In 2003 I taught English at a small university in Moscow, rather like a community college in the United States, but still bought and paid for by the government. My hiring was through a third party, a distant uncle who wanted to broaden my horizons. Turns out I wasn't as clear on the objectives as I might have been.
It is perhaps over generous to say my uncle wanted to broaden my horizons. Indeed my entire family was eager to see me situated as far as possible from New England, my Harvard education and their sophisticated friends. I view myself as a victim up to and including the "Russian Mess" as they now refer to it.
I am an entrepreneur and I like to think every opportunity presents itself for a reason. I once started a company that manufactured jeans in University colors with large school initials sewn on the back pockets. I expanded this line to include major Fraternities and Sororities. When sales lagged far behind my projections, I cut my losses and donated the entire inventory to street missions across the country, with the unfortunate result that homeless asses were suddenly sporting highly touted names of Ivy League Universities and prestigious Greek organizations.
In retrospect I laugh. But I laugh alone. I conceived of other ideas: Welfare stock options (think about it!), American flag diapers (it's the thought that counts), and reusable coffins. The cut-rate funeral enterprise earned me my Moscow English gig.
I opted to run the class and get students excited in the same manner I'd been energized by Junior Achievement when I was in the tenth grade. My most outstanding student, a young man named Ivan, helped me design a system of day-timers, personal grooming and goal achievement that would have impressed Donald Trump. The idea was pure genius, transforming a legion of Pillsbury Doughboys into fashionable corporate clones.
My Ivan, briefly enrolled among a dour collectivity that chose to shun ideas of individuality and personal gain, shimmered like a star. He could procure anything. He sold soup and hard breads in front of the Kremlin, he had a street stand that sold clothing items he pilfered from other student's backpacks, he surfed the Internet for hours and then offered leads on job openings for the Russian equivalent of a hundred dollars. He was me. Or close enough.
One afternoon I received a letter relieving me of my post. Ivan was ordered to Siberia. We connected just before I left the country and I managed to smuggle him onto my ship. We have a little shop in Hollywood where we sell ideas and political positions. It's a known fact Californians will buy anything.