In Search Of The One.

January 14, 2011 § Leave a comment

If you’ve been keeping up with my blog at all,  you might have noticed a pattern in my last years wants… somehow I had found myself in a strange, unknown to me world of utter independence and somewhat of an emotionless existence. Maybe in fact this was due to the disappearance of my long lost friend who is finally back, or simply a path of self preservation… But what is blatantly clear now, is that

a) you should really be careful about what you wish for and

b) i might have gotten really good at being on my own (finally), but this does not indeed mean that I’ve learned anything about being with others.

I think you could say, I am a strong believer in balance toobut just cause I believe in it doesn’t mean I’m any good at it.


The biggest issue I’ve had in my relationships so far is finding a good balance between being independent and enjoying a  co-dependent existence. When you’re young I think, relationships come much easier. Because, lets face it, you don’t quite know who you are yet so the idea of balance between anything is pure nonsense… Identifying is what you’re doing at that point and what could be more fun than Identifying yourself with someone else, and even more importantly with the feelings you have for them. Once you actually know a bit about yourself and what you’re attempting to do in life, balancing that with stumbling into a new person you might like is actually quite difficult… ok, so enough code. Here’s the update:

There are moments here and there where I really like him. Like he’ll say something or do something and I am putty…. And then others, when if I could just get up and walk away at that exact moment when it just hits me (This is NOT for you!) , I would. But then of course, another hour passes and whatever it is that seemed so definite before, becomes a bit muddy again… and so it goes, the beginnings of that thing I’ve so diligently been avoiding, up until now. …Ah, I kinda remember this.

Still, I really want things to be black and white and will try to make a more coherent decision about our future relations in the next few days, …week…s… TOPS.

Ok, the truth is I sort of kind of already tried to break things off… but like I said, I’m terrible at it. And in fact, when a guy knows how to show their true colors when they’re being told they’re not really liked as much as they thought they were… all of a sudden, I melt… and become ones of those really lame people that can’t make up their minds. ‘… yeah, i guess you could still stay…’

Sometimes I think I do it in hopes of the other person getting fed up and pulling the trigger… then at least I get to feel all sensitive and hurt and not at all to blame. This brings us to yet another new years resolution to add to the list… Become more decisive. Doesn’t matter what you choose. just fuckn CHOOSE. (but actually this probably goes ENTIRELY against what it means to develop a relationship and feelings for someone over time… so, maybe I need to work on the idea that any sort of choice is involved… are we going with our head or our heart here, dear?  …damn it).

No matter how much I want to fight it, I am petrified of another few years of my life being devote to someone… someone else other than me, that is.

In talking with others, I’ve been reminded of the difference between someone who has spent their entire life looking for a serious relationship and someone like me who keeps getting burned by them. Somehow getting involved with someone even on the most superficial level carries with it a sort of warped assumption on my part that they’re here to stay (Only warped of course, in so much that for most people that in fact IS the goal… not so much for me … i seem to be under the strange misconception that a successful relationship is that which is fun, easy, short and temporary…um, where on earth did I get that notion?!). Maybe it’s my inexperience with break ups… historically, I’ve been crap at them and I can’t even remember the last time I was actually dumped. Honestly, you’d have to be pretty emotionally open to be blindsided by that kind of news and… I’m just not that kind of girl. There’s probably something wrong with that too…

But anyway, what’s proving to be awesomely true about Belgium is that it’s literally presented me, one after another, with all of my so-called life issues – finally, giving me a chance to come to terms with them all. The russian thing for example has been amazing… I have never felt more culturally healthy and at ease with who I am – as I’ve learned to be here  – I couldn’t be more thankful for the opportunty to come to terms with that baggage…  I am literally in love with my new found appreciate for my cultural background, for my ability to speak another language, for my appreciation of many worlds… for my Russianess and my Americaness. How lucky that I am both and neither, at the same time. And it only took 4 months and 10 days…

Perhaps now, Belgium will teach me more about relationships…  how to love… or how not to love… to selfishly break up or or get hurt to bits. In the next year or so, how lovely would it be to wake up one day and actually be ready for the One.

But before that can happen, I might have to grow up a little…

For now, I don’t mind stumbling into love , but when it comes to the One, I’d like to actually go out and find him. A sincere apology to anyone I happen to come across until then…  (of course, the devils advocate in me screams, that’s your problem right there!!! 🙂 )

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My Russianness

October 31, 2010 § 3 Comments

I should really be studying right now…  But, last night something kind of amazing happened, so I feel like it deserves a few moments of my time to document it in history. Ok, so maybe it’s wasn’t like anything super amazing – at least not what you think. No, I didn’t fall madly in love with anyone and/or spontaneously awake with all of my SQL/SAS problems solved. But, I did decide that it was time for a little break. And, a few of my classmates and I put studying aside for a while and met up for a Russian dinner/movie night, instead.

