Archive for the ‘From Arizona’ Category

The two and a half weeks I’ve spent at home so far have been nothing but relaxing as I prepare for a summer of what I’m expecting will be plenty of hard work. (Not that it  won’t be a great time, too.) 

In addition to getting some work done on the computer (setting up this blog, uploading pictures from the semester, weeding through some 500 old emails on my Gmail account), I’ve got to spend some quality time with old friends, catching up and saying goodbye. I’ve spent a good deal of time with Adi Amato; and most of that time has been poolside at five resorts (and counting) around the Phoenix area.

On Memorial Day weekend, she, Nikki Stevenson, and I decided to slip in to the pool at resort #1 (yes, I’m keeping their names on the DL on purpose). Since they had a wristband system, and we were found out almost as soon as we got there, we drove about a mile and a half to resort #2 and spent the rest of the afternoon there. Pictures here, here, and on my Flickr feed. We did resort #3 on Wednesday, which was uneventful and thus, perfect. Resort #4 today also had a wristband system, so we ended up finding our favorite resort out of all of them, Resort #5. This place not only had a great pool and plenty of cushioned lounge chairs, but they also came by from time to time to serve frozen grapes, fresh strawberries, iced towelettes, and ice water with citrus slices to their guests laying out in the scorching desert sun. So thoughtful. Freeloading? Yes. Worth every minute of it? Without a doubt. We have plans for a Resort #6 on Sunday. Plan B for Sunday is to go back to Resort #5. Not a half-bad last resort, now, is it? 

(We also decided it would make a great premise for an NBC sitcom, The Resorters, à la Tina Fey’s 30 Rock. Thoughts? before I send in the script for a pilot episode?)

Lounging around the pool with the moneyed of Phoenix, at the recommendation of my political philosophy professor, Kateri Carmola, I’ve been reading Snow by Orhan Pamuk, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature for it in 2004 (reviews here from The New Yorker and the Times). For one, it’s been a fascinating read, in that I’ve gotten glimpse of the “West v. Islam” conflict on the fringes of that battlefront, that is, in Turkey, a nation whose identity seems as schizophrenic as Russia’s is, since Turkey is also a country caught halfway between the Occident and Orient.

On the level of literature, however, Snow is a beautifully written novel, and I admire translator Maureen Freely’s totally refined skill in loyally transferring that aesthetic to the Anglophone reader. After reading an article of hers from The Washington Post about her work on the novel, I appreciate this artistry even more. (Speaking of, click here for an article by one of my best friends from Midd interning at the Post. Go Cathy!) 

In the book, Ka, the protagonist, visits Kars, a border town he lived in before political exile, as he seeks to negotiate his identities as poet and as politician. This is a question of identity, education, career choice, etc. of mine, too, and relaxedly mulling it over while reading Snow in the ceaseless Arizona sunshine has been all I could ask for on my vacation before running off to Russia.


A cancelled flight (a problem solved by the purchase of another, actually better, ticket about 10 minutes later) is the worst catastrophe to have ever befallen me on my travels between the coasts, from home in Arizona to school in Vermont and back. 

Negative 5 degrees (Fahrenheit) plus wind chill, I think, is the coldest weather I’ve managed to find myself in after two winters in Middlebury, Vt., and that was on the top of the college’s snow bowl camping in a cabin one nippy January night. 

Not knowing a word or two in Russian at a “Russian-language-only” table (a problem solved by my saying it in English and being understood by everyone at the table) is the worst experience I’ve had as far as cross-cultural communication goes.

So the prospect of knowing that I’ll only technically be “allowed” to speak English for 5 weeks out of the next 54 weeks (that is, speaking Russian for 4.913% of my entire life), that I’ll be traveling from Phoenix, Ariz. to New York City to Moscow to Irkutsk in Siberia and back (among other places), that I’ll live in a place where the average high temperatures won’t break the freezing point for 5 months–knowing all that, for me, is exciting beyond description. Sure, a little bit of anxiety is mixed in there. But, others’ return from a similar journey alive and in one piece is consolation enough.

Russia covers an eighth of earths land surface area and 10 time zones. Ill be a 6 hour plane ride from Moscow.

Russia covers an eighth of earth's land surface area and 10 time zones. I'll be a 6 hour plane ride from Moscow.

I’ll keep this blog over the course of the next year or so to catalogue my travels, experiences, and stories from…

  • Middlebury College’s Summer Russian Language School: Jun. 15 – Aug. 15, 2009 [strictly in Russian]
  • My 2 final weeks of American soil for a while: Aug. 15 – Sep 2, 2009
  • 2 semesters abroad in Russia
  • Orientation in Moscow: Sep. 3, 2009 – Sep. 7, 2009
  • Fall semester at Irkutskii Gosudarstvenni Universitet (IGU – Irkutsk State University): Sep. – Dec. 2009
  • Winter Recess: Jan. – Mid-Feb. 2010
  • Spring semester at IGU: Mid-Feb. – Mid-Jun. 2010

Add this to your favorites, or subscribe to the RSS feed. And please comment! I’ll be happy to hear from you, especially in those long winter months in Siberia. Otherwise, enjoy reading as much as I’ll enjoy writing.