Today is exactly halfway between my departure from the US and my return.
Time is a funny thing, and I won’t bother making any jokes about it, because I’ve only ever seen like four episodes of Doctor Who, so I’m really a novice. But really: I feel simultaneously like I’ve spent two years in Ukhta and like I got here about ten days ago. What’s more, I feel simultaneously like there’s no way I can fit everything I want into the next 138 days and like I want to go home, like, yesterday.
But feelings are feelings, and they change with time and consumption of chocolate. What about the objective plane? Have I accomplished four and a half months’ worth of things while here? And what do I intend to do with the next?
To answer the first question: I’m inclined to say no. My teaching schedule fluctuated wildly all semester, so some weeks I ended up with lots of open space during the day and nothing pressing on hand to do with it. Combine that with spending a lot of time adjusting, grocery shopping, walking 0.7mph from class to class along icy pathways… that is, not wasting time exactly, but also not putting it towards some grand end purpose… and we end up with frustration in the form of Not That Much Accomplished.
That said, Vickie and I laid really important groundwork in all of our various workplaces, worked out the bugs in English Club and Administration English Club, and figured out the best and closest places to buy groceries. Further, we’ve been around long enough for ideas to start popping up in our heads… at least, Vickie has 20,000 research ideas, and I have about as many ideas for things that would taste good with chocolate. And we have friends now, so less time will be spent sitting around our dorm rooms doing nothing! So: as frustrated as I am tempted to be with the last four and a half months, I realize that many of the biggest time drains were either necessary (making friends), never going to be repeated (Shudayag), or mistakes I can learn from (Facebook).
Now to the second question: SO MUCH. I intend to do so much in these next 138 days. I never officially wrote up my year’s bucket list in September, so I’ll do a semester’s bucket list for you now:
- Finish Anna Karenina
- Visit Aida in Kazan
- Go back to Petersburg
- Start a beginners’ English class for adults at my church
- Learn to count 1-100 without any accent, so my kids don’t make fun of me anymore
- …Or just teach my kids all the numbers 1-100, so I can make fun of them instead
- Explore Komi Republic, more than Ukhta/Sosnogorsk/Shudayag
- Go skiing
- Learn how to ice skate backwards
- Read up on post-Stalin Soviet children’s literature
- …Or just read post-Stalin Soviet children’s literature
- Conquer the top 5000 words in a frequency dictionary
- Coordinate conversation between my students and students in the US
- Submit my CLEA forms on time
- Learn how to make tvorog
- Apply to fifteen jobs by March
I think I can do it. Other than maybe that bit about submitting my CLEA forms on time… just kidding, Alyssa, I can do that too! Part of this will become easier as the weather gets warmer, so I (hopefully, eventually?) can start walking faster than 0.7mph… as there’s more sun, so I stop needing ten hours of sleep every night in order to not feel like a zombie… as I’m less bored/lonely, so I stop spending hours reading useless articles on the internet… and as I’m just more acclimated. I used a metaphor when talking to some other Fulbrighters about this transition time: by the end of last semester, it was like the end of a four-hour ice skating session. I was more tired to begin with, and the ice was all chopped up, and I had to actively push myself every 8 inches to make sure I went straight/didn’t trip and fall on my face, which was exhausting. Now I’m gliding out onto freshly-Zambonied ice, and it feels great. I have so much energy, and nothing’s going to get in my way (except small children).
Regarding the last bullet point: I do need something to do when I get back to the US. I’ve perused some of the major job boards, and nothing marketed to the no-experience crowd looks terribly interesting. So right now the plan is to send my resume and a nice email to every company with a mission I like in a location I like, and pray that somebody will take me. I’ll figure the rest out later.