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.