Saturday, December 15, 2007

December 15 – Day 89

Last night after our evaluations, which was alone enough to leave me emotionally spent, we had our farewell reception and began the marathon of goodbyes. To be honest I didn’t think I would be that distraught but I found myself tearing up with every toast. It might have been one of the saddest parties I have ever been to, more like a wake than a celebration. There was joy though, and thankfulness as we took our last opportunities to say goodbye to all the people who helped us grow so much. We hung around until it became too unbearable and then took one last stroll down Tverskiya back to the dorms so that the seven of us from NIU could finish up packing and prepare for our flight. Katiya, the angel who I will miss so very much, came over and made us a huge feast before our departure. The other students took turns wading into our rooms to share a few final moments of goodbye. Stephanie finally locked me and Jenna in a room so that she could make the toast to us that I had been dreading. I became closer to those two girls than anyone else on this trip and to a certain extent I feel an overwhelming sense of motherly protection over them. I worry about them as if they were my own blood and I hope so much that they make it back and find their way through this big crazy world. There were so many other people who made it difficult to say goodbye and honestly I was surprised. I went into this trip with the idea that I was coming for me and chances would be that I would never see any of these people again. It is only at the end that I could see how clearly they have all affected me, how much they have meant to my life. This trip would not have been the same without them and I hope for them all nothing but the best. At one a.m. the bus was supposed to arrive to take us all to the airport and we made are way to the stairwell, thankful to put the marathon of tears to rest for a few hours until we would have to separate in London but we had one more surprise in store. The bus was no were to be found and after an hour of waiting we realized that there was a good chance we might not make out flight. Eventually it was decided that we were all going to have to break up and hail those oh-so-shady taxis that make every commute an action adventure scene in a mad dash to the airport. We scrambled to load our bags into the row of cars that started to form outside our dorm, and Colleen practically drenched in sweat from frazzled nerves screamed to the driver that if he did not get me and Bob there safe he would have to answer to Oleg Tabakov (He is the head of Moscow Art and one of the most important men in Russia - and as I learned later in the evening, the only name you need if you want to bend international law.) It was really the only way that it could have ended, with us making hurried goodbyes to the last remaining friends and then scrambling to the airport in a fashion reminiscent of Home Alone alone. Once inside, Marianna again invoked the name of Tabakov, flashing a security official a piece of MXAT letterhead and was immediately ushered past security so that she could lead us to the metal detectors. We waved goodbye to her from the gate, as she cried like a good Russian mama and then like that we were off - to London and then to saying our goodbyes to one another half-asleep, surrounded by rushing travelers. It felt like it ended as quickly as it had begun, in a crazy whirlwind of delirium. My life has changed so much because of this experience and I will never be the same. Thank you so much to Russia. Thank you so much to MXAT. Thank you so much to all of the amazing people who made this possible. I will carry this time in my heart forever. I will always remember my Russian Soul.