, that's what psychologists actually recommended.
Like to find the routines?
Yeah. When the pandemic started, I read a couple of articles and, yeah. Stick to your routines. Do some meditation. I don't know. I don't do meditation, but okay.
Yeah, that's hard to stick to your routine when you move to a foreign country. That was part of the problem. I couldn't have what I wanted and I needed. And so that.. Then you lose part, you lose some freedom, you lose part of your identity. And that's the hardest thing.
Then you kind of find a new..
Maybe you can. There is..
Yeah, but there's some things that are just just innately you and that you have to do and you need time to do. And that has been the hardest thing. I don't I don't get those things.
I kind of listen to your stories and I realize how much of a coward I am. Like, I mean, the US — yes, it was a huge change. I still have no idea how it did that. But again, if you had a Fulbright, I wouldn't be doing any of that. But I am so.. I'm not only like a creature of habit, I very often think that I'm a prisoner of my habits. Because, you know, even when it comes to, let's say, little changes in in an apartment, I'm like, no, I'm used to this setting, you know, to my workspace and everything. Everything stands on the same place. I know where it is. I don't want to move anything. Well, let's say, you know, trying something new. Let's say with food? Easy! That's absolutely easy. Like trying everything new. Not a problem. Changing the things around me, let's say skin.. Changing the skin care. But I'm used to my old skin care. Like, Why?
We are afraid of changes because we don't have this type of neuron connections in the brain. And once this new neuron connection is established then it becomes easier and easier and easier. So it's just hard to step over it. Well, that's..
The neuroplasticity. We have to develop that.
And then the brain gets adjusted.
That's true. That's true. And tell me, is there anything you have kind of been contemplating for a while, well, thinking about doing but still haven't found the guts to do? Like still thinking maybe?
I wouldn't tell but trust me. A lot of things. Yeah.
There's one, but it's very simple. Okay. It's ice skating because I've been in countries where there's winter and snow, but I've never done any kind of winter sport or activity. Like, what kind of a loser are you at that? I always ask myself, like, You're in Kazakhstan for 5 years, Russia 4 years.
And in Kazakhstan they have this mountain ice rink..
I know Shimbulak. They have Medeo. Right.
Really. But I've never tried.
High in the mountains they have this beautiful ice skating rink.
Yeah. But never been there. And I don't think I will go back to Kazakhstan just for that. No, thanks.
Well, you're going to another Slavic country that also has winters.
Not as harsh as here, I believe.
So you're moving to a milder..
Book someplace on an ice rink just when you arrive.
You say the thing is.. Okay. There are two things that prevent me from doing it. Firstly, I'm not that big of a risk taker. I'm afraid that I might fall, I might break my back, whatever. That's the first thing. The second thing is people looking at me falling and secretly laughing at me. Really. That's, yeah, that's my fear.
I would never go to an ice skating like to a skating rink alone because I'm like, Oh, I'm going to fall in everything. I've been turned out to a skating rink I like 5 times in my life. So..
You are not.. Well... Stressful, but kind of fun. But at the same time, after that is like, Do I want to repeat that? You know, maybe like in a month, two months, a year, you know...
Promise that you'll go with someone. Because I had this wonderful fantasy of looking beautiful on the eyes. Nothing special, but just doing ballet arms. And then I did slip and fell and I did break my wrist.
Thank you for saying that. I will never do it.
No, someone, someone came up to me and was very helpful and helped me. So no one would laugh at you. So number two is okay. No one's going to laugh if you fall. But the first one, you might. So just go with someone who who's very strong.
You know what? I remember once I was in a skating rink that didn't have any sort of like a handrail, which was stressful enough.
But you know how I enjoyed it? There was a little kid. She was like 5 years old. She just grabbed me by the hand and she was just like, you know, moving me around. I'm like, How are you so good at this? Kids are not afraid of anything. They're so eager to teach you. They will also laugh at you, but be prepared for that because they are merciless.
What about th ice that's that's bumpy around the edge? Because I tried to see around the edge in that bumpy bumpy.
Yeah. But yeah. So skating, though.
Those two people, one on both sides, and that will be fine.
Okay. Well, I need some courage.
Will be waiting for the photos, you know, on Instagram page.
For sure, with me falling. Why not?
Well, you can do that, you know, gracefully. You fall down, you make pose, you know... That was intentional.
What about baby steps? First time you cant just put on your skates, stand on the ice for a minute, take a photo then..
To be honest with you, I've thought about that only for the sake of a photo that, you know, I have a photo and that's it. And then..
Exactly. And then I'm done.
That's funny, because I took a bunch of photos of me in my ice skates, in my ballet leotard, in my little dance studio. Look at me, I've got ice skates on. Of course, I wasn't on the ice, but I got pictures.
So Varya, what about you? Is there anything you've been thinking about a while now?
Well, I've wanted for a long time to learn how to play the violin, and I probably have no talent at all. I probably would be so horrible, but I'd like to try.
I mean, find the right teacher and.. You know, as long as you're enjoying yourself, nothing else matters.
It reminds me like I was thinking, well, I have been thinking of continuing to study for another foreign language apart from English. I mean, I used to study German when I was at university. I used to study French when I was at school. But I'm probably not able to speak any of those two. I sometimes start to think, I need to continue. I just don't know why but...
Do you have any language in mind or do you want to stick to French or German?
Yeah, I guess French or German, because I just don't want that experience to be in vain. I mean, it didn't.. I didn't lead to anywhere.
Hmm. So that's a good thing, though. Yeah. Again, you know, we can look at it this way. Learning another language...
Yeah, for the sake of being a better teacher of English also. Because sometimes we teachers need to be students also. It helps us to be better teachers because it helps us to be maybe more sympathetic to our students and to understand what they actually experience.
