As I crossed the half-way point of my stay, I was all poised to publish an article on the various pros and cons of both living in Russia and away from home when something forced a rethink: I fell ill.
Nobody likes being unwell, I understand this; but there is something innately worse about sickness in a foreign sick-bed. You’re not quite sure what to do. You’re not quite sure who to turn to.
At 4:30am, following an enjoyable Thursday of cinema, school and sushi, I awoke to a series of stomach cramps and a high temperature. As the pain in my abdomen grew worse and I found myself unable to rest or sleep, I began to panic.
I am no stranger to sore stomachs; over the years I have had more than my fair share of nauseous nights and queasy mornings. However, a sharp pain that seemed to worsen as the morning wore on, the discomfort became almost unbearable whenever I tried to lie down.
At 10am, after a few hours spent kneeling over my sofa as if in prayer, I texted one of the school’s teachers to let them know that I wasn’t going to make it in that day. Thankfully, a timely issue with my internet connection meant that I couldn’t scare myself further by Googling my symptoms.
In case I received a worried visitor or a summoned doctor, I dragged myself into the shower and immediately started to feel better. As my phone lit up with worried messages from the rest of the staff, I returned to bed and tried to put their minds at ease before I finally fell asleep, exhausted.
It was genuinely scary, and I don’t think I have ever felt so alone or in pain. While there was help to call on if I really needed it, I still felt completely cut off from the comfort and convenience which comes with having NHS24 on call and a Boots Pharmacy just down the road. I realised that it wasn’t Starbucks or Sainsburys that I missed most, but the security of living in Scotland.
After a day in bed, losing track of the time as I drifted in and out of consciousness, I decided to venture out for fresh air and to replenish my water supply at the shop just down the road. By the time I was dressed for the weather I was almost ready for my bed again, and what felt like the longest walk ever was rendered almost pointless when I accidentally bought sparkling water from a clerk who spoke no English and a store that kept all of its stock out of reach behind the counter.
But it’s over. Or almost over, at least. I have slept and drank and eaten, and the discomfort has diminished almost completely. There is still a tightness in my stomach, which seems to have spread to my side, but it is bearable and not exactly paracetamol-proof.
One month to go.
Apocalypse pending, obviously.