Friday, February 22, 2008

What is Russia?

So I've been thinking about it for a while. What is exchange and Russia and Yakutsk in particular? Because I know that back when I was getting ready to go on exchange I thought exchange was going to be completely different than when I actually got here and started living. For those of you who don't know, exchange is not a ten month long vacation. Exchange is not about the trips, and the excursions, and the festivals. Russia is not about New Year, the trip to the west, or trips around the city. Yakutsk is not about Ysakh. Though these things do all come together as part of the exchange experience. So for those of you who'd like to know here's what exchange, Russia, and Yakutsk are.

It's eating ice cream in weather cold enough that the ice cream doesn't melt while you're eating it. It's flagging down your bus and pushing your way on. It's pushing your way off the bus at your stop. It's sitting through lectures you don't understand. It's getting up in the pictch dark to go to a school you're not getting grades in. It's watching the light come back day by day. It's feeling a part of your class while at the same time feeling alienated. It's reading a book in a language that's not your first. It's watching the kids bundled up from head to foot sliding and playing on ice.

It's wearing black and white to school everyday, eating fresh hot pierozhka, ducking under the drying laundry hanging across the apartment to get to the bathroom. It's crazy dogs, and walking to the bus stop after school with friends. It's singing childrens songs in English because you can and no one understands, it's cafe hopping, and bad english. It's walking down the street on sunny days and not so sunny days. It's laughing as your classmates cheat and think they do so subtly. It's juice and conversation with your host mom while she makes dinner. It's watching "nash geroi" Gena Bukin week-nights at 8. It's five flights of stairs and figuring out how keys work. It's sweet popcorn and assigned seats at the movies. It's walking in the cold, and rejoicing in unusually warm weather. It's sitting in front of a blank canvas six hours a week and a peppy blonde laughing everytime you open your mouth. It's still thinking of home fondly even after five months.

And I could go on from there, but I think you maybe understand now, what exchange is really like.

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