Monthly Archives: August 2011

Tomorrow! / Завтра!

Bozhe moy!

Oh. My. Lord.

I leave tomorrow.

I have been looking forward to this for so long that I can’t believe this is really going to happen.

This is really happening. I am about to live one of my dreams. It’s so surreal to me…I feel like I’m still dreaming. I can’t wait to set out on my new adventure.

Last night I went to visit two dear friends of mine. The first, Sharlene, I have known since high school and she is a wonderful soul. I was glad to be able to laugh with her again. The second, Olga, I saw a couple of weeks ago but I wanted to see her again. She also had a friend from Ukraine over who only spoke Russian, so the majority of the visit was spent conversing in Russian, which made me happy. My listening skills are certainly starting to improve already!

I am almost completely packed (save for a few last-minute items). I am taking a lot less than I expected to, which is good, I guess. Overweight bags are expensive, especially in Russia. Oy. Go figure.

Allow me to ask you something, moyi druz’ya. What do you feel when you know something big in your life is about to happen? When you are on the cusp of an enormous change? Whatever you answer, that’s probably what I’m feeling right now. I have so many feelings about it, I don’t know what to feel.

Well, I have more to do today, so the next time I write, it will be from my new Russian home for the next ten months–Krasnoyarsk!

Until then, moyi druz’ya, take care.

Love,

Danya

Sacrifice / Жертва

Five days left…and I’ve only just started packing.

Yeah, yeah, I’m a procrastinator. But why would I wait so long to do this? Why not start packing sooner?

Because I am nervous, almost afraid.

I am leaving everyone and everything I know behind. I am going to discover truths that will enlighten, but at the same time may hurt. I will learn things about myself. I am going to gain a new perspective. In a sense, I am leaving who I am behind and becoming reborn.

I both relish and fear this.

But the hardest of all is the fact that I have been forced to make lichniye zhertvi [personal sacrifices] to do this. I lost a relationship largely due to my decision to go to Russia. There was nothing else that could have been done. Ultimately, it was unavoidable. But the necessity of it hurts terribly.

This is life. We must make sacrifices at times. We will suffer losses to gain other things.

To those I have hurt because of this, prostitye menya. Forgive me. But I will neither apologize nor feel guilty for wanting and choosing to pursue my dream. I feel I am fulfilling one of the purposes of my life (for I believe no one ever has simply one purpose for existing) and I am drawn to this path I have chosen. I am going off to make the world a better place. That is how I see the position I have been bestowed.

I am lucky, blessed, and grateful for the opportunity I have been given. I wouldn’t have given it up for anything in the world. No riches or fame or anything else could draw me away from this.

That is all I can say today, moyi druz’ya. Until next time, take care.

Love,

Danya

Uncertainty / Неизвестность

It’s coming up. Only 9 days left. Nine. Devyat’.

Bozhe moy! It’s so soon.

I find myself gathering my things, the information I need, everything. I just printed out the information on checked baggage for all the airlines I’ll be taking this trip—both to and from. I haven’t really started officially packing, but that will be starting tomorrow.

For the record, I leave August 31st from Miami. From there, I will be going to Paris. Then it’s Paris to Moscow, Moscow to Krasnoyarsk. The whole trip will take over 29 hours, layovers included. Ugh. Oh well, it’s well worth it, I think. The way back is crazier: on June 20th, 2012, I will be flying from Krasnoyarsk to St. Petersburg, St. Petersburg to Paris, Paris to Detroit, Detroit to Miami.

As the time of my departure nears, I become more excited, but also more uncertain. The other night I was out with one of my good Russian-speaking friends, Olga. We went to a Russian restaurant and nightclub in Hollywood called Tatiana. Everyone was speaking Russian and I got a little taste of what it will be like. We were waiting for the nightly show to start. I was sitting at the bar with my friend when two women approached me and asked me what we were drinking. A little startled, I responded in English.

“Oh, you’re not Russian?” one of them asked.

Startled again, I managed to stutter out some Russian. “Nyet, nyet, ya govoryu po-russki.” [“No, no, I speak Russian.”]

From there we started to chat. They asked me how long I’ve lived in the United States. That made me smile. It’s not the first time I’ve been asked that. Apparently my accent is convincing. Anyway, I told them that I am amerikanka, khotya ya russkaya po proiskhozhdeniyu [an American of Russian descent] and that I was going to Russia soon for the first time to live there for 10 months.

Their eyes widened. “Zachem?!?” [“What for?!?”] They looked at Olga. Olga smiled. “Ona khochet.” [“She wants to.”]

In English they warned me, “Make sure you maintain common sense. If you have any, you’ll quit and leave. If you don’t, however, make sure you don’t trust anyone.”

That saddened me. Why? Why is it so bad that I want to return to my roots? And surely there will be someone there who I will be able to trust? I understand the need for caution and to not just trust anyone, but what about the connections I have over there already? My purpose is to go teach and make connections, build friendships. Surely both of those include some sort of trust. With that thought firmly in mind, I resolved not to lose my ability to trust where it is prudent.

But it also made me wonder what to expect. There were too many questions in my mind to even type out here, I’d be up all night.

