For the past several weeks, almost all of the emails and messages I've received have run something along the lines of: "Are you alive?," "Where have you disappeared to..?," "Send an update!," "Lose 20 lbs. in 20 days!"
The alarming tone throughout certainly warrants response.
Firstly, an apology. I spent about a month and a half constantly on the go, and though I've been back in Vladivostok for a good two weeks now, I've been mostly hibernating, avoiding thought, etc. The interim has also seen the start of a new year (both calendar and lunar), a new academic semester, and yes, that's right: a new hair-do, too. Exciting times. I am very sorry for the neglect and any worry I might have caused by failing to update more regularly!
Secondly, does anyone else find it rather offensive that perfect strangers have no qualms about yelling at you to lose weight and how via the world wide web? Right.
Anyway, because the gaping hole on this blog gives quite the misleading impression that I didn't do diddly over the last three months or so, I'll be working to fill it in a bit with "many impressions" and фотки from my time in South Korea, China, Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, and Moscow... while also endeavoring to keep you folks updated on the ongoing Vlady fun on more than a quarter-yearly basis.
Returning to Vladivostok and my teaching responsibilities this month has been strongly reminiscent of my first arrival last September-- complete with chaos, confusion, and a seemingly brand new cast of characters. On a good day, I tell myself that the only thing I'm missing for round two is the soul-shaking fear of what I had gone and commited myself to this year. On a less-than-good day, I realize that while I'm no longer squeaking in irrational terror at every turn, the excitement of being somewhere entirely foreign and new has also dulled a bit.
But just a bit.
It seems that a large part of getting used to my life in Russia is realizing that there's really not all that much to get used to-- that is, the one constant is inconsistency. This is more likely a reflection of life as a temporary visitor with an end date stamped on heart, mind, and visa, than life generally in Russia, but there is no doubt a bit of the latter, too. A loaf of bread costs something like 14 rubles one day and 24 the next. The popular cafe down the road is packed with customers one day and a gutted pile of rubble the next. Friends come, and they leave; we come, and we leave.
There's not much solid ground for this Southern California girl to stand on... except on that, the absolute least likely of spots: atop the frozen surface of the Pacific Ocean.
How's that for a looking glass world on the other side of Siberia? of the planet? A good day, a less-than-good day-- everyday, there are these tiny explosions of my former understanding. And this new year, I'll try to be better about sharing them with all you.