Tag Archives: travel

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

Writing, or “Why I’m Not Outside On A Beautiful Бабье Лето Day”

I was trying to figure out why it was so difficult for me to post anything about my excursions or experiences of the past several weeks, besides just my lack of time and my utter exhaustion at the end of every day (resulting in a 9:45pm bedtime. I’m pretty sure that’s earlier than my 6yo sister’s). I feel that there’s a time for the words to come, but right now is not it. Right now I’m just trying to take care of myself and my psyche, and this weekend is dedicated to figuring out just how to do that. And I’ve discovered something that everyone, it seems, already knew—that writing is the most helpful way to keep yourself together.

[My first instinct is to apologize for the fact that this post is not strictly about travel, but I’m not going to do that. This is, no matter what it is labelled, a personal blog; it is meant not only to document my experiences, but to allow me an outlet for my thoughts while I’m away from home. If you think it’s a waste of time to continue down the page or that it’s overly sentimental, you can leave. Besides, this post does concern travel and that horrible mood-swing sine curve that accompanies it.]

I never really understood the purpose of keeping a journal. I’d tried it, of course: I would keep up with it for a couple of weeks, rip out the pages, spend more time doodling than writing words, re-read my old entries with disdain and self-loathing and criticize the 11yo-Sophie’s “tone” and “style,” and all the while more and more empty journals that I’d received as Christmas and birthday presents were piling up on my bookshelf, unused and unloved, in my room. Half the reason I preferred drawing to reading was because I was so afraid to be ashamed of what I’d written later on, whether they were preteen feelings that would soon seem juvenile or stories that would, in hindsight, sound unsophisticated and utterly devoid of meaning.

I’ve since realized (or, more accurately, been taught by others) that all of this self-criticism and holding oneself to impossible standards is extraordinarily unhealthy and only leads to failure and an inability to improve at all. But this realization still didn’t allow me to understand why people write their thoughts down on a daily basis. Even though I knew how to journal, I didn’t understand why I should. And “why” has always been an important question for me. If I can’t see the purpose, it’s hard to bring myself to care. (This explains all of my grades in Econ.)

And finally, this morning, I took out my most recent notebook purchase and spilled at least six pages’ worth of my consciousness onto its pink, flowery pages. I understand now—not just know intellectually—but understand why people write. A journal is a way to articulate your ideas, to converse with something that will listen when you have no one else, to write down your confessions, suspicions, and fears (and right now, of course, I have a lot of those) without threat of judgment, to organize the thoughts that are strewn messily about your brain, and to build an arsenal of verbal reinforcements to strengthen yourself and power through the day, or week, or even the next couple of hours. (Tori Amos also helps with this. And not thanks to Spotify, which won’t work since I’m not in the US anymore and which refuses to let me change my country profile.) When people say they “write because they have to,” it’s not because the god of written word is compelling them to drag their pen across the page. It’s because they would go insane if they didn’t transfer the words from brain to paper.

So now I understand why people write. And maybe, after writing this post, I will be able to gather the thoughts in my head and finish writing about something that’s probably more interesting to the rest of you. But this weekend I’ve had to slow life down to a crawl and spend it inside, drinking tons of caffeine and still sleeping all day, doing my homework, and watching Sherlock in Russian on Yandex (praise that glorious search engine, it has everything). Because, even though the weather is beautiful and golden and warm, I need some time indoors by myself to process everything that’s going on here and remember why I came. Because I’m starting to slip into a not-so-happy place because of the underlying stress of being here and the fact that I’m essentially all alone, and I need to take care of my mind and not just assume that it can keep running at a sprint just because I haven’t had a mental breakdown or anything dramaetic yet.

So for now I will keep watching Гарри Поттер and Как я встретил вашу маму (thanks Prof. Lyles, this show is fabulous) and consuming lots of tea and prianiki (gingerbread).

(Sarah, you’d be so proud of my lifestyle choices. Haha.)

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