These expectations go two ways, however. There is the expectations regarding my life there. Obviously I know next to nothing of what to expect. But there are also those related to my life back here in the United States. What will change here? What will happen to my family and friends while I am gone? What will I miss while I’m away?

There is no denying it: I worry about what will happen. What is next, moyi druz’ya?

Tol’ko Bog znayet. Only G-d knows. Only time will tell.

The importance of friendship / Значение дружбы

This weekend I had my going-away party. About twenty of my friends came and it was spectacular. I threw it not so much for myself but to honor my friends, my loved ones, without whom I would not be who I am and where I am today. It was because of them that I have been able to have the courage to accomplish so much.

Vui tak dorogi mne, moyi druz’ya. You are precious to me, my friends.

It was spectacular for so many reasons. I was able to see the people I care for all at the same time, socializing and laughing together. The sound of laughter warmed me the most. I was able to forget about life for awhile and be myself. I haven’t had so much fun in a long, long time.

But the most important thing for me was that it brought friends from all aspects of my life together. That was awesome in and of itself. I love bringing people together…you never know what kind of friendships can result and what impact it will have on them.

And this, moyi druz’ya, is part of what I will be doing in Russia. I will be connecting people to one another. I will not only be enabling people to communicate with others in English, but I will be a connection between Russia and the United States. I will be more than a student ambassador and teacher–I will be a true svyaz’, a link, a connection. I am creating a bond, however small it may be in context of this whole wide world, among people of different cultures and nations. When I think about that, I feel so blessed and awed. I have been given this role and I intend to do as much as I can to fulfill it. The best thing I can possibly do is make friends there, learn from them, and teach them.

You know, it’s funny. The Russian words drug (male friend) and podruga (female friend) are related to the adjective drugoy, meaning “other.” A friend is an other, a fellow. But in a sense, it implies an equal, because they are an “other”…another person, just like you and me. I am told Russian is not the only language that has this sort of concept. I believe Greek (at least, of the ancient variety) has the same thing.

One issue related to ideas of friendship I will now touch upon (and I have a feeling it will not be the last time I do so). One of the most important things we must remember is that tolerance of others is not nearly enough. I hear people preaching tolerance and I long to tell them what I believe they are missing: that tolerance is the bare minimum, which is not sufficient in this world. Tolerance is not terrible by any means, but it hardly suffices if we want to have peace. Maybe that’s cliche, but I hope you understand what I mean. I advocate acceptance–a much higher level and standard than tolerance–which requires understanding. For understanding, we must open ourselves to others and what they have to offer us. Understanding and acceptance lead to friendship, which, to me, means greater peace and happiness.

As both a Jew and a Buddhist, I have learned much in the way of the importance of helping out and opening up to others. As a Jew, I have the concept of mitzvot ingrained into my very soul. It is the concept of helping others to make this world a better place as a matter of everyday life. As a Buddhist, I have learned to put others’ wishes at heart and add to the amount of will and determination to make their wishes come true–we make their desires our own to contribute to their happiness, our happiness, and ultimately happiness for the world. My middle school art teacher once told me, “A whisper plus a thousand equals a roar.” Words so true.

Every effort we make to connect to others makes the world a little better off, whether it’s keeping in touch with old friends or creating new friendships. I believe strongly in chaos theory–that a small event can expand to have enormous results and widespread consequences. We may not always see all of these said results or consequences, but I believe in the ripple effect, for sure.

For this, I shall reach out to our Russian fellows and offer everything I can. Whoever says that friendship can’t change the world is either lying or ignorant.

Until next time, moyi druz’ya, take care, be well, and stay strong.

Danya

Almost time / Почти пора

The time of my departure is coming up fast. I leave August 31st.

Vremya letaet. Time flies.

I have my stuff gathered in a corner of the house, waiting to be packed up and shipped off with me to Krasnoyarsk. It is going to be a looooooooong flight, well over 24 hours (including layovers). I’m about to purchase my ticket and I’m working on getting some more Fulbright paperwork in as well as getting my visa. On top of that, there’s a whole bunch of other preparations to be done, but not only for Fulbright. I’m also studying for the GRE. Put together, it all seems so stressful.

But how I am looking forward to the adventure ahead!

I love the idea of being on the other side of the world. I love the idea that I am going to places that I’ve never been to before, see places that not many Americans can say they’ve seen. Krasnoyarsk was a city closed to foreigners up until the 1980s. I can’t imagine many Americans have been there, so I am excited. I like the idea of breaking new ground.

The time is so close yet so far. I have 27 more days. (Technically 29, since I won’t actually arrive in Krasnoyarsk until early in the morning on September 2nd.) But experience tells me the time is going to go in a snap. So I am working as hard as I can to get things done.

I am trying to enjoy myself at the same time. I’m meeting up with friends I haven’t seen in a while to catch up and make sure I spend some time with them before I go. Tomorrow I will be spending some time with my boyfriend, which I am looking forward to. I am enjoying myself at work and at home. I make sure to spend time with my bird Skittles, my dog Kona, and my cat Chloe, all of whom I love so much. Right now I’m savoring the time I have left.

I love you, moyi druz’ya, and I look forward to spending time with you over the next couple of weeks.

Take care until next time!

Danya