Tales from the Departure Lounge

Frequent Flyers Club (Christmas Special) December 2023

December 19, 2023 Andy Plant & Nick Cuthbert Season 2
Tales from the Departure Lounge
Frequent Flyers Club (Christmas Special) December 2023
Show Notes Transcript

Ho-Ho-Ho! Seasons greetings from the TFTDL flight crew. Andy and Nick are joined by Masha Kostromitina from the Duolingo English Test team to celebrate the podcast reaching 10,000 downloads in just 10 months. A huge thank you to all our Frequent Flyers Club listeners and sponsors. You are the tea to our biscuit. 

We recap our 'TFTDL Radio' campaign - our shared playlist on Spotify - along with your stories about the celebrities you've met in airports. We wonder which country is first in the world to experience Christmas Day, and what colour coat Santa wears in Russia?

Wishing you all peace and happiness - and some high-definition headphones to keep you listening in 2024. Safe winter travels everyone.

Tales from the Departure Lounge is a Type Nine production for The PIE www.thepienews.com

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Andy:

Okay, Marsha, welcome to the podcast. Thank you so much for coming on to our Frequent Flyers Club

Masha:

absolutely. Thank you for having me. I'm very excited.

Andy:

And remind us where you're joining us from.

Masha:

I am joining you from pittsburgh the u. s

Andy:

And that's because you work for Duolingo English Test, who kindly sponsored our podcast so we've had you on to celebrate that and to say thank you.

Masha:

Very happy that our company supports your beautiful podcast. Woo.

Nick:

We couldn't do this really without the sponsors. So thank you so much to Duolingo And if Andy it feels like forever since we did one of these Not only is this a Christmas special

Andy:

Ho ho ho.

Nick:

we are celebrating hitting 10, 000 downloads.

Andy:

This is crazy. to think that we've reached that many ears,

Masha:

Huge congrats. It's so impressive. Amazing.

Wow.

Nick:

should we have a drink to celebrate? Marsha, what would you be drinking at this time of year?

Masha:

I will be drinking my go to cocktail that's called The Last Word. don't be alarmed, it's not a scary cocktail by any means, but it's sort of like a gin, chartreuse, uh, lime. served in a coupe usually. And, it's very festive.

Andy:

Sounds delicious. What?

Masha:

What about you?

Nick:

At Christmas I do like Bailey's, which is one of these drinks that some people don't like at all. It's basically just cream with whiskey in it. And, you get to a point where you're having it every day. It starts to replace milk. So I then start putting it in drinks, cereal. So then January you've got to wean yourself off.

Andy:

Yeah. Mine's quite festive. my, my wife and I, went to Poland and they had cherry vodka, which was delicious. So we came back and we made our own cherry vodka. And since then we've been making various vodkas and now we're down to raspberry vodka, at about six o'clock, we'll have a little nip but those nips are getting earlier and bigger every day,

Nick:

moonshine.

Andy:

jars of the stuff.

Nick:

Marshu, your name is of Russian descent or Polish descent.

Masha:

It's of Russian descent, yeah, I'm originally from Russia, uh, and I lived there basically until I turned 25, and moved to the States quite recently, in 2016.

Nick:

in Russia, does Santa wear red or blue?

Masha:

it depends, it really depends on, on the descent and their style, um, I would say red is probably The most common color, but I also think that it got kind of influenced by, the U. S. and the U. K. cultures. I have definitely seen blue Santas, or Santas in blue coats. And they usually match with their granddaughter, so Santa appears not with, Mrs. Claus. but Dad Moroz is what we call it. He usually appears with his granddaughter, who also wears blue and has a long braid, and both of them, join the festivities and give presents out and stuff.

