As I'm writing this, I'm sitting in the tiny, hot, stuffy flat on Dimitrovskoe Shosse in Moscow that has been my "home" for the past few days. I've got my window wide open in the hope of catching a non-existent breeze, and I can hear an ambulance wailing while car horns honk madly and the smell of cigarette smoke drifts up from the street. My stomach is pleasantly full (ok, maybe not that pleasantly, I'm actually stuffed!) from my "Last Supper" of tvorog and the delicious Russian bread that I've become addicted to. My month of camp is over, and in 5 hours a taxi is coming to take me to Domodedovo Airport. My destination?
Canada. Home. Or, rather, my other home.
I've always believed that your home is where your family is. Maybe that's because I moved a few times as a child and teenager, experiences that made me realize that it didn't matter what school I went to or what house I lived, as long as I had my sister (who was always my best friend growing up), my younger brother, and my parents. I still feel that way, and I'm excited beyond words at the prospect of being home with my family this summer.
But at the same time, Moscow has really become my second home this year, which is a little puzzling because I came over here in September entirely on my own, knowing no one and having no support system that wasn't reliant on wi-fi!
It surprises me how quickly I fell in love with the city. I made friends - both Russians and fellow expats - who became a second family to me. There were obvious things that I loved right away about Moscow - the history, the culture and museums, the language, the food...and even non-obvious things that I'm actually REALLY going to miss. Like the pigeons. And, dare I say...the ubiquitous mullets that 99.9% of men sport?!?
Today was my last full day in the city, and I wanted to make the most of it. I headed to the heart of Moscow first - Red Square and the Kremlin. For me, this was the spot where it finally sunk in that I was IN Russia, that day way back in September when I did the 5km Nike-sponsored run on Red Square. Still probably one of the coolest things I've ever done!
It was packed with tourists and I have to admit to feeling a sort of smug "I'm a local" feeling as frenetic Asian tourists madly dashed after flag-toting guides, even though I realized with a shock that after today, I may never be able to say "I live here" again (although who knows what lies in the future, right?)
My initial plan was to go to the Armoury, but even though I arrived an hour before the excursion started, tickets were already sold out. I was disappointed, but honestly somewhat relieved that I had a viable excuse to save 700 roubles. Those tickets are pricey! If you have an ISIC (International Student Identity Card) definitely bring it with you because you'll save 450 roubles. Or, you know, you could be a Hero of the Soviet Union and get in for free. I wonder what THAT card looks like?
So instead of the Armoury, I checked out the State Historical Museum, which is right inside the gates to Red Square. Ticket prices there are much more reasonable (250 roubles) although in hindsight I should have splurged for the English audio guide because all the exhibits were in Russian. I definitely would have gotten a lot more out of the experience otherwise, but it was still a very pleasant way to while away the hottest part of the afternoon! There are some interesting artifacts there, including a tapestry from 1389 that was commissioned in order to celebrate the Russian victory over the Mongols at Kulikovo Field in 1380, and some very old manuscripts in Old Church Slavonic. If you're interested in the Scythians or pre-Christianized Russia (prior to 988 CE) there is a LOT at this museum to check out!
After the museum, I met up with Rhea in the Alexandrovsky Gardens and we went on a massive walk around the city centre. I thought it was very fitting that my last day should end with Rhea, who played such a pivotal role in my first (disastrous!) day here! She's staying here and continuing teaching for Language Link, and I'm very excited to stay in touch with her and hear all about her adventures that will continue in the fall.
We eventually parted ways with a big hug in the Arbat metro, as she was headed off to the Gogol Bordello concert and I had to get back to my flat to finish up packing! How have I accumulated so many things?!? I'm actually leaving A LOT behind...this is hard for me as I'm somewhat of a hoarder...
So. Anyways. Time to say goodbye to Moscow. For now. I do feel a little sad, but I know that our goodbyes aren't forever, and that I'll be back.
Thank you Moscow, for an incredible, unforgettable year. I'm a different girl than I was when I arrived - I now feel SO much more confident in my own abilities, but who wouldn't after learning how to navigate the Moscow metro?! - but at heart I'm still the same devushka I've always been.
Mosvka, ya tebya liublu. Moscow, I love you. Thanks for the memories, and I can't wait to return one day. Maybe by then the fashion will have passed from the 90s to the early 2000s and the mullets and scrunchies will be gone. At the very least, a devushka can always hope, right? ;)