Tag Archives: russia

nothing makes sense ever

Okay, so I haven’t posted in like three months. My profuse apologies. Forgive me while I vomit up a short list of my activities over the past several weeks, a.k.a. things I would advise you do while in Russia:

1) Make new friends on the street. Hang out with them for 14 hours at a time with no specified goals or plans. Be open to climbing through bogs, getting two-inch gel manicures, and watching badly dubbed American horror films at midnight at the theater.

2) Find and become a regular at a Turkish cafe called “Meat House,” but only if the M on the sign was clearly stolen from the McDonalds down the road during construction. The main goal: find wifi. If you find a Meat House in another country or without the McD’s signature symbol, enter at your own risk if you’re not into the whole gay club scene thing.

3) Start learning another foreign language on the side so that you don’t go completely insane.

4) Get into dance-offs with random strangers who sass you at the club. Because if you win. Well. There is no greater victory, my friend.

5) Find translating/editing work. Just don’t expect punctuality from your coworkers. Even if they expect punctuality from you. I still can’t figure out whether or not time is actually important in this culture. It seems like all the important things are left until the last minute, and really insignificant things are suddenly NECESSARY RIGHT NOW OR WITHIN FIVE MINUTES. With all due respect, Russia. Maybe some day all this will suddenly become crystal clear.

6) Do buy the entire No Doubt/Gwen Stefani discography for three dollah at the store. Don’t be too disappointed when it says that ‘The Sweet Escape’ is included and it isn’t. You can’t have everything in life, especially not in a country where all CDs are pirated, so get over it.

7) DON’T be afraid to say no to your Aunt when she keeps giving you food. Because no matter how many times you say no, she’ll give it to you anyway and expect you to finish it. And you will not be able to breathe afterward. Take an inhaler with you or something. I don’t know how to get avoid this one.

8) DON’T put bananas and triugolniki in the fridge together. Because banana-flavored pirozhki are like the most awkward taste I’ve ever experienced. It basically would have been better not to eat at all.

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Everything is much better now that the RHCP are on my iPod and now that I’m not as sick, but I also don’t have any food in my house except paté and chicken bullion and half of a pomegranate. 30rock isn’t quite as funny in Russian, but it works. I am переживаюing. I’ll post something more legitimate and more feeling later.

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Slacking, my new favorite hobby

I could be doing my lecture reading now, but I’m not. Usually I’d feel like I was committing a cardinal sin, but somehow Russia has a way of not caring about deadlines and rules and lets you slip past them too.

In fact, I’ve had a lot of psychological shifts occur in my mind almost completely unnoticed. After my shut-in, Mighty-Boosh-marathon weekend my psycho-emotional state has been pretty positive and pretty stable. But that doesn’t mean my mentality towards.. well, everything hasn’t already changed.

     

I’ve stopped caring about timing or deadlines. I mean, to an extent. Even three weeks in I was still breaking out in hives every time I was late to class, as Americans are programmed to think that punctuality is the definition of respect and, perhaps even more importantly, good business. But today I woke up to my alarm at 6 (I was somehow totally aware of my phone telling me it was «время просыпаться» but totally incapable of imagining that it had any practical bearing on my morning; I can’t even say I woke up thinking it was Sunday. I just have no idea what happened), shut it back off, and woke up after my first class was halfway through. Whoops.

I mean, yes, I wish I had been in class to review the grammar, but I also was just like “whatever” and made it in time for the second lesson. My host mom’s mother was supposed to come last night to insulate the windows for the winter. No show. But like I said, you stop caring anymore. Punctuality and timing are just not really that important. Even though on principle I of course agree that valuing time makes society more efficient, it’s funny how easily one can slide right in and change your values based on environment.

Similarly (and perhaps more disturbingly, depending on your perspective), gender. Gender Norms. I was at first really aware of the gender identities here. Like, painfully aware. As in the fact that women are “supposed to be” really effeminate and men are supposed to be somewhere along a scale of gentleman—macho—muzhik (although let’s try to stay away from that last one, please). For the first three weeks I was still in my normal, apparently very American mindset of “I’m a woman, and therefore I can do whatever I want and wear whatever I want and speak however I want and put together this shelving unit myself and carry all these heavy boxes unaided and be president of a massive company and it’s casual.” It was a bit uncomfortable seeing and hearing about young people going on dates and behaving along cultural norms that just seem so.. dated (no puns intended, I apologize). The whole flowers thing, the men always paying.. and not just that. Just the way the relationship dynamics tend to work. Reading Russian womens’ magazines and watching the tv—you begin to see very quickly that women are definitely seen as more attractive when they’re damsels in distress and cook really well, and that men should be protectors and decision-makers.
Of course these are generalizations, but I feel like I’m allowed to make them to convey the overwhelming cultural gap between here and home.

Regardless, this was all a bit uncomfortable at first. I’ve been raised in a household in which you’re treated like a person, not like a girl or a boy—and while no, I’m not gender-confused or anything, I definitely feel super out of place in situations where I’m supposed to play the “traditional female.” I like to cook, but not because I’m intentionally trying to play into some romanticized role of the happy housewife. Like, that’s cool if that’s what you want, but it just isn’t me.

So it came as a rather large shock when I was perusing some WDay.ru article the other day and started thinking according to Russian gender paradigms. “Yes, it would be rather nice if he had held the door open for me,” or, “Aw, that’s so sweet that he’s giving her flowers” (for some context, I am usually really freaked out by signs of affection like this because they seem totally contrived and cheesy), or, worst of all, “It might be kind of nice to have a relationship where I feel protected all the time.”

“It might be kind of nice to have a relationship where I feel protected all the time.”

“It might be kind of nice to have a relationship where I feel protected all the time.”

EXCUSE ME?? WHAT HAVE YOU DONE WITH THE NORMAL ME? WHAT DEVIL HAS SUCKED OUT YOUR NORMAL LIVING CRITERIA AND REPLACED THEM WITH SOMETHING THAT IS OTHERWISE UTTERLY REPULSIVE TO YOU?

I’m not really worried that this is an actual shift in mentality, but it was just super jarring and bizarre to have these thoughts actually cross my mind. Especially when I’d actually made a special note of the difference a couple weeks beforehand. So, feminist friends, worry not. It’s really whatever, I just wanted to talk about it. No Moscow Doesn’t Believe In Tears for me. At least, not at home. Everything will go back to normal once I’m back home.

I mean, almost everything. A wise friend told me that her semester in Spain taught her first and foremost to relax. Accurate. I feel like I have taken the highest concentration of chill pill ever. Like, without it actually being considered an opiate. I’ll probably talk more about this later, but right now I do kind of have a lot of reading to do, so I’ll post more later. Sorry I haven’t actually told any narratives about adventures yet, I’m getting there :/

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Filed under culture, Home, Studies