Guess what!? I have almost-almost bought a flight home! …Also that sentence appears to suffer from significant Russian influence.

If all goes according to plan, I will fulfill three life goals over the course of the journey:

  1. See (some of) Turkey
  2. Fly Lufthansa
  3. Bring home valenki!

I guess it’s a little weird to dream of flying Lufthansa, but I’ve heard it’s great, and maybe-just-maybe they’ll speak German to me, which rarely happens on American-operated flights to Germany. But what I’m uncharacteristically excited about is that Lufthansa allows you to check TWO bags.

“But Kate,” you say, “Did you even bring anything other than a passport, a toothbrush, and a coat?” Not much, no. But, you see…well..the Russians say it’s better to see once than to hear a hundred times, so here you go:

These are not all of my books: Some of them are out of frame, and some of them were stashed around the room. And I’m not finished buying. I still need “Speak, Memory”, “And Quiet Flows the Don”, some trilogy by Tolstoy that everyone keeps saying is vastly preferable to “Anna Karenina” (but really, what isn’t?), a collection of fairy tales illustrated by Ivan Bilibin, something by Daniil Kharms (you may remember his story about the Thin-Necked Man) and, if there’s space, “Gulag Archipelago”. Oh, and some textbooks that I will pick up when I’m in Peter or Moscow. And ideally a Central Asian cookbook, but that might have to wait. 

Here’s an example of Bilibin for you:

Anyway. The fact that Lufthansa allows two bags on this flight is very helpful, because it means I don’t have to ship all those books home. AND it means that, if I find a big enough suitcase (Cary Beth, is this what your entire life is like?), I can fulfill wish #3 by bringing home a pair of these:

Valenki are great for a variety of reasons: they are comprised entirely of felt, make pleasant shuff-shuff and crunching noises on the snow, keep your feet ridiculously warm, and are associated with all kinds of pleasant winter village memories (we wore valenki when we went sledding in a kitchen-sink-cum-death-trap at Katja’s). Furthermore, they (or, more specifically, a song about them) served as the topic of my first Russian lesson in Cherepovets.

Want to listen? Of course you do. You can even join in the “Valenki! Valenki!” chant at the beginning, and then you’ll know how I feel about the Lufthansa luggage development. PLUS this singer is so, so Russian, with the arms and the little shuffle dance. Have you ever seen anyone lose themselves in a song about shoes? The Russians are a special breed, folks.

Refrain: Valenki, oh valenki,
Oh, poorly stitched, old

I can’t wear them
I don’t have anything go to my love in.


Oh, you Kolya, Kolya, Nikolai,
Sit at home, don’t go out
Don’t go to that end
Don’t bring rings for girls!


It would be better to mend the valenki
Than to give me a present.


People may judge me, God may judge me
How I loved:
I walked barefoot across the frost
To my love.


I bet if we ask nicely, we can get Anna Rose to sing this song with these guys.