Admirals and Army Knives

Dosvedanya! I’m writing to you from 1500 feet above the Ukraine, where the sun is shining and the sea of clouds below is literally just that: a sea. It looks like choppy water. And this is also the first post from my new iPad, courtesy of Durham’s International Office. Three words into this post and it’s actually trying to predict every word I write next with little to no prompt. Give this gizmo a couple of weeks and it’ll have my writing style memorised so well that it’ll be writing these entries for me. Scary stuff.

Back to the present! It’s been a most interesting adventure already. No hitches at Gatwick, which isn’t exactly a first, although there was a little trouble over Andrew’s Swiss Army knife, which he’d left in his hand luggage. For some reason they allowed him to keep it, though sadly it didn’t survive the less forgiving Ukrainian customs. I should explain, there hasn’t been a sudden change of plan – our flight to Jordan involves a layover at Borispol-Kiev. We – that is, the five Arabists that make up the British Council team – are all heading for Amman together, though how things will pan out at the other end remains to be seen (you’ll be reading this in retrospect, naturally, as there’s no wifi on the plane). Looking around, we’re also definitely the ethnic minority on this flight. I’m hearing snatches of Arabic conversation on all sides. It’s great – and just a taste of what’s to come.
But it wasn’t an Arab with whom I had my first encounter, but an admiral from Odessa. He needn’t have shown me his credentials (needless to say he did and did so with boyish pride), the many colours pinned to his uniform and a large golden badge in the shape of a star were hard to miss. He didn’t speak much English and my Russian is limited to the few words I picked up from Fiddler on the Roof, but he was eager to try, and told me in limited words (and unlimited hand gestures) about his time as Chief Officer of a Soviet submarine crew, traveling the world over from Venice to Swansea, Calcutta, Djakarta, Los Angeles and beyond. He even told me a tale of a 75k fish he’d caught once, but that might just have got lost in translation somewhere down the line. Kind of sad to see him go, really.

It’s getting dark outside. Just a sliver of light on the horizon. When last I checked we were somewhere over the Black Sea, but it’s too dark to see now. I’m only a little concerned about the technicalities at the other end; namely, getting a Jordanian visa, some local currency, and finding wherever it is we’re supposed to be living in for the next few months. Que sera sera, inshallah etc. At the end of the day, at least I’m not alone. And that’s probably the most encouraging thing.

Oh hang ten – here comes food!

Mm-mm. That certainly filled a corner. Not sure whether the ham salad was such a good idea on a flight bound for Jordan in the first week of Ramadan, though. See you In Amman! BB x


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