I’m watching Paula Deen teach “Mr. Jimmy” and “Miss Rosa” (the Carters, by the way, nbd) how to cook while reading the SRAS list of foods that are hard to find in Russia. Wait, they don’t sell spam in Russia??
I think I’ll be ok without some of the items on the list (Heinz salad cream, cheez whiz, wheetabix), but I have procured two key items: peanut butter and pumpkin pie filling. It feels a little poisonwood bible, carrying cake mix into the jungle and all that, but I’m sure I’ll be glad once thanksgiving rolls around.
See Voronezh? Near Kursk and Saratov? Well not really that close but still. Just to give some context.
When I first heard at the end of March that I would be teaching English in Russia, I was ecstatic. I didn’t care where I would be, or what age I would be teaching, or the fact that I’ve never taught English. Graduating from college in a financially tricky time, I was just relieved to have a plan for the year after college, especially doing something I was interested in. As time wore on, I became preoccupied with location: where would I be for a year? What city, at first unpronounceable for friends and family, would become a part of their geographical knowledge? And where would I spend my first Russian winter?
Finally, the week before commencement, I received my placement. Dear Molly, you will be at Voronezh State University in Voronezh. At first all I could think of was that the name of the city seemed somehow familiar – perhaps mentioned somewhere in a story by Tolstoy or Chekhov, the name conjured up images of travelers on the road to Voronezh, shivering under blankets in their horse-drawn carriages. A quick visit to Wikipedia clarified things. Voronezh is in Voronezh oblast, south of Moscow and about halfway between Moscow and Volgograd. It’s a little bigger than San Francisco, and is notable both for its universities and the nuclear power plant outside the city proper. The famous Russian poet Osip Mandelshtam was exiled to Voronezh, and a McDonalds recently opened there.
Geographically, Voronezh is not so far away from Ukraine, and the local airport means that it’s not so far away from some interesting destinations in Europe, with direct flights to Munich, Istanbul, and Prague among other cities. The train from Moscow is overnight and takes 10 hours. Voronezh is also the hub for the Kyiv-Voronezh train, and I have no idea how long that journey is. And lucky me, the city is pretty far south, as far as Russian geography goes. Of course, the whole of Russia is north of the U.S., but Voronezh is more southern than London! As a California girl this does provide some comfort. While I may not agree with my Russian teacher’s characterization of the Voronezh climate as “wonderful- mild winters and warm but not hot summers,” because to me a mild winter means nothing below 50 degrees Fahrenheit, I am already relieved to have been spared from winter in the North.
But it’s still going to be cold. I suppose it’s time to start packing because the days are slipping away! In two weeks I will have finally reached Voronezh.