The snow is crunching under my feet, that crispy crunch that helps you count the steps. Counting steps goes well with the thoughts. Usually I would use my iPod for the background, but I wasn’t in the mood today. It’s good to walk without an iPod, though it creates a nice soundtrack. You just turn off your brain and walk on gazing at things, like in a movie. I never did this on Semester at Sea.
My travels there were about observation, paying attention to detail, to the random pieces of speech caught in the wind, to the foreign sounds and smells and colors. Your mind tunes to the vibe of the new place, taking in what it can offer. Music never lets it happen.
It’s sunny today, and only a few chunks of clouds brake the perfect blue of the sky. It’a a rare thing here in Moscow. Sometimes winter can pass without a single sunny day. But for the sun we pay by putting up with the cold. -6F/-21C. That’s pretty damn cold. I guess princess Anna from Frozen is who I most resemble right now – remember, when she goes “cold cold cold” and rushes towards the shop on her search for Elsa. I’m wearing three layers of clothes, uggs, a fur hat and coat. Any PETA activist would very soon become much more fur-tolerant in Russia, especially after paying a visit to colder cities like Vorkuta, where my grandparents live. The cold gets everywhere. It sneaks in through the tiny gap between my woolen scarf and the coat, through leg warmers over my jeans (my knees suffer most from the cold), through the space between my sleeves and gloves, biting my chin and cheeks. I mean, seriously, what was Napoleon thinking when he invaded this country in winter?
Home. Home is warm and dry, very dry, because the heating is always on. Here the heating is automatic in all houses, delivered by the stream of hot water through radiators. The city government usually turns it on in October and off in April. The air is so dry that one day I discovered a few cracks on my brand new ukulele. The gentle Hawaiian wood got distressed, so I had to run and buy a case humidifier and some wood glue to fix it. The air plants that I brought from Brazil seem to be suffering a lot, though I’m trying to moisturize them almost every day. Breathing gets hard too, although better with saline that I got in the States. Yet I miss the times on the ship where I forgot what breathing problems were (except Ghana, for sure). I want sea and sun and unwinter.
It’s been a month since we disembarked, and the whole 4-months adventure seems simply surreal. Did it really happen? Did I really do this? Did I really meet all these people? Who knows. Maybe it was just a dream. Like the one that I had today, in which I got a new scholarship and was allowed to jump onboard during the new spring voyage. I’d love to do the spring voyage someday.
People ask me – how is it, being back home? Cultural shock, readaptation, re-entry problems? I didn’t feel it. I’m so adaptable it scares me. I was good. Just jetlagged for a while, but that doesn’t count. It only felt weird when I thought it was time for some daily hugs and my hug people were not around. Or wanted to talk to someone, and they’re far away. Or just to see someone’s face, and it wasn’t possible. It made me sad. And nowadays, with all the technology, people still rarely stay in touch. It makes me even sadder.
Still, life goes on. I’m plotting some new mischief. Re-obtained my fitness contract – thy have a big nice indoors pool. Started taking driving lessons. Learned “Wagon Wheel” on the uke. Now finally done with all my exams, just a few papers left to write. And then – the state exam, editing my documentary, thesis defense, and whoa, I’m done with school. Sounds exciting, though I’ll miss the cheap public transport pass and the student discounts. They say – welcome to the real world [now go get a full-time job and start killing your life at the office]. I think – how about no. Yet now I really have to figure out what to do with my life, where and how. I’m open to adventure and new challenge. But no. I don’t want to be an office worm. I want to do something exciting and impactful. And see where it goes.