Hard.

Rachel made an offhand comment in an email earlier this week, “looks like you’re having a great time!” and it struck me that my first instinct wasn’t to agree.

The pictures on Facebook and the updates here show the best parts of this trip. Russia definitely has the capacity to astound you with its natural beauty and overwhelm you with hospitality. Those two things are very real and I continue to be extremely grateful. But that hides the daily, even hourly, difficulties.

It is hard to not be able to read signs, really talk to most people or buy things independently. It’s hard to live in someone else’s home all the time and never be able to fully relax. It’s really effing hard to travel in a group all the time. You will never know someone better than being with them 24/7 for 2+ weeks. We don’t ever know the program until we arrive in each city. That challenge to my process-oriented brain can’t be understated. It’s hard to eat the same food three meals a day, every day. And so much of it! Russians are apparently morally opposed to dry wine, everything here is super sweet (gross). This country is dirty. Everything feels old and half finished. The roads are shit. Don’t even get me started on the bathrooms. I do a lot of self pep talks.

But I think the biggest challenge of all is the Russian perception of time. We joke that a “Russian minute” is actually 15. I haven’t been on time to a single appointment yet and still I’m usually the first one there. We wait and wait and wait and still the Russians are talking and deciding. Then a decision is made and good byes start. Good byes take half hour minimum (I wish I were joking). I feel caught in this cycle of frustration that is really hard to shake. I get frustrated with the delays and then I get frustrated with myself for not being able to just chill out and go with the flow. I’ve never been a terribly patient person. I think part of the goals for this trip are to beat patience into me.

Your emails and Facebook comments help me focus on gratitude. I miss all of you.

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6 thoughts on “Hard.

  1. It is really hard to live somewhere new – especially somewhere so different, especially in close contact with folks you don’t know all that well. I was an exchange student in high school. It was a great experience, I loved it, but I took a nap EVERY day, I was just so exhausted with all the new stuff, communicating in not my native language, etc. It’s hard. Good and rewarding too, of course, and the stuff you are doing is VERY cool, especially from the comfort if a home computer. Thanks for sharing it all with us!

    • Thanks Carrie for your kind words. It’s a strange place to be struggling between overwhelming gratitude and extreme frustration all the time.

  2. Yeah, traveling is an enriching experience for all the challenges that you deal with along with the amazing stuff – if we never got pushed outside of our comfort zones we’d turn into boring people. That said, being on a group trip you have to be on their schedule, which is very taxing. I felt that in Nicaragua, a lot of hurry up and wait. At least on the second half of your trip you’ll set the pace, you’ll go when you want and chillax when you want. You still wont speak the language –but you will get the roman alphabet back =)

  3. Yep, this reminds me a lot of the month we spent in China. The few days in Beijing were all good, but then we spent three weeks in Jeff’s grandfather’s apartment with 4 other people and between the constant giant family meals, not understanding anything anyone said, and squatting toilets, I had a few real freak out moments. But… I still look back on that trip as one of the most awesome things I’ve ever done. You will too.

  4. Travel is so awesome and so difficult all at the same time well beyond the not getting to sleep in your own bed hardships. Working travel is absolutely exhausting. It’s so f*cking cliche, but think of the life experiences you are having and the things you are getting to live through that you’d NEVER deal with in the States. This trip is going to give you some great stories for the rest of your life.

    Thanks for sharing it with us, I’m living vicariously through you lady! xoxo

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