Success and Awkwardness – The Emotional Rollercoaster That is Living in Moscow

For me, life in Moscow is an emotional roller coaster; a series of ups and downs usually based on my comfort level in a given situation. Most often, my comfort level depends on my command of the Russian language that day – yes, that changes…Every. Day. My comfort level can also be dictated by the amount of confidence I have in the moment. These levels and moments shift quickly. One minute I am so proud of myself for navigating the metro maze, until I ask for directions above ground and realize I went to the completely wrong metro stop. Or the days I am ‘owning’ living in Moscow only to be belittled to nothing by a cashier because I can’t give her a 10 rouble coin to make the change easier (or worse, when I give a coin thinking it will help make change, and I’m totally wrong). As if I purposefully planned to ruin her day by not having the 10 roubles – like I would intentionally put myself into a situation where I have to apologize profusely and wish I could just disappear or fear one of the 45 unnecessarily staffed security guards will shoot me on the spot. Ok, maybe it’s not that bad. (yes…it is).

Yesterday started as a success story. My last post described my disaster of an attempt at making rice krispy treats for my volunteer group. Fortunately, I was able to find American marshmallows and started all over again.

The rice krispy treats were new to everyone and loved by all. I drizzled mine in chocolate which makes them more fun and cool and complicated looking. Right?

…Just say yes.

In my explanations on how I made the rice krispy treats I learned a couple new words for my ever expanding Russian-culinary vocabulary. There were volunteers there that I hadn’t met yet, and since it was obvious I wasn’t from around here it sparked some major interest. One girl was digging my accent. Everyone asked the usual questions: “How do you know Russian?”, “Were you born here and then moved to America?”, “Where is it better – Moscow or America?”, “How is life in America?”, “Are there many Russians there?”, “Are there any 100% Americans who are Orthodox Christian?”, “Does the Orthodox youth get together a lot?”, “Who are you voting for, Obama or Romney?” (I could have an F.A.Q. post for questions we get asked in Russia). A new question last night was if newspapers are really delivered by little boys on bikes.

The evening was ending very successfully. I was interacting with people a lot and making new friends. I also got to spend some quality time with an old volunteer friend over some tea after everyone had left. She’s been super busy and we haven’t had a chance to catch up. Even though I was happy with my previous conversation, it was nice being able to talk more in depth. Not about the usual “Oh cool, you are from America” stuff, but more girl-chat stuff. I left the church (where we cook for the homeless) thinking I was completely in control. That I am totally awesome at living abroad.

It was slurrying outside and totally gross so I decided to try to find a cab/car to take me home. I saw a car stopped at a red light with an orange box thing on its roof. Preferring a legit cab over a gypsy cab I ran up to the guy’s window and started waving. He didn’t see me right away so I started waving more frantically to get his attention before the light turned green. He rolled down the window and I asked him to take me to my apartment on Noviy Arbat. Only I started the sentence weird and then said Noviy Arbat in a total accent. I have an accent, I know, but not nearly as bad as the one that came out. Oh no, here comes the awkward downfall after the successful evening. I can feel it.

The guy was nice enough, but shook his head and shrugged his shoulders and said (in Russian), “There’s a police man behind me.” There was indeed a cop car behind him, but I thought it was weird that he wouldn’t take me. Maybe there’s a rule if you’re stopped at a light. Perhaps he feared the cop would bust him for something made up by letting me in the car. I had no idea, so I just ran back to my friend (who was responsibly waiting to make sure I got into a cab). I told her he said no because of the cop behind him. We started to look out for another cab when the light turned green and the guy pulled up to the curb. “Oh look, he’s going to drive you,” my friend said. So I quickly walked back to the corner and got into his car. Only to realize the policeman was coming up to his window. He didn’t take me because he was in the middle of getting pulled over. And he didn’t drive up to the curb for me. And I was in his car. And now how am I supposed to sneak out of his car without him realizing I got into it??? Giving up on not being noticed I jumped out of his car and started to run like a lunatic. Once you (I) feel awkward, it’s all downhill from there. I caught up to my friend who hadn’t gone far and we tried again to find a cab. Then the pulled over guy started waving me over and said he would in fact take me as soon as the police finished their business. So I got back in the car. And waited. After about 10-15 minutes and after paying off the police 1000 roubles, the cabbie was ready to take me home! I guess I could have just gotten out and tried for another cab that wasn’t pulled over, but it was warm in the car and I was already beyond awkwardness redemption anyway.

The cabbie rightly guessed that I was foreign…duh. Once I said America he guessed California. I would like to think it’s because of my nice smile and wavy hair that he guessed right, but I think California is one of maybe two states people in Russia know. I did tell him that I now live in New Jersey (which is near New York, to reference state 2 of 2 for Russians).

I laughed away my awkwardness the rest of the ride. We chatted about the hurricane on the East Coast , America in general, and the Russian police. And I think I nailed it in the end by saying, “Drive carefully” (in Russian) before jumping out of the cab.

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6 Responses to “Success and Awkwardness – The Emotional Rollercoaster That is Living in Moscow”

  1. So what do they all say in responses to your answers to our community in CA or NJ? It would be interesting to hear what they have to say!

    • Some/Most are surprised that we do have groups of youth and parishes in general. When I talk about Russian dancing and charochka they are shocked – they don’t do that here (that’s something of ‘Old Russia’ that we held on to). They are interested to know that we have Russian Schools and events and parish families. In the city here you don’t really get as much of a ‘parish family’ as you do back home. However, they are much more organized with their youth gatherings, they do a LOT more social work and missionary work. There is a lot we can learn from each other.

  2. Оля, так грустно и стыдно читать о тех проблемах, с которыми ты сталкиваешься, в особенности про наше хамство. Действительно очень неприятно, когда на тебя ругаются, а такое происходит постоянно. К этому можно только привыкнуть. Если тебя это утешит, могу сказать, что гораздо тяжелее, когда на тебя орет и унижает тебя какой-нибудь мелкий чиновник, которому ты принес не ту бумагу, справку или что-то не так оформил. С таким приходится сталкиваться в государственных учреждениях при оформлении документов, в поликлиниках, в учебных заведениях. С другой стороны, нужно понять, что все это происходит из-за трудностей в жизни самих этих людей, которые ведут себя невежливо. Мы все, как и ты, живем в этой реальности roller coaster (по-русски – американских горок). К тому же, мы не привыкли скрывать свои эмоции и эмоциально открыты. Плохая сторона этого – невежливость, грубость, драки. Хорошая – верная и глубокая дружба, возможно, некоторая способность к самопожертвованию ради другого человека. Хотя, возможно, это просто мои домыслы и слишком широкие обобщения в попытке как-то оправдать ту реальность, в которой мы живем.

    • Spasibo, Lusya. Ya uzhe nemnoshko privikayu ili starayus nye obrachats vnimaniye. No v Moskve yest stolko horoshovo i ya ochen nadayus shto moyi slova tebya lichno nye obideli! Ya sloglasno s toboi – osobeno pro “vernaya i glubokaya druzhba” kotoroye ya vizhu u vseh vas!

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