(I've had more than one Russian speaker of English say "Goodbye, but not farewell!" to me, apparently believing that "farewell" is more permanent than "goodbye." Any thoughts?)
So, I'm leaving Vladivostok tomorrow, and I'm probably not coming back for a very long time.
Here I run up against the fundamental problem of blogging from experience, which is that when you're having experiences that are exciting enough to blog about, you're either too busy or too tired to actually blog about them. (I'm sure I'm not the first person to notice this.) Life has been very interesting and blog-worthy lately, but I am both too tired and too swamped with departure preparations to tell you about it in detail.
In not-detail, I've spent the last week having many little parties with different groups of people, including the best weekend ever – I went to three different dachas, slept at two of them, ate enough grilled meat and smoked fish to completely negate my three months of pseudo-vegetarian asceticism, drank enough vodka to... well, never mind, and best of all, went to the banya! (A dacha is a Russian summer cottage. A banya is a Russian sauna; they beat you with birch branches. It is really something wonderful.) Yesterday was the official dean's office party, at which I was presented with (among many other things – apparently the Institute of Foreign Languages was concerned that my suitcases might make it under the 35 kg limit) a framed Letter of Gratitude (capitalized because of course a Letter of Gratitude is an official document in Russia) from Vladimir Kurilov himself, the president of DVGU! I'm told this is a very big deal. Unfortunately, it's also a very big frame, so it's getting left here (just the frame – the letter itself is coming with me). Today is the unofficial going-away party, at which I hopefully won't be given any more presents. Although to be honest, I wouldn't say no to a Letter of Gratitude from Vladimir Putin. Especially if it were unframed.
All this partying and very little work has made me extremely sad to be leaving Vladivostok and not coming back. Many promises have been made on my part about coming to visit, which will hopefully be fulfilled next summer. Much doubt has been expressed on my colleagues' and students' parts that Taganrog could be anywhere near as awesome as Vladivostok, which will hopefully not turn out to be the case. At any rate, it's hard to leave the people and it's hard to leave the city, especially right at the beginning of summer and the four-month mark (four months since returning with the mended leg, that is) – the mythical point at which you're supposed to start feeling like you're actually living in a city and not just visiting it. I don't know how generalizable that is, but it seems true enough for me.
Well, I've written a substantial entry, I guess, although nothing like the eloquent farewell to Vladivostok I meant to write before I realized how much energy it takes to leave a place. Maybe in a few weeks I'll be able to write that, or after I get home. Anyway, start looking for updates from sunny Ulan Ude in the next week or so!