Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year!

For all the weeks-long build-up and commotion, Christmas passed almost instantly, like a stock-market bubble. Nativity scenes with donkeys are stowed away for the next year, Santa outfits are in dry cleaning after all the Santacons, and the fur trees, just a few days ago adorned in shiny decor now lay in dirt on sidewalks – abandoned and discarded, and it they would be bitterly confused about such a quick change of fortunes, I wouldn’t blame them.

The gifts are gifted, the useless ones are ready for re-gifting, the boxes are unboxed, the wraps are unwrapped and tossed, the drinks are drunk and the foods are eaten. And just like that, we are onto the last few hours of 2011.

It was a strange year. Not the worst one economically – that honour belongs to the awful ’09, which at the same time was a fairly calm year otherwise. 2011 was an eventful year, with enough travel and work, but also marred with numerous tragedies, worldwide and personal. New friendships were forged, but some were lost and gone forever. I cannot forget the days of anxiety over the Japanese tragedy in March, first with the quake, then tsunami and afterwards, with the invisible lethal force of radiation, all too familiar to those of us who grew up near Chernobyl. Not since September 2001 had I been so perturbed by the news and wanted to spend 24 hours a day getting the latest tidbits of information from all over the Internet about what was going on in Tohoku.

In the meantime, life here stateside was going on, with economy still piss-poor and few scattered and weak signs of recovery. Yet little by little, the difference was being felt. Restaurants were taking reservations, bars and clubs that survived the crush of the previous years, have become full and busy again. Women in San Francisco have redirected their gazes at new overpriced shoes and handbags again, and their rich boyfriends or husbands could afford them again. Big money is being made and spent again – or so I hear.

Sure, concerns remain. But that’s something we’ll just have to get used to from now on. The times, which I consider myself fortunate to remember, when each New Year brought optimism and firm assurance that it would be better than the previous one, are probably gone. Not to be a pessimist or anything – I am content just hoping that it wouldn’t be worse.

At least the end of the world - predicted twice - did not send us all onto rapture (I never figured that one out – why were we supposed to be enraptured by it? Doesn’t matter now, I guess). So it was really not a bad year after all.

I made a short trip to Paris in spring, which is always pleasant. Paris had completely forgotten me, so it was a one-sided affair. I didn’t care – I like it that way, just as I liked having 2-hour breakfasts at midday, finding more dead celebrities at Pere Lachaise and taking pictures of unsuspecting Parisians in the world’s best metro.

Then there was the trip home, first one in 3 years. I felt guilty for not having visited my Grandma for so long. It was painful and odd seeing her on the austere hospital bed in a provincial Belarusian town, after she broke her hip again and was practically motionless and helpless. I have always known her as a strong, even matriarchal woman, always wanting to take charge and be in the center of events. Now she had to be completely taken care of, and her mind kept slipping into incoherence from all the painkillers and medications she was on. It was a different visit from all my previous ones in that regard.

She passed away 2 weeks after I left, on my birthday, when I was in Turkey. She was 91.

A few days later, a plane carrying the entire hockey team Lokomotiv Yaroslavl went down, killing everyone on board but one, including Ruslan Salei, one of Belarus’s best player.

It was not easy to enjoy my Turkey trip. After some point, I was going almost on autopilot, circumnavigating the country clock-wise, before finally crossing the Dardanelles in late September, returning back to Istanbul and then back to San Francisco.

Life went on, jobs went on. I was fortunate or unfortunate to spend a couple of months in the great state of Oklahoma and even squeeze a weeklong trip to Mexico around Thanksgiving. With the hectic schedule that was bestowed upon me in the surrounding days and weeks, a mini-holiday on the perfectly warm late autumn Oaxaca beach was a delight.

And so that was the 2011. I’d better think of some good resolutions for 2012. Did I fulfill the ones for 2011? I don’t know – I really don’t remember them now.

Happy New Year!


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