… look back from behind him…

It was my first and only grounding. No internet. No Playstation 2. No television. It was an extremely uncalled-for punishment for trashing my uncle’s wine cellar (if you can call it such), but in his defense, it was an irreplaceable bottle of Chateau Laftite. But the silver lining to that grounding came in the form of a 1000-page book.

It was Tolstoy’s War and Peace, a monumental piece of philosofiction, which, along with James Bond movies and Faberge catalogues my mom used to have for her job, shaped my views about Russia. So be it Moscow I decided when I was choosing where to study abroad.

Speaking English, French and German in that order of fluency, I have those nations as my options (my fourth Latin, ill-prepare me for a trip to Latin America, lol). My decision to go to Moscow, shocked and disappointed many of my friends, but not my parents. They either really know me (optimistic view) or have given up on me (cynical, closer-to-reality view).

Now I have been on the Russian soil for two weeks, yet I know less than 5% of the city of Moscow (and less than 5% of the language). I just cannot describe Moscow, and neither could my friends. Two weeks in, we have likened Moscow to New York, London, Paris, Beijing, Istanbul and Las Vegas, but Moscow has something more to offer too–it is a big city, wrapped in the exotic squalor of a Third World country.

So far, the Russians I really got to know here had been really nice, thus dispelling my stereotypical mental image that they are a folk who would rather drink a shot with you in an interrogation room than in a bar.

It was a good mental image while it lasted… at least, I was then comforted by a vision of an interrogation chamber lined with vodka martinis. Now, I am confronted with a smoke-filled nightclub (granted, the smoke came from me and my friends) full of enthusiastic Russians willing to buy drinks for me (something which never happened before) and to talk about globalization.

C’est la vie…or as they say in Russian—wait, I don’t know how to say that in Russian yet. Maybe in a few weeks’ time.

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