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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…

drawers and windows

When I travel, I don't really concern myself with the drawers in the bathroom, or what closet has hangers. Everything stays in a piece of soft luggage, dirty clothes systematically on the bottom. When I sleep on a friend's couch, and offer to cook dinner - -I forget what drawers have the spatulas, or a corkscrew, no matter how many times I stay there.

In this new place, I still feel temporary. I've tried to put shaving things where they should be, toilet paper where it can be found. But it doesn't feel real yet, even though I know it is home. It smells like my chili, and the coffee grounds and the eggshells I should throw. The closets are getting full of jeans and cameras and guitar tuners.

Maybe it's because I had to get rid of most of my books when I had to leave the US. Books on a shelf are significant in a house. It's the first place I look when I visit one - -not judging...more wondering what we have in common.

I have to cart things from the old place in a giant rolling piece of orange luggage, sliding over humps in the snow. I brought a pile of E's books before mine. I did bring one - - a 1st English edition of Rilke's The Roses and The Windows. I can still remember finding it in my college library, reading the whole thing standing there in the stacks.

I keep it on the windowsill for now. It feels cold when I touch it in the morning, having coffee.

Comments

The Expatresse said…
I gave away 17 boxes of books when we moved to Moscow from Bratislava. We still have tons, though. We both live in fear of having nothing to read.

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