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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

My 'Real' Life Turns Out to Be in Russia

It's vacation time again, when Moscow ceases to be a harsh daily grind and takes on an aura of exoticism that makes the visitor (in this case, me) the instantaneous, if short-lived, hit of every gathering.


"So, you work in Moscow?" they murmur with respect, desperately fishing in their minds for something perceptive to say about the place. "It must be so, so interesting."


I usually have time for a 1/2 minute discourse before something truly earth-shattering, like the latest baseball scores or the fall television lineup, takes center stage, and I am left explaining the power distribution in the Kremlin to the back of somebody's head.


But I do find that news reports are making somewhat of an impact, even in the insular world of Boston. For the first time, the most often asked question is not "How's Gorby doing?" Instead, queries about Yeltsin's state of health -- "Is the president still alive over there?" -- receive top billing.


There are exceptions, of course. My friend Robert, an old Russia hand himself, grills me mercilessly. Politics, gossip, new restaurants in town -- he wants to know everything.


Robert has given up his former bohemian lifestyle for a big bucks job in downtown Boston. I look at his chic apartment and fancy new car with undisguised envy; he can't repress a wistful sigh at what he sees as my glamorous existence.


"You're still growing, experiencing things," he griped. "I am stuck in this job."


I couldn't really sympathize with his angst, since being "stuck" in a six-figure job that takes him on a frequent basis to Paris, London and Rome did not seem like such an onerous burden, especially given my rudimentary Moscow apartment and murderous work schedule.


I have imposed a news ban on myself for the duration of my trip. Rather than combing the papers for crumbs of information on Moscow, I am going to stock up on cheap novels, park myself in a beach chair and work on a serious tan. I will put the Byzantine world of Russian politics behind me for awhile, and immerse myself in the pop culture of my native land.


The problem is, after almost 10 years in Moscow I am not really sure which side of the world is "home" any more. I think that many of us expats, the adventurous hot-doggers who came over for thrill of it, put our "real" lives on hold for the duration of our stay. Somehow or other I thought that I could do Moscow for a few years, to get it out of my system, and then go back to living the middle-class American life I was brought up to.


But my friends and relatives, not realizing, I suppose, that they were supposed to freeze in place and wait for me to come back, have gone on with their lives, marrying and having children, buying houses with large mortgages, being shaped by America's formidable pop culture machine, and leaving me to my own devices. And, somewhat to my surprise, I have found that my "real" life is now in Russia.


So after a few shopping trips, a couple of good meals, and several hours on the phone with friends I haven't seen in years, I am ready to come back, to take on Moscow again.


Glamorous or not, I guess it's home.