Saturday, 31 December 2011

С Новым Годом! Happy New Year!

It's 2012, year of the dragon. Russians do New Year rather than Christmas (hangover from Soviet times, I believe), and it's a strange fusion of East meets West. Go into any supermarket and you'll find inflatable santas, overpriced trees and the usual array of decorations, except in addition there are bloody dragons everywhere, on boxes of sweets, on baubles and above the bold English words 'Merry Christmas' on doormats. Russia clearly has something of an identity crisis going on. The semi festive atmosphere did, however, make me pretty eager to get home, and come the 17th of December I was packed and more organised to go than I ever have been. Typically this is when Firdaus decided to be a really awesome host again, and cooked the best dinner of the entire stay, forced wine down our throats and gave us 'Russkii balsam'- a blend of herbs, spices and fruits, apparently. Pretty potent herbs it seems, judging by the 42% alcohol content label printed on the side. She, rather awkwardly, told me RSD was in disbelief at the amount of destruction I could cause (the mirror, incidentally, was sent to be recut and is now a nice wavy pattern), insisted on trawling through every photo on my facebook, telling me off for looking healthy in some of them and not now (ta, Firdaus) and gave something of an opinion on the election results - No, she didn't vote for Edinaya Rossiya, but what alternative is there to Putin? Cue extreme confusion over her having had 20 odd Edinaya Rossiya calendars in the kitchen a while back.
Going home was a lengthy process. Up at 5ish, train at 7.15, in Moscow at 11.15, tube to another station, station to the airport. Then about 4 hours waiting just for check in to open and another 3 or 4 to get on the plane. Just after having passports stamped and visas checked, getting ready to scan everything, we freaked. A Russian man in uniform and hat approached us. 'Devushki'.  Crap. Convinced we were about to be thrown out of the airport to stay in Russia over Christmas (they know it's more of a punishment than being kicked out), I panicked. Scary official guy starts talking, mentions a journey on the train to Yaroslavl, and we realise that it's the same man we met on the train back from Moscow when I went to the hospital. Awesome. My suspicions at his checking my passport on the train to see 'if he had stamped it' were clearly unfounded. He was rather pleased to see us, and we were rather relieved to be allowed through security. Was a bit odd he actually recognised us, but hey, being English makes you a celebrity there. It was a nice end to the trip, especially the not geting arrested bit.

So, after a 4 hour flight on which the best meal I'd had in 4 months (no joke-beef lasagne ftw) was served, I was back in England. Tip- If you are ever delayed and circling Heathrow on the way back from Yarosavl (as you often are), spotting football pitches and marvelling at real motorways will fascinate you. We had to stop for salt and vinegar crisps on the way back-Russia hasn't caught on to the wonder that is them, nor prawn cocktail, then I made a massive fuss over seeing my dog, who has managed to lose her sight and hearing since I've been away. Then I vaguely said hello to my Mum, who, as she still possesses all her senses (arguably), was not as interesting.
In quick succession followed:
Drinking from the tap
Running (once) up the stairs to prove that my house actually had them
Eating real cottage cheese
The best shower ever
A real bed with a real mattress
Being told off for not saying please and being too abrupt. Russia has had its effects.
Blackout and sleeping the night through for the first time in months.

Anyway, I did have somewhere I was going with this, but honestly, I got distracted by flashmob videos on youtube. I'm sorry...
The gist is, that it's good to be back home. And it's good to be able to understand everything that people say to you. And it's good not to feel like a bit of a burden all the time. But Russia is still fairly cool. In small doses. And I will be going back besides Petersburg. Good times.


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