It's been a month since I left Elista and left Russia altogether. I still can't believe it happened so quickly and I still can't believe it's over. It was a trip both metaphorically and literally. Here's what I have to say:
I HAD A GREAT TIME!
I had a pretty amazing time in Russia despite my complaints and despite everything else that might have happened. Russia is a place that you love and hate and one you most certainly love to hate. As I was leaving the airport, there was another American sitting there, talking and crying to one of her friends still in Moscow. We spoke and I asked her how long she'd been in Russia (2 years) and how she felt about leaving, etc, etc. She told me this and while I've known this all along, her analogy was perfect.
"Russia is like a mean husband and those of us who keep coming back are like the blind wives. We know we should leave him because he is mean and beats us, but we him deeply and we can't help, but to return to it."
This is a perfect way of illustrating how Russia can be. One minute you love it, the next it's your least favorite place on earth.
I had initially thought this post would be very deep and introspective, but as I write I realize that I can't do that in a post about leaving Russia. That will have be more of a post about me and what I learned there and this just isn't the place for that. Instead I will leave you with a brief pros and cons list of what was great about my time in Russia:
- Living in the dorm (to an extent)
- Amazing experience
- Wonderful, fun students
- Great friendships made
- Really experience a new culture
- The food
- The language
- The independence
- The Russian and Kalmyk people
- Train rides
- The history
- The pride in their culture and heritage
- The amazement that occurs literally every single day (whether it's good or bad, the idea is an overwhelmingly good one)
- Living in the dorm
- The toilets (I'll forever hate these in Russia)
- Seeing someone get shot the day before my birthday
- The food (it's good, but not much variety)
- All the smoking
- The stereotypes that seemingly hold up (whether ones Americans hold about Russians or vice-versa)
- The internet
I definitely had my troubles in Russia and did my fair share of complaining, but my friends (both those in other countries as well as my fellow ETAs) and my family helped me a great deal and overall, I just can't believe how great it was. I would do it again in a heartbeat, but knowing what I know now, I'd certainly change some things.
To those of you who read this and have been to Russia for any length of time, you'll understand my sentiments. For those of you who have not, I apologize because there is truly no way of writing about what Russia really is and what it means to experience it so I'll leave you with a quote I was given by a friend by the poet Tyutchev:
"Умом Россию не понять,Аршином общим не измерить:
У ней особенная стать —
В Россию можно только верить."
Translated as this:
"Russia can't be understood with the mind,
Can't be measured with a yardstick:
She has a unique characteristic -
In Russia it's only possible to believe."
So Dear Readers, I leave you with these final thoughts about my time in Russia and what it meant to me. It was a fantastic time and one that cannot be replaced or replicated.