16 August 2010

A Long History

As I wrote about in my last blog, I traveled to Finland twelve years ago. Thirteen years ago, however, I went to St. Petersburg. I was a sophomore in high school and I was part of a 15-person two-week student exchange. I had been studying Russian in high school for a year and a half. In Virginia, only two high schools taught Russian and luckily, mine was one of the them. I went to Langley High School, which is down the road from Langley CIA Headquarters, though I don't think that this had any bearing on what languages were offered.

My history with Russia is long and winding. After high school, I majored in Russian Studies (and Business) at UC Davis. I never used Russian in my jobs, but I kept going back to the country that I loved, even if I didn't know why I loved it. 

I returned to St. Petersburg three more times and always stayed with my original host family. That is always the most personal time of my Russian visits. They welcome me back like family, but in leaving we don't know when, or even if, we'll see each other again. 

I also explored the great lakes of the north (Lagoda and Onega), the giant machine called Moscow, the shores of Lake Baikal, and the volcanoes, bears and salmon of Kamchatka. The latter of these attracted me because of it's truly wild wilderness, but my interest was first piqued when listening to the Kino song "Kamchatka," where Viktor Tsoi sings about the strange, magic of that place.

Clearly, I am still at home in Russia. Especially with Olga's family at their dacha.

It has now been six years since my last trip to Russia. I feared that I had forgotten the language. I thought maybe I wouldn't like the country as much, as I have changed so much and it has too. I was anxious that Kristin would be depending on me for all communication. She would be more isolated here than when we were in Latin America, where she knew some Spanish and there were a lot more backpackers.

As I am typing this on a train, I look up and see her lying on the bunk bed. She is peering down at me and I know that all my worries were for naught. Together we can get through this wild idea of mine to see the world on a nonexistent budget. I don't have a plan, just a dream. I don't have the money, but I know how to be frugal with what little we do have. I don't know how we'll get jobs when we return, but Kristin keeps us on task of working on side projects that could help us when we actually need a job. And through this, we are working on our relationship. This is the most difficult thing I have ever done. 

But we are doing it.
Waiting outside in the 90 degree "cool" air during a 10-minute train stop. 

Our plan for Russia is three weeks in St. Petersburg and up north into the Arctic Circle. Then we fly south to hike in the Caucasus Mountains near Georgia. We will take the train through the Ural Mountains that divide Europe and Asia. Then we will trek through Altai, the giant mountains that connect Kazakhstan, Russia and Mongolia and is one of the least inhabited ranges in the world. Then on to Lake Baikal, the second largest lake in the world, the deepest in the world, and soon (ok, maybe in millions of years) to be the next ocean. We exit via Mongolia October 10. We do not know where we are going in between Mongolia in October and Italy in February 2011.

[note: this blog post was written last week]

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