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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    From Russia With Love: Obviously American

    Not once over the last week have I felt completely, comfortably normal. Part of that comes from traveling, part from the culture shock, and part from the lack of one uniquely American quality: personal space.

    Since I have spent an unimaginable number of hours on planes, or buses, or housed in a Russian dorm, (which is like taking a room in Coronado Residence Hall and putting it in a warehouse), the topic of my first column abroad will be the same topic that has occupied my mind over the last six days.

    This goes for dorms all over the world – if cramming yourself into a disgusting, poorly maintained room with a stranger is an optimal way to make friends away from home, then maybe making friends isn’t all that important.

    Somehow subjecting yourself to such lack of comfort has become an admirable trait, and I guess there are many kids in the dorm at this very moment living each day on edge, clinging to any spot of comfort like it’s their life. But maybe I am being pessimistic. Dorms do have their advantages, and when you are in Russia, it doesn’t matter if the people around you are ones you might normally be friends with; the cold has a way of bonding ex-patriots together.

    Again, maybe I’ve been too downtrodden about all this dorm business. I haven’t even mentioned the freezing weather, the gloomy skies, or the fact that I can’t go anywhere, Russia included, without an extensive set of papers proving my legality.

    This is Russia; it’s like placing New Jersey in Canada and adding a number of breathtaking, undeniably unique historical monuments. Similar to every other city in the world, comfort is relative to money; and if you have enough, St. Petersburg can be the most gorgeous, fantastic place in the world (during the summer months, of course). Ballets, museums, incredible bars and sights to see are all over the historical heart of the city. Twenty minutes north, however, in the suburbs where I live, there is not much to be comforted by.

    But don’t let all of this talk make you think I will be home anytime soon. Up here, everything is different, from the way of life to the weather, and each day is nothing short of an epic adventure. Everyday I brush my teeth with bottled water, eat frozen dinners, pay for plastic bags at the grocery store – and I don’t understand a single word that comes from any Russian’s mouth.

    And yet, I have maintained my Americanhood (a term I coined here). I have kept up with Wildcat basketball (well done on sweeping the Washington schools) and I watched the Cardinals’ first-time superbowl victory slip through their fingers from 3 in the morning until 6. I listen to Wu-Tang, hold the door open for people, and smile – I have realized just how American I actually am.

    But, who knows how long that will last. As each of you lives this experience week by week, I live it day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute.

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