Absolutely. Well, again, you've mentioned the neuroplasticity. That is one of the effects of learning a new language. You keep your brain young. You need to learn something new. Mm hmm. Speaking of language, that's actually a good point, because I've been taking Spanish classes for the last half a year, and OMG... You know, I now understand my elementary students. I'm like, I know what you go through. Like, Oh, no, I can't do this and this...I understand you. Trust me.
Yeah, because brain really hurts.
You feel it. And if they're like, Oh, you know, the past tense, I'm like, Trust me, I understand you. But just be grateful that in English you only have like one form, like go/went, do/did. In Spanish they conjugate like, 'I' — past form is one thing, 'we' — different, 'you' one person different, 'you' as a plural different. And I'm like, Why?
You're talking about the Russian language as well. It's the same thing...
Well, but in the past we only have two forms. Let's say we have the word to do 'делать'. In the past it's 'делал', 'делала'. Ok, 'делали'.
And all those prefixes where..
Prefixes... Yeah, this is this is a hard thing. Yeah, that's true. All righty. I've been contemplating the language.. I had been contemplating learning another language until New Year. And then in January, I'm like, You know what? I want something that is not studying for work and, you know, nothing like that. So I pick the Spanish. And now there is only one.. Well, is that, like, professional..? What is it?
Defamation or something... Because I sometimes look at our classes, I'm like, I know how to make them better from the point of, like, you know, my my teacher, like, Don't say anything Katya. Keep your mouth shut...
Enjoy the process. You are a student here. Don't say anything. So I've kept my mouth shut.
Oh, this is also useful because it develops you as a person.
Yeah. Yeah. The ability to actually not say thing. You know. But yeah, I've also been contemplating moving to another country. It's still, you know, like up in the air. But I've been thinking about Argentina a lot.
You know, the flora and fauna, all of that. So instead of, like, you know, pigeons, they have the.. The sparrow.. No, the parrots.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. That's the.. Yeah.
And you can wear gaucho pants.
Yeah. Yep. So and I've been just thinking, if it wasn't for the ticket price, which is now, like, $3,000 one way per person. Yeah... That's that's what stopping me. So I'm like, I gotta, I got to save money for a couple of years for that. Yeah, but I'm like, You know what? I kind of like the way it sounds, so.. Yeah. But tell me one one last question for today. You don't have to answer if you don't want to. But do you have any regrets about any of your decisions or something you would have done differently?
Well, in general, just to be clear, I don't regret anything in my life because I'm not that kind of person, you know, to dwell in the past. Sure, there are things that I would have liked to be done differently, but then again, I always tell myself, But that made you you, the person that you are today. And so as much as I want to cry over spilled I mean, spilled milk and, you know, be sorrowful about it, but that's life. I mean, we grow. Life doesn't come in just, you know, one form. There's always the ups and the downs, sometimes somewhere in the middle, but that's just life. And you will always learn something. And hopefully, you know, whatever you learn, it will stick with you such that you no longer do the same kind of mistakes because otherwise you're going to be stupid. If, you know, you do the same mistakes. Especially, if it's again and again.
I would agree with Ken. Yeah. All mistakes make us a better version of ourselves. So it, yeah..
Yeah. What doesn't kill.. What doesn't kill us makes us stronger.
What doesn't kill us will most likely try again.
Yeah. I'm the same way. I stand by my decisions. I'm very happy with all my decisions. But I do regret. Yeah, things.. I will dwell in the past. I definitely am a dweller. It was horrible. Horrible. It's horrible. But yeah, I will think, Why? Why wasn't I..? Why didn't I do that better? Well I couldn't. It was.. I was incapable of doing that better. So I recognize that once I come out of that.
Yeah, it is. Exactly. Or, well.. So what? I tried.
Fair enough. Fair enough. I only have one little regret in life. When I was in the U.S., I didn't take.. I didn't study really well. So, you know, I got like a couple of C's and everything and I'm like, I should have studied better. I should have chosen different subjects, and I should have gotten that. Or at least a B. You know, I'm not a perfectionist and not an A-plus or anything, but at least a B. But I didn't. So I audited most of my courses like, I should have credited them. Worked harder. Oh, well, again, as you said, we are who we are. So kind of a, you know, it happened.
Yeah, I also sometimes regret not studying better at university, for example. Not studying German better or.. Yeah.
But yeah. Well, we can study now.
Well, I have to say that I don't have that regret because I went to college later in life. So I already knew that you had to really put in something.
That's really a good point.
Because I just sometimes think that if I didn't do it that time, it means that I wasn't ready or I couldn't. Now the present me can, but the past me just could not.
I sometimes think about my, you know, college years. Because I got accepted into college when I was 16, just turned 16. And then we had, you know, philosophy class. I mean, come on. I was 17 when we had philosophy. Of course, I wasn't interested in that. Now I think, Oh, my God, I would like to have like some of those classes again when I'm like 29. So but we can't. So it is what it is.
Well, thank you so much. It was so fun to talk about this. And so I was so happy to see Ken one last time, you know, before your big adventure. And we actually have one more.. Well, maybe piece of news or, you know, to tell you listeners about. If you do not know in our VK group.. You know, VK community. We actually now have an opportunity, you have an opportunity to become a what is called a donor and to donate. And in this case, you'll have some premium, you know, materials, some extra things that you won't see otherwise. So if you're intrigued, go and check this out. That would include a special chat with us, the hosts and the guests, where you can discuss, you know, the topic of the podcast. Live.
So if you're not intrigued, come on, check this out. Chat with us. So and apart from that, I hope you remember that we have a lot of other social media, such as we have YouTube, we have Instagram page, and of course, we have a wonderful website where you can find anything you want. Podcasts, videos, articles, you name it. So make sure to check this out as well. So that was Katya and again, my guests were..