This place has died a slow and mourn(less) death, Kandinsky’s reproductions strewn across the table, stretching under book weights, and outside the balcony is holding fort to what might seem, was once a stubborn sunset. The monstrous, hunch-back shapes of candles (halfway through burning time) give off warmth that’s almost too much.
It’s nice to be back (in Hamburg/in my apartment/in my own –autonomous—space). In an uncharacteristic fit of organization, I’ve even unpacked to sort out my closet in a decent manner, color coordinated, short sleeves to long sleeves and such.
One week. And then – for sure, off to the sweaty heat of Dar es Salaam – and if it’s anything like Zanzibar, or Singapore, it will be intense. The sheet of sweat that permanently coats your skin makes you think of perpetual detox and pore-cleansing, and takes a lot out of you, especially, if one wants – as I do – maintain any shred of recognizable dignity.
Dignity. Haha. I spent the last two weeks in Chernivtsi, a quaint town in the Western-most part of Ukraine, that’s seen the rise and fall of at least five empires over the last couple of hundred years, with pipes (of the water utility we are working with) built by the Austrians – a matter of great pride – under the web of broken cobblestone that’s sole purpose is to trip you up.
My Deputy Team Leader – because it’s our second project together — right from the time we were scouring landfills in Poltava – had his 47th birthday – remarkably young and fit for his age (would that be considered an ageist statement?) — smoldering black eyes, some Tatar blood there, no doubt, strong cheekbones and a willful forehead, framed by (unexpectedly) gray hair – spoke of dignity and nobility, and I was not quite sure, if he meant it – my seeming inability to wholeheartedly laugh at a vulgar joke.
The most remarkable of all, of course — as it’s my second time in Chernivtsi, snow-ridden as I remember it, the toll of bells across the tiny 19th century street, lampposts like something out of a Narnia novel, the softly falling snow, and the feeling of my icy fingers in your (barely warmer) hand – now that blue azure sky, unspoilt, cloud-less, save for one finger-painted cloud across the horizon, above the Central Square.
The train ride there – because I’d rather take a 4 hour train than take an extra flight – was something delicate, of things and circumstances unappreciatively coming together – the empty row of seats, the quietly falling dusk, the slowly descending buzz of fatigue – from travelling all day – blended with the steady unfailing rumble of the wheels…