So, to elaborate a little on my last post, I thought I’d share just a tad bit more about my camping experience a few weeks ago in the Russian wilderness…
Camping and I just don’t get along well. I prefer seeing nature through the protection of a window – protection from the insects. I am big and juicy, and every manner of mosquito, black fly, and anything with wings with a taste for flesh manages to find a spot on my skin and digs in for a delightful smörgåsbord.
Not having gone camping once since I was fourteen years old, I had hopes that this trip might be different. After all, Russia and America have been on decent terms with each other since the early 90s. Surely their mosquitos would welcome me with open arms just as the Russian people had. Just the same, following Ronald Reagan’s advice to “trust, but verify,” I went armed with the best deet bug spray I could find, and coated myself with that stinky armor ready to defend my pure, lily-white skin. The Russian mosquitos welcomed me alright – welcomed me with open teeth.
Ranging from teeny tiny to flies about the size of my head, my body became a living sacrifice to the whims of the wild. Due to the frequency of the swatting, I got to know the tone of the slaps on my body so well, that by the end of the camping trip I was able to flawlessly play Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture on my skin. This was strangely appropriate since that song was written to celebrate the 1812 defense of Russia against invading
mosquitos – I mean, Napoleon.
All humor aside, the trip did have many wonderful moments with friends old and new. The 50 or so other folks I camped with did indeed welcome me and showed me such incredible hospitality. The father of one friend graciously loaned me sleeping bags and a tent, one family saw my discomfort in not being able to sleep and loaned me an air mattress they had brought for swimming, while another family loaned me an extra sweatshirt as I was woefully unprepared for the drastic shifts in temperature, and the camp nurse graciously gave me a salve for my countless bug bites. Other folks did all the cooking, sometimes with a hot three-course meal which always helped distract from other discomforts. So yes, it was real camping away from the comforts of home, but with the generosity of others, it was an amazing six-day long experience.
Still, I’m not sure that needs to be repeated.