I know I mentioned the Russian girls before, way back in the beginning – during my more pissy days. I do admit that there are still times when I struggle a bit with keeping the right russian/english ratio balance around here – but all in all I’ve managed to find good friends in them, so in reality it’s a kind of blessing.

It’s as if I’ve traveled to an entirely new place, only to learn to be my old self – the original, Russian self.

Every day of my interactions with them, I learn new slang words – they laugh at me for not knowing, ways in which I am indeed so russian, and of course a myriad of ways I’m not.

But as far as cultural journeys go, I’ve pretty much come to terms with the fact that this lesson is unavoidable and without coming to terms with my Russian past, I indeed can not go forward.

 

 

And so, we made pel’meni. Not from scratch of course, as that would take a long time. But it was amazing to see all the different ways in which we are alike – the foundation of our so-called sisterhood is based on the simplest of things…

ingredients for salad, so staple…  love of sour cream, universal…     our humor, so much the same.

We’ve already planned a date in the future to make Borstch – finally I’ll get an authentic recipe!

 

But, last night we kept it simple – we ate, we drank French wine and giggled over random things.

 

It was kinda funny though, I’ve never been to a dinner party where the topic of conversation ever ventured into the world of kasha making… or discussion of favorite stockings and boots. I have really found my people, haven’t I. Just add a future scavenge for orange eggs in the country side and life will be complete.

On the other hand though, there were of course those pesky differences. Those moments when I stayed quiet for lack of having the right words (most certainly how they are when we speak English) or when I’m being explained something because I’m not in the know… still of course, nothing but a foreigner.

But, who cares – foreigner or not, we see the world in similar colors and that comes with such a better view. I was reminded last night of all that it is to be Russian…   it is to be resourceful (Foil can do magic when you need it to), it is to be frugal (‘One Yogi tea bag can surly make three cups of tea’  – and you better believe we had CUPS and CUPS of tea) and it is to use laughter to diffuse any hardship that life can bring (There was much laughter). Indeed then I am Russian.

But of course, the best part of the night, the one that brought my entire life full circle it seems, is when we watched Eat, Pray, Love…. dubbed in Russian, NO LESS.  From the hilarity of cultural translations, to the idea that Julia Roberts was somehow Russian… and even more amazingly, that her story… is really my story… I found myself in the crossroads of my entire life – my past, my present and most certainly my future – all of a sudden – meeting in one place. In that moment, I was challenged to own my Russianness , reminded of my own journey that brought me here, and inspired to complete hers…   Of course, from experience as well as what the movie would suggest, it is true that running from things in this fashion is not always as productive as one would hope … and often leads life to come full circle, but by the time I get all the way back to the beginning – it will indeed be a fresh start. And in the meantime, I’m full-circle, back to the beginning, of being Russian and starting that journey, all over again.

An Ode to Crossing Cultural Barriers

October 8, 2010 § 1 Comment

This morning, while searching for some work documents on my USB drive, I came across my old Peace Corps essays and couldn’t help but take a peek…

It’s hard to believe they were written over 6 years ago, an entire chunk of my lifetime away. I couldn’t help but share. But, before I do, I must say this….  it is too bad it never happened, but I probably wouldn’t have been of much help back then anyway. I would be much more valuable in that sort of capacity now. May this dream of mine live on…

—-

Cross-cultural Experience

*Peace Corps Volunteers must be open to ideas and cultures different from their own. Please provide a statement (between 150 and 500 words) that gives an example of a significant experience that illustrates your ability to adapt cross-culturally. You may draw from experiences in your work, school, or community in the U.S. or abroad. Please include the circumstances of the experience and dates.

I was born and grew up in communist Russia, in St. Petersburg, during a time when the power of the people depended on a wonderful sense of community. Their bond and dedication to each other at a time of poverty and misery was one that few words could convey. The atmosphere was warm and caring, but not always happy.

Life was not masked by an impersonal smile and relationships were not fake or forced. The sense of community in St. Petersburg, during my childhood, was genuine and raw. People didn’t pick and choose whom they lived with or who they helped, they cared about those that lived around them, in the next room, on the same floor and in the same building.

Their lives, their families, their values, their morals and their views of the world were closely related and so were their needs. Even if, politically speaking, the country was sinking, there was something very comforting about the fact that they were all in the same boat.