Andy:

is it Christmas Eve you celebrate, Christmas Day, what do you eat,

Masha:

So it's kind of weird because Christmas happens after New Year's in 7th, and it's Christmas Day that we celebrate, And,, the food is just like your typical kind of hearty food, some chicken, like roasted chicken, some mashed potatoes, of course, potatoes are a must, at any Russian celebration, lots of vodka infused, not infused,

Nick:

in the last episode, we talked a little bit about Russia and we discovered that it spans 10 time zones so it is this kind of continual Christmas day going on across Russia.

Masha:

Oh, absolutely! Yeah, so we start in the Far East, right? That's where we, welcome the new year, and then it keeps going.

Andy:

Amazing.

Nick:

Andy, did you know which country celebrates Christmas first? In the world?

Masha:

I'm gonna guess Australia, but

Andy:

It's one of the islands, one of the Pacific Islands, isn't it? if only if it was Christmas Island.

Nick:

I think it is Christmas Island, everyone. It

Masha:

no way.

Nick:

it's definitely one of the first, then New Zealand. Then I think Fiji comes after then Australia. I was looking this up because, some have changed time zone. There's loads of states in the U. S. that have changed time zone in the last couple of decades. So some people have actually moved, to get ahead of the game on Christmas.

Masha:

the U. S. is crazy. There are some states that have two time zones in one state. Tennessee is one of them and Arizona actually, where half the state functions in one time zone and the other one in a different one.

Andy:

There's halftime zones as well. I always remember India was like three and a half or five and a half hours

Masha:

Oh, wow,

Andy:

which yeah, half time zones.

Wow.

Andy:

MArsha, you've been traveling as part of your job with Duolingo, and that's good for this podcast. Any tales you want to share with the audience?

Masha:

I had to travel to Australia,, flying from LA to Sydney. And it's a really long flight, as you can imagine. so. During the flight there, I was sitting next to someone, and obviously I want to get myself comfy, so I took my shoes off, and the person next to me took their shoes off too, which I think is totally okay, I know some people are weirded out by that, I'm not, I think that's, that's totally fine, take your shoes off, make yourself comfortable, so both of us were sitting there, and then at some point I, fell asleep, and then that person next to me did too, and then I woke up for a bathroom break, And I was like, okay, I need to find my shoes to, to go to the bathroom. And it was dark, right? Cause it's in the middle of the night and you're flying. and basically I put shoes on, and then I made it to the bathroom and then I looked down because in the bathroom, you can actually turn the light on. Um. And I realized that those are not my shoes that I put on. And, and, and I was like, huh, these look, these feel a little loose, you know, like they're a little, a little bigger than I remembered. And then I looked down and they were just like a complete different pair of, Sneakers. and I was like, well, I mean, I made it halfway right? Might as well just get everything done and come back. And so, I went back to my seat and like very discreetly put those shoes back, back where they belonged and went back to sleep.

Andy:

It's such an intimate thing. You're putting on somebody else's shoes, oh, that makes me feel all

Masha:

I felt very connected. Yeah. I think we bonded with that person even though we never talked really, but But I feel, I feel a strong connection with them.

Nick:

Back in episode six, we discussed what was classed as anti poo slippers. So slippers, shoes you can slip on and off so that you can get to the bathroom without getting your socks wet with whatever's going on in there. You've brought a new context. I feel like Someone may have worn my shoes to the bathroom and I'd never known.

Masha:

Yeah,

Andy:

Now they've got some of your bacteria on their feet, Nick.

Nick:

I feel violated. That's it.

Andy:

Have you ever woken up and somebody's asleep on your shoulder on a plane?

Masha:

no, I actually have well except for like if it's someone I know like my husband or something someone no, have

Andy:

Yeah, a couple of times. you just kind of, live with it, maybe stroke their head a little bit, whisper in their ear, no I'm joking,

Nick:

on a long haul flight this year, I was in the window seat and needed the toilet. And I decided, the person next to me he had the mask on, he was just fast asleep, gone. So I thought, I can't wake him up. I'm gonna stand on my seat, and then walk across his armrests. And exit. But, midway through, I did think, what if he takes his mask off now? I was literally kind of crotch to face level. I think maybe I was like, I'm not sure which way around I was. I thought this is gonna terrify

Andy:

Either way round is bad.

