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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…

suitcases and guitars (on my way to where)


I have passed it hundreds of times. A suitcase under a thick layer of dust sits outside an apartment door across from ours. The only fresh marks are accidental, someone brushing against it exposing the old stiff leather. Maybe it is empty. Maybe there is junk inside that never made it to the garbage trucks downstairs. It was invisible, but I would like to think I would notice if it went missing.

Standing in the hallway, camera in hand I look down the stairs, their banisters shining in the late afternoon sun. To the left is the suitcase, and now I finally see it, the ironic metaphor. The people that never go anywhere are behind that door.

And then, on the way to the new market where they sell thick cuts of ribeye, where the floors smell of ammonia and sweet coffee. Here is a balcony, just a few feet off the ground. Closed in, as is the tradition here. A place to store sleds and boxes of books. A guitar hangs crooked from a wall staring back at me. The cold is terrible for an instrument like this. It will warp the neck, make it almost impossible to play or keep in tune. It stands like a trophy, like all of the guitars in the corners of teenager's rooms in those films from the 80s. Unplayed, an empty boast.






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