Sunday, July 29, 2012

Saturday, July 14, 2012


Haven't posted in a while, but this one is long overdue, lest I forget to be indignant about Russia. I am back from my mini-trip to Barcelona, which was organized so as to fall within my trip to Moscow, but I honestly wish I didn't have to come back here at all after two short weeks in my beloved Catalan hideout.

I could talk about many things related to the city where I lived for eighteen years and have been visiting regularly since moving. There are great things here, for sure: metro is cool and fast, churches are beautiful, art museums are top-class, there are a few truly good restaurants (and tons of mediocre ones). It's nice to visit, if you haven't been. It's nice to visit, if you have local friends. It's nice to visit, if you've got money to spare. It's nice to visit for a week and then get the heck out of here. I can't stand it anymore. I can't. I can't deal with crowds, with traffic, with rudeness and ignorance, with racism, with the attitude of entitlement with nothing to back it up, with corruption on the most basic of levels. It all feels stagnant at best and rotting at worst, and I rot right with it when I am here, mentally and physically.

I feel deeply ashamed to criticize the city I grew up in, by the way, because of the fucked up idea of patriotism that was forced into my head from an early age: you may complain all you want about Moscow, but only if you live here; if you manage to get out and move somewhere safer, more civilized, more suitable for citizens, not subjects, then nooo, who are you to say all these nasty things, you unpatriotic (son of a) bitch? This is so entrenched in people's minds that they honestly believe that they stick to this stuffy hell because they love it, love the energy of it, the constant movement, the restaurants that are open 24/7 and the people who are so interesting and so numerous - 18 million live here, after all, and they are not going anywhere, so it must be okay then, mustn't it?

I guess maybe some genuinely like Moscow, and may they live long and prosper in these dire circumstances. I am not one of them. I wish, I really wish things here changed for the better - I wish ambulances didn't get stuck in traffic, I wish people could stand and breathe normally during metro rush hour, I wish drivers stopped parking on sidewalks, I wish pavements were not crooked and collecting rainwater to turn into gigantic puddles every time it rains, I wish bribing disappeared, I wish embezzlement stopped and money was spent on things citizens here really need. I wish. I don't know how to make it happen. I can only smile and be polite, when other people are so rude, and put trash in trashcans, and patiently stand at the pedestrian crossing waiting for all the cars not to stop to let me pass.

Here's a little story about being a young woman in Moscow. A few weeks ago I was waiting for my friend to show up to go to a very late dinner in the centre of the city. At 1 am I was standing on the side of Tverskaya, which is sort of like Yonge Street in Toronto or Passeig de Gràcia (or maybe perhaps Via Laietana?) in Barcelona. I walked out of the metro one moment previously, and stopped at the intersection to wait for the friend, and it took next to nothing to get uncomfortable, because all few cars passing me would slow down and occasionally honk. You see, Tverskaya used to be (or maybe still is?) a notorious place for picking up prostitutes - the fact which I conveniently forgot, but very promptly remembered, when one car actually stopped, a driver rolled down his window and beckoned me in. All I could do was to raise my eyebrows and turn away angry, at him, at myself, and at this mentality that I mustn't be here alone at night, if I don't want to be harassed and treated like a whore. The car drove away, my friend got there about two minutes later. I was wearing knee-length shorts and a T-shirt, and had no make-up on.

Toronto, I am looking forward to being back. Barcelona, I am looking forward even more to be safe and topless on the beach (wallet optional, don't want it to get stolen). Bye-bye, Moscow.