Saturday, June 2, 2007

Visit from another Fulbrighter (May 30 - June 2)

From May 30 – June 2 I had a visit from another Fulbrighter, Danielle, which was really a treat. Danielle is a Russian and Chemistry double major from Duke, and for the last 9 months she has been working in a lab in Pushino, outside of Moscow. For the last couple of weeks Danielle has been doing a little traveling out east of the Urals, and she visited me after Irkutsk and Lake Baikal. We had a great time talking away and sharing experiences about the Fulbright, life in Russia, mentors, education, trains and more. After a day of downpour and plenty of clouds and chilly 50-degree temperatures the week before, we had some great weather for Danielle’s visit. Plus, I got to enjoy being a tourist in my own city, going to the Botanical Gardens outside of town, taking a trip to nearby Russian Island, checking out Vladivostok’s Hare Krishna restaurant, and strolling along the Amur Bay waterfront, which at this time of year has live music (singing), plenty of outdoor beer tents, kiosks selling real ice cream and souvenirs, and entertainers – a mime, a caricature portrait artist, and a very sociable monkey that takes pictures with the crowds. On Danielle’s last day they even turned the hot water back on in my apartment – ahead of schedule! What a lovely surprise.

Pictures: 1. Me and Danielle at the Vladivostok Botanical Gardens (maintained by the Russian Academy of Sciences Far Eastern Branch). It was beautiful there, although on the path through the forest we found a few too many ticks for our liking. 2. Kids on Russian Island. Russian Island is large island just a 45-minute ferry ride from Vladivostok, but very few people live there, and most of it is green and unsettled. It rather has the look of a military fortress zone abandoned by the Soviets – probably because it was. Formerly off-limits, today the island is visited by local tourists in the summer and is now one centerpiece for plans to develop the Far East. The Russian government hopes to host the Asian Pacific Economic Forum here in 2012, build a bridge from Vladivostok to Russian Island, construct a world-class aquarium (Russia’s first) on its shores, and more. We’ll see what the future holds!