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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…

trespasses


One of the two elevators is broken again. The floor peeks out, half-way up the doors that are cracked apart.  A light dangles from a hook. A man's dirty hands are scratching around. There is a screwdriver on the floor next to me. I see it, passing it to him without even seeing his face. He mumbles a thank you. The doors to the other elevator bang open, and I step inside.

Upstairs, I think of this scene. The doors apart, the slice of light that plays around. I think to load my camera with a fresh roll of film and go back downstairs. The film is cold, tucked into a bag in the corner of the fridge. It needs to come to room temperature before I put it into the camera or moisture might condense on it.

The roll stands on the edge of the kitchen table. I clean the camera, blow air inside it and behind the lens. I turn it over in my hands, and then the canister is warm enough and I load it. At the same time, I understand I cannot take this picture. If the man sees me, he might be furious. Documenting anyone working here, it is something a spy does, or better said - an informant. The shot is not worth it. The risk is too great. The country seems to be built on trespasses. So much is forbidden. Even the gravestones in cemeteries have little fences around them.

Then, I decide to take the elevator to the second floor, not the first and maybe I can take the picture from there and never be noticed. I pull on a black trench coat. The camera hides under my armpit.

Downstairs, I peer into the darkness of the first floor. The doors are closed. He is already gone.



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