Monday 19th December: Ice Ice Baby
I could write a large section on the administration nightmare we faced trying to get our certificates with our exam results, but I promised in one of my early instalments that I would resist the urge to simply complain about bureaucracy on this blog! Needless to say; it was a pain in the a**. It was a relief to simply go and get my nails done again in the afternoon, and have a cuddle with her cat, to chill out after a stressful morning. In the evening, I continued to chill out quite literally, by opting to go ice-skating with Issy. Temperatures were due to plummet on Thursday, and the prospect of an hour out on the rink at -20 degrees was not exactly appealing; however, I had heard great things about this particular rink. Along the river in Kazan is a promenade (again, where I took a walk in one of my earlier instalments) and in wintertime they set up at 2km ice skating rink there! It is more like a straight narrow stretch of ice, completely covered by fairy lights and accompanied by festive music. My experience ice-skating is limited to yearly attempts on crowded London ice-rinks, normally resulting in some mild form of panic attack all for the sake of my sister’s love for this tradition. However, I was willing to try one more time. Issy and I walked down with hot chocolates, and yanked on our skates. I cautiously stepped onto the ice and pulled myself forward, facing the long and barrier-less stretch ahead. Maybe it was because the ice actually stayed as ice rather than melting in the English climate, or maybe it was because there were very few people there on a Monday evening; either way, I had an amazing time, and managed to make it to the end of the rink and back with time to spare! It was so fun and beautiful by the river. Russian people definitely have had a lot more practise than I have, with several young guys making the most of the long stretch of ice by whizzing past us. Of course, a combination of my rapid increase in confidence and the diving temperatures meant that my body eventually gave up and I fell on my butt just as I was trying to get off the ice. It didn’t matter much though, except it was a very nippy bus ride home…
Tuesday 20th December: Final Day At The Faculty
This day didn’t really amount much other than attending our final lessons with some of our favourite teachers. We presented them with some flowers and said our final farewells. In the evening we managed to squeeze in one final meet-up with Kadria, and then I embarked on some panic-buying of christmas presents. This day was certainly our coldest in Kazan, with hair and eyelashes freezing, breath fogging up even as the bus doors opened, and being unable to spend no longer than about 10 minutes outside. Kazan is definitely much colder than I had ever anticipated; even today, as I travel home, it was -17 degrees in Kazan and only -1 degrees when we reached Moscow!
Wednesday 21st December: Farewell to Friends and the Kol-Sherif
Our final day began slowly, but we pulled ourselves out of beds to finish off our shopping and have lunch at our favourite stolovaya. At this meal, Karolina realised that she had already bought at least a kilogram of Chak Chak, and only intended to buy more – the most addictive present for the family..! Issy, Emma and I then took one final tour around the Kremlin, saying goodbye to the Kol-Sherif Mosque which I have taken FAR too many photos of. This fond farewell was topped off by the two of them pushing me into a massive snowdrift in the Kremlin. Excellent.
In the afternoon we rushed back to the flat as we had to clean our rooms before a room inspection. Nearly passing out from the fumes of our Cillit Bang rampage, we managed to gain the approval of the Kommandant, and were free to enjoy our final evening. We cooked our favourite room meal and ate as a four, before exchanging Christmas cards and raising a vodka toast to a successful 2017 and a reunion in the near future! More friends from our accommodation block then came and joined us for some tea, biscuits…and of course a little more vodka.
which brings me to…
Thursday 22nd December: So Come Home
Cases packed, goodbyes said, student cards handed back in. I’m now on my final plane, heading into London Heathrow in under half an hour. This certainly isn’t the end of my blogging adventures, and I will hopefully be heading off to St. Petersburg after the christmas holidays.
The pilot has just given notice that we are soon to land, so I better wrap things up! I called this post ‘Looking Back’ because that is exactly what it’s been like, recording my experiences in Kazan on this blog. Everyone always says that you look back with rose-tinted spectacles, and I don’t deny that this is probably true of a lot of what I’ve written. I’m struggling to express myself without giving into cliché, but these months have been some of the most difficult and most rewarding of my life. I have realised a lot about who I am as a person, my faults and strengths. There are things I could have done better; but there are also things I could have done worse. Regardless, Kazan will always hold a very special place in my heart. It’s the city where I met some friends who had always been in Cambridge; Issy had been sitting in my SL12 lectures all of last year, Emma had been living in the college next door; it only took us a bloomin’ trip to another country to realise! I’m glad that I won’t have to simply look back on our time together, and hope to continue our adventures both in Cambridge and in St. Petersburg. Yet, for my friends in Kazan, it is an indefinite amount of time until we meet again. Saying goodbye to so many of them was so hard; as sad as it is to look back, it is certainly worth it. I will never forget the connections I made there and the amazing atmosphere of this city I hadn’t even heard of over a year ago. I can’t wait to return one day, and see what Kazan holds for me then..!
Thanks to anyone who’s been keeping up with my ramblings this far; I wish you a fantastic Christmas and a wonderful New Year.!
С Новым Годом!