Pre-Departure Thoughts, and Something Else Besides

Not very many days to go--I leave for Russia on the 26th. And what used to feel like utter, gripping fear (dizzying nightmares of badly-dressed Neo-Nazi skinheads attacking me near the Neva) have turned into excitement.

Well, I wouldn't go as far as "excitement". Perhaps I can say that I'm coming to terms with it. There's still the fact that I so very badly want to perfect my Russian. I've no idea why, originally, I was so against the entire trip. At first, a trip to St. Petersburg felt like a return to my dark-abyss of a birth-country: Cuba. Next there was the Neo-Nazi thing and at some point I began to worry about where I could get my eyebrows waxed (do Russian women do Brazilians?), in addition to my airplane fear.

It's taken me quite a while to get to the root of my fear--communication.

Though I do my share of poking fun at my neurotic, insecure, and purple-obsessed former suite-mate for pasting her gaudy cell phone to her ear, I do need to communicate with people. In fact, I need my cell phone more than I ever thought myself capable. One must understand--it's the ability to randomly call anyone at anytime. I suppose I cannot do that abroad; much to my dismay, I can't communicate with Phil as much as I'd like.

I know: it'll be over before I know it (it sounds like an abortion; or worse, losing my virginity). In fact, I should enjoy this experience and savor it while it lasts. This is, after all, the Great Russia (Velikaya Rossiya); the land of Shukshin and Dostoevsky; the inspiration for Figes' Natasha's Dance.

Once Dostoevsky looked beyond the Neva at midnight; with the coming of the night the city had morphed into a dazzling display of odd figures making their ways through the darkened streets and there he thought--aha!--to create a story about the poor clerk, Makar Devushkin! I've heard that story...hopefully, I'll stand right on that spot and say--aha!--to create a senior thesis about that poor government clerk...

If only. But I believe that inspiration comes mainly from hard work. Suddenly I'm reminded of that movie, "Something's Gotta Give", in which Erica turns to her guests and says: "I'm 90% hard work and 10% talent, and so far, the talent part hasn't exactly kicked in yet".

My talent part hasn't exactly kicked in yet. My ideal routine would involve getting up in the morning with a freshly-brewed cup of Cuban coffee waiting for me in a cool, white ceramic mug. A nice shower, a quick browse through the list of my daily chores, and then, off to the library to do my thesis and study Russian.

Writing a thesis involves more than a discipline, for it also involves constantly reminding oneself about why one wants to write it. My motivation is half and half: yes, there is the thought of grandeur and awards and that little line on my diploma that reads, Honors in Research; but also the idea of giving back to my Department.

Then my trip to Russia: could it be similar to the thesis? I believe so, yes. Constantly, I'm told that life is what one makes it. Yes, and if I want to pretend to be Anthony Bourdain on my trip to Russia, I may just do so. But more importantly, like the thesis, I must constantly remind myself of why I wanted to do this in the first place. Yes, there is the "you have a very good accent" compliment that I love to lap up. Yet more importantly, it's that image of Dostoevsky on the Neva at midnight...could I?

aeka at 8:47 a.m.