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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Moscow Mood: Calm, Cool And Rejected

Moscow has settled around me like an old coat -- warm, comfortable, a little worn in spots. Unfortunately, this coat seems to have lead weights in the pockets.


I came back from vacation rested and enthusiastic, ready to tackle this city in all its squalid splendor, determined not to be worn down by the countless inconveniences and frustrations of life in the Russian capital.


I think Moscow took this as a challenge.


My first morning back I awoke to find that my hands and face were covered with angry red spots, courtesy of the mosquitoes that still infest my building. Russia, one of the coldest countries I have ever lived in, is the only one I know with a year-round mosquito problem. These tropical pests breed in the warm, damp basements and are almost as much of a hazard in December as they are in June. Soothed into forgetfulness by a screened-in American existence, I had forgotten to plug in my bug-light.


No problem. I put extra makeup on my swollen eyes and went out to brave the world.


My trusty Russian car started right up, a gratifying sign after almost six weeks of idleness. My spirits revived, I set off for work.


That was the good news. The bad, of course, was not long in following: My Moskvich didn't want to go.


I had trouble getting it up past 30 kilometers per hour, and at one point, defeated by a relatively shallow pothole, the wretched thing came to a complete halt on the Garden Ring at rush hour.


Rather than slamming my fist against the steering wheel, as I used to do, I got out and began to push, one foot on the road, the other in the front seat. It must have been quite a spectacle -- I was treated to numerous honks and waves, which I responded to in kind.


The car finally managed to convince me that it was not going to move. My faithful mechanic looked at it, shook his head sadly and informed me that the clutch was gone, and he wouldn't be able to fix it for a week or more.


Look on the bright side, I told myself. At least nobody will steal it -- it doesn't run.


Two days into my reentry, I came down with a bad cold. I am informed by experts -- the Russian secretaries in the office -- that this is normal for those returning from abroad. Despite my runny nose and aching head, I refused to succumb to despair -- at least I have some time to rest, I thought.


I sat down with my computer to try out my new electronic mail program. I used it back at home, and it is a great way to keep in touch with friends far away. With the touch of a button you can send a letter instantaneously to the other side of the world.


Yeah, right.


The "touch of a button" can take three hours or more, as I learned to my fatigued dismay one night. Busy phone lines, interference, and many other things I can't even name get in the way of what should be a simple procedure.


But did I cry? Throw the computer out the window? Call my long-suffering friend Robert in Washington and scream that I HATE this place and am coming home IMMEDIATELY?


No -- those would have been pre-vacation responses. I calmly shut the computer off, resolved to tackle the problem with a fresh eye in the morning and gave my loving dog Sasha a hug for comfort.


That's when I discovered Sasha has fleas.


Okay, Moscow, you win.