And Away We Go!

Today I leave Jamaica to begin my new adventure.  Depending on when you read this, I’m probably in transit some place or on a plane completing a leg of my journey.

According to my trip planning site, I’ll travel a total of 9,294 miles to get from Kingston, Jamaica to Yakutsk, Russia.  Barring delays, I’ll spend about thirty hours actually on airplanes and waiting in airports.  My routing is pretty straightforward, considering how far I’m going; it will only take me three flights to get there.  I fly from Kingston to New York then from New York to Moscow; that part of the journey will have me crossing eight time zones.  I’ll  spend two days in Moscow, exploring the most famous landmarks and hopefully starting to manage my inevitable jet lag.  Then I’ll take a direct flight from Moscow to Yakutsk, crossing another six time zones.  By the time I’m done, I’ll be between fourteen and sixteen hours ahead of most of you guys, depending on where you are.

All this crossing of time zones means that it will take me about a day and a half in actual time to get there, and because of time gains I’ll arrive at my final destination about three and a half days after I leave Jamaica.  I’ll spend the next two days after I get to Yakutsk continuing to manage my additional jet lag from crossing that last set of time zones.  Then I’ll officially start my new job.  My hope is that within a few weeks of getting there I’ll be able to increase my publishing rate again but we’ll wait and see how things unfold.

While we’re talking about time zones, I’ll say that I’m very happy to be getting back to such a vastly different one from most of the people I know.  Last time I went to a time zone that’s twelve hours in the future from most of my loved ones, I quickly discovered a downside – that when I was ready and able to talk they were likely asleep, and vice versa.  But having been back in the same time zone as most of my loved ones, I discovered a downside to that too, and it’s that we tend to take our communication for granted when I’m physically close by.  I find that when I’m several time zones away, we’re all very deliberate about finding time to have a quick chat and we do it more frequently, at the very least shooting off messages to each other every day or every couple of days.  In any case, we’ll see how things unfold when I’m back in the future again.

With respect to my luggage, last time I travelled with one checked bag and the bare minimum of clothes and personal items to get me through twelve months.  In the intervening time, I’ve become quite a minimalist traveller for a Jamaican, many times travelling with only what could fit into my (regular-sized) backpack to last me four days at a time.  This time around, I’ve been a bit more generous with what I’ve allowed myself to bring and now have two pieces of checked luggage.  This is for a few reasons.

Firstly, this time around I have to include more bulky items than the last time.  Indonesia is tropical so, except for a very few heavier items for my Kili trek, I brought mostly light clothing that rolled up small for that adventure last year.   I’m now going into a climate that is the exact opposite of that.  Because of that climate, bulky items like heavy gloves, a down parka and a bunch of wool and fleece scarves (thanks, Canada!) are a must.  And, of course, my hiking boots go everywhere with me.  All these things take up space, no matter how much of an expert packer I am.

Secondly, unlike my Indonesian kampung style, I’m going into a properly professional environment.  That means I can’t get by with a few casual items that I wear all the time and everywhere.  Although I won’t be working in an office, my work style will be business casual, which I think is classroom-appropriate.  So on top of my few casual clothes I’ve also included professional wear.  And, of course, in a professional environment I can’t wear the same clothes everyday so I had to bring a decent enough variety that I can mix and match to make them look like many different outfits.  In terms of shoes, I obviously can’t get away with the flip flops and sandals of Indonesia.  As is my new modus operandi, I’ve kept it stylish but simple and comfortable, since I’ll spend most days on my feet.  Even so, we’re talking about proper shoes so that’s more space and weight right there.

IMG-20160127-WA0012-COLLAGE (1)
Now and then…much more hair to keep healthy

Thirdly, I really packed in the hair products this time around.  When I went to Indonesia, my hair was super short and didn’t need a lot of product.  Also, I figured that if I ran out, I could easily order replacements online.  Since I’m a black woman with a black woman’s natural hair, I already know that there are no appropriate hair products for me in Yakutsk, and Indonesia taught me the valuable lesson that Amazon doesn’t necessarily have fulfillment centres that are convenient to where I am, which means that shipping can be quite costly.  Not only that but my grey hairs have been really trying to get the upper hand and I’m fighting them tooth and nail, so I also had to pack in  several months’ worth of hair colour.  Again, my experience in Indonesia taught me that the type of hair colour that I need and that works in my hair isn’t necessarily easily available everywhere.

Finally, because I’ll be going into an individual living situation, I picked up a few basic nibbles to tide me over for a day or two until I can get to a supermarket and stock up – simple things like crackers and tea and a bottle of home made jam from one of the ladies in my Bible study group.  And, don’t judge me but I also packed a few bags of ground coffee because I don’t know what kind of coffee situation I’m walking into and it’s imperative that I’m prepared.

As to my mindset, I’m feeling the usual mix of emotions – excitement for all that is to come, apprehension about whether or not I’ll be a good teacher, and overwhelming relief to be on the road again.  And I’m also very excited at the prospect of becoming properly fluent in another language.

Meanwhile, over the next week, expect to get the last of my Jamaica posts.  And then you’ll be with me in Russia.  Until then, dosvidanya!

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