Friday, April 29, 2011

On Chatyr Dag with Serdar

It is so very hard to keep track of my life here, it feels like sometimes. What has happened since my last blog post? I am always asking myself. In some ways, every day brings new thoughts, adventures of one kind or another, new ways of thinking about something that I need to shift around in my head. And, always, much of it is about language. Feeling good, feeling bad, I’m getting a little better, I’m getting worse and I will never learn it, no one wants to talk with me, etc, etc. Without a doubt, one of the biggest challenges of my life. Soon I will be going back up to the city of Chernigov in northern Ukraine where I spent my first two and a half months here in training. This time I will be coming as an “experienced” volunteer, ready to impart words of wisdom…or not. But I know—I remember—that many of the questions will have to do with learning the language. And I think some about what to tell people, especially those older volunteers who like me are already struggling trying to learn Russian. Here I am, two years later, still struggling, and why do I keep trying, I ask myself? For me, the answer is clear—I want to be able to talk with the people I love—Nadjie, Lenura, Neshet, Safie. Sometimes it seems we will never be able to progress in our relationships unless I can somehow learn Russian better. But then I have to keep remembering that we did get to this place—of caring deeply about each other—with even less language than I have now. Somehow it happened in spite of our inability to freely speak with one another. And that is the fact I need to keep clear in my head, and which I need to convey to the new trainees.
Last Saturday Serdar and I decided to go up into the mountains—to Chatyr Dag, the peak I can see from my walks in Ak Mechet—to, as Serdar put it, clear our heads from all the stress of the visa disaster and also, for him, girlfriend anxieties. We knew there would still be snow up there and that was part of the appeal, despite the assurance that it was going to be a very cold day. And that it was, but we were dressed for it with warm layers, hats, scarves, gloves (though Serdar hadn’t brought gloves, so I brought two pairs and he ended up wearing the gloves that use to be my mother’s—it was a nice feeling to see him keeping his hands warm with something that kept my mom’s hands warm too. She would have liked that.)
It took us a bit to get there—usually only a 45 minute bus ride from the bus station in Simferopol—but for some reason the bus driver told us he wouldn’t drop us off at Pereval (the pass), and instead we had to take the trolley bus. The trolley bus is the world’s longest trolley bus—50 miles from Simferopol to Yalta. And though it is very cheap, it is also very slow, as all the babushkas flag it down at every little settlement. But finally we did make it, 2 hours after we started, which didn’t give us enough time to make it to the highest peak, but definitely enough time to get up to the plateau and the beautiful views of Mt. Demerdji and the Black Sea.
The minute we were away from the road noise and walking up through the forests, a happiness came over me that never left that whole day. Indeed, I thought to myself later that it was one of the happiest days of my life. Being with someone I love so much in a place I love so much—it is a gift that I don’t know what I have done to deserve. My relationship with Serdar has made me think about love and what it means and how it comes in so many different unexpected forms, and how we just have to stay open to whatever life brings us. As we sat up on the mountain top, eating some lunch out of the wind, watching the fog roll in and roll out, laughing and talking about all kinds of things, I felt a deep gratitude for the gift of my life here in Crimea.
It’s a week later now, kind of a hectic, hassling week, especially with the electricity being turned off at the library for reason unbeknownst to me. But today it got turned back on and I had a good chat with Nadjie and we made a plan to work together tomorrow for a bit. And then on Sunday and Monday hopefully I am going to take off somewhere with the Seytaptiev’s. It’s the May 1st holiday, and last year we went on our maiden camping voyage. I am sort of hoping for that this year, though I think they think it is too cold. But whatever we do, it will just be a treat to be with them.
So bye for now, dear readers. And to at least some of you—I will see you this summer. With love from Crimea.

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