Kamchatka. I bet you read the word over a second time. I can almost see your facial expression. The frown, the puzzlement. Where the heck is Kamchatka? It’s okay to say it aloud. You can’t know everything. I hear this question ten times a day whenever I travel abroad.
Kamchatka is that funny little appendix fastened to the very end of Russia, riiight across the ocean from Alaska. It’s six hundred kilometers of not-so-passable roads and then… then it’s just wilderness. Kamchatka is home to a number of wild species and live mountains of surpassing beauty. It is also my home. I guess it sounds like a pretty exotic place to grow up. The very edge of the world. But of course, that depends on your starting point on the map.
My name is Katia and I’m an English-and-German teacher by education, IT specialist by choice and interpreter and guide in the tourist season. I live in one of the three bigger cities in Kamchatka, which is also a closed military base. It’s pretty secret. You’d be hard pressed to find it on google maps and they check your pass every time you enter or exit the city. Foreigners aren’t allowed in at all.
Otherwise it’s just a regular place to live, with busy life of a provincial town. And the nature around is stunning. Of course, this is Kamchatka, after all.
I get up at 7 on most work-day mornings. Ever since I moved to this base I live right next to my work place. No more commuting an hour and a half one way just to get to work. I got three hours of my life back when I got here. You have no idea how much time that is until you get it returned. Two years later I still marvel the miracle of being able to have lunch at home.
It takes me just ten minutes to walk to the hospital. From 8 a.m. till 5 p.m. I teach doctors to work with a computer here. All the work with patients is supposed to be computerized. It may not sound like much to some of you, but here it’s a big deal. Some of the doctors I work with have never even handled a computer mouse in their life. Some have never turned a computer on before. Most are unhappy at having to learn, some are resentful of the technology. I urge and cajole all morning, with varying degrees of success. At 1 p.m. is the lunch time.
If the weather is fine, I always go outside for lunch. That said, weather in Kamchatka in November doesn’t provide much room for walks. But whenever it’s possible, I like to stroll around the town in my free hour. The hospital is located right beside a picturesque hill. They call it “kolduniha”, “the witch”. They say, whenever the top of the hill gets covered by snow, winter begins. Days are crisp as late-autumn apple, but there’s no snow on top yet. Winter is taking its time this year.
It’s back to the work mode after lunch. I roam around the doctors’ offices, getting some anger from the people queuing outside. This happens every time. They don’t believe I’m not here for an appointment, I’m here to make their appointment work. Sometimes it’s overwhelming, but most days I just shrug it off.
Evenings are the best time. I get off work at five p.m. and enjoy those 3 hours of returned commuter-time. Some days I like to go to Petropavlovsk, the main city of Kamchatka, and see my friends. Some days I stay home and go in for one of my more passionate hobbies – arts and crafts. I create quiet books, toys, or ornaments from felt, make soutache-and-polymer clay bracelets. Sometimes I get inspiration from the place I live. My last felt quietbook was Kamchatka themed. The best of my homeland recreated in felt.
As the day ends I watch the last pinkish hues of fading sunlight hit “the witch” mountain. For a moment, “the witch” is bathed in all shades of red and orange. And it’s stunning. If you live to be a hundred years here, Kamchatka never ceases to amaze.