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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

'Seinfeld' Can't Replace That Russian Chaos

Should I leave Russia? Sometimes I feel like a fourth-wave emigree, weighing the pros and cons of continuing to live in my exciting but enervating adopted city versus striking out for the brave new world.


I don't know why the thought of abandoning Russia's familiar, nurturing womb provokes cold sweat and sleepless nights.


I was born in America, for heaven's sake. I wouldn't have a language problem, I have some idea of the geography, and I have plenty of friends, relatives and that tantalizing, elusive concept known as "contacts." I even have a passport, and so have no need to conclude a fictitious marriage with an eligible foreigner to gain entry into the promised land.


I spoke with a good friend, Mary, about this the other day. She is a dynamic, talented, delightful American with a Russia addiction that makes mine look like small potatoes.


Mary has recently decided, reluctantly, to make the break, and witnessing her budding withdrawal symptoms made me wish there were a 12-step program for people like us.


"The first six months will just be hell," she sighed, and I tried to be encouraging, all the while contemplating with horror the thought of shopping malls, fast-food restaurants and evenings spent watching "Seinfeld" reruns.


"Be strong," was my lame response.


It seems that many of my Western friends and acquaintances have reached a distressing point where the only thing worse than staying in Russia is the thought of leaving it. It may just be a combination of post-election stress disorder and the summer holiday bug, but it's making people schizophrenic.


One American, a veteran news junkie, had to be put almost forcibly on a plane this week for his long overdue vacation. For nearly a month his conversation had alternated between a whiny "I can't wait to get out of here" and a nearly hysterical "But what if something interesting happens while I'm gone?"


As for me, I am in the final stages of Russia fatigue when even the language, the "great and powerful" tongue that has been my raison d'etre for 20 years, now seems more like work than the almost sensual pleasure it usually affords. I no longer make conversation with taxi drivers, I try to avoid television, and I even placed a pizza delivery order in English the other day. Soon I'll be reading Dostoevsky in translation.


But I still cringe at the thought of going home. After 10 years on a steady diet of apocalypse and cataclysm, I am not sure I could go back to a life of clipping coupons from the Sunday paper or worrying about the latest trends in fashion accessories. America has many charms, but it doesn't begin to compare to Russia's chaotic excitement.


I was at a dinner party last week, one of those raucous Russian affairs with a surfeit of good food, eclectic drink, flowery toasts and home-grown philosophy. Soon we were deep in an impassioned argument about whether Russia's reforms were irreversible, who was running the country, and whether or not things had really changed all that much.


"Of course you want to live here," said Lida, a wry, intelligent woman in her 50s, when we had all worn ourselves out with debate. "It's so much more interesting. Even we don't know what will happen tomorrow."


I have to agree. "Seinfeld" can wait.