Scattered moments

September 27, 2011

Sunset over the Angara River, Irkutsk.


I have a few minutes at home, so I thought I’d write a short piece to catch you all up. I’ll just highlight a few notable experiences from the past couple of days, following Hillary’s lead.

On Wednesday we had vodka with lunch. While an old tradition (at least among those we were with) to solidify new friendship, this passed largely without ceremony. Also, it wasn’t the massive quantities I had expected to see before coming here, but a single miniature goblet’s worth. This could, however, have been more the product of the depth of our pockets than tradition; regardless of where you are in the world, in terms of money and not having it, students are students are students.

On a sadder note about alcohol, on Thursday morning, around 10:00 am, I was standing at the bus stop across the street from my home and witnessed a man stumble drunkenly into the road. Though apparently unfazed, the large gash on his forehead spread to stain his whole face above the eyes red with gushing blood. I had read previously that certain places in Siberia face problems with alcohol unimaginable in the West, some townships existing without government due to the fact that no one is sober enough to leave their home, let alone maintain a semblance of society. These places tend to be to the extreme north and east, but to see such scenes here is a cold reminder of how severely natural conditions can take a toll on a man’s mind.

On to brighter news: this weekend was the first time I had watched a Russian movie since coming here, and I understood everything without the benefit of subtitles. Do you remember the first time you took the training wheels off of your bicycle and made it to the end of your driveway without falling? The feeling here was similar.

Lastly, as I walked to class this morning in the waning Indian summer sun, a motion to my right caught my eye. There, among the birch and their orange and yellow leaves, I watched a crow perch itself and nuzzle its beak under a wing. Back home in Wisconsin, this would probably go unnoticed, but here the scene struck me as not only familiar, but placeable in my memory to a very specific place and time of year (middle October, Fox River). I’m not really sure yet if these are the first pangs of homesickness, but the sight left me feeling momentarily as though I was back on the banks where I once trapped frogs and caught bluegills. Turning back toward school and confronting the towering student dormitory—a concrete monolith that stands as testament to Soviet times, when education fit neatly into a gray concrete box, and when it didn’t, life on the outside was even less opportune, even more colorless—I was reminded that these small homespun moments are rare out here, and I should be happy to find them when they come.


2 Responses to “Scattered moments”

  1. I totally hear the “home memory moments” bit – in museums this past week, every so often a landscape looks exactly like the Vermont woods, or a sleepy Vermont town covered in snow…

  2. HOLLAmasta5000 said

    damn son that was beautiful… take a bow!

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