Insanity to Keep Me Sane

I’ve had a pretty low-key week. Catching up on my sleep and my sanity. Sleep comes much needed and much appreciated, but sanity is maybe a little more ambiguous. In Russia, sanity comes in many different forms—and in my case, it can easily be mistaken for insanity. It’s a fine line, really… Anyway, at the moment, there’s a plethora of things keeping me (in)sane.

Is this real life? On a serious note, I’ve been finishing up those grad school and fellowship applications for life after Russia. Remember when I thought I was going to get those out of the way before this all started? Ha! In any case, there’s nothing like personal statements and shameless begging to keep you grounded.

Brown paper packages tied up with strings. My mail (all those Christmas cards and packages you sent me) is finally starting to trickle in, and it’s making me unbelievably happy—as in, if there wasn’t a -40 degree wind-chill, I might have shed tears of joy. You may not know it, but sometimes sanity looks like a grown woman wearing reindeer antlers and jingle bells, devouring cotton-candy and peanut-butter straight out of the jar. It wasn’t until the next day that I remembered to go buy bread to eat with my peanut butter and Nutella. I realized that it had been like five whole days since I’d eaten bread, and it was an unexpectedly joyful reunion. Who ever thought bread could make me so emotional?

An obsession with warm things: I’ve found that the body tends to crave what it really needs. You leave a scurvy-germy ger craving a big bag of oranges; you wander the Gobi Desert craving a glass of water; you walk around when it’s -40 craving hairy boots and warm woolen mittens. If a craving is your body’s way of telling you what it desperately needs, then why bother resisting? (I have yet to reconcile this new-found understanding of cravings with the seemingly distant and irrational cravings for chocolate or late-night Taco Bell). Some people crave grease and sugar, but I crave fleece and wool. The subliminal message of this insatiable craving is just stating the obvious: I’m cold.

So the other day, I went to a mall with very specific intentions: I was going to hunt down either a pair of these colorful-patterned thermal leggings I saw everywhere in Mongolia or a pair of thigh-high wool socks/legwarmers. My obsession is such that I ended up with both. One look at either of them, and you’d see that there’s nothing sane about them. I’m like a tie-dye-striped, snowflaked, be-penguined disaster right now, and I love it—this kind of color has no business on an adult person in Russia. But I’m snug as a bug in a rug and happy as a clam! (BOOM! IDIOMS!)

Babushka Love: Babushkas can be—and often are—the bane of your existence. But for some reason, babushkas love me. Apart from the increasingly frequent scolding for losing weight (as if I need an excuse to devour a whole bag of Мишка на Севере), I seem to always be 100% babushka approved. The babushka who sold me those ridiculous thermal leggings was just SO PROUD of me for taking care of my poor little legs. I went to the Natural History Museum of Buryatia this week, and once more the babushkas just adored me. By this point, I have a veritable army of babushkas out doing my husband-hunting for me. Really, I don’t know what this says about my sanity, but babushkas and I get along really well.

Basically, I turn to The Lion King to sum up my relationship with Russian babushkas.

“Arielle, are you nuts? We’re talking about a [babushka]. [Babushkas] eat guys like us!”

“But she’s so little!”

“She’s gonna get bigger.”

“Maybe she’ll be on our side.”

“A-huh, that’s the stupedist thing I ever heard. Maybe she’ll b—Hey, I got it! What if she’s on our side? You know, having a [babushka] around might not be such a bad idea.”

And, dear readers, my next great adventure is in the works: I leave tomorrow for a trip to Western Russia! My jet-lagged self will be in Vladimir for a couple days before heading to Kazan to meet up with some fellow Fulbrighters—and then we’ll all descend upon Moscow the Monster for the Fulbright Midyear Conference.

Perhaps the true testament to my complete and total insanity is that one of my main incentives for this trip is the tropical weather forecast. It will be 12 degrees Fahrenheit when I land in Moscow! I haven’t seen temperatures so warm since October, and I could use a good thaw!


About Arielle

I am a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in Ulan-Ude at the Buryat State Agricultural Academy.
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One Response to Insanity to Keep Me Sane

  1. Christine Boitos says:

    We can’t believe your mission is half over. We really love reading about your adventures…! There is nothing new around here…only had snow one day several weeks ago; but it is in the forecast for the weekend. We can’t believe your living in those little huts when it’s so cold out. All our love, Grandma and Papa Boitos

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