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to be an expat

How can I even begin to explain the experiences of an expat?  The great assumption is that East and West are terribly different. One is vilified, the other painted as a land of patriots and heroes. One is crude and filthy the other has streets paved with gold. Look up and you will see miracles of architecture. Beyond the windows there are supposed to be good people, open smiles and warm hearts. How can I tell you that none of this is true? How can I untie my shoes, and somehow put them on your feet three thousand miles away? You would never believe what secrets they have to tell.

Every time I go back to the states I become more embarrassed to be an American. I overhear conversations in the street, the whines of privileged and moneyed voices. Coddled, dumbed-down and mislead they are drunk on a calculated fairly tale. And then back in Moscow, the same ignorance - the same questions from curious taxi drivers about how good it must be in America, where everything is possible and life mu…

rumashki

A woman I was involved with on and off for more than 7 years once confessed to me that the only happiness in her life could be described as fleeting moments, odd surprises that vanished as quickly as they surfaced. The rest was predictable and disappointing. Naked under her sheets, I was struck by her sadness. I made us breakfast, as she shuffled around in her great blue silk bathrobe, wearing old glasses and looking wistful. I wish I could ring her up right now and ask her if she is happy. I imagine she would say yes, after a long pause. I imagine she would say "just not the happiness I might have expected".

In the face of chaos in a country described as a police state by the locals, I am grasping for these moments, not as a form of satisfaction. No, as a set of stairs to climb. These moments give me strength, and resolve.

Last night, one of the kittens was attacking the newly decorated christmas tree in full force. At 3AM she took a leap from the top of the tv set, and landed high in the false, plastic branches. A sparkly bird in her mouth, she rode the tree down to the floor with a tremendous crash of German ornaments bought at the Saks on 5th Avenue so many years ago. In Russia, when a glass breaks, a vase - anything fragile - they say it is for luck. Little grey Julia stared up at me in the darkness. She had accomplished what she had set out to do. She looked satisfied.

A few days ago E came home from detskie sad with the nanny to find no one in the apartment. She asked to come to the studio, and they surprised me, jumping around in the window in front of my desk. For dinner, we ate milk and cereal from coffee cups and drew pictures of girls named Masha and Sasha. On the way home, after 10, E chattered away in her rickety pink stroller. A few pretty girls called out to me, joking and asking why I was out with a child so late. E burst into laughter. I sighed a few minutes later and asked E what in the world I was going to do. She smiled up at me and told me "Dodya Feya" - -which means "Fairy Godmother". She told me she was coming, and I should not worry.

This morning I went to rinock to buy fresh bread and raisin pastries - - bulochki iziom. For the first time, I read the little paper for them and saw they have a nickname - - rumashki (wild daisy). These are E's favorites, that she eats in the middle of the night when she is hungry. If she only knew she was eating daisies.

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