Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Thoughts I sometimes think

Ironic that New England is a snowed-in, unmanageable mess right now due to blizzards while Moscow is a toasty 0C/32F and our snow has been cleared. Although that's not because it hasn't been snowing.  In fact, this has been the snowiest winter in 100 years, and we were racked with heavy snowfall just last week.  The difference is that even while traffic was temporarily disrupted, the city still functioned.  Work drummed on, classes happened, and no one was snowed in.  It already looks as if there were no blizzard thanks to the speedy sidewalk clearing that happens every time.

This brings me to another observation, though: owning a car in Moscow seems like a huge pain.  I had a car in the US for all of one winter, only drove it a few times a week, and was still fed up with clearing the snow off of it.  I vowed that whenever the time came for me to buy a home/condo/whatever, I would 100% have a garage (and then use it for my car, not for storage like most of you crazies out there).  Cut back to Moscow, where it snows from October to April and regularly reaches subzero temperatures....talk about inconvenient.  There's also the massive amount of traffic in Moscow, where a 15min commute by metro can easily become a 1hr commute by car.  This seems absolutely crazy to me, but all of the Muscovites I've talked to insist that the comfort one gets out of driving one's own car is invaluable...agree to disagree.  And let's not forget about parking, which is a nightmare in big cities (this summer was parking ticket city for me...whoops).  This is offset by the fact that people just park on sidewalks here, and I'm pretty sure there are no (or only mild) repercussions for doing so.

What else have I noticed about living here? It sort of resembles 1950's America at times.  Our flats (I say 'flat' instead of 'apartment' now because that's what happens when you move abroad...your English mutates) have 50s-esque wallpaper, furniture, and decorations (except for some of the remodeled ones, which look like an Ikea catalog).  I can get a loaf of bread for 30 cents.  It's still acceptable to go up to strangers and yell at them for not wearing a hat, or to yell at someone else's kid for misbehaving and then tell the kid's parent, who will also yell at him.  It just feels as though the fabric of society is more intact, despite the creeping effects of living in such a huge city...maybe this is just me, but that's what I think.  However, the 50s weren't all apple pie and Beaver Cleaver.  The downside is that there's still a lot of blatant racism in Russia.  I've seen Asians get slapped in the face on the metro for not being Russian.  I've led classes where, in response to "Who works outside?" (answer that followed the worksheet about after-school jobs: car washer and newspaper boy), my 8 year olds answered "Tajiks" while laughing.  To the question "What are some problems in Russian society?" the answer "Too many Tajiks are moving here" is not uncommon.  People complain that no one speaks Russian in Moscow anymore.  Actually, this can be compared not only with American racism of the 50s, but of today as well (a la "Too many Mexicans are moving here to steal our jobs, and none of them speak English").

Speaking of problems in America...what the hell is going on over there? Maybe this seems amplified from abroad, but it looks as though things have gone from bad to worse.  I've read about more school shootings in  2 months than in the past 10 years combined.  Hilary Clinton and David Petraeus are no longer in government.  Politics look particularly gridlock-y.  Most of you were more concerned with Beyonce's performance than Obama's speech (don't pretend you weren't, I saw your Facebook statuses).  The weather has been downright apocalyptic.  What has become of my home??  Does it look this bad from within? Someone explain this to me.  For now, I'm going to go continue reading my book (The Scarlet Letter, in case you were wondering) about simpler times. 

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