It’s nice to come back to places one has been to before and liked a lot. Or not? On the one hand, good memories might the revived and relived, favourite spots visited again, old friends caught up with, new friends made. On the other, everything might go wrong that second time round, nice places might not be this nice after all, old friends might turn out to be nothing but acquaintances, and good old days most certainly cannot be relived. What about the places one did not like too much or even at all? That was Guadalajara for me. And yet I came back – and I don’t regret.
It turned out that because of a conglomerate of unfortunate circumstances I won’t go to Poland this summer. It hurts me dearly, as I will miss two weddings that I really wanted to attend. I am also if only a little bit annoyed with my multiple fails on the logistics side of things. Hazards of the job, one could say – or lack of thereof.
– I don’t like Americans – Anwar said the day after I arrived. – I only like their money
Anwar lives in Cancún, the tourist Mecca of Mexico. It was built from scratch in the 70s. A group of bankers, having noticed the tourist potential Mexico had, decided to create competition for Acapulco, then the most popular destination in the country, and build another holiday paradise. They considered a few different locations but eventually chose the tiny fisher’s village in a long forgotten area of the Caribbean.
A year ago I wrote that the beginning of a new year never brings anything new to me, and thus the excessive celebration of it feels redundant. Well, the celebrations still feel redundant, but the beginning of 2017 is bringing a tonne of changes – that in itself being the first of them. What else is changing?
Last Wednesday someone died in my presence. A man fell on the tracks right in front of an approaching train. I had my earphones in, I was looking the other way, I was wondering how late I would be for work. The whistling sound of the approaching train made its way through all the obstacles I placed for it, and so I started mentally preparing for the upcoming fight for a scrap of space in the train to fit myself and a book I was intending to read. It was about six in the afternoon, rush hour, crowds of people. Suddenly, the train which was supposed to slowly roll up the platform stopped in the middle of it. I slowly looked up from the phone. One of the metro conductors walked slowly past me, the other one was peeking out of his booth, with one leg already on the platform and the other still inside. A policeman appeared out of nowhere. I took the earphones out. – Meat – said the conductor on the platform – All that is left of him is meat, we need to call.
Quite clearly, I am failing miserably at keeping up with my New Year’s resolution of writing here regularly. I still have six months to improve. In the meantime, here is a note from a little holiday I went on a month and a half ago.
The joys of paperwork.
I lost my migration card before Christmas. It’s a small, thin slip of paper the size of your passport which you receive when you enter the country and you’re supposed to give back when you’re leaving. Everybody is very serious about not losing it, but no-one really knows why, since these days the border control fills in the form for you and keeps an electronic copy. In any case, the office was in a panic. I was in a panic. Other teachers whom I told about my loss were in a panic too.
I pass the building below twice a week, early in the morning. It’s the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, a building the history of which shares the tragic fate of Russia and the Russian Orthodox Church of the last two centuries: tsarist splendour, ruthlessness and absurdity of stalinism, practical provisionality of the late communism and the return of tsarist splendour. It is also a building which annoys me every time I see it and the mere existence of which I do not understand.
Moscow metro can be intimidating for a newcomer, particularly if, like myself, it is a newcomer from the pedestrian-only, queue-friendly Edinburgh. Surviving the rush hour in the metro requires turning on the jungle mode: you need to push people around, overtake them on the right, squeeze in front of them on the escalators, storm with them the already full carriages, all the while caring very little about the elderly ladies in front of you (most of the times you have to choose between pushing the aforementioned lady or having your backpack shut outside of the carriage). Needless to say that despite my greatest efforts I too have to turn on the jungle instinct from time to time, even though a part of me rebels against that, squeezes something within me and says ‘That’s not right!’.
The New Year, as I have mentioned before, doesn’t in fact bring anything new for me. It is also probably the worst time in the year to make resolutions, the period when the amount of unused gym memberships skyrockets, as everyone deceives themselves yet again that they have some strong will and perseverance. At the same time it is a good moment for summaries of all sorts, the only point in the year when the immediate surroundings seem to be more forgiving of the inherent tendency to overanalyse life. The past three months were very important to me — and very interesting indeed. I have learnt a lot about Moscow, about Russia, about Russians and about myself. Still carried by the wave of New Year’s reflexive mood, I decided to share all that with the Readers.