April has arrived with all the glory of a sunny, slightly-warm spring. Flowers are beginning to grow and although the trees haven't started to bud yet, it is only a matter of time. Only small pockets of snow continue to resist the +15 C temperatures and while the ground remains muddy the sidewalks are dry and finally navigable.
It was on April 1st that I moved into Quagmire's old room following his termination from the company and expulsion from Russia. Quagmire, my drinking buddy and comrade-in-arms, failed to show up for a few-too-many classes due to excessive bouts of drinking and the company let him go, thus cancelling his Russian visa. His departure was sad because he and I had great fun together and he was always good for a laugh.
Despite the loss of a friend here in Russia, I did manage to profit from his departure by moving into his old room in the flat he shared with Wonderpants and Ms. Australia. The motivation behind moving was simple: it's a 45-second walk to work, as opposed to the 20 minute walk I had previously had to endure. On Monday's and Wednesdays I have split shifts, which means walking to work and back and then to work and back again, a total walking time of 80 minutes per day.
The first day I spent in my new room was relaxing. I looked at my watch and noted that I would normally have begun preparing to leave on my trek to work, which involves putting on shoes and coat, taking the elevator down, hiking around streets and then running the muddy cesspool of muck gauntlet beside Arena Mytischi before emerging, covered in dirt, at the intersection in front of my school. Another option was always to spend 25 roubles on a marshroutka; small mini-van-sized buses that zig through traffic (and require shouting out "Nasta novkye palzhasta!" in order for them to stop where you want, and then fighting my way through a crowd of grouchy babushki and teenagers wearing too much perfume to get off the bus). Instead of all that stress and exercise, I took a 30-minute nap.
Quagmire appears to be doing well, judging from the few messages I've received. He took the train to Kiev, in the Ukraine, where the only visa required is an entrance stamp in your passport, and he has set up shop there as a private English teacher. I may be happy with our warming weather here in the Moscow Oblast, but Quagmire states that he is quite happy with an additional five or ten degrees of warmth in the Ukraine, which lies much further south.
Of course, I will get to enjoy the warmer weather in one month, when an intense period of travel activity begins for me. My two friends from Canada, Q and Dutchy, are coming to Moscow in May and together with Katya we are taking the train to Volgograd to visit the Stalingrad battlefield. They are in Russia for two weeks and when they head back home I will be heading off to Turkey to teach at a summer camp our company runs there. This camp is on a Mediteranean beach only a few hours from Istanbul, so I plan on visiting the Hagia Sofia and seeing the ruins of Constantinople and getting a tan. Then Katya and I are talking about taking a week in Greece sometime this summer, provided I can get the time off work, and then in September I'm off to Canada for a couple of weeks to get my visa renewed. I am in no rush to return to a mundane life of work and forms and work and bills and work and death. There is still so much to see and do! I figure that I will spend the next couple of years travelling around Europe and the Mediteranean from my nice comfortable base in Russia, and it begins in one month!
Goodbye Quagmire. Hello summer!