October – Then and Now

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As the sky becomes gray, the sunlight dulls, and the leaves start to fall, I can now say for certain…fall is upon us.  Fall is upon us in all of it’s Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas-preparation glory.  Pumpkins are all over the grocery stores, as are ten pound bags of candy.  I love it all — the smells, the colors, and the traditions.

My best friend, Katie, came home from college on Friday.  We spent yesterday shopping, watching One Direction’s Were We Are movie (One Direction is my dirty, guilty pleasure — I can’t help but have a little crush on Harry Styles), and then eating junk food and watching Love Actually until 3 a.m.  Tell me that is not your dream Saturday?  It certainly is for me.

Throughout my day yesterday, I couldn’t help but think back to two years ago, when my Saturdays were dramatically different.  In fact, I used to believe in Russia that the Saturdays I experienced across the globe in America must have been a fathom of my imagination.  Surely people couldn’t live so differently on the same planet.

We had school in Russia on Saturdays.  In my remote city, I would wake up to the (already) freezing temperatures in October.  My school uniform required that I wear a skirt, and I always wore three layers on top of my tights to make sure I stayed warm.  In one hand I had my book bag, and in the other a plastic bag with a pair of flats to change out for my boots when I arrived at school.  We were told that we shouldn’t bring in the mud from the outside, and were not permitted to enter the school unless we had a change of shoes to put on.

The mud.  While a few years after the civil war the main roads had been paved, the roads within communities were still nothing but pebbles and dirt.  When it was humid and rained, all of the pebbles and dirt would turn into oceans of mud.  There was no avoiding it.  I walked to school, and by the time I would enter the gates, I would have three inches of thick mud going up my boots.

It was almost always cold.  The temperatures in our school were never right for the season.  We had no air conditioning, so in the summer time I was constantly hot, and the small heating panels did not do much in the winter times.  I always wore a thick sweater.  It was Ralph Lauren, one I had gotten prior to moving back to Russia.  My little piece of America in remote Russia.  It humored me.

One great thing that our school offered was baked pastries.  In those cold months, the cafeteria was our retreat.  The big ovens gave off heat, and the potato and sausage filled pastries that were baked in them warmed us up from within.  I remember we would sit in the cafeteria, usually us girls at the table, while the boys stood by the windows.  There weren’t enough seats for everyone, and the boys were gentlemen.  We would eat our pastries and drink canned Lipton sweet tea, gossiping and laughing until our teachers would yell at us to go to class.

After school I would walk home, again through the mud, where my mom would be waiting for me with homemade perogies.  Our apartment was always warm and cozy, and the windows in our small kitchen would be fogged from my mom’s cooking.

It was a different time for me.  Unlike anything the life I lead in America now.  I love my life today.  I appreciate every aspect of it.  I appreciate how I can drive anywhere I need to go, and that the roads aren’t muddy even if I had to walk.  I appreciate the vast amount of different foods we have on every street corner, and that the heating and conditioning is so advanced.  It’s a good life.  But the time I spent in Russia was also beautiful to me, in a simple sort of way, and on a chilly October day, I can’t help but reminisce to the days of the muddy roads and warm potato-filled pastries.

I hope you have a wonderful Sunday.

With all my love,

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