Monthly Archives: June 2011

The Science of Departure

When I woke up this morning all my mind could grasp on to were a few random lines of Russian poetry I read in one of my classes during undergrad. I couldn’t place the poem until I turned to Google. The poem is, most appropriately, “Tristia” by…Osip Mandelstam. Mandelstam, who, you may remember, spent some time exiled in Voronezh. Tristia, one of his most famous works, begins with the line “Я изучил науку расставанья..”: I have studied the science of parting. The other line that was floating around this morning was from the second stanza – “Кто может знать при слове “расставанье”/какая нам разлука предстоит”: Who can know, at the word farewell, what kind of separation awaits us. This basically sums up my feelings about leaving. I’m anxious and unsettled, because I hate saying goodbye to people, especially when I don’t know when I’ll see them again. Even though I know that the dread of waiting to say goodbye is often worse than the reality of departure, it doesn’t make it easier.

That said, I’m pretty much ready. I just have a few more things to pack up and clean before I leave in a few hours. I have my “going away” playlist on my ipod, I have my train ticket, I have mostly everything that I need. And I’m ready, too, not just in the packed-and-ready-to-go sense. This has been a very interesting and challenging year, and I think I’m ready for something new. The whole process of leaving just seems surreal right now because after all this has been my life since September, and I can’t imagine exactly what the next phase will look like for me.

So, I am going to finish packing. And finish saying goodbye to Voronezh. Although I am sure that someday I’ll be back again.


and now the time has grown so short..

..the world has grown so wide.*

I’m seriously starting to feel the time crunch. I’m at the point in my packing where everything is super messy, and the mess won’t be resolved until sometime on Thursday when I don’t have to use anything again and everything is tucked away. Despite what my friends and family might say, such disorder actually gives me great anxiety. Proof: I just woke up from a dream in which I simply had failed to pack. It was Thursday at 9:00 pm and I wasn’t at the train station yet. My apartment was in disarray, I hadn’t called my landlady yet, I didn’t have a taxi. Aren’t my stress dreams fantastically realistic??

To make things worse, I’m terrible at packing alone. I get distracted or don’t want to think about what it means that I’m packing and so leave everything and go take a walk or take a nap or something. In August, as I was trying to fit everything I thought I would need into my suitcase and duffel, I had a team behind me. We’re a big fan of moral support in the Perkins family, and I had enough of it in the last few days that no one would let me give up when I wanted to. I guess I have to be my own task-master, and figure out which things to leave and which things to take with me on my own.

All that said, it’s only Monday. Tomorrow I’m going to start taking care of some of the logistical things with packing: cleaning out the kitchen, that sort of thing. Today…well today is technically a weekend day/day off from work so I think I will be spending some time with my friends today. Plus the weather is nice. I’m going to try and ignore the mounting panic – the panic that I won’t pack in time, that I’ll miss my train or my plane, or more acutely the panic that comes from having to say goodbye to the people who have become the anchors of my Voronezh life – at least until tomorrow.


*Bonus points for the reference. Without googling it.


Last August, when I was starting to pack for Russia, I carefully read the manual that was given to us. I read it more than once. I read it maybe three times. I just wanted to, you know, be sure that I had everything I would possibly need. Suggestions like “classroom supplies” were duly noted, purchased, and stuffed into my monstrous suitcase (do you guys remember the beautiful monster?). Now, 10 months later, I am up to my ears in things that the manual told me I would really need!!! and really want!! but that I haven’t used. In case anyone was wondering, Russia is just a normal place where you can purchase really ordinary everyday things instead of schlepping them from the States and not using them for 10 months. In retrospect some of these things are really funny.


Here are some highlights:

– an egg container, just in case, you know, I was gathering eggs from the coop and needed a place to put them. Or something. It was such a sweet victory when Mom and I found this rare item at REI, and such a bittersweet pang to realize now that I used it not once.

– Classroom supplies. White board markers, chalk, erasers, etc. They sell these things here. Everywhere. So. Now I have this stuff.

– Medical supplies. They suggested to have your own needles and syringes and т.д. just in case you ended up at a Russian hospital and wanted to be sure that everything was sterile. I get it, cleanliness of medical supplies is super important. But now I have a giant ziploc of these things.

– Stickers. That was actually a good idea, my students really liked being rewarded for learning their tongue twisters or whatnot, but I honestly just forgot about them and so only used a few of them. They’re pretty high quality stickers too.

