North Russia: Sergey has been teaching in a remote, northern Russian village for the past two years. A teacher by education, Sergey first worked in sales in his hometown of Ulyanovsk on the Volga. Dissatisfied both with pay and the work in this hometown, he decided to go back to teaching, but in a remote region where the pay is higher and housing is free. Sergey taught English and geography at the grammar school in a village of about 300 people. Sergey would sometimes have to escort children from the neighboring village on the bus back home. While Sergey said he enjoyed the job, the living conditions weren't adequate. The old wooden home he was given to live in had no running water. Getting to the nearest town - 40 kilometers away - was difficult. Only one bus made the trek daily. Sergey planned to travel around the Far East of Russia while he thinks about what he wants to do next.
ST. PETERSBURG: Kazbek, sporting a big bow tie, was walking along Nevsky in St. Petersburg with his bicycle. He said he is studying to become a teacher of Russian language and literature. If his plans work out, he will represent the third generation of teachers in his family. His mother, grandmother and grandfather all taught at schools at one point. Kazbek said that when he becomes a teacher, he will wear a bow tie, but a small one. When I asked if the students will tease him, he said ‘’no, they will see me as a good example.’’ The future literature teacher said his favorite book is The Three Musketeers ''because it is about real friendship.''
St. Petersburg: Vasily, 24, was dressed in a bow tie and sporting a curly mustache as he walked through the center of St Petersburg on his way to meet friends. A native of Bryansk, a town 400km southwest of Moscow, Vasily teaches history in a St. Petersburg grammar school. Vasily said 20th century history is his favorite as it gave rise to jazz, blues, Hemingway and Bulgakov. He plans to pursue a doctorate in history.
TBILISI, GEORGIA: Giorgi was wearing a New York Yankees hat while selling souvenirs on the streets of Tbilisi. He said he was a former Georgian language teacher in a school, but quit during the tumultuous 1990s as salaries were too low. A father of three, Giorgi said the 1990s were a 'time of chaos.' ''It was a bandit state. It is terrible to recall those days,'' he said. Giorgi said hat the situation began to change for the better under former Georgian President Saakashvili, who came to power in 2003. A Barbra Streisand fan, Giorgi said two of his children are living in Germany.
TBILISI, GEORGIA: Teo, 19, and Mako, math students, were hanging out in the center of Tbilisi on an early May evening. I meet lots of law, finance, marketing & programming students in the ex-USSR, but very few math students. For Mako at least, it is probably in her genes to pursue this science: both her father & grandfather were math teachers. She intends to follow in their footsteps and teach as well. Teo said she would likely become a teacher as well.
Valentina, 75, is a regular on the busy Moscow pedestrian street Old Arbat, where she dances for the public. Holding a portable radio in her hand that plays music, she sweeps across the payment from left to right, occasionally spinning in a circle. Sometimes, she dances with a partner. She places a sign nearby that reads: ''If you sit, you will get sick; if you lie down, you will die; if you move, you will live. Lets dance.'' Valentina said she only started dancing when she retired as a school teacher at the age of 58. When asked why she started so late, she said ''I didn't have any time. After classes, there were group events or administrative things to do.''