There are less than two weeks to go, and the lack of time concentrates significance into every step. The sounds, colors, smells of this little city, unknown at this time last year, are now dear, родной.
The familiarity that nine months creates can lull me into not noticing, but the knowledge that 14 blocks of 24 hours is all that separates me from another world wakes me up to savor, to store up memories of the small and significant.
The call to prayer can be heard from the mosque, deep, throaty Arabic, unintelligible except for the haunting, guttural, drawn-out cry of “Allah, Allah.”
The dust sneaks inside my shoes with each step, and I remember a friend’s advice: don’t take pictures only of what is considered conventionally beautiful, because then you objectify the place, the experience, rob it of its grit and character.
I know I won’t see windows like this when I get home,
and I will see cats, but not on every corner, wild and afraid.
The white marshrutka, the ubiquitous, sometimes scary, but mostly dependable transport will be something I miss.
I’ll also miss the colors, where I come from we usually prefer the not-so-bright.
I will, however, be glad to be able to sit on a bench in the winter without being told that I have just ruined any chance of having children.
I’ll miss being surprised by where the sidewalk ends.
And I’ve come to enjoy my dusty walks to the store to buy 5 liter jugs of water and bread, cucumbers and tomatoes.
And then there is the red fire tower, my landmark, telling me that I’m almost home.
And my favorite bus stop, where a 4 or 5 bus will drop me off right in front of my dorm, my arms full of bags of milk and pelmeni and candied ginger.
House 24Б, my home for nine months.
The metal door that is always unlocked,
the windowsill where I get my mail,
the sign that warns non-dorm dwellers to stay out, which is mostly for show.
And I am home.
I am almost, almost home.