Roman Goes… Back to Russia
June 26, 2007
Roman flew back to Russia a week ago, today, and arrived safely last Thursday– 18 hours in the air, and about that many in airport layovers. He arrived back in Orenburg at 3AM. He called me on Friday, and I’ve had emails from him. Yesterday I bought a phone card and called him– midnight my time, 10AM his time. He said he’d been having trouble sleeping, and wasn’t interested in eating. As far as I recall, that was the way he felt the first week he was here- and I’ve always heard that jet lag is worst going COUNTER-clockwise around the earth. He’s also feeling depressed, he says, because his friends have changed in some ways that he doesn’t like. And Russians, he says, seem rude and mean compared to Americans. So I think he’s feeling some homesickness for Franklinville.
I’ve been putting off posting some of our last activities together, at first because we were so busy getting him ready to go, and then because I’ve been adjusting to not having Roman around , myself. My house certainly does seem bigger and quieter without him, and his friends.
He didn’t have to take exams (though he took pre-Calculus anyway, so he would have the practice when he takes it at home this summer), so he spent much of the last week of school taking pictures of Eastern Randolph to share with his Russian schoolmates. He also documented my house , and my livestock , and Mother’s house.
On Thursday the 7th, Roman had to be at Graduation at 4:30, and Mother and I went at 5:00- it was very hot, and very crowded. I had already spent the morning doing the History of Randolph County class for the 33 people in the Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership Randolph, so I was already wiped out. Graduation was on the football field (appropriate for the state champions, I guess!). Elizabeth Mitchell, her god-daughter Nikki, and Maxine Wright came to watch.The band played, the graduates marched , and the valdictorians spoke. Roman was given a present by the senior class (a set of #24 Jeff Gordon beer glasses- something to remember NASCAR by, no doubt). It was a happy time, meeting his teachers and seeing his friends and their families. We made it to the Mexican restaurant in Asheboro in time to get served, and Charlene Edgerton, the district representative of the exchange program, met us there to give Roman his certificate of completion and his airplane tickets home. Another kind of graduation present.
That Saturday Roman went to Lake Jordan with Tyler Milliner and his brother Gary and their boat. Roman evidently learned to water ski pretty well for his first time out. They and their friends had a LOT of fun, if only gauged by their Class A sunburn- both Roman and Tyler being too macho to put on sunscreen. The next Tuesday Roman went to Carowinds with his band friend Andy Augustyne and his family, and they really loved that. Roman took loads of pictures of the rides and roller coasters to show his friends back home. the one ride he thought was scary was the “Drop Zone”– and ironically, that’s the one that was shut down this week, after a similar ride in Kentucky seriously injured a teenage girl.
Wednesday afternoon I decided on the spur of the moment (nothing important being on the work calendar), that we’d drive down to Jill’s house at Morehead City so he could have one last beach experience. I had to be back Saturday to speak at the Magna Carta luncheon at the country club, and he had to pack, so it was a long whirlwind trip- and we were back Friday night late.
There were a lot of ‘last times’ the next few days, as there eventually had to be after so many first times this past year. His last night at my house was actually Sunday night, as we spent Monday night at our friends Alex and Kay Rogozhin, so that we’d be near the Raleigh airport in time to eat breakfast and get him through security. It was hard for me to watch him go; we waited through all the bag searches and shoe searches and etc., until he turned out of sight walking to the gate. Alex and Kay got me to spend the day with them, to cushion the separation anxiety, but it was still hard to know that my year of fatherhood was at an end. It was a great experience for me; for us both, I think. My friend Greg said that both of us “won the lottery” in this exchange- I got a student as smart and flexible and open as could be asked for; he got a father who’d treat him like a son, not a tourist, and show him everything great about America.
For weeks everyone has been saying I’d be looking at feeling the “empty nest syndrome”– lost, depressed, dislocated from our old routine. And that has been true. But I guess that’s the price of investing 100% in the experience, and I certainly don’t regret that. I just hope I’ll get to Russia some day, and that he’ll come back to visit some day. For now, I just look forward toward feeling like going back into Roman’s side of my house! I haven’t even opened the door there since he left- it already feels lonely enough.