However, their experience was very different from mine, in that my family was not Russian.  My grandparents were originally from the United States and only moved to the USSR in the late 1950s. While their lives were novel-worthy and their resilience a source of constant inspiration, this bit of difference between ‘us and them‘ had an enormous impact on how I perceived the world.

My entire life it seems has been a cultural journey, which I can’t help but treasure and hold near and dear to my heart. My first language was English. My mother was a linguist and dedicated an incredible amount of time and energy teaching me English songs and rhymes when I was little. When I went to nursery school at the age of six, I did not know any Russian at all and spoke nothing but English in the home. When I was seven years old a wonderful man came into my mother’s life and shortly after moved in with us. However, he did not speak English, and so out of respect, neither did we.

Like a child’s attempt at pig-Latin, English became our secret language, one that we used to convey messages to each other on a crowded bus or a noisy train. This bit of knowledge that separated me from my classmates served as a source of identity as much as discomfort. To the entire community of people who were alike, our family was different.

Whispers and faint echoes of gossip often accompanied me to school. We were revered and scrutinized all at once. On occasion, some of the kids would shower me with compliments in exchange for a few swear words – of which I knew none – other than the occasional “Jiminy Cricket” that my grandmother mumbled under her breath in the kitchen.

I grew up considering myself an American, perhaps because, there in Russia, I was.

It was only when I came to the United States that I was forced to realize the degree of my misconception. Suddenly, somehow, during my twelve-hour flight across the Atlantic, I had become Russian.

Anyone who has ever had to experience a journey that involves adapting to another culture knows well that it is not easy. It is a process that rips you open and demands of you to look inside yourself. Beyond learning the language at an adequate level, coming to the United States required a lot of strength and patience of me. Culture is not something one can read about in a book or prepare for like an exam. Quite different from a language barrier, crossing a cultural barrier is about learning to listen and observe the world, as if for the first time.

As I began to accept my new American culture as my own, I realized that however hard that experience was, it empowered my life with an assortment of skills that will accompany me from here on out. Skills, that are the very reason that I have completed a degree in Psychology and Social Behavior and will prove invaluable in the Peace Corps and in my futures studies.

The ability to learn by observation, continuously adapt to new experiences, tune into cultural expectations, communicate and, of course, listen.

Last summer after ten years in the country, I visited Russia for the first time.  The trip reminded me of an incredible dream filled with smells and sights that were dormant inside my mind. Before I left for my trip to Russia, I was worried that it was too late to reconnect with my past. I worked so hard at becoming American it seemed impossible to turn back time. Yet, in a tight, tear-filled embrace with my old neighbors, family and friends, it occurred to me to think like this…

… culture is not to be claimed or owned by anyone, it is a living, breathing, ever-evolving entity that has room for everyone who is willing to give it time.

Part II: Soul Searching (a.k.a Cultural Confusion)

September 27, 2010 § 5 Comments

I didn’t want to muddy-up Part I with this, so I thought I’d make an entirely new section for it. Don’t read too much into this garbage either, only that from now on you might have the unfortunate opportunity to peek inside the compost pile of my soul, where things – a tad smelly and fermented, perhaps – ultimately nourish the soil, er.. soul searching…, that leads to better and brighter days.

While there were so many great things about today that I could mention instead, there’s one thing on my mind, in particular… that was a little bit of a surprise.  It really shouldn’t have been, as it’s something that always comes up

but somehow in 28 years of my life I have not learned how to properly deal with this, and am obviously being sent an extra special abroad version of this problem so that I once and for all – nail it. And I intend to do so – maybe with your help.

Ok, …and there’s a slightly whiny part of me that wants to throw my hands up in the air right now and say… wwhyyyy. Can’t I just be normal now…?

But hopefully, I’m better than that, so instead I feel like it’s just time to figure out a real solution to this problem.

The problem is this: I need to figure out a way to explain to people where I come from. My heritage, my background, my family… why I’m both Russian and not Russian, why I’m American and not American and Why I feel like neither and hate the whole suject. And, what struck me today was … wow, i really hate it.