Nick:

now. Well, I thought Absolute Ninja didn't wake up, went to the loo, came back. He was wide awake. So I'd obviously, unsettled him. He felt my presence.

Andy:

He smelt your presence. It Could have ended so badly if he'd slipped.

Masha:

Yeah.

Nick:

and I was wearing his shoes.

Wow.

Andy:

As part of our sponsorship with Duolingo, we set up a Duolingo English test playlist from Tales of Departure Nouns, and we asked our audience to contribute to it, didn't we?

Nick:

I'm a fan of the old mixtape and streaming services have ruined that. So the next best thing is a shared playlist.

Andy:

we had contributors from some of our previous guests. Jogvan, his dad is on there. Nick Golding asked for Suede. He was a massive fan. He actually had Suede at his birthday party.

Nick:

Yes.

Andy:

WE had, Dawn of Victory by Rhapsody of Fire. Some ROCK from Carl Campbell.

Nick:

And he wanted it next to Steps from Rachel McSween.

Andy:

The XX album from Grotag. Black Betty from, Kay Wilkinson. so many good tunes.

Nick:

Lee from Duolingo. Huge Forrest fan, so he wanted Mull of Kintyre on there. Nottingham Forrest fan anthems.

Andy:

What's your go to travel music, Marsha?

Masha:

My taste is very eclectic. I listen to The Long One by The Beatles. Do you know that one? It's like the, it's also known as the, Abbey Road Medley. and somehow it puts me, in a really nice, calm mood. I'm more of a nervous flyer for sure, even though I travel so much. So I really prefer to listen to things that are, Peaceful, and don't make you go all crazy and anxious.

Andy:

I think that's totally normal. When you travel a lot, you realize that the airlines have their own departure music and rival music, don't they? Yeah. Here, there and Everywhere by the Beatles was used by KLM for ages. I just realised, Nick, that we haven't talked about on the playlist your song.

Nick:

Dunno what you're talking

Andy:

you, you often, take the mickey out of me for my very amateur music ability, and I just wanted to flag that you'd recorded your own version of Everyone's Free to Wear Sunscreen.

Nick:

And

Andy:

Lounge version, yeah.

Nick:

Ladies and gentlemen.

Andy:

keep going, please.

Nick:

The class of 23. What do you think of my American accent, Marsha?

Masha:

Um, it was, was that it right now?

Nick:

Oh, um,

Andy:

It sounded like somebody treading on a

Nick:

hang on, uh, listen to Tales from the Departure Lounge.

Masha:

Oh, that was beautiful. I would say like Midwest. yes, yes, yes, very nice.

Nick:

it was epic, possibly several minutes too long, but great feedback. I think, are you worried about the threat that I'm encroaching on jingle territory,

Andy:

Absolutely, get off my turf, man.

Nick:

I, I'm not saying I have been approached about a solo career, but, you know, this

Andy:

encourage all of our listeners to seek it out. I think it's, it's on our website, it's on the Spotify thing. You can judge for yourselves.

Wow.

Nick:

And in addition to the playlist, we sparked this conversation with Brendan McGurty about celebrities people have met in airports.

Andy:

have you met any Marsha? not just in airports, but travels, anywhere.

Masha:

I am just not lucky enough, I never actually met like a celebrity in real life,

Andy:

I think some people are just better at spotting them.

Nick:

I'm quite good at it. I had a great one where we were having dinner in Hoxton in London, and Keira Knightley walked past us on the window. We were in the window seat, and I was like, guys, it's Keira Knightley! Oh my god, it's Keira Knightley! And of course, she'd walked in behind me and was actually trying to make a reservation while I kept, and everyone was just like, no, stop talking! They think that I scared her off,

Andy:

That's a good spot though. Knightley. Sarah Sanford from Edified got in touch To say that her best celebrity spot was Duff McHaggan. From Guns N Roses? In her hotel in Columbia. So there you go, that's pretty rock and roll.

