I went to the emergency response headquarters of Arkhangelsk today!
The call center workers are studying English in order to be able to respond to foreigners, and they got in contact with the English department at the university, to see if there were a native speaker who could help them out — that’s me! Today I met an Ira, three Olgas and an Anna, and they showed me around the headquarters, from the new rescue truck that they can’t use yet because it’s Czech and has to be outfitted for the severe weather in Arkhangelsk, to the rooms with bunk beds for the rescuers and firefighters to use during their twelve-hour shifts, to the honest-to-god fireman’s pole they use to get down to the trucks, to the canine unit and the rather excitable dogs who help find missing people.
It was awesome. They were all kind of shy and slow to speak as they were showing me around with their well-prepared speeches and notecards about their various units. But then we went up to the classroom and drank tea and ate candy and they asked me about America and about what other countries I’ve been to, and I asked them about what kinds of calls they get most often, how many days of vacation they get per year (40), and how many calls they get from foreigners. The answer was one. They’ve gotten one call from a foreigner ever. His phone was out of money, so the only number he could call was the emergency number, and he called to ask how to fix his phone. He spoke English, but his English was just as bad as the girl who answered the phone. So. I’m not sure why exactly they’re taking English lessons through the rescue service, but I’m not going to complain. They were all really nice and fun and I can’t wait to go back next month!