*I have another post in the hopper, but am struggling to finish it, so I'm going to leave you a little story of my early days in Moscow. I have a few of these stories floating around on my hard drive that I may pull out and share along the way.
I arrived at Sheremetyevo II in
Moscow late in the evening, exhausted and jet lagged after
more than 24 hours in transit due to a six hour layover in .
I had more luggage than I could hope to manage by myself, but somehow I
managed to clear customs without a hassle or a cart. I had been given to understand that someone
from the University would be picking me up at the airport. In my naïveté, I assumed that someone would
speak some English. Wrong. I got a Georgian with a handful of English
words who didn’t know how to put them in a sentence. It was muggy and smoky in the city—peat fires
from the countryside kept smoke rolling over the city for weeks after. There was the familiar smell of Warsaw , and the sights and
sounds denied me for four years. Moscow
When we arrived at my apartment in the south central part of the city (a part completely unknown to me) he helped me with my luggage and bade me farewell. I stood looking around my little apartment that I had arranged to let from some friends who had worked my job in the previous academic year. They had promised that the fridge and cabinets would be stocked for me when I came (I had paid someone to do this) and that everything would be reasonably clean.
Well, the apartment was clean, but there were two lonely pears and two slices of something that looked like ham in the fridge and that was it. Someone had thoughtfully placed flowers on the table, but you can’t eat those. It was too late for me to be hungry, so I just rummaged through my luggage to find my nightgown and crawled into bed after a quick phone call to the States to let my mother know I had arrived safely.
I woke up the next morning lost. I didn’t know where I was in the city, I had no rubles and was terrified to leave my apartment for fear that I wouldn’t be able to find it again. I wasn’t precisely sure of the address and Russians are notorious for giving bad directions or making up directions if they don’t know. So I waited. I had a vague notion that someone was supposed to phone me—I remembered Valery saying something about it when he dropped me off the previous night. I started unpacking my things, feeling sick in my stomach. After what seemed a lifetime, someone from the college where I was to work phoned late in the day and offered a brief tour of the area. Larry came by and took me out for an hour, showing me where I could change money, but little else.
I went back to my apartment and was left alone for four days—no phone calls, no visits, nothing. A stranger in a strange land. I kept forgetting to eat, and couldn’t face the bare fridge with those two pathetic little pears and the weird looking ham slices. I was homesick, jet lagged, and afraid to leave my apartment. I woke up sobbing each of those four days and wondered what I had been thinking, joining an organization that didn’t do a thing to ease an expat into the city or the culture. My previous experience in
hadn’t prepared me for this in the least.
The loneliness was the worst—days and weeks stretched out before me with
nothing in them, and I was very afraid.
Larry had placed the fear of God in me about being out at night by
myself and I didn’t know what I would do when it started getting dark at in the afternoon. I didn’t know anyone in the city and I didn’t
know my part of the city at all. I knew
my way around downtown and the immediate surround, but I couldn’t even figure
out how to get a bus to the Metro, much less get downtown on it. I felt as though I were drowning and didn’t
know how to come up for air. The Russian
part of my brain had gone on strike and my fear was eating me up. I remember the day I ate the last of the
pears. I thought, now I have to leave
and make my way and hope for the best.
It was with great trepidation that I locked my apartment after those
four days, and went out in search of food. Russia