I never published a bucket list on this blog, but many of you know that my first priority item was to see the northern lights. I think I’ve wanted to see them since elementary school, when I discovered Russian, Scottish, and Scandinavian fairytales simultaneously… that was when I fell in love with the idea of North, and the lights seemed like the big shiny diamond on top of the crown.
When I was getting ready to move to Ukhta, I read a Moscow Times article that set my heart racing. Ukhta… the “Northern Pearl”… northern lights all winter long, and we all know how long winter is up here…! I was going to see the northern lights. And goodness knows that 63.5 degrees north of the equator is probably (hopefully) the furthest north I will ever live, so this was not only a good chance, but also more likely than not the only chance I would ever have to see them with my own eyes.
And then I arrived, and then I understood what “98% cloud cover” really means. It means that in four months, I’ve seen five clear nights. FIVE. That’s worse than South Bend, y’all. I’ll bet not a single university or college in town can offer an intro astronomy class, because you can’t see stars literally ever.
Moscow Times, I’m calling you out on your blatant lie.
But then this Sunday was clear, bright, and cold. (I’m talking 18-below-feels-like-26-below-cold.) And at night, walking to and from various bus stops, I saw stars. Stars. It was amazing. I must give the Russians heart attacks, because I don’t always watch the ground when I’m walking at night, if there’s even a chance of stars/moon/really especially northern lights.
And after I’d been home for several hours that night, this popped up on my VK (Russian Facebook) newsfeed:
If you can’t tell, that’s a tiny, faint green line of light against a dark, dark sky. And if you can’t read Russian, the caption says, “Northern Lights today.”
I flipped out. I got dressed as fast as I’ve ever gotten dressed (I’d been in pajamas). I ran to Vickie’s room and gave her the puppiest puppy eyes I’ve ever made, and then… my stomach dropped. It was 11pm, exactly. The dorm doors close at 11pm. Sometimes the Front Desk Lady will let you in after 11, but the chances of her letting us out after 11 with the knowledge that you’ll be coming back 30 minutes later… it sort of defeats the purpose of the curfew, doesn’t it? But I decided to take my chances.
I walked up to the Front Desk to see which Front Desk Lady was working… stomach dropped even lower. The strictest, most rule-abiding, most “for-your-own-good” Front Desk Lady was on duty that night. I begged. I pleaded. I explained that for my whole life I have wanted this, and especially this past year I have wanted this, but apparently “I’ve got a dream” works about as well on her as it does on Mother Gothel, because I did not get out that door. “What northern lights do you want to see, hm? Where are you going to go?” she said with a tsk-tsk-ing smile. “Did anyone tell you the rules? I’m not supposed to let anyone in after 11. Here, read it,” she continued, leading me to a long list of rules hanging on the wall by the door. “You should be asleep now.”
If only she knew the sleep I would lose that night, and the night after, because I was SO CLOSE and I MISSED it by like FIVE MINUTES because of some rules.
Oh well. There’s still 5 months ahead of me, and they’re bound to come through again on another clear night, right?
In the meantime, enjoy what Instagram left us from Ukhta that night…
…it’s kind of pretty, right?
Anyway, this incident has inspired me to get some backup options lined up for next time. Namely, I have enlisted a friend with a car to help me search, and I will pray that a different вахтерша is on duty when it happens. Or, you know, that they show up sometime during the 8-9 hours of darkness we have before 11pm.