You would think by now I would have a good answer for people about who I am and where I’m from – but the truth of the matter is, I don’t. Somehow I didn’t think that would matter so much here – I stand up, I smile, I say I’m from California, end of story. Yes, true – until of course, a group of us is walking down the hall together and 3 of them begin to speak Russian (something along the lines of – oh, you  know Russian, too? No way, me too, wow.. awesome, where you from…). At this point this isn’t directed at me, but as I walk to the side of them listening to the beginnings of their conversation – I literally had a deer in the headlights moment. My crazy thought process was something along the lines of this…

‘Omg, could I get away with not telling them I know Russian… I would have to lie for an entire year, I would literally have to stay away from them, just in case – what if it came out… surely it would, I’m a terrible liar. I can’t not mention it now, they’re right next to me… then they’ll really think I’m weird. Like, you’ve been able to understand us this entire time, wtf is wrong with you. I guess I need to tell them. Oh no…’

If I had had more time, maybe I would have thought about what to say… but, I didn’t. It was speak now, or forever hold your tongue.

Inside I pretty much felt like, life was over… at least the one I wanted, you know where I’m not Russian – (ok, maybe a little, but not like you are, trust me…  ) but took a deep breath and nonchalantly said ‘ oh, you guys speak Russian too..?!’ I tried to focus on the word ‘speak’… ya know, kind of like people here speak all kinds of languages. But it’s not that simple when you’re talking to your own kind… or something of the sort.

Who looks like a deer in the headlights now. They turned to me at first baffled (don’t worry girls, this ain’t no picnic for me either)… then one of them says, ‘huh, I thought you kind of looked Slovak’  – Really, you did..  hmm, maybe it’s airborne.

But really, the girls were very nice, they did nothing wrong… all this anxiety is mine to get over. But I just can’t figure out why it bothers me so much. Explaining myself turned out to be harder than I could have imagined… I tried to use words, like – lived, grew up, born – but somehow, they couldn’t distinguish the difference – so, you’re Russian, then? I guess I need to learn to say Yes… what’s the worst that could happen. So it’s as much untrue, as it is true… who effing cares. Shit, I do.

I particularly noticed how much I didn’t want to be Russian today as an instant clique formed (of which of course, as usual, I was on the cusp of). 4 people out of 23 speak a language that leaves everyone else out of the conversation and they’re ok with it – because they’re Russian! I, on the other hand, would much rather get to know everyone – because I wouldn’t belong in their clique anyway and it’s only a matter of time that they figure that out…  Granted they’re not Russian either, at least I’m Russian enough to know that – Siberia… no. Lithuania… no. Estonia… I don’t think so.

Anyway, after class a bunch of us went to lunch and this is where I distinctly noticed my cultural retardedness – I began to talk to the woman from Greece in line and found myself not only mention how much I want to go there some day (duh), but also that I’m quarter Greek. Yes, just trying to tip the scale a little bit. As a result, she saved me a seat at her table – right in between her and the Russians. The Russians all spoke Russian and there I was caught in the throes of a real cultural dilemma… do I engage with the Russians in Russian and leave the poor older woman who saved me a seat in an awkward position, or blatantly ignore the Russian conversation and continue to speak in English with this woman, about being Greek (Well, I’m certainly more Russian than I am Greek – what is wrong with me!)  Of course you know what I did, I don’t do that to poor Greek women.

But all of this, however silly it may sound – and trust me, I know it sounds silly – left me with a really icky feeling by the time I left campus. I really wanted this to be a cultural experience… one with immersion and different people of different origins and everything else. But clearly, the universe really wants me to get over this – for once and for all – learn to understand and accept my background. I just need a few buzz words, something that can serve as an easy explanation for which language was my first, what culture is my family and which heritage I identify with – um, Help.

I guess that’s the advantage of being a guest in someone elses reality…

September 5, 2010 § Leave a comment

temporarily living on someone elses turf, vicariously experiencing someone elses culture, values, beliefs – slowly assimilating into their frame of mind. what an incredible journey it is, how well I remember it from before, how much of my life has been lived this very way, and oh, how much more prepared I feel for it now – like reading a good book or being immersed in a captivating movie, the world is a much brighter world when for a second it stops spinning like mad and you hear and see and smell everything as if for the very first time.

fingers typing away…

March 6, 2010 § Leave a comment

Sometimes I get this urge to write… I feel like I have so much to write about, but as soon as I get to a pen and paper, or login into one of my many less than active and not followed blogs, I seem to lose all steam. The urge comes and goes, but its reason is the same… to get it all out. All these feelings and fears…. breathes, un-inhaled, thoughts avoided and words un-spoken. I want it to come gushing out of me like a flood, but the gates, they are sealed shut and only dropplets come pouring out here and there.

where to start…

perhaps we can tackle the issue of culture first, as it’s the most prominent thing on my mind at the moment. I just listened to a two part podcast on TCKs and the woman spoke of how important journaling is. She says, even if’s not your thing, just write it down… ok. write it down girl, get it out…. you’ll feel better.

