Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Departing Thoughts from Russia

I knew it would be difficult leaving Russia before I had even arrived in Vytegra. At a stop at a cafe on the trip there, I walked around a nearby dilapidated building out of curiosity and to clear my head; the thoughts I expressed then showed how and to what extent being in a completely new environment had affected me. I felt an undeniable connection to this place, whether it was the surrounding forests that evoked nostalgic images of my home, Northern Michigan, my ancestral roots in Eastern Europe, the mini-course I had taken in preparation for the trip, or all of these working and interacting with each other. The fact that I could recognize this so early in the trip only foreshadowed the degree to which the rest of my experience in Russia would transform me.

Alexander-Svirsky Monastery

During the first half of the ASB trip, I was an empty cultural vessel, being filled up continuously with novel experiences including exotic sights, interesting interactions with Russians, and in a literal sense with all of the delicious food. The reflection sessions and blog posts could only begin to arrange, combine, and unfold my deeper feelings about what I was going through, and fortunately allowed me to do so at least to an extent. Only until the last few days did I actually begin to truly look introspectively to see if the Adam that went into the trip was the same Adam that came out. If anything is evident from my writings and pictures, the answer to that question is evident: a different Adam emerged. I was forced to not only confront how I dealt with new experiences, but also how to reconcile them with the person that I was, which was not always easy, and sometimes came with great difficulty. Out of this came the idea that no matter where our lives takes us, we always carry our own personalities, beliefs, and attitudes that guide how we go about new situations, which is something that should not be forsaken, but recognized and confronted to get the most out of your personal experience. Once I came to this conclusion, I was able to appraise the rest of my Russia trip in a more holistic way, seeing where I may have done things differently and what I really did appreciate.

Russia managed to extract from me what no other experience has thus far, and that is something I will always carry with me. It really is a place of purity, elegance, beauty, and truth, and I may never again find a place with all of these qualities in such great proportions.