(In?)convenient Truths

Ok, time for a moment of honesty: Everyone has bad days. Even in Russia (maybe especially in Russia?). Even me. Yes, my life is usually full of sunshine and wonder, harmony and happiness. But it’s hard to be so very far away from all the people and places you know and love for such a long time; it’s hard to be a teacher without any training or experience; and it’s hard to live in Siberia. It’s a real challenge sometimes. But Russian does not have a word that means “challenge” in the American sense. And sometimes even my iron-clad optimism is bound to crack—if only for a minute.

You don’t always need a reason or a traumatic event to cause a bad mood. Sometimes you just want it to be above freezing outside; sometimes you just want to be able to walk recklessly, without fear of falling with each step; sometimes you just want to be back in Wooster living with your friends; sometimes you just want to eat a huge super-sized feast that someone else cooked just for you; sometimes you just want to cuddle up with your cats and dogs; sometimes you just want to poke your brother or high-four your dad; sometimes you just really want a peanut butter and jelly sandwich; sometimes you just wish you could talk to another American face-to-face, be yourself, tell a joke; sometimes you’re tired of being a foreigner; sometimes you hate doing lesson plans; sometimes you just want to talk to your good friend (whom you haven’t spoken to in almost two months); sometimes you just can’t shake the cold even inside; sometimes you just feel lonely for no reason at all; and sometimes you feel all of this at once and just want to cry.

But then it always gets better. Sometimes all it takes is some chocolate, Harry Potter on TV, and a Skype call with your whole family or with that friend you’ve been missing so badly, and your whole day turns around. Настроение улучшилось. And that’s the truth: every once in a while, even I have bad days, but things always get better.

So now I have a kind of funny story for you, dear readers. At the time it was a little scary and very twilight-zone-y, but now it’s a nice little anecdote. You may have gathered that many people here are surprised to learn that I am not Russian but American. But on Friday, for the first time, I met someone who downright refused to believe that I’m a foreigner.

This meeting was an accident, a mistake. It was dark, and I was waiting on the Elevator (a popular spot downtown) for my friend before heading to dance class. Suddenly, someone said, “Privet,” and walked up to me. At first, I thought maybe it was someone I knew (I’m always running into people these days—I guess that’s what happens when you know everyone haha). When I saw that I was wrong, I harnessed my inner Russian and summoned my Metro Face. Picture cold, tough, and aloof, a face that screams “Scram!” My façade was only half-successful: my спутник was convinced of my Russianness but was not convinced to leave me alone. He proceeded to introduce himself and begin asking questions.

A couple minutes into our conversation, he asked me where I’m from. I figured that by now he had figured out that I’m a foreigner—but apparently, I was wrong. When I said I’m from America, he just said, “Noooo.” Then he asked if I live far away from the city. I was confused—of course the US is far away, silly! “Well, which direction? Off which highway?” He was still convinced that I’m from some nearby village. Again, I told him that I live in America. “No,” he said again. “You’re Russian.” It was not a question. I shook my head. He asked what nationality I am (note: In Russian, nationality doesn’t refer to your country but to your ethnicity). American. “No.” Even after a thorough invasion of my personal space (again, something that doesn’t exist in Russia) and examination of my facial features, he still concluded that I’m Russian.

And now for my daring escape! As my спутник was asking if I want to go walk around or something, I announced that I had to go to dance. And with a (not all that) witty, “Мне пора. Я пошла,” I left—cool as an awkward cucumber. Made it to salsa class safe and sound. Survival at its finest.

By the way, it was -20 degrees this morning. Remember that as you enjoy your pleasant autumn weather.


About Arielle

I am a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in Ulan-Ude at the Buryat State Agricultural Academy.
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