Tuesday, September 14, 2010

End of Act I

Returning to Canada after a year in Russia and a week in England was, to say the least, anti-climatic. The past year that I spent in Russia was one of the most eventful and interesting years I've ever had and Canada just feels, well, boring. It's like I never left.

This fact could be attributed to being in Ottawa, the city that fun forgot. If I had returned to the west coast things would have been much different but, as it stands, my family lives in Ottawa thus I am in Ottawa.

My week touring around England may have helped to buffer some of the reverse-culture shock, as everyone there speaks English, has the same culture as my home and living standards are high, although driving on the left remains confusing. Also, customer service in England is only a few shades brighter than customer service in Russia, and I have yet to experience exceptional Canadian customer service (to be fair, the best customer service in the world is south of the Mason-Dixie Line in states such as South Carolina and Georgia).

One interesting thing about my visit to London stands out in my mind: meeting up with Quagmire!

A few days before I set out for the UK Quagmire emailed me and said he was passing through London on his way to a new destination. I told I was also passing through London at the same time! We arranged to meet at the stone lions at Trafalgar Square at 1 pm and on the specified day we met up.

The last I had seen of Quagmire was after he was canned in Mytischi for missing classes. Wonderpants, Mr. Irish and I had chipped in some cash to give Quagmire as he didn't have enough for a flight home and Language Link was cancelling his visa. He took a train to Kiev, Ukraine, and for a week or so stayed in touch but then vanished. That was in March. Now, in September, in London, England, Quagmire and I were sitting at a British pub eating steak and ale pies and drinking British Imperial pints of bitter.

Quagmire had been arrested in Ukraine for teaching illegally at a language school in L'viv and had spent some time in a Ukrainian prison, and then an immigration detention centre and then was finally booted out of the country. Naturally the police kept his laptop, cell phone and cash for themselves. He's now found a new job in Sri Lanka and while he was stopping in London on his way east I was stopping in London on my way west.

London is filled with tour companies; it is the fourth most-touristed city in the world, so Quagmire and I bought tickets for a hop-on/hop-off bus tour called "The Big Bus Company". They have open-top double-decker buses and follow a bus route which snakes through Westminster and London, stopping at every interesting site. The ticket is good for 24 hours so anybody can hop and off and catch another bus. They come by every 10 minutes.

In January Quagmire and I had conducted a beer tour of Moscow. It started when we got stinking drunk at a cafe in GUM (possibly the only idiots on the planet to get drunk in GUM) and in 12 hours saw us visit over 10 different bars and cafes and clubs. For old-times' sake, armed with our Big Bus tickets, we did it again in London. Piccadilly Circus! Drink! Soho! Drink! Whitehall! Drink! Big Ben! Drink! The Tower of London! Drink! Buckingham Palace! Drink!

At 9:30 the following morning I made my way to Heathrow and caught a flight back to Toronto and then a connecting flight to Ottawa, where it has been nice to see my family but completely lacking in anything resembling excitement, and thus the anti-climax of an epic year.

The good news, for me at least, is that I decided to return to Moscow but this time as a student of Russian. Katya and I paid for the first semester of courses and my Letter of Invitation is being processed in Moscow right now. In four weeks I'll fly back and Katya and I will rent a flat on the (cheaper) outskirts of the city, so the wonderful year I just experienced has, after all, a sequel!

Quagmire enjoys a pint of British ale

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