Last Thursday I flew to Moscow for the in-country orientation for Fulbright ETAs (English Teaching Assistants), Scholars and other Student Fellows in Moscow. For those of us living outside of Moscow the Fulbright Office made arrangements for us at the Holiday Inn hotel. I’ve never been so grateful to see a Holiday Inn after navigating my way through the Moscow Metro system. Although I didn’t get lost there was something unnerving about practically being carried along by such a large crowd. I wonder if I would be able to turn around at all in such a mob during rush hour. It took all my courage just to push my way on the train without getting caught in the doors. I still have much to learn about being assertive in Russia.
I wish I had an impressive list of all the museums and monuments I tried to visit during my short time in Moscow. Instead, I prioritized spending time with other ETA fellows to hear about their experiences, commiserate together, make plans and exchange ideas. Two fellows even flew from Kamchatka and the Russian Far East (that’s an +8 hour flight and an 8 hour time difference!). Although I didn’t get to appreciate as much of Moscow as I would have liked I am glad I cherished my time with other Americans teaching across Russia.
I tried to stick with other ETA fellows as much as I could. We found ourselves searching for the tastes of home. We went on a treasure hunt to find peanut butter (only $8 for 350g). For three out of my four days in Moscow I visited bookstores. My favorite day in Moscow was spent sipping an overpriced (yet deliciously nostalgic) mocha, perusing the “Powell’s” bookstore of Moscow, strolling through Red Square and eating at a “pan Asian” restaurant (in search of “spicy” food, of course).
I know I will be in Moscow at least four more times. Overall, I realized that I much prefer my smaller city for its livability. I’ve decided not to take its better air quality and affordability for granted. I am delighted to have contacts all across Russia and hope to use them for travel. I still miss the Pacific Northwest and even the Russian Far East but I realize I have much to appreciate and explore where I am. Besides as someone very wise once told me, it’s not where you’re placed that matters but the quality of your connections with that community. I hope to have our American/English Club running in the next week!
FYI: By the way, once I get an address you should consider donating to the “supply an American with peanut butter in Russia” fund. I somehow ate nearly half of my tiny jar already. Soooooo good. I think I will hide it so I can still have a PB&J party for my friends. My only fear now is that I will lose it. What to do?