Autumn’s my favourite time of year. I really missed it in Singapore, and in Beijing it was always far too brief. St. Petersburg is having a good, mellow time of it at the moment, with a wonderful Indian Summer.
Last week I made the trip out to Pavlovsk Palace, and spent the day happily wandering around the park there – a great mix of both wild and neatly-tended areas. It was fantastic to be away from civilisation, with the fresh smell of pine trees, and the leaves on the deciduous trees all kinds of green, red, and yellow – few were really brown yet. There were old ladies picking bags full of wild mushrooms, and much younger women who I suspect were collecting an entirely different form of mushroom…
Getting away from it all, and spending time in the natural environment is incredibly balancing. During my days in politics, getting away to the mountains every weekend was a great restorative: Snowdon and Cadair Idris, Pumlumon and Carn Ingli, were better than any doctor could ever be. As my friend Carlos pointed out recently, my qi has been badly out of balance for a long time. Nature helps to restore that balance; I’m going to have to get out to the more distant parks more often, because I just haven’t been able to sleep properly during my time in Russia, and it’s been a big problem, severely affecting my time here.
Still, I have some hope that things might finally be turning a corner.
I’ve finally got the more-or-less complete work schedule that will take me up to the end of the year. It’s going to be pretty gruelling – I’ll be working five evenings a week, with a number of early-morning starts as well – but the huge improvement over spring’s schedule is that four of those evenings, Mon-Thur, are in-company corporate classes, finishing at 19:30.
That’s awesome. Tuesdays and Thursdays, the xingyiquan classes run 20:30 – 22:00, so I can get to them. Excellent! I’ll be writing about them over at Jianghu. Mondays and Wednesdays, the St. Petersburg Systema Ryabko school runs their classes. It seems they’ve stopped their Friday and Saturday classes, so it looks like I’ve got lucky that the remaining classes are at a time when I can make it. I’ve tried contacting them several times over past months, but they never respond to messages, so I’m going to have to just turn up. So, yesterday, I made my way out to the Yacht Club, to familiarise myself with the location where they train. I’m glad I did, because it’s not all that easy to get to. Once again, I’ve got lucky: the only marshrutka going out there also passes the office where I’ll be working. I’ve got an hour to get there; according to Google maps, the marshrutka takes 49 minutes. Result!
And the dancing continues. This afternoon, I went back for another lezginka class. I almost didn’t go: my insomnia has been so bad recently that I felt dizzy, and almost dozed off while I was waiting for the womens’ class to finish. Still, Samir got me reviewing last week’s steps, and taught me a new, somewhat more athletic one. We worked on starting to chain them together, as well – not particularly easy. I still find it difficult to remember the moves, and to coordinate everything, but that’s interesting in itself.
On that note, and to change the subject for a moment, I recently received an email from a friend still at the place where I worked before coming to Russia. It described colleagues breaking down in tears during meetings; shouting matches between management and academic staff; a pitched battle between the two sides being waged in the media; and a relentless loss of people – almost a third of the people I worked with have now left, and more seem to be on their way out.
You’ll understand from this that it wasn’t a happy place to work. For much of my time there, I was working 12-14 hour days (plus a long commute) in a working environment that’s widely been described as ‘toxic’. I would probably have coped if that had been all, but I was also acting as a carer for a seriously ill relative. Between the two, I came down with a bad case of caregiver syndrome, and I’ve been dealing with the fallout of that for most of my time here. I mention this, because I’ve finally understood what the problem was during my classes with Andrey Karimov: I seem to have trained myself not to remember, a natural thing to do when every single day is so shitty that you don’t want to think about it ever again.
This insight came to me as I worked on today’s new steps and, immediately, it seemed to weaken and I remembered the step better. Interesting how the mind works
So, I suddenly feel much more positive. If I can get the lezginka, the systema, and the xingyi going, I’ll be very, very happy. Combine that with some other positive developments in recent days, and I find that I’m going into autumn more cheerful than I’ve been for some time.
Image credit: Autumn Leaves in Japan by user Walter Lim on Flickr. Used under a Creative Commons license.