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And Then I Try Not to Cry…

20 Jun

While I really do have tons of fun living here in Russia, it’s not all international travel and exciting adventures. There are days like today, days when I am completely exhausted and only want to sleep for a week, but, instead, I find myself sitting outside of a bank on the verge of tears in the middle of Moscow.

A few weeks ago, while I was back in the States for a long weekend, a news story hit that the bank in which Ben’s pay is deposited (and has been for almost three years) would begin phasing out service to clients who are U.S. citizens. Despite multiple inquiries and expressions of concerns from American employees, his employer has insisted that this will not be a problem for us in the immediate future.

We decided not to risk it and to get as much of our savings out of there now, allowing us the peace of mind to enter July with our money secure either way. After successfully transferring a small amount back to the States, we learned that in order to transfer more we had to sign a form. (Note: we only learned this because we have friends who went through the process, there was no indication on the website about it.) We went to the bank today to sign this form only to be turned away because Ben does not have a notarized translation of his passport. He has had multiple interactions with this bank without needing one, so this was a big surprise. We were annoyed, but there was absolutely nothing that could be done, so we gave up for the day.

On our way out, we stopped by the ATM to get cash. The first ATM said the operation could not be completed, but a man in front of us also had trouble, so we switched lines to another machine. The next two ATM’s gave the same message and spit out the card.

This is the point when we began to get really nervous.

Ben went back inside to find our friend (who speaks Russian) to follow up with him, while I sat down outside and put every bit of energy I had left into not crying.

The end result is that a block was put on our account in response to resent charges. We never would have been able to figure this out on our own. This could not even be taken care of in the branch, Ben was sent away to call and take care of it over the phone.

So. Freaking. Frustrating.

We are so lucky to have awesome friends willing to translate notes and show up in person to translate for us. Navigating this system would be impossible without them. I understand that we do not speak the language of the country, but we were brought here knowing that this is the case. We never expected to have so much trouble with things that we consider to be so simple.

I often think about sharing my frustrations like this one, but usually never end up posting them. The reality is that life here is both amazing and so, so hard. It’s not all sunshine and roses; sometimes, it’s grey skies and smelly metro cars.

So, I cry. I process. Then, we figure out how to deal with whatever it is that is happening. At the end of the day, living here is worth dealing with situations like the one today. As long as we feel this way, that the positives outweigh the negatives, we will continue to support each other and get through the frustrations.

до свидания!


Advanced Russian

21 Sep


There are a number of activities that Ben and I call Advanced Russian. In addition to the fact that they usually require an advanced knowledge of the language, often these activities require a better understanding of norms and/or procedures. We tend to avoid these activities whenever possible because living here already requires so much effort. Why make it even more complicated?

Last February I began to really miss my pixie cut. I had a week off from work and spent most of my time pinning photos of cute haircuts and trying to decide if I wanted to go for a cut or not. Haircuts definitely fall into the Advanced Russian category. While there is at least one salon here that caters specifically to English-speaking expats, it is quite a bit more expensive than what I like to pay and short cuts require maintenance. If I was going to do it, it wasn’t going to happen there. Ultimately, I decided not to add another stressor. Instead, I took a pair of scissors into the bathroom and cut myself bangs as a compromise.

That wasn’t enough, though. Seven months later and I still wanted that haircut. I live two minutes from an afforable salon, yet still tried to convince myself to “wait until after winter?” That’s unacceptable.

I started to wonder if I can truly live here if I am unwilling to even get a haircut. I have been here for over a year and this is my home: a simple haircut should not hold me back. A Russian friend called the salon for an appointment, I loaded up a couple pictures on my tablet, and I went for it.

And… I love it. The haircut is great and the process was not bad at all. The receptionist and stylist both spoke a little English and were very kind about working with me. I will definitely go back when I need a trim.

The fact that this went well, though, does meant that I plan to tackle every Advanced Russian activity. Everything is viewed with a want-to-do versus willing-to-accept-the-hassle comparison. We really have to pick our battles around here. So, no one is allowed to say “remember the haircut” when encouraging me to do something, because then I will have to tell you about the time when I left the pharmacy on the verge of tears simply because I could not understand how much I owed.

до свидания!

Here are two photos of my haircut. Sorry for the poor quality!