Monday, October 10, 2005

Dazed and Confused...

Have you ever felt completely cut off from the outside world? I don’t mean that you feel swamped with work or family issues, but where you just don’t know what is going on around you. Right now in my life, I feel that the world around me could collapse and I wouldn’t even notice or know about it. I’ve tried extremely hard to stay out of my room and go places with many different people, but over and over again I find myself locked in my room with no where to go or no one to see. During these times, my only form of release is writing, but I’m not the type of person who can write just because I want to. Writing, for me, needs to come from somewhere and I just don’t have the energy or will to write right now, which is why I think I feel so lost. I have no way to stay in touch with the outside world other then the internet and with today being Sunday, the department is closed so I cannot even check my e-mail. I think another thing that is affecting me a little is that I haven’t spoken with anyone from home, except over e-mail and it just isn’t personal enough for me. Yet, I still have been unable to get a cell phone or calling card, because I’m not a Russian citizen and Galina has to get them for me (at least the phone but without the phone a calling card is somewhat useless). Now Galina has been working on getting me the cell phone, and I’m sure I’ll get it sometime this week, but I miss being able to go somewhere and get what I need or want when I want it. Over here, I feel like a child, and that I cannot do anything without someone’s help or knowing about it. My independence has been striped away from me a little; I’ve always been a very independent person, so this is extremely hard for me. I’m trying to reclaim it here, but without knowing the language it is rather hard. Hopefully all this will pass, but until it does I think that I’m going to have some very blue days. It also doesn’t help that I have a cold and feel somewhat under the weather anyway.

The weather here changed drastically earlier in the week, which might also be adding to my frustration. When I arrived here it was warm and beautiful, and now it has became windy and cold. I wasn’t prepared for this shift in the weather to happen so quickly, so Lucy and I went to the market to buy a coat and some other items. Lucy and I spoke about what market would be the best to go shopping at, and we decided that a local Chinese market would be the best. The Chinese market is rather far away from the center of town, which is where both Lucy and I live, so we had to travel by taxi-bus. First, however, I needed to get some cash, because all I had were traveler checks. I was told that if I brought traveler’s checks, I’d be able to cash them almost anywhere but this is not the case. It took Lucy and I almost an hour to find a bank that would cash the traveler’s checks, and then the bank would only issue American dollars. Our next step was then to find a place that would exchange the dollars into rubles, but that isn’t so hard because many places here will do that –its just finding the best exchange rate. Anyway, after I had money in my hands we got the bus and headed for the market.

Lucy was worried about taking me to the market, because I guess it’s not a very safe place for foreigners. However, I had no trouble and people were more than nice to me. I have never really been to a Chinese market before, due to the lack of anything in Pueblo, so I had no idea of what to expect. What I did expect, however, was not what I got. Hundreds of small vendors were set up in long lines, and all of them were selling practically the same things. You could find a lot of different clothing and goods. It took Lucy and I about two hours to find and buy a coat that I liked and that she thought would be good for the weather here. Now the coat was rather cheap by American standards, but I wasn’t satisfied with just a coat. I wanted to purchase a new pair of jeans and another sweater, so we looked around for these. Soon I found a pair of jeans that I wanted but since the sizes are different here (and once again I’m considered an x-large), I had to try the pants on. Okay, I don’t know if anyone reading this has ever tried clothing on at a Chinese market but it isn’t something that I’d normally do. The reason for this is because you are in a public area with no changing stalls like at department stores. You pretty much drop your pants right in front of everyone to try on what you are trying to purchase. Well you see I’m rather shy, especially when it comes to showing off my body, so I was a little reluctant to do this. However, Lucy and the vendor kept telling me it was alright and to just do it. The vendor put up a sheet to hide me from those walking by; yet, the sheet only covered me from one side and everyone on the other side of the sheet could see everything. Yes, I had underwear on, but still… Lucy of course couldn’t see, but they both (Lucy and the vendor, who was also a woman) wanted to play my mother and make sure the pants fit me right –they wouldn’t take my word for it –so I had to stand for about five minutes while they inspected everything. I haven’t had anyone grab my belt loop and tug, to make sure there was enough room, since I was a child and I hated it then. Well after all of that, and feeling rather violated, I was of course going to buy the jeans… Hell, I felt that the jeans and I had bonded.

