More Moscow (and thoughts on travel)

My home and family life was reassuringly stable growing up; we never moved and I got to keep one set of close friends basically all the way through school. I was a little envious of military kids and others who went off on adventures around the world, but I knew my own life had its benefits too, so I didn't mind very much. If I were summing my life-before-marriage up, I'd say it was predictable and happy; unexciting from the outside, though eventful enough from my own view. I do think travel is broadening, but I think one can be similarly broadened by emotional "travel"---new experiences in familiar places---or by a closer examination of what seems unexciting---or by cultivating wonder no matter how close to home. 

That said, at various points I've had travel opportunities sort of fall into my lap; things I wouldn't have predicted but which have been life-changing, in their way. Looking back, I'm surprised at how many of these there were: I got to go to St. Petersburg (Russia) with my friend Rachael when I was 15, and after we graduated from high school we also travelled with her Grandpa (the Berlin Candy Bomber) to Germany for the anniversary of the Berlin Airlift. I visited Belgium, France, England and Quebec with my family. I studied abroad in London for a few months. I felt lucky to have had all of these experiences, and although none of them were terribly long in duration they were certainly influential.

So when Sam was deciding whether or not to accept an invitation to speak at an art workshop in Moscow, I told him, "Even if it's a ton of hassle, you have to do it just for the adventure! Who knows if you will ever get the chance again! I wish I could go!" Aha. Sam asked if they'd consider paying for me to go with him as well. They said yes, my mom said she'd watch the kids, and we decided to go for it!
Flying in to Moscow

It was going to be short: 3 days of flying, 3 days on the ground. We don't speak Russian (or read Cyrillic, though I tried to learn some). It is hardly the nicest time of year for visiting the northern latitudes, and Russian Visas are notoriously annoying to procure. But I just had a feeling we'd end up being so glad we took the opportunity. And we were!

I took AP European History the year after I visited St. Petersburg, and the whole year I kept wishing I'd known these things about Russian history before I went so I could have appreciated what I was seeing more deeply! Ever since then I've tried to learn as much as I can about places before (or while) I'm visiting them. I know I won't become an expert but at least I'll know something! My cousin David gave me two books about Russia that I really enjoyed: A History of Russia (John Lawrence) which was a great overview, and Lenin's Tomb (David Remnick), a truly enlightening look at the collapse of the Soviet Union. Admittedly I had 40+ hours of flying time in which to read these; otherwise I might not have been able to get through them both, but I found them fascinating (especially Lenin's Tomb) and was really glad to have the reading time.



Due to a fortunate concatenation (do you like that word? I learned it from Bertie Wooster) of circumstances, I got to tag along on Sam's trip to Moscow, Russia. He was presenting at a digital painting workshop, they invited me along, and it seemed too good an opportunity to pass up! I admit the flight (especially home) was quite . . . taxing, but otherwise, I loved every minute of it!

I always like it when I get to see Sam in "professional mode." It's especially fun to watch him with his classes because he's such a great teacher. He's so good at explaining things in a way that makes sense and that is engaging. By the time he's finished, he always has me half-convinced I could be an artist by just implementing the things he's talked about. (When I get an actual drawing instrument in my hand, I am soon disabused of this notion.)

It was interesting to watch how Sam's presentation played out, having to go through the Russian interpreter first. It seemed to me like the interpreter was doing a good job (but how would I know?) but it was kind of odd to watch the two waves of comprehension pass through the audience at various times (many of them did speak English). Even weirder was listening to the other presenter speak in French with a Russian interpreter. It reminded me of the time in Frankfurt when I saw Yevgény Onégin performed in Russian with German supertitles. I feel like if I just . . . listen . . . hard . . . enough maybe I'll get something? But no.
There were so many people there! About 400, I think I heard someone say.
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