This week is my last proper week of lectures before exams begin. I’m not too worried because I’ve done surprisingly well in the mid-term exams and even if I mess up in the finals it’ll balance out. As far as Brookes is concerned anything beyond a pass is just a bonus.

I’m getting a strange feeling that the closer I am to returning to Oxford the more I miss it. A few months ago when I had only just arrived I barely thought of home, I looked forward to living in Kazakhstan. Now I’ve grown used to being here. I miss being able to chat casually with people. I can’t properly speak Kazakh, or Russian, and it’s frustrating that I can’t really communicate.

As I’m writing this there are intermittent power cuts: every few minutes the electric heater and the lights flicker on and off. My laptop screen illuminates the desk. The room plunges into freezing darkness, then the light and warmth returns, again and again. I miss having an uninterrupted electricity supply. The guards in the university dorm told me off for walking barefoot in the corridors. Fair enough, but it reinforces the sense that I’m not really comfortable here, it’s not my living space.

I’ve watched both versions of Solaris by now, and I’m slightly haunted by the idea that my memory of home is somehow distorted. Is Oxford going to be the same as I remember it? I won’t be the same.

In the meantime I’m methodically observing a daily routine, preparing for the winter exams. When they’re over I’m going to Shymkent with Michael. I really wanted to see Baikonur but I’m convinced I won’t be able to get into the city. This way I’ll get to see rural Kazakhstan, which will be a change as so far I’ve mostly seen cities.

Despite my original intentions to live out of my backpack I’ve accumulated extra baggage. I’ve got an electric heater, a plate, two bowls, three spoons, a mug, boots, a jacket, second gloves, a hat, some copybooks, more pens, and a few other things. I tried to send some shorts back home by post on Friday, it would have cost me ₸7000. It’s far too expensive so I’ll probably leave some things behind.