Ugh. I am such a fat, stupid, hideous ass. Of course the “Disney Dachas” I was all set to chuckle about are an expatriate goddamn residential complex. Of course they fucking are. But do we pay attention to such minor details as the British International School of Moscow, even when it’s mentioned on the site, even when one doesn’t actually have to click on the link to find out more information? Oh, nooooo! We do no such thing. No, no, we post the link on Facebook. We email the link to our far more intelligent (and not fat and hideous!) friends and go, “Hee hee, ha ha, Disney Dachas!” as if this is witty. Meanwhile, everyone is looking at us and doing the screwball gesture next to his/her ear and going, “Um…yeah…it’s an expatriate residential complex, dumbass.” And everyone is silently thanking the Great Gourd in Halvah that they are not us. Not stupid, not impulsive, not fat, and not hideous. Ogh. I can just feel the lasers of pity and contempt boring down upon me.
(Fifteen minutes later)
Okay. Calmer. Food has been eaten. Paxil has been taken. Temples have been massaged. Please excuse my tantrum. Shit happens. Mistakes are made. Objects are thrown.
Anyway. I still have to laugh, or maybe cry, about an ex-pat compound in rural northwest Moscow that would not look out of place in suburban St. Petersburg, as in Florida. I mean, there’s your living example of The Accidental Tourist right there. Now, having lived in Krakow for three months in 1996, I’m certainly not insensible to the desire to minimize the grit, filth, and agony of daily life in a former Soviet bloc country. I was one of four people knocked almost literally flat on my ass by food poisoning in the first six weeks (the Europeans in our program scoffed at us Amurricans as a bunch of germ-phobic pantywaists, which, uh, yeah, but still). And while it’s awesome for kids to learn second and third languages, it’s just cruel to drop them in the middle of a public school system in a country where they don’t speak the language, hence the need for English-speaking international schools. But Jeezis, if you’re living in a foreign country, take as much advantage of it as possible. Don’t wall yourself off in a fiberglass community and take all your meals at the Irish-style American theme restaurant and bar, like you do in the U.S.
I have to say, I am totally grooving on that bathtub. Gah! If I lived in a Disney Dacha, I would never, ever, ever get out of that tub. Ooouuuuu!
stop doing it in the U.S., too. Get off your ass and drink some kefir and eat some pelmeni. Wash your laundry by hand. Get some goddamn dirt under your nails. It’s just dirt, people. I mean, boil your water and don’t eat the sulfuric-smelling hard-boiled egg at the hotel in Prague, unless you desire to wake up two days later in Krakow too dizzy to make it to the bathroom, which hasn’t even a proper shower, just a drain in the middle of the floor. But don’t be such a goddamn tourist. If you must be a tourist, go visit a Nazi death camp. I am completely serious. Your shit will get fucked up. And although this may be near-impossible to believe, this will be a fine, fine thing. You will learn many important lessons about yourself, and death, and despair, and resilience in the face of hell as drawn by Hieronymous Bosch, and you will emerge more compassionate, and wiser, and less able to see the world in black and white, right and wrong. And although the exorcism will be excruciating, and you may spend the last month and a half in your former Soviet bloc country hating it and everything about it, you will have got out in the world, and you will be stronger, and better for it, and, yes, safer than you are, or ever could be, walled up in that luxury compound, afraid of disease and death and your own terrible, wonderful self.
Thus endeth the sermon. Don’t forget to plunk some rubles in the collection samovar on the way out. And when you get back to the U.S., come visit us in the ghetto. Help us plant a garden or something. You can even move here as long as you promise not to drag along your Starbucks and your Pan-Asian-African-Icelandic ‘inotecas and drive rents up 5000%. Amen.
And P.S.: I was going to edit out that introductory tantrum. I changed my mind. Let it stand. I was tantruming when I started, and look where we finished. Again, amen. And again, P.S.: For an excellent account of resilience, and not simply survival of, but life in a Nazi death camp, read Playing For Time by Fania Fenelon, about the Birkenau women’s orchestra.