Tuesday, October 6, 2009

My Last Day

Russia. When I first arrived I was like a shy child in a new school. Everything seemed so different and scary and, of course, I didn't know anyone or even understand the big, educated words they used around me. The only friendly, familiar face was my teacher, so I clung to him like glue until I finally felt confident enough to explore the halls on my own and become my own teacher. Of course, my teacher was Lyosha and the "big" words I refer to were any words spoken in Russian, rather than English.

I am sad to say that today is my last day in Russia. After two and a half weeks of confusion, I have finally established a logical sense of direction and a fearless mindset about my lack of vocabulary in the Russian language. Yes, people still look at me like I am an ignorant child when I can't answer their simple questions in restaurants or stores, but after I try to apologize in English, they quickly understand and they smile politely, then move on with their lives. I have finally learned to appreciate the beauty in the world around me, rather than constantly compare differences in my mind.

The trees are the best part of Академгородок. Even in the most dense parts of the forest, the sun seems to smile through the yellow leaves and reflect off the white bark of the tall, thin Birch. I am never alone or afraid in these woods because I feel like I am always surrounded by warmth and happiness, even when I am wrapped up in my gloves, scarves and jackets in the crisp Autumn air. I am in love with this feeling and I understand why the trees were the most common topic of discussion for Lyosha when he was describing his home to me.

Trees and squirrels. Yes, we have squirrels in California too, but not like these squirrels. The squirrels in Академгородок are curious, fluffy and real. They try to pretend that they are afraid of you until you make a kissing noise to get their attention. This lets them know they will be fed soon. Standing on the balcony, with seeds in my hand, all I need to do is kiss or make a clicking noise with my cheek to call the nearest squirrel and she will be there in approximately 30 seconds.

Link to album with squirrels (pics taken in 2009)

I have been to Novosibirsk a few times during my stay and everything is interesting because it is unfamiliar, but I felt like a tourist in the big, bustling city. In Академ I feel like I am more than a tourist because I am home here. My trip has been a very strange one, considering I did not do any of the typical things that tourists do in new countries. My trip has been much more interesting because I learned how to actually live in a new country.

Every day I have a simple routine. After making tea, showering and straightening up the house, I meet Lyosha for lunch. After lunch I have a few hours to finish up laundry and take a brisk walk around the neighborhood before Lyosha gets home. I patiently listen to him talk about work as we get ready to take a walk together in the cool evening air. On this walk, we usually talk playfully and he teaches me how to walk like a Russian girl on the arm of her man. After we find something to eat for dinner, we go to the local grocery store and pick up some bread, cheese, sausage, and dessert before heading back home. Sound romantic? It is. Not only is this something that you could see from a movie, it is reality here. On our walks we pass dozens of other couples doing exactly what we are doing because that is what life is like here. Everyone has time to enjoy life and no one is telling you what to do.

I will miss this strange romantic land, but I will be happy to go back to California. My home is in the sun, where no one judges the way I dress and all the roads are properly designed and labeled. I don't plan on making this my last trip to Russia, however. Next time I hope to speak more Russian and outdress all the women! I will still bring my Ugg boots, though, and my California smile and attitude :)

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