but what do I have to say about it? where does one even start when it comes to something so big? is there a beginning here? am I searching for the right words, or just words…

I feel like i’m in a transition right now… again. again, meaning always. never setteled, never happy enough, never it seems, at peace. And, what’s worse, is that the times in my life when I have felt at peace, very much had to do with other people and love and well, people that have left me… and according to TCK expert, we TCKs don’t like to be left…  well, who does you say. but, it seems that we don’t like it so much so, that we leave first, and sometimes (and here I’m really talking about me) sabotage the hell out of the good things that we could potentially have just so that we can stay true to the way we feel most of the time.

My high school friend said to me not too long ago, that I was the first person that she ever knew that was depressed… it’s funny, because when she said that I had to really think about whether or not she was right. I mean, yes I wasn’t happy and found many flaws with life and things… but I don’t think i ever felt like I was actually depressed. Ad now, after listening to this pod cost it’s become even more clear to me, that depressed doesn’t really apply to me, mostly because it’s the baseline by which i measure my life so far… only it’s not so much being depressed as some sort of time of unacknowledged grief, a sort of mourning that’s perpetually taking place. So the question then is, what is it that I am mourning?

I suppose I’ll keep writing to find out. I guess it all started when I was born. I know it’s hard to believe, but I’m pretty certain that I’ve been mourning my lack of identity since before I even uttered my first words. So I guess here’s where we start with my TCk exploration… my first words were in English, my mom read me english books and we sang along with Raffi… i’m pretty sure I learned the word spider from, there’s a spider on my floor and the word Sun from “oh mr. sun”… when I got to nursery school, i didn’t know a single word in Russian. The kids looked at me like I was nutts and I did a lot of playing by myself. Once I began to learn Russian thogh, At home, the rules stayed the same, “I don’t understand what you’re saying” my mom would say if I said anything in russian.. but this was all about to change. One day, I walked into my kitchen and there was a strange man washing his hands at the sink. I addressed my mother in English and she looked at me sternly and said, “say hello in russian”. And so, what seemed like from that day forward, we switched to speaking russian at home. At school though, it was already well established that i was a freak… ok, so maybe not a freak, but definitely different. Not only did I know some english, but our family were pretty much like aliens on the block…  we had an awesome but weird dog that understood only english and my granny who wold often ask for “milk” at the store. Our apartment was often filled with foreign visitors, magically appearing german chocolates and corn flakes from the U.S.A.. My toys were made out of alien unheard of substances like a stretchy latex monkey face and whined up musical crescent moon… and all the while it wasn’t exactly clear, why we were so different, or special and we certainly didn’t talk about it – except on occasion of course when, after a big party, i’d fall asleep on the couch in our two room apartment and overhear snippets of our story, that it seems that i’ve held on to my entire life…  as you see, when everything is a secret, and no one knows enough to explain anything, well, you just settle for tiny pieces you can call your own.

It’s rather amazing really, because even as I write this now, it doesn’t put itself into words. Over the years, it’s gotten so big in my heart – in our hearts – that it’s just too painful to dimish with facts and brievity. I think maybe this is why I’ve had such a hard time finishing the book. I’ve started reading it a million times, and I just can’t seem to let myself finish… maybe i just don’t want it to end, maybe knowing that it’s unread is in some ways soothing.  Wow, i have to say.. wriing this is rather painful. Could it really be that I’ve been holding this in all these years?

and that’s not to mention the real move to the US and all that came along with that… *sigh*

What struck me today, was mostly this… I guess I didn’t realize what an enormous impact my past has had on my ability to relate to people and maintain fulfilling relationships. It’s not to say that I haven’t, but it is in fact those relationships that mark for me the existence of peace and the idea of home – without them I am in fact homeless. Even as I look around my apartment, which I have spent more years in than I have in any other place since the age of 10, I don’t feel it to be home at all.

And, if we were to quantify my idea of home with relationships, then it would imply that my two long term relatinships were in fact more home to me than any real place has ever been.This realization, is in fact a very sad one, as one of those was a fake home, which I chose to leave free-willing, and the other was like home, slipping away, once again, i suppose. And, what’s worse, is if those two people really represent home for me, then the not having any contact with either of them, truly is like losing all purpose in life.

I guess I need to focus on building a new home, at least eventually, and perhaps one that isn’t attached to people, but rather places…?

So here it is… my friday night rant, tck podcast induced, internal exploration…

peace.

Where Am I?

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