Nick:

we had Nick Golding's Michael Jackson story,

Andy:

he slept with Michael Jackson.

Nick:

Marsha, if you could sleep with anyone on a flight, who would that be?

Masha:

Oh. Dead or alive? That's an important

Nick:

Uh, well! I think, I've got a feeling you're going to name the Beatles one by one.

Masha:

I know, right? The four of them.

Andy:

I mean, it's easier to, it's easier to talk to them if they're alive,

Masha:

if we are being realistic and we are choosing, a living human person, I probably would, honestly, Dame Judi Dench would be cool. To sleep with, on a plane, I feel like just she has so many cool stories, like she, was in so many wonderful movies, right? Like from James Bond to, I don't know, Cats, the musical. And I think she just has lots of wisdom in her that I would like to, learn

Andy:

She's just so lovely, isn't she?

Nick:

Yeah. In the absence of the Queen she is the next best thing.

Wow.

Andy:

Marcia We haven't really talked about what you do at Duolingo, but you're an assessment specialist. What does that mean?

Masha:

so if you are familiar with the Company, Duolingo has a few products like the learning app, and then we have our English test. And I work on the English test side where, Duolingo has always been about making education accessible, especially when it comes to English testing. The test that we designed really as a tool for people all around the world to get access to higher education, without having, to travel, like for days to get to a testing center or to sit there for like hours and hours trying to prove their proficiency. So it's really designed to be accessible. And it really harnesses the power of AI and a lot of digital technology, um, my role is to help stakeholders understand, how this test works, what's the research behind it, why do we think it's a good measure, a valid measure of someone's, language proficiency, And that's why I travel so much, right? Because I go to meet with those stakeholders, especially in the UK and Australia and Canada and all around the States, to see the value in the test from the research perspective.

Nick:

I'm really pleased that you sponsored the show because digital testing is such a hot topic and it's got people really thinking about how they feel about digital tests and What I have found interesting is particularly with Duolingo is the access it gives students there's some incredible stories of refugees, or people who are in a situation where a decision needs to be made, being able to access higher education around the world. Accept scholarships, because of Duolingo being able to offer them a test online

Masha:

Yeah. In fact, we actually have a designated advisor who works with those students, specifically from, refugee populations, because it's such a complex system to navigate, right? And like you said, the stories are amazing, We have students go into Dartmouth, to Harvard, all of those Ivy League schools in the US. We also have scholars in the UK, through the tuning program, we really do feel very strongly about supporting those populations.

Wow.

Nick:

It's Christmas everyone, so Masha, what's your plans for Christmas?

Masha:

I'm going to Arizona to see my friends and family, and do some skiing, go see the Grand Canyon, and spend some quality time with people I love.

Nick:

Sounds lovely,

Andy:

you hung your baubles up, Nick?

Nick:

Yes, I have. I've got a roaring fire going drinking apple cider feeling very Christmasy

Andy:

I'm getting a new bathroom put in downstairs, so my house is just upside down. It's not very relaxing at all,

Nick:

Are the in-laws coming to stay? Is this DIY cramming?

Andy:

It's just the only time we can get it done.

Nick:

what you've always wanted for Christmas. A new system,

Andy:

A new toilet! Marsha, thank you so much for coming on the show. It's been great having you.

Masha:

Oh, I had a blast. thank you for having me and, super excited to hear your episodes for the next year and where this year is gonna take you

Nick:

a massive thank you to everybody who's listened. We've had so much fun this year. We really appreciate everybody's support.

Andy:

And Marsha, we'll leave you to go and have an awesome Christmas.

Masha:

Thanks, you two both have a great Christmas.

Nick:

Happy holidays.

Masha:

Happy Holidays!

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