I’m not sure when or how it happened, but Moscow captured my heart. I know it wasn’t love at first sight. At first sight, I was too exhausted to noticed and too bewildered to understand. At first sight, I was overwhelmed and intimidated. I was amazed and challenged. Unsuspecting and homesick.
I had an inkling that Moscow changed things when I left that first summer. I missed Moscow, not just my friends.
Upon my first return in August 2009, I couldn’t contain my excitement and smiled like a madman in the airport while being accosted by taxi drivers (in Russian). I enjoyed being expected to know Russian. Many Muscovites, while they may know some English are unapologetic in their presumptions that I know Russian. I take it as a compliment and a challenge, even though my Russian remains horrible.
When I heard about the January bombing in the airport, my throat seized, my stomach lurched and my heart stopped.
My heart belongs to you.
Author's note: It would not be completely honest of me to say that my heart belongs fully and completely to Moscow ... but it sounds nice, doesn't it?
I have considered that perhaps it’s the challenge that Moscow presents. It’s by no means an easy life. Oh sure, the metro makes travel convenient, but there's also the cold and the stores and the challenge of paying rent and buying groceries. The language barrier and the disorientation that occurs when you walk out of the metro into a new area. The first impression “coldness” of people and the harsh reality. Lack of modesty. Lack of customer service. Lack of “common” business sense, perhaps due to the 90 years of not needing it.
There is a saying that Russians have about marriage. Women get bored. So, men, you should keep something about yourself to reveal every 5 years.
Change, challenge, and enigmas …
That’s what makes up Moscow. Every time I thought I had something figured out, life would prove that I was wrong. Each time I thought I could easily walk over that patch of ice, I fell down. Each time I thought I could say something coherently in Russian, an older lady at the shop would look confused or glare at me for my misunderstanding of grammar.
Yet, there was beauty in the mystery as well. In the midst of winter, when it’s been overcast for months, old snow is on the ground, and everything looks gray, suddenly the sun will come out and reveal how beautiful Moscow can be. I would stumble off the beaten path, onto a new park, into a new art gallery, or meet someone new. The Soviet Architecture that previously helped weigh my spirits down would suddenly lift them up. A fresh snow would put a sparkle in my eye ...
These thoughts filled my heart and head before I headed out for my brief, one week vacation, in Moscow.