I am departing to Russia for the first time in my life within the next 10 hours. It's amazing that I've been to 20+ countries but never to Finland's largest neighbour. Our destination is Viena Karelia, close to the Finnish border up north-east from where I live. The place where Kalevala was collected and the bardic lands that many young Lord of the Rings fans dream of visiting...
It's going to be yet lighter there in the evenings than here and there will be more mosquitoes. People live there in the midst of nature and are much dependent on the waterways and forest. I am excited about showing my spoiled kids a place without burger joints, high street chain stores, or broadband internet connections in each and every home. No pizza-kebab places run by immigrants either, no tofu sausages, no feminist conferences, nor anti-racist action weeks. Chances are that I'll be the most puzzled family member, not the kids.
Russia is very much part of our everyday life nowadays; in the streets of Tampere it is ten times more likely to hear Russian spoken than our second native tongue, Swedish. I don't speak any Russian although I've had good possibilities to listen to it for many years now in my everyday life. I wonder what's happening with my language learning capacity: what once seemed to just pour in nowadays needs intensive courses and extensive home-stays with native people. (In Viena Karelia the older generations still speak their own language, which is very close to Finnish. The younger generations speak mainly Russian, due to Soviet ethno-linguistic policies. I am expecting a lot of code-switching and pleasant confusion with words...)
The bags are packed with not practical enough clothing (we basically own city clothes only), presents for our host families, toilet rolls, water flasks, a medicine cabinet and mosquito spray. I don't have enough space in my bags for rubber boots for three, and the weather reports promise heavy rain for the coming week. The roads in Viena Karelia are going to be muddy to the extremes I might not yet have seen. If this happens, we're going to be positive about our new methods of body art. Some pics might follow. Keep tuned.