the best is yet to come


The first few hours in Russia are always unbearable, brutal.

I’m accosted by the smells of male sweat masked by deodorant, smoked meats, and the sweet-acidity of the metro that hits you as soon as you enter the station and descend 60 meters underground by escalator. Those first few hours, no one understands a word that comes out of my mouth, because I’m just so unused to speaking Russian that I string my words together too fast and to the point where it becomes incomprehensible. I’m still thinking in English and my words, my behavior, those doe-eyed looks I shoot strangers all betray the fact that I’m foreign and I don’t belong.

Those first few hours, it feels as if I’m trapped in a white padded room, screaming; but no one can hear my voice outside. In my mind, I’m told over and over again that I am not of this place, that I am an outsider, that I should be given English menus and treated like an 8-year old. Because behind my heavily-accented Russian, they can’t hear my words, that I’m one of you, that I was born here. I belong here, because this is a part of my culture that I can’t get rid of no matter how much I try. And if I don’t belong here, then where is it that I do belong?

After those first few hours, the screaming settles down. My words start becoming comprehensible. I inhale the smells of smoked cheese, espresso with lemon, and rye bread and, at last, I become immersed in my surroundings.




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