Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Some thoughts on this fourth year

Every time I think, “Okay, no more blog writing, who is reading it anyhow?” I come back to it at some point. Maybe it is the fact that I have a fair amount of free time and writing what I have been doing is something I enjoy and gives me a task to fill my time at the library. But maybe it is more than that, a way to not forget my life here, to reason out some of what I am feeling, to put it down on paper and take a look at it in hopes of finding understanding. Whatever the reason, here I am again.

It’s hard to think about how to write about my life of late. This fourth year in Crimea is proving to be by far the hardest of my life here. I would have thought—and indeed anticipated—the opposite. The increased familiarity with my work, language, home life, culture, surroundings –all should have proved to make my life easier,  richer, my work more productive—but, unfortunately, I seem to be experiencing the opposite. For a long time I have thought how impossible it will be to tear myself away from my life once that time comes, but right now, I am almost counting the days, certainly the months, until I am able to leave. 

For sure, much of my disquiet comes from my increasingly stressful home life. I think what I am witnessing is strife families experience the world over as their children become adults and want to spread their wings and fly away and the parents want to hold that child tight in their nest. And that classic family dynamic is overlaid here by the politics of oppressor/oppressed cultures and how the children chafe under those restrictions. Think “Fiddler on the Roof” and you get the picture. 

And for me, I bear witness to all of this and feel I have some understanding of it, but I don’t really. I grew up in a middle class white home in America where I was pushed out the door as soon as I was able to fly and at least in my parents’ eyes, all the world was open to me. Also, my limited language skills mean I experience all of what goes on in a foggy haze. I want to be there for support for who needs it, to be able to challenge abusive behavior, to lend what little advice I might have.  But when this has to take place in Russian, the possibilities for anything meaningful are so greatly diminished, as is my understanding when so much of what is said—especially in anger—goes by me. 

My work life is also proving difficult. At my library everyone is consumed—as they are every year—by some kind of annual report they must present to the Ministry of Culture, entailing their activities of the past year and plans for the future. There are many raised voices, harried discussions and whispered conferences, none of which I understand.  I would like to be of help in some way, to feel useful, but that is, of course, not a reality. As usual, I hover on the edges, only barely understanding or participating in what is going on. My role here is something I have gotten used to and am not much bothered by, as long as I can spend my time working on grants or projects. But with that avenue of activity at least temporarily dried up, I find myself at such loose ends and wondering exactly what I am going to do these next few months. Lately it seems I mostly spend my time haranguing my friends with long emails that they, with their busy lives, have no time to answer. 

But all is not so grim. This past weekend we had a wet snow of several inches, the first of the season. On Sunday, Serdar said, “Let’s go up to the mountain,” meaning the forests and bluffs near our home, something we hadn’t done for a long time. Actually, I had woke up that morning feeling a continuing annoyance with Serdar for some of his behavior of late and wondering what to do about it. So I welcomed this unusual overture from him. Off we trudged in the deep snow, planning only a short hike, but it turned into a 3-hour excursion along the snow covered bluffs with the snow clinging so heavily to the low trees that at times the path was completely obscured. It was magical and unearthly beautiful and in the solitude of that walk, we began to talk about his life and all that has been troubling him—and me—these past few months. High up on the bluffs with the foggy skies obscuring the distant mountains and villages, it felt like it was just us in the world and we were able to talk with a honesty and depth that we seemed to not be able to do at home. Later when Serdar had gone on ahead, I paused in the snow-filled sanctuary and gave thanks for the gift of that afternoon. 

With love from Crimea.