the year of the snake, or a year of extremes

Originally published on 05/08/2014

Realistically, I know absolutely nothing about the Chinese horoscope.  The title simply had a pleasant ring to it.

After we returned from Krasnodar, our remaining time in Moscow flew by.  It was a bittersweet time, it was one of anxious expectation and calm regrets.  In short, we were stressed out, burned out, and doggone tired.

Our flight to Utah left early Sunday April 14th.  Since public transit didn’t run that early, we had planned to camp out in the airport Saturday night.  That doesn’t account for the craziness of the preceding two days.  We found out late Friday evening that we were not registered in our dorm and that we had move out by midnight that very day.  After some frantic packing, a good friend let us stay in his room.  After a sleepless night, Ashley went off to her last lesson with her favorite student Natasha and I went off to Saturday General Conference at the Moscow Stake Center.  After some interesting new acquaintances and some hard goodbyes, Ashley and I met up to go gather our things and head to the airport.  We decided to take a scenic route to the metro, via Red Square.  We sat facing the south side of St. Basil’s, basking in the beautiful light which peeked over the Kremlin and shined in defined rays on the square.  We were relatively alone, besides a few girls in short shorts and an old artist putting oil on a canvas.  As we sat there, I asked Ashley, “Do you think we’ll ever come back?”  Thoughts of all the people to whom I had just said farewell and even worse thoughts of all those to whom I hadn’t had a chance to say goodbye raced through my head.  I suddenly knew the answer.  No.  We surely would not.  That was the last time I would ever see them.

I felt sick.

Ashley looked at me baffled.  Whether she could sense my distress or was merely confused by the apparently absurd question, she looked astounded that I would even ask such a question.  A resolute “Yes” was her reply.  At least, she wanted to return.  She said that if we really wanted to we would of course come back.  What a profound answer.  If we wanted to we would come back.

I guess I was questioning how much I really wanted to.

More thoughts of Russia and Russians went through my head.  I knew we had to come back.  We would surely come back.

Metro.  McDonald’s.  Metro.  Train.  Sleepless night at the airport.  I couldn’t believe our time in Moscow was ending.  When the plane touched down in Paris, I didn’t even realize we were gone.  When we arrived in Salt Lake, I was so exhausted I couldn’t even think.  When I recovered and realized it was over, it was already all over.  I thought of the great friends Ashley and I made during our time in Moscow and the new friends we made, I thought of conversation Ashley and I had with a good friend.  Would we miss Moscow or just the people?  As I thought about those people, I realized that I didn’t just miss them.  I missed the land.  There some in thought of Russia as rodina that just has to be felt.

After two brisk weeks with the family (action packed, as always) Ash and I were on our way.  After a good week of sightseeing, hiking, climbing, and camping (for pictures check out facebook), we arrived in Cimarron, New Mexico.  One place in the world I honestly never thought I would live.

We arrived at Philmont a few hours before check in, and after exploring the 5 or 6 square blocks that make up the town of Cimarron we decided to do something more productive:  do our laundry at the local Laundromat.

Inside the Laundromat we met Jenny.  A local from a village (that is what the sign says) called Ute Park, just few miles outside of Cimarron.  Jenny introduced herself as an “animal activist.”  She told us all about her life, how she lives in a cabin with no running water, about how she kayaks in the ocean, about all sorts of things.  Sort, tan, and sun-weathered, Jess was our introduction in New Mexican life.  We chuckled as she said that New Mexico is the “third-world state.”  As Ashley and I were driving to Albuquerque to pick up Emily from the airport that night, we couldn’t help but chuckle at that.

Sorry, if you thought that New Mexicans live in third world conditions, that simply isn’t true.  We’re still in the US.

But things are different here.  The people are different.  Life is different.

For those of you who don’t know, Ashley, Emily, and I are working in the kitchen at Philmont Scout Ranch, the largest high adventure camp in the world.  It is huge.  During peak season, we have a population that rivals Provo.  That’ll be interesting.

We didn’t take the job because we have interest in the culinary arts or in being professional Scouters, but because we get almost half of the week off to go hiking and do awesome things.  There will be plenty of stories (the goal is a weekly adventure, and hopefully post about that adventure), so stay tuned.

As I sit in the shade, looking at my right to the Rocky Mountains and the left to the Great Plains, I think, “What am I doing here?”

It will be a year of extremes.

(A special shout out to Greg Bayles, the kind sir who prompted me to start writing.  I also have to say that any blog post, including pictures, involving Philmont Scout Ranch or The Boy Scouts of America does not represent their views or interests but are purely my own.)


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