August 6, 2014

I’m finally, after a long journey from my friend’s house in Moscow to the airport and going through security and all that, sitting on a plane heading back home.   Here is a re-cap of the last two and a half days in Russia.

Last day of camp (part two):
The last day was very busy for me-I don’t think I stopped running until I went to bed close to 2 am.  I wasn’t with my group most of the day because I was finishing up last details with my classes and research surveys.  Also, it was the Day of Traditions with the secret angel game, so I had to find time to make/buy things for my person.  It was a little chaotic for the children trying to find their missing hearts since the rain kept everyone inside.  The halls were covered with kids looking around trying to find their missing half.  In the middle of this mad rush, I was trying to give the post-surveys to my last three groups.  It was a challenge, but with persistence I was able to get what I needed!  My friend Anya and her friend had came for a two day visit to help me translate my last classes so I spent a few hours in the morning with them while I was preparing gifts for my friends and working on organizing my stuff to make packing easier.

Classes ended on a great note and both groups gave me two huge group hugs at the end as a thank you.  I couldn’t ask for a better way to wrap up my lessons!   Before I knew it, it was time to walk Anya and her friend Julia to the bus stop to say bye and then rush back for the final concert of the session.  It was Lesnaya Skazka’s 40th Anniversary so every group had made a gift to present to the camp at the concert.  Also, one counselor from each group had switched with another group for the day in order to prepare a tribute to their own group.  For example, a counselor from group 2 was with group 10 all day, and group 10’s performance was a tribute to the children in group 2 on behalf of the counselor.  At the end of each performance, the counselor gave a short speech about his or her group and how much he or she would miss their group.  It was an emotional concert and many in the concert hall were in tears.  It was a nice way to end the concerts for this session.  After dinner,  it was time for disco and the thing everyone had been anticipating all day: the closing video of the session.  It was a great video and it captured the essence of the session.  Last session, the video opened with me saying hello and this video ended with a clip my friend had randomly taken a week before with me saying “I love Lesnaya Skazka” in Russian.  I had a feeling I would see that clip again haha.  The night ended, per camp tradition, with the camp surrounding a fire singing camp songs and making wishes.  A new twist this session was asking anyone who wanted to participate to leave something of theirs in a treasure chest.  Leaving something in the chest meant you would come back again one day to get it back.  I left a picture of the camp entrance I had in my bag and made a silently wish that one day I could come back to get it.

Last day in Mari El:
I had been a bundle of emotions since the day before and I still felt the same way in the morning.  I was ready to go home because I felt I had done what I had come to do and honestly, was exhausted.  But I wasn’t ready to leave my friends and say any more goodbyes.  It was another busy day with traveling to the city with other counselors to drop kids off to their parents, attending the last counselor meeting, having a farewell dinner with the camp administrators, saying bye to the counselors who left on the camp bus to the city, and packing up all my stuff, including all the gifts I had been given over the past two months, enough to fill my carry-on luggage.  Before I knew it, it was time to say farewell to Skazka and even though I only had five minutes left before our ride was leaving, I ran to the camp lake, one of my favorite spots at camp, for one last look.   Just like it was hard for me to believe I was back at camp two months before, it was equally hard for me to believe I was leaving.

The most memorable part of the day was seeing the big group of counselors and kids who came to say bye at the train station.  Some of my friends had told me earlier that some of the counselors were planning on meeting about an hour and half before my train left in the city to hang out, so I was looking forward to seeing them again.  When I got to the spot where we were meeting, it was just a handful of us and we started walking to the train station from there.  It was the perfect weather to be walking around and it was fun talking with them.  I noticed that the group kept getting bigger the closer we got to the station and by the time we arrived at the station it was about 20 of us.  The biggest surprise was seeing my friend from 2011 Michael, who I had been trying to see since I had arrived, but our schedules never aligned.  Even though I talked with him for only about 10 minutes, it was so great seeing him!   Friends kept coming and by the time Gwynn and I got on the train, there was a crowd of 30 people waving back at us from the train.  Surrounded by my friends as we sang camp songs and talked, I shed my only tears of the trip because I was so moved by the fact that so many people had came to say bye.  And just in the nick of time, my friend Sveta made it before we pulled off.  I was concerned I wouldn’t get a chance to say bye, but we had enough time for a quick hug and promises to talk soon.  As the train pulled away I made a heart with my hands and my friends on the ground responded back with hearts of their own.  Truly a special memory engrained in my mind…

The train ride was nice and smooth.  We had two nice Russian gentlemen in our car (one of which was a successful businessman from Mari El who had recently been on a trip to Chicago!) and a visit from 4 of our friends who were also heading to Moscow.  The camp kitchen had prepared us with a feast for dinner and we had plenty to share and save for breakfast.  I wasn’t much for company because I felt drained from all the goodbyes and was tired, but like always, it was good talking with my friends.  They were just as tired as I was and soon, everyone headed to sleep.  I went to sleep thinking about my friends at the train station and replaying the day’s events.

I enjoyed the rest of the train ride, exploring the different cars (everyone is different!), delivering breakfast to my friends (who were in a different car), and talks with our car mates.  Our friend who was hosting us in Moscow met us in the station and Gwynn and I spent all day walking around Moscow visiting different sites.  We met up with our friends from Mari El and went to lunch and the zoo.  Since the traffic is so bad in Moscow, we had to wait until almost 10pm before we could drive back to our friend’s flat outside of the city.  It was a long day, but a good one.

Gwynn got up early with me to take me to the train station in order to catch the shuttle to the airport.  It was a smooth journey, with a few transfers to different buses and trains.  Thank God Gwynn knew where she was going haha.

Well my flight is about to take off in a few minutes, so next stop, NYC!

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