My first class were all Russian speakers, seven kids between 15 and 17 years old. They reminded me of Italians: nice, intelligent but a complete pain in the arse to control. I heard more spoken Russian in the first ten minutes of the lesson than I had in my entire thirty-two-and-three-quarter years of prior existence - a time which seemed suddenly remarkably blessed, like an English village in the years before 1914.
We went through the usual getting to know you activities (teenagers are always interested in a new teacher, just not in anything you want to tell them). They recoiled when they heard where I lived ("People drink beer outside, on the stairs.") and burst out laughing when they discovered I'd been in Japan. "Why did you leave Tokyo to come here? I think you must be crazy. In Latvia the economics are..." she could find no adequate word for what she wanted to say, so settled for throwing her hands in the air. "It does not matter. You will not stay here more than a month." "Why not?" I asked. "Nobody could," she replied, with a further fling of the hands.
My adults were more optimistic. "Go to Sigulda," said one, "it's very nice in autumn."