Looking Back – Part I

So now I’m sitting in Moscow Airport, knowing that in a matter of a few hours I will be back at home. Mama Jeffery has been sitting on an empty nest for a few months and over the course of one day both my sister and I will be returning to fight over the TV remote and beg for cups of tea as soon as she sits down.

The comfort of home is about the only consolation for leaving Kazan; I hadn’t expected to feel so strongly about one place, seeing myself as a more nomadic type and rarely getting attached to places, but Kazan certainly holds many special memories and special people for me. And so, here we have, The Final Week:

Wednesday 14th December: Keeping it Classy
Weeks ago we had booked to go out for an evening of classical music, at an evening called ‘Rhapsody’. It also provided an excellent excuse to miss our dreaded 5pm Grammar Lesson. After all, we had just finished our end of term exams and lessons seemed less important, especially with our limited amount of time left in Kazan. The music was so varied and was performed in a beautiful concert hall just opposite the main theatre. It was interesting to see the Turkish inspired tiled-ceiling and a traditional grand organ both in one room.

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Thursday 15th December: Two Different Goodbyes
It’s always hard saying goodbye to people, and so we had organised well in advance our goodbyes to our Russian friends (who are notoriously difficult to pin down…). Firstly, we met up with Gulnaz. Gulnaz is in her second-year studying German and English at our faculty and we have really enjoyed our weekly meet-ups for tea and chats. We decided to go somewhere a little fancier than our usual haunt, and went to a French style café where we tried macarons and eclairs. It was so nice to have a treat for ourselves, and made sure that we could properly say goodbye, rather than being caught in a cramped café or after a walk in the middle of a freezing park!

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Later that evening we met up in Bar Sol with Kadria; we met her through a convoluted series of ‘friends of friends’, but ended up forming an unexpected and fun friendship. We returned to the Jazz Evening we had tried a few weeks ago. This time things were a bit calmer and we sadly did not get drinks bought for us by Finnish holidaymakers. Nonetheless, the music and company was excellent.


Friday 16th December: Feeling Arty
After having our final argument with our tempestuous phonetics teacher, Issy and I ventured to visit the Fine Art Gallery of Kazan. There was an exhibition dedicated to a Russian painter called Konstantin Karovin – his work was incredibly varied, and featured some very unexpected styles; from block-colour paintings which he painted in Norway, to vivid impressionist pieces in Crimea. We also managed to catch an exhibition which had just opened in the Modern Art Gallery next-door, which featured photographs of Russia between 1945-1964. It is always strange to see photos of everyday Soviet life, particularly in the post-Stalin era. The USSR has a varied reputation, and it was commonly seen as a very difficult and cruel place to live in. Seeing people still going about their everyday business, university students out partying until dawn and Khrushchev with his corn reminded us that it is impossible to encapsulate an area such as the USSR, or indeed Russia, with such a limited view.

Saturday 17th December: Heartbreak and Headaches
Saturday held a day I had been dreading for a while; Amir and I have both had very busy schedules, so it has always been a bit of an unpredictable task pinning down when to see each other. And so it was decided that Saturday would be our final date. We went to our usual café and spoke for hours…I won’t let things get too emotional here, but it was a difficult goodbye. Luckily, as I waved down a bus and leaped on just before it pulled away, a very surprised and wide-eyed Issy turned around. We had caught the same bus back home! I was very glad to have a shoulder to cry on, and it seemed fitting that so many of our dramatic moments have happened on the Number 47!

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In the evening we had a farewell meal with some of the English students from Nottingham, at a very nice Indian restaurant. We then embarked on our final (and my second…) night out in Kazan. It was a bizarre and hysterical evening, and the perfect antidote to any moping. Turns out watching your friend continually being pushed in the snow between bars is much better than eating ice-cream out of the tub and watching sad films. Our night ended at 6am, which meant we didn’t have to break our curfew! The guard at the door was the same one as when we had left the night before, and chuckled knowingly when we wearily made our way in. We had also been a bit terrified by our taxi-driver, who insisted on doing drifts around the icy bends, so we were glad to be back in our beds.

The Sunday after was mostly spent in bed, but we managed to pull ourselves out for a meal with Emma at one of our favourite restaurants.

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