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November 16, 2005



Wow... this post is a small masterpiece. I was completely swept in to the point of almost feeling myself in your shoes.


Wow. Just wow.

Can't wait to read tomorrow's!

little sister

What a post! believe me-if you go back to Moscow, you'll be amazed at how some things have changed-sbarro (yes, the pizza chain)is rampant, they have sushi restaurants and so much more, but you can still search out those outdoor markets in the freezing snow, selling everything from raw chicken to underwear.


Nerissa & LisaSD -- thank you. It was quite a year, and I'm only just now starting to write about it. Surprising what comes out sometimes!

Little sis -- yeah, it seems like it would be a different land entirely, eh?

Amy Kennedy

Great post! My husband spent almost 3 years in the Ukraine in the Peace Corps during the 90's, and has several ex-pat friends still in Moscow, so I know he can relate to a lot of this! I love your blog as a whole, btw.


Amy -- one of my friends moved to Ukraine after I left Moscow. It sounded like a similarly crazy place! Thanks for coming by the blog, it's always nice to hear from people who take a minute to read my ramblings!


Yes, that was quite a year! When Little Sis & I came for a visit, you squired us around to all the great sightseeing spots & beyond---true culture shock in every way. I remember a fabulous meal at Mama Zoya's...& also how we were drawn to the American Diner(3 meals, I think).To quote Dorothy," There's no place like home!"


Oh Catherine, I've sooo been there, with China. Reading this evocative post nearly brought tears to my eyes. It's simply wonderful.


Mom -- Mama Zoya's. That was a good thing!

Robyn -- I am betting most expats living in a 3rd world country have been where we've been. Thanks for your nice words.


V. interesting blog entry. I also lived in Russia for a year in the early nineties, although I was in Kaliningrad, not Moscow. Much of my experience was the same. Even now when I smell exhaust on cold air, I'm right back there - and it's been eleven years. I was a Russian studies major in college, but, like you, I ditched it when I got back stateside. I couldn't bear to go back. Oh, I was SO lonely there. So, so lonely. It was so hard to communicate with anyone back home. I didn't have a phone, I had only sporadic internet access. (I hooked up with someone who would let me use his computer once a week for about 15-20 minutes. I had to write my messages separately using a local computer classe's computers; the students there were amazed I could touch type.) About half of my mail reached me. There were other Americans there, but since none of us had phones, connecting was often a study in frustration. The winter was so long and cold and dark and gray. And lonely. I comforted myself reading English books - mostly the airport thrillers people bought on the way in, the kind of thing I wouldn't have touched stateside, but anything in English was heaven.
Getting ANYTHING done in a reasonable amount of time with a minimal amount of frustration was impossible. I used to go out with a series of tasks thinking it was possible that I might accomplish one of them - what with OBYED and stores closing randomly or buses not working or all kinds of unpredictable things happening. You have to completely shift mindsets. I remember an American friend of mine's boyfriend was visiting. We were talking about his travel plans for going back home, and he was just planning on leaving as if you could count on all the transportation running smoothly. And we were like, did you already get your bus tickets? Because they might not run to Poland that day - all of the buses could be broken down or it could be Veterans of the Crimean War Day and all the bus drivers observe it, or something. And if you miss your flight - ? Well, you'd better leave at LEAST one day early just to be sure. And he looked at us like we were CRAZY. And we could believe he had no plan B, no plan C, no plan D.

I could go on forever. I dropped about 15 pounds there walking and carrying so much and eating so little. When I came back, my mother thought I was dying I was so much thinner. Thanks for sharing your memories. It brought me back.

Oh, BTW, I did go back to Russia. Last year, in fact. My husband and I brought home a 9 month old baby boy who is now almost 2. I think now there was a reason I went to Russia and learned so much about the language and culture. I just had to wait about 10 years to see it.


Grerp -- thank you for the long note. It brought back so many memories I'd forgotten! We had a phone, thankfully, but one computer to share among several. Our internet service was TERRIBLE, and at the time none of us knew how to use Word to write something, save it, then log on and send it via email. So we'd spend hours trying to find a number to connect that wasn't busy, type as fast as our little fingers could, and inevitably, once a week, we'd get booted off long before we could hit send and would have to begin our masterpieces anew. (sigh) But thank God for it anyway -- it saved us. I was able to stay in touch with friends and family. The phone cost $2 per minute so that was out of the question for long talks.

lil bro

Hey Sis,
I can relate quite a bit to your feelings on this. Although I am in more modern places and the internet is raging everywhere, the convience of home and the common basic understandings you have with people are null and void once abroad.
Your writing really captures the emotion of being alone overseas. the friends you bond with, the change in everything you know and the want for what you cannot have. With my other friends that are now expats, I think everyone that has ever lived overseas will relate to this post.


Hey Lil Bro -- what a good point. I imagine the experiences of many expats is much the same; it's only the particular details that change.

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