As most of you are preparing to leave Durham for a few weeks, I am also getting ready to return home. This is something of a momentous event for me, being the first time I’ve set foot in England in over fifteen weeks, but also the last time I’ll see Russia for what could be a very long time. But, luckily, I have little time to be sentimental about it – I have far too much to do.
Firstly, my visa. I did, at the beginning of my trip, have the foresight to extend my visa beyond its original three-month limit, thus hopefully avoiding problems at the border – although this is Russia, so I’m not ruling anything out! However, for some reason best known to themselves the international office have decided to keep our visas, only relinquishing them when we actually need to leave the country (as I’ve taken full advantage of my multiple-entry visa and the proximity of Scandinavia and Eastern Europe, they now know my face quite well). Therefore, a large portion of tomorrow afternoon will be spent queuing behind a huge number of Chinese people (literally, I think the university is entirely populated by them) to then be asked if I can pronounce the Russian word for Great Britain and probably be persuaded to part with an extortionate amount of roubles. But, I will have my visa and be able to leave the country, so I suppose I shouldn’t complain too much.
Predictably, due to the close proximity of Christmas, another urgent item on my to-do list is the purchase of gifts. Have you ever noticed that your number of friends increases infinitesimally when it comes to buying presents? This is a conundrum which I am currently faced with – which of my friends/acquaintances/people I spoke to once in Klute will be expecting gifts from Russia, which of them can I afford to offend, and how do I explain that those fluffy hats that everyone will expect me to bring back with me are ridiculously expensive for what is essentially a piece of fake fur with a Soviet badge glued on the front? The answer, at least to the third question, is to find something better. And so, my challenge of the week – to find something so amazing that it will make my friends forget all about fake Soviet hats.
And then, my final challenge, once I have these as yet unspecified amazing things, is to find a way to get them home. As in a Durham term, I spent the past fifteen weeks accumulating a rather frightening amount of stuff. Unfortunately, this is where the similarity with a Durham term ends. For at the end of a Durham term I have the option of fluttering my eyes at my father until he relents and agrees that the car doesn’t really need headrests… or seats… or a steering wheel. Here I have nothing – only my two 23kg suitcases and the option of throwing everything I don’t strictly need in the bin. Socks? Old jeans? Grammar books? Why would I need those when I return to England? Unfortunately, while I’ve been rather productive in terms of throwing things away, everything else I own has currently taken up residence in a huge pile on the floor, which I really should think about tackling. Preferably before my flight leaves…