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Table of Contents

"I Know I Have Changed": Encounters with Zen in Japan

By Camelback to Timbuktu

The Seasons Come and Go:
Impressions of a Peace Corps Tenure in Ghana

Summerterm in Nepal:
More Than They Bargained for

To Russia, With Love

Learning Outside the Classroom: The FTAA Protests in Quebec City

"Yon ti dlo fret"
(A Little Cold Water)

Student Initiative

Memories of Afghanistan

Laurentians in the Peace Corps

SLU International Programs

Alumni Accomplishments

Class Notes

Magazine Cover

To Russia, With Love

By Tasha Hacker '99

Tasha Hacker was, since shortly after her graduation, a Peace Corps volunteer teaching English to students ages 9 to 16 in Nakhodka, Russia, a small port city on the Sea of Japan. An English (writing) major at St. Lawrence, she was a member of Kappa Delta Sigma sorority, the Outing Club and the English honorary, the Irving Bacheller Society; studied on St. Lawrence's London program; and was an intern in University communications. Here she reflects on her Peace Corps service as she prepared to return to America; she left Nakhodka on the Trans-Siberian Railway in late June, bound for several weeks of travel by train throughout Russia and northern Europe.

Today I bought an axe. This is, perhaps, a strange purchase, even in Russia. In any case, it isn't the usual sort of thing I take home on market day. I must have been a sight: an American woman wielding a sturdy instrument for man's work, meanwhile carrying all the ingredients for kitchen labor, woman's work. Smoked fish, whole, as long as my forearm, a warm loaf of bread, a slab of butter wrapped in paper, a jar of currant jam, and a bundle of sticks guaranteed by the babushka who sold them to me to give energy when boiled in tea and consumed. I guess the axe is a strange accessory.

I'm fooled into thinking I blend in well now, that this is why even with an axe slung over my shoulder, no one stares much. But, I know the natives of Nakhodka have simply grown accustomed to my strange presence. They're used to my habit of doing and saying bizarre things every day and so my strangeness has grown less extraordinary. Two years ago, everyone stared, pointed, nudged, whispered, and I wasn't even carrying an axe. It's true, I often wore sneakers, I never wore make-up, and I felt my backpack made a better receptacle for groceries than the awkward shopping sacks I saw pulling at the shawl-covered shoulders of women leaving the market every Saturday. Girls pointed at my feet and giggled; others eyed my L.L. Bean pack and whispered sentences that I heard but didn't understand, except for the intermittent "Amerikanka."

I think of what Richard Lipez said: "Whatever we were before, and none of us are quite sure, that's all gone." And I look at my axe made with wood that is "tough and weathered, like the Russian people themselves!" Perhaps I have lost some of my impatience, perhaps I have gained some tolerance, some understanding. What was there before isn't all gone, I know. It has simply mingled with what I brought with me to Russia two years ago.

The author, left, with friends from the United States, Mexico and Russia on a mountaintop near the site of her Peace Corps service, Nakhodka in the Russian Far East.