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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…

bad impersonations


It is not like those exhilarating goosebumps from deja-vu. It is not a fever dream, or a hallucinatory vision. No, it is a wobbly record that skips. There is an overwhelming sense that nothing changes here, that the loop is long, snaking off into the distance but the repeat is always on its way back, an eventual act. The same tree seems to fall from the same wind on the same day. The same sale on juice or chicken thighs. The same upturned shopping carts, stranded by the side of the road. The same mud, the same puddles. The same sour faces. The same shuffling footsteps in the night. The same smell of mildewy carpets in dark hallways. There are times when I think it is all a slow movie and it is still winter, and I am just dreaming about a reluctant spring. That this world outside the balcony windows is nothing more than a bad impersonation. That I am dreaming my children growing, and they need new shoes a size bigger. That I am dreaming of a guitar that waits for me in the States, hiding in an old black case. That I am dreaming the headlines and the chatter, the spinning top that passes for conversation, the invisible board game and the players.


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