– Maps. Oh the time I spent at the library booksale, finding the old National Geographics that included maps, carefully pulling them out of the magazines, and stashing them away in my suitcase. I had big dreams, dreams that these cool maps (maps about soccer/football and the world! and America! and earthquakes! and other things) would inspire my students. Inspire them to do what, I don’t know, but they would be inspired. The fun and excitement I associate with maps probably comes from hours playing the “Map Game” in the kitchen with my dad – “OK Molly how quickly can you find [obscure city] on the map?” – and now I realize maps are not as exciting for other people. Just another one of my misguided teaching ideas.

So the process of sorting, evaluating, and packing my belongings has begun. I’m hoping to have everything under control by Wednesday, so that on Thursday I can enjoy my last day before heading to Moscow Thursday night..

Also Happy Birthday Dad! You’re great.

Pictures from Sochi

This is the official countdown to the Olympic Games 2014. It’s hard to see but I think it’s at 983 days here. My friend said they had a huge party when it was 1000 days. It’s right by the Maritime Terminal, which is basically the sea port that has boats going to exciting places like Turkey.



We got to take a fun gondola ride to get into Dendrarii, the Sochi Arboretum. My friend’s friend works there so we got to go in for free. They had lots of interesting trees and paths and pretty fountains, as well as some ostriches and peacocks and some other birds.

Notice the fountain and my clown feet.


This is a tower on the top of a mountain from which you can see really beautiful views of Sochi and the surrounding areas. As you can see it was super foggy, and we could barely see from the top of the tower to the bottom. Soo there were no panoramic views.

Stunning view from the top – can’t you see the Black Sea? No??


Me with a really small waterfall. There are bigger ones but by then it was raining and so we couldn’t really trek onwards.

Sochi 2011

Since I didn’t have to work last week, I decided to go to Sochi to visit one of my fellow ETAs. It was all a little last minute, I decided on Friday to leave on Monday. No one should be surprised about this, everything is last minute for me. Anyways I spent Friday running around, standing in long lines at the train station, collecting my visa from the visa office, realizing that there was a mistake on my tickets (my last name is not actually Perkinsk, although I appreciate the worker’s attempt to make it Russian), and so on. Monday morning I realized I hadn’t packed. I was kind of in shock when I suddenly realized at 12:30 that I was sitting on the train, no problems, Sochi-bound. The проводница, or conductor, in our wagon didn’t even check my passport. I think it’s because the train was coming from Belarus, but, who knows.

The ride to Sochi was a full 23 hours. Sochi is a smallish city on the coast of the Black Sea, really close to Georgia and the Republic of Abkhazia. Luckily my phone didn’t stop working until after I met up with my friend, because otherwise it would have been disastrous. I felt right at home immediately – seeing the beaches, boardwalks, palm trees, all of that made me feel like I was in California. My official response to the question “How was Sochi?” is “It’s the California of Russia.” It’s wonderful.

We spent most of the time just hanging out, living the Sochi life, doing a little bit of sightseeing and that, but the weather wasn’t super great so there was not as much beach time as would have been ideal. Still, it was nice to compare experiences with another ETA and to reflect on our time here (we’re both leaving on the same day).  I’ll add pictures soon I guess, if I schlep over to some high speed internet.

Of course one of the cool things about Sochi is that the Olympics are going to be there in 2014. For those of you who had forgotten, Russia gets the Olympics in 2014 and the World Cup in 2018! What blows my mind is that the 2014 Olympics are the Winter Games, and Sochi is a resort city..a summer resort city. Stalin’s dacha is in Sochi. It’s where all the celebrities come to relax. I feel like it’s kind of like deciding to have the Winter Olympics in LA but having some of the competitions in Big Bear (Krasnaya Polyana is about an hour’s ride from Sochi and is a legit ski resort, where the outdoor races will be and some of the facilities). Winter temperatures in Sochi are usually in the 40s at the lowest. I think there will be tons (literally! tons!) of artificial snow for the games, I don’t see how else they will do that.

Another logistical thing is that Sochi is a very long city, stretched along the coast of the Black Sea. There is one main road that connects all of the city. One two-lane road. Also Sochi is fairly hilly. This will all make transportation problematic, I think they’re already trying to make the main road better because seriously what will happen.

Anyways after a few days of living the Sochi life I was missing Voronezh a little bit, I arrived back midday on Saturday geared up for my last little time here. I’m leaving from Voronezh a week from Thursday, so it’s really getting down to the wire. I bought my ticket to Moscow this morning, officially signed out my visa from the visa office, and am starting to gather up the scattered bits of my Voronezh life. Watch out, things are going to get super sentimental. Stay tuned.