I had a phone chat with Alex this morning (it hasn’t been a week, and I miss her sorely; the next six weeks almost seem unfathomable), and she let me know something.
I’ve gotten a little carried away saying “16 years ago”.
I mean, can I help it that half my life has passed in the last 16 years? That 16 years ago, I was in this same city, seeing the same sites as today, but different? A lot has happened in the 16 years, not just to me but also to this city. We still have Moscow to see, and 16 years ago it was most definitely a different city. (Kelly has told us much, including that Red Square is, sadly, closed due to national celebrations on the 9th — 16 years ago, it was closed, too, but for state reasons.)
Sixteen years ago, I was 16 years old. Young, naive, seeing the “outside” world for the first time. Sixteen years ago, the world was a different place, too. Communism is gone from the former Soviet states — and the Soviet Union is now more of a joke. (As witnessed by a goofy-looking restaurant near here called “CCCP”.)
I found myself standing in one of the rooms in the Hermitage yesterday, realizing that it was very different than the one I remember from 16 years ago. Spartan — a single large vase in the room, but the gold decor still intact. Memories of 16 years ago slammed into me like a hurricane — I actually felt younger.
In a way, I still feel like I did 16 years ago. The world is new, and there is much to see. I think that 16 years ago, I was also a lot more bewildered — age has tempered that, and I am now more able to handle the experience. But I’m glad I came here 16 years ago. I wouldn’t have the appreciation for St. Petersburg now if I’d stayed away. In a way, though, it’s hard to believe that it was only 16 years ago — it seems a lifetime away.
Well, I figure those of you playing the “16 years ago” drinking game should be suitably plastered. On that note, I’ll try to refrain from writing “16 years ago” as much from now on. (That, and refraining from remarking “the last time I was here…” with Amy, I’m sure she’s sick of hearing it.)