Sunday, August 29, 2010

Twenty twenty twenty four hours from now...

Will I want to be sedated, flying somewhere over the Atlantic? (yikes!!)

Ok, so some (minor) bad news. At first I thought British Airways let you check 2 suitcases, both 50lbs or under, when flying. Then yesterday I discovered that its actually only one suitcase that is allowed, and if you want an extra one, its another $90. the question is - should I pay the extra? Am I packing way too much? Not enough? Ahhhhhhh!!!!

For those of you who know me, I definitely LOVE clothes, and I have bizarre attachments to certain pieces of clothing. Like my old red sweatpants, or my lifeguarding tank, or my big baggy sweatshirt from high school swimming. They're like an equivalent of "comfort food," - clothes I reach for when I want to be comfy. So I'm trying to make sure I pack a few of my favourites, along with the new "professional" clothes I bought. In my contract with Language Link, it said that the dress code is business, so I did a bit of shopping throughout this summer, but I'm still a little unsure...will I be expected to wear heels every day? (Because, uh, that's NOT gonna happen...)

Anyways, I think I've managed to get almost everything packed. Check out my suitcase now:

(Note the cleverly tucked away tampons - if you can see them - and if some airport security guy makes me empty my suitcase in front of him and pull them all out, I will DIE of mortification.)

My cousins came by tonight to say goodbye, which was really sad. I have a lot of younger cousins, and its strange to think how much bigger they will all be when I see them next. Same with the kids I babysat this summer - I really developed a bond with them and its hard to believe that one-year-old Alessandro will be talking by the time I get back from Russia!

I guess I'm just in a weird mood right now. My last night in Canada. I'm half excited; half full of trepidation. This just might be the craziest/bravest thing I've ever done. Well, as the Russians say, davai davai - let's go!

And get some sleep for now!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Be prepared to bribe the cops; don't drink vodka cheaper than 5 kopecks; and "D.T.A" - words of wisdom before I leave

The standard reaction to hearing that I'm moving to Russia has been something along the lines of: *eyebrows up* "Umm...why?"

True, Russia does have a reputation for being cold. But this is Canada! Aren't Canadian winters just as fearsome as Russian ones? (I guess I'll find out...)
Besides the weather, Russia seems to conjure up some negative connotations for someone who considers herself a HUGE Slavophile, its hard for me to view Russia through anything but rose-tinted glasses sometimes. And I know that could be dangerous. I definitely idealize Russia to an extent, but at least I'm aware of this trend to romanticize the country, right? Actually, I am a little afraid that the "real Russia" might turn out to be a crushing disillusionment for me, but I'm also excited, ready to challenge my pre-conceived and naive notions of this country I've loved for so long. Should be interesting blog-worthy material, at the very least!

Anyways, I've gotten a LOT of advice from people, some helpful, some troubling, some (unintentionally) hilarious, and all well-meant and appreciated! Russians and expats living in Russia have all told me about the corruption in the police force, advising me to carry a limited amount of American money on me "just in case" I need to bribe a cop. I remember one time in Russian class, this guy was regaling everyone with a story about how one time, back in Russia, he got a phone call from his dad in the middle of the night. "I'm too drunk to drive home," he told his then-fourteen year old son. "You're going to have to drive my car and come pick me up." Okay...first problem with this scenario: what kind of role model is this father? Drunk at the bar in the middle of the night? And then is there no legal driving age in Russia? Oh, but it gets worse...on this kid's way to the bar, some cops pulled him over. "What did you do?" I asked this student, aghast at his story. "Oh, I bribed them," he said casually. The other Russians in my class all nodded, like well, duh. Umm...ok. When I was fourteen I was not driving at 3am to pick up my inebriated father from a bar and bribing police officers. I was watching Disney movies with my family and tucked away sleeping by 9pm! (My life was a little more sheltered than the average Canadian kid, I admit...but still!)

I've also been told to avoid drinking a shot of vodka that's cheaper than 5 kopecks, because people have died from it, and also to avoid Russian soldiers. My boss here in Ontario wanted to buy me some mace to smuggle into the country, but I didn't think that was such a wise idea...My dad has already told me that if anything happens to me, he will not hesitate to pull a Liam Neeson from the movie Taken...which is kinda cute in a way, but it also scares the hell out of me! Above all, the number one piece of advice I've been given has been succinctly shortened down by my relatives to "D.T.A.": Don't Trust Anyone.

"D.T.A." includes the obvious, like creepy men in black leather jackets, but also, I've been told, little kids and the company I'm going to be working for, Language Link. I think this is a little overly cautious, but my relatives were telling me this at a family party where quite a few of them were at least a little tipsy...anyways, I've promised them all that I will follow "D.T.A.", because, after all, it is a pretty catchy acronym anyways, kinda like "G.T.L."'t believe I just referenced Jersey Shore there...okay, my next post will be about something lofty and academic just so I can prove that I'm not a total uncultured cretin, I just have a slight weakness for cheesy reality shows sometimes... :)

Sunday, August 22, 2010

One week!!

This summer, a lot of attention has been placed on Elizabeth Gilbert's travel memoir, Eat Pray Love, and its subsequent movie. Some critics and reviewers have had a bit of a problem with the whole "drop everything and dash off to a different country to 'find yourself'" theme, with one writer musing, "I couldn't help wondering: where do those people in Indonesia and India go away to when they lose their passion, spark and faith? I don't think they come to Manhattan."

There's definitely truth to this statement, and I know that it seems like a pretty great break that Gilbert had a book deal all lined up before she even left on her trip. The thing is, there is something to be said for travel as a means to (re)discover yourself, to renew and recharge your passions, or maybe just to figure out what exactly your passions are. I'm leaving for Russia in a week, and I'm absolutely terrified...and thrilled at the same time. Russia has been a huge interest of mine since I was about 12, when I first read a book about Anastasia Romanov. In my slightly melodramatic, all-or-nothing 12-year-old attitude, I bought myself a "Teach Yourself Russian in Three Months" kit (hah! It's been 10 years and I speak about as much Russian as Pavel Datysuk speaks English) and eagerly started trying to learn as much as possible about Russian history, literature and culture. University came along and gave me the opportunities to study Russian, take history classes, make Russian friends (and build up my tolerance for vodka!) And now here I am: four months out of uni and on my way to pull my own kind of Elizabeth Gilbert...see a part of the world I've always dreamed about, try new things, push myself out of that familiar comfort zone of university life...and hopefully learn lots of Russian!!

So one more week left in Canada...I'd love to make it one last time to Canada's Wonderland, maybe hit up a beach, visit my friends and relatives, go to Tim Hortons one last time (such a Canadian cliche!) but I'm also working right up until the day before I leave so who knows? At least I *think* I've got mostly everything taken care of for the trip. Visa, passport, photocopies of both, clothes, fan (in case the heat wave strikes again), tacky Canadian souvenirs to impress people with and remind me of home, and a few jars of peanut butter, which I've heard is hard to come by in Moscow...I do need to do something about my health insurance, since OHIP runs out after you've been out of the country for ten months. And pay off my speeding ticket before I flee to Russia...yeah, that might not go over so well if I become a fugitive...

Well, better stop procrastinating and start doing the last few things that need to be done before next Monday! Da svidanya :)