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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Off the Road, and No Place Like Home

I'm off the road and back in Moscowville. There's no place like home.


I say that without a trace of irony. There were moments when I was traveling in Siberia or the Caucasus or the Far East when I wished I could click my heels and wake up in my bed in Moscow.


I recall quite clearly one such moment in Ingushetia in the North Caucasus when I turned up, covered with mud, on the doorstep of my host.


Mud was in my hair, on my face, in my clothes. What little skin managed to find daylight was green from a stomach virus I was battling.


I had been walking, my computer and other possessions on my back, along a narrow road when I slipped and rolled around in the mud for a while before managing to get back to my feet.


Oh, for a pair of ruby slippers at that moment.


My once-attentive Ingushetian host had mysteriously lost interest in me and had abandoned me to my own devices to get out of this war-isolated, closed region.


Standing there, head-to-toe in mud, I summoned up such a rage that I went back to his door, mud and all (it was part of the drama), and shamed him into helping me. Even so, it took me three days to get home.


As these experiences piled up, in my mind Moscow began to assume the stature of the Emerald City.


I am not alone in this feeling. In my travels over the last year, I have been repeatedly struck by the large number of foreigners living in places that we Muscovites call by the collective title "Out There".


This includes oilmen in Siberia, construction workers in the Par East, evangelists, Peace Corps volunteers, university professors, diplomats and many others I'm sure I never met.


For these people, coming to Moscow is an "out". It is a place to shop, to catch a movie, to have a nice dinner and to see a play.


Which leads me to a discovery that might surprise you: Foreigners in Moscow have it pretty good.


For the moment, I'm overlooking absurd accounting methods, discriminatory pricing of services, psychotic landlords, crime against foreigners and an unfair tax code.


I'm talking now about creature comforts. I'm talking cheesecake and cappuccino.


For a few hundred dollars a month, a foreigner can set up in Moscow and live a very good life. Could the same be said of Paris? Or London? Or New York?


This gives foreigners a singular chance to make a difference in the course this country ultimately takes.


For two years, I wrote columns under the Moscowville heading which, more than any other theme, hammered this point home.


The opportunity, if anything, has grown since my last Moscowville column. It's great to be back.