Washoe Valley man travels teaching English
In his travels, Ian Sherman, 25, learned that sometimes the best stories come from the worst situations – like the time he was robbed in Russia.
While on his way to work in a small Russian town near Moscow, a panhandler demanded money from Sherman at knifepoint.
However, the two were trapped together after the robbery for about 10 minutes as they waited for the heavy traffic to clear. During that time, the robber explained that he was a junkie and apologized for stealing the money, promising to repay it when he got the chance.
“He even complimented me on my Russian, which was really crappy at the time, so he was being very kind,” said Sherman, a 1994 graduate of Carson High School.
Then the panhandler invited Sherman to have a beer – with Sherman’s money.
“He was bummed I didn’t want to go drinking with him,” Sherman said. “He didn’t realize that it’s not a very American thing to hang out with someone who just mugged you.”
Sherman moved to the town Zheleznodorozhny in October 1999 to teach English shortly after he graduated from Oberlin College in Ohio with a degree in creative writing.
“I felt unsettled,” he said. “I didn’t know what I was supposed to do.”
He was talking to a friend who had spent time in Morocco and she suggested that he travel to another country.
“The idea just struck me,” he said. “I had studied Russian in school so I always wanted to follow up with that and have a chance to use my language skills.”
After teaching three months in Zheleznodorozhny – “railroad” in Russian – he hit a slump and decided to return to the United States.
“You really miss things being easy,” he said. “You miss being able to walk into any store and being able to interact linguistically.”
But his director talked him into transferring to Moscow instead of going home to Washoe Valley.
“Everything changed 180 degrees,” he said. “I had more free time and I was in the center of the city.”
He enjoyed it so much he extended his contract until December 2001, when he came home to apply for graduate school. During the nine-month lapse before he had to go to Seattle to start his master’s degree in creative writing at the University of Washington, he signed on for a six-month teaching job in Turkey.
He lived in an apartment in Istanbul with a window that overlooked both Europe and Asia.
“It’s a really magical city,” Sherman said.
He leaves on Thursday to go back to school and is not sure yet what he will do when he graduates. However, he would like to return overseas.
“I really like living abroad,” he said. “I enjoy being a foreigner. It’s a nice lifestyle. It’s easy to strike up a conversation because there’s always something interesting about you.”
He hopes it will also make him a better writer.
“The thought of this feeding my writing has always been in the back of my mind,” he said. “More life experience equals richer material.”