Carl Yirka, a long-time Vermont Law School professor and friend, passed away over the weekend, after a long battle with cancer. Carl was a wonderful human being, a great friend and colleague during my time at VLS, and a witty travel companion extraordinaire. In addition to the time I spent with him on matters related to the VLS China program, one of my fondest memories with him dates back to a 1999 trip to Petrozavodsk, Russia. It was right around the summer solstice, and we were there for a short environmental law teaching stint. We arrived into St. Petersburg on a flight from the US. After a full day exploring St. Petersburg, the evening/night-time van ride to Petrozavodsk was one of the most memorable (but also bizarre) trips that I have ever experienced. Since it was the summer solstice and since St. Petersburg is located at a relatively high northern latitude (approximately the same as Anchorage, Alaska), daylight lasted almost 24 hours. Driving during these “White Nights” basically meant traveling through a rural landscape where people were doing gardening, recreation, and other activities at a time when everyone would ordinarily be asleep. For the entire 4-5 hour drive there, the driver kept telling us that we were about to arrive even though it would be hours longer. The road seemed to go on forever, and the sun kept hovering around the horizon but never set. It was an experience that could have come straight from a Twilight Zone episode. And to cap it all off, when we arrived, we had a full Russian dinner with our hosts at around midnight.
I am really going to miss him.