HAPPINESS

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Gergeti Chruch, Kazbegi, Georgia

The last time I was really happy, I was ice bathing in Finland. All my senses were present in the situation, busy figuring out what was happening with my body. Fascinated by the thousand unknown sensations and thoughts that triggered this experience, I was unable to ponder on the past or the future. It seemed meaningless to the here and now. I describe this state as happiness, but I am not sure if that's what it is. I was busy exploring the spectrum between pain and pleasure. Not necessarily a spectrum everyone is ready to explore.

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A NEW BEGINNING

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An abundance of mountain flowers, Kazbegi, Georgia

Georgia. The Caucasus begins here from one second to the next. At the place where my Russian taxi driver drops me off, the valley is broad, and the mountains look like adolescent boys. The border crossing to Georgia is one kilometre south in the notch of a mighty canyon. The three thousand meter high peaks rise in self-confidence on all sides and command awe. Instead of the military, the border is guarded by a monastery. There, I take my first break and congratulate myself on crossing the border. I have started to celebrate the small stages because sometimes the stretch in my head is so much wider than the kilometres, I physically travelled.

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PAKA RUSSIA

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Saying my goodbyes on the most beautiful river in the world, Samara, Russia

Russia! Time flies. For too long I looked at you without seeing you. Understanding my surroundings was hard work, and when I finally managed to get it, I had to leave. The huge black spot on my map, Russia, is now filled with anecdotes and ideas, people and life plans. I can contextualise prejudices and thus relativise them. I learned a lot.

For one last time, I feel the bustling of the Russian train tracks. We drive towards the mountains, slowly approaching Georgia. My head travels in the opposite direction, back into Russia. So much happened in this country. I finally began to understand. Some moments helped me to keep going. They are often small, quiet moments and perhaps that's why they stay so fresh in my mind.

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BALAKLAVA

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Balaklava, Crimea, Russia

Balaklava is a small seaside town, former military base and tourist paradise. Old gentlemen sit with hats in the harbour, hold their fishing rods into the turquoise water and call out to each other from time to time. The people here are beautiful, like the landscape they are masterpieces of time. In the harbour are yachts from America, Europe and Russia. As usual, the rich of this earth know exactly where it's worth living. The coast is mountainous and rugged. The land in this part of Crimea falls in cliffs into the blue sea. Yellow dry grass dances with cornflowers in the evening sun and the crickets sing their evening song.

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ESCAPING

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Khan Palace, Bakhchisaray, Crimea, Russia

After three weeks, I finally get a two-day break. Two of my colleagues bring the children back to Moscow, two more stay in the camp with me. Apart from us, two girls remain for the second round. Since they mostly long for sleep and good food, I sneak out on my own. At half past seven in the morning, I'm standing at the bus stop. I want to see more of this place.

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