Once I had all that I came for and Lucy found some cloths for herself, we headed back into town. I was supposed to be back in my room by 4:30pm to go with another student, Masha, to what they call “first year welcoming.” It’s pretty much just that; a celebration with much dancing and singing to welcome the freshmen into the University. Yet even at this celebration, I noticed how different our system of education is from the Russians. All of the freshmen looked so young to me, and I mean like 16 or 17, so I asked Masha about the age of students when they enter the University. In Russia, students attend school until the age of 16 or 17 and then they go on to the University or get jobs. It is so odd for me to imagine going to a university at the age of 16; I mean I didn’t have a car at sixteen and I sure wasn’t mature enough to attend college. While I sat watching this ceremony, I was left thinking that these students are also not mature enough to handle a university. They were acting like high school students normally do; they were shouting at inappropriate times and even a few fights broke out amongst them. I’m not going to talk negatively about the Russian system of education because everything I’ve seen up to this point is well structured, even perhaps better than the States system, but I do feel that allowing such young children into a university setting may not be the best idea.

After the ceremony, Masha asked me if I wanted to get something to eat, which I agreed to because I was rather hungry. Now she mentioned McDonald’s and I caved in and said yes. I stopped eating McDonald’s over a year ago and in the states you couldn’t pay me to eat there, but I’ve been craving something with some sort of flavor to it. You see the Russian cuisine is made up of a lot of soups and fish, both not my favorite forms of food, so I’ve been needing something that was more along the lines of what I’m used to. I hope that I will not turn to McDonald’s a lot, but it is to me some of the best tasting food over here…and I feel that if I don’t eat there it will be a long six months without food that taste good to me.


At 3:09 PM, Blogger Riekena said...

Well, in this case I think it would be a little inappropriate to give my typical smart*** comments such as “I tried to warn you” because that would just be f***ed-up. Anyway…I’m sorry to hear that you’re getting a little down from the whole detachment issue, it certainly isn’t one of those things that you anticipate having such a strong pull, but alas, it does. No doubt staying locked in your room is the most comfortable alternative, but I’m going to have to encourage you to do the opposite.

I know you’re probably going to get sick of my loony little rants somewhere along the way, so by all means tell me if it ever goes too far. However, for now, I would like to share a little plus of feeling detached that I recently discovered. See, the thing is, when you already feel out of place it’s a lot easier (at least for me) to not care about what other people are going to think of you when you, say…sleep in the park or something. This due to the fact that once you’ve been established as an outsider you can get away with a bit more because people just write you in as an exception. Really, you’d be surprised. They aren’t even paying attention; if they were, someone probably would have stopped me by now.

It’s a lot of fun actually. I have had the pleasure of waking up in multiple parks, walking around areas where I should probably get shot, climbing around on public property, and basically doing whatever I feel like when I’m by myself – something I never would have gotten away with back in the old ‘blo. Why? Because I had to worry about someone I actually knew seeing me, worrying about my sanity, etc., etc. There’s a lot to be said for creating your own experiences – you might as well because nobody else is going to make them as interesting.

Of course I also realize you’re in another country, and certain actions might be viewed a little differently, but I’m sure you can figure something out. After all, since not everyone speaks English I foresee a plethora of opportunities. Hey, I’ve been letting my creative side have a little more say lately and as a consequence this side has also developed significantly – in other words, if you run short on ideas just let me know.

‘In conclusion’, get out man, get out! Take care and I’ll catch you later.


At 11:16 AM, Blogger James said...

You know Steph this is an open forum but maybe your comments and advice are better left for the um...looney bin! In all seriousness though, I have to say I understand what your saying. Last night, I took a cab home by myself and the driver didn't speak any English so I just started to rant to him about the Russian people. He didn't know what the hell I was saying, but he also didn't seem to mind. The whole time he was driving I was complaining about how he and all the Russians drive. I think I might have told him (well I was a little bit drunk too, so I don't remember the exact phrase) that the Russians in general drive like crazy A**es. I know what you mean that an outsider gets away with more than others...its fun!


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