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June 9, 2013

We will leave Austin tomorrow for Russia. The flight to Moscow from JFK is 10 hours, followed by the 6 hours poking around Red Square. Finally, at 10 PM Moscow time we will board our flight to Abakan. With all the time zone differences, we will arrive there in the morning. After all of that, we will have a light day in Abakan, then drive to the yurt camp where we will spend 4 days. I will try to take photos along the way and post them when I can.

Orientation was really interesting today. We had discussions about finding authenticity in the places we will visit and what “authenticity” really means. One of the things that stood out to me was how what we call “culture shock” is actually a heightened sense of awareness of our surroundings. I will never make this trip again, even if I were to re-create the trip, I would already have some familiarity with the area, culture, people, weather, customs, etc. Because of that familiarity, I would not have that same hyper-sensitivity. So the question becomes how to utilize that to create an even more memorable trip.

Our group will bond quickly and includes some brilliant and funny people. Our sessions are lively and entertaining, full of discussions about geography, politics, and history, as well as stories and laughter. A few of the participants are very nervous about the time on the yurt camp, especially as we are likely to witness the slaughter of a sheep, which will then be made into a stew of questionable deliciousness. This is where we expect the food to be possibly unpalateable, but I am planning to eat whatever they put in front of me. For now.


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