I’m in Russia and I’ve finally settled down to write and reignite this blog. I was going to say that I’ve been overwhelmed by it all and I needed to gather my thoughts before writing, but I really just didn’t have internet for a few days, and I’ve been napping a lot… and the hot water just came on last night so I’ve been taking baths instead of blogging! (Yes, sometimes the hot water gets shut off for weeks at a time in Russia during the summer. I was prepared for this because of my stay in Petersburg, where my host mother Galina didn’t allow me to take cold showers because she felt strongly that it was not healthy for women. But this experience did introduce me to the banya, and that was a gift. Anyway, I coped with a mixture of cold showers and heating water in my borrowed chainik– that’s my electric teapot– for some spongebathing fun).
I want to start with some thoughts about what it’s like to come to a different country alone. It made me feel intrepid and also nervous and just rather lonely on my flight over, and I wondered if I was going to be okay by myself. When I arrived in the Sheremyetyevo airport in Moscow after a ten-hour flight on Finnair I felt really intimidated… everything there had such an official, unfriendly, imposing air, and airline workers were dressed in military-looking uniforms and did everything without smiles. It was very disorienting! Then I got my passport stamped (here it’s time to thank my visa expediting service, because it turns out that I cut things really close and didn’t leave much time between receiving my letter of invitation and my plane ticket) and made it to the other side, and Misha and Tanya from my work were waiting for me with a homemade salami sandwich.
It’s exciting to be if just for the fact that everything’s in Russian. After working on the language for four years, I’ve come to a place where everything I see and hear is going to be interesting and challenging just because it’s in Russian. And because it’s Russia. It’s a land of fascination. So on the way to the school, drifting in and out of sleep, I saw dense forests of tall birch trees (reminding me of the birch forests that are always in 19th century Russian literature) and big-box stores and Chryslers and Fords sharing the highway with beat-up Ladas and Zhigulis and billboards advertising furniture and warning, “if you’ve had a drink, don’t get behind the wheel!” (By the way, you speak with strangers and most acquaintances with the formal “you” вы (vy), but ты (ty), the informal “you” is used for speaking to close friends, children, and God. Advertisements address you with ты).
Misha and Tanya took me to my apartment at the school. If you can believe it, I have all to myself an apartment with two bedrooms and a kitchen and bathroom… it’s so spacious that I asked for a roommate (what, my boss said to me, you don’t want a room for a study or anything?) but I don’t know if that will pan out. There’s a TV with a bunch of Russian channels (most of which is dubbed-over educational TV imported from the US, but I did find an awesome Jerry Springer style show today called пусть говорят! or Let Them Speak! They bring people who are in crises and have them yell at each other, and then dumpy middle-aged Russian women in the audience will get up and hold forth in righteous indignation on what must be done). There’s also a box on the wall that appears to be a radio, but I only turned it on once, and some really bad music came out. Outside is a green view of sandboxes, swings and some forest.
Despite my first feelings of loneliness, I’ve been well taken care of so far here, and I think it’s a Russian thing. The woman who’s been in contact with me from the educational organization that hired me came and brought me a big bag of fresh fruit and chocolate and is always asking my boss here if I’m eating and sleeping. Misha and Tanya gave me a little tour around Moscow, and then took me to the McDonald’s near the Tretyakov Gallery (because that’s how they figured they’d feed an American, or…) and my boss took me to Zvenigorod so I could get some better food than what was in the village shop (someone I met here described the village shop as strashno— frightening. So it wasn’t just me).
Anyway, this is just the beginning, there’s much more to report, but I’ve got to rest and get up tomorrow for a teacher’s meeting. (I thought it was today but didn’t know when, so I napped in my skirt and buttondown shirt just in case). Sweet dreams, because it’s midnight here,