Monday, February 19, 2007

preparations for departure

Friday was men’s day, a national holiday, giving us a three-day weekend. I knew I’d be busy packing, but hoped I would get out for one last excursion to the mountains today. It didn’t happen. I’m completely wrapped up in sorting, packing, organizing, tying up lose ends and saying goodbyes.

On Thursday I had my goodbye gathering with about 50 colleagues. I scheduled it for lunch to keep it short and sweet. It was nice and the several bouquets of flowers I received brighten up my apartment in the midst of the chaos caused by packing.

Last night Zhenya came by and asked me if I’d take $350 in ten dollar bills, given to her by her Chinese tenants in exchange for larger money. I didn’t know if I had enough larger money that the banks would accept (they are very picky – it must be 100s, clean, not old no marks on it). I also questioned the orange color of many of the ten dollars bills, not having seen that before. She suggested we go around to banks and have them checked and didn’t seem to understand that I didn’t have time.

A little while later Sveta stopped by. She came with her married lover, Vladimir, so I could only suppose they were back together. They brought a small cake for us to share as well as some traditional earrings. However, tension flitted between them like daggers piercing the air. They interrupted each other and constantly argued over little points like an old couple. I don’t know how long they will last. They insisted I put in the earrings, which, while pretty, were extremely heavy. So I walked around in pain as the metal pulled down my ears, trying to pretend I liked them while I served them tea and listened to them bicker.

Another friend wanted to meet up the previous night and others have called for a final talk. This is the hardest period, when it’s clear that the goodbyes are final this time and when I don’t even have time to enjoy the place and the people anymore, but am just focused on what is coming next and what I have to do to get there.

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