When I lived in Moscow in the 1990’s, I relied on the Metro and buses for transportation. Everybody carried their own cloth bags for shopping and I always took my backpack when doing the grocery shopping. One wet snowy day I slogged to the store with my backpack and cloth bags looking for some choice items to feed my dinner guests.
I went on the Metro and I found pretty much everything I was looking for and the store wasn’t too crowded so everything was looking pretty good. I was thinking how great it was that so much stuff fit into the backpack and I only had to carry a couple of light things in my hands. As I approached the entrance to the Metro, I felt the pack shifting as if something was not quite right. I made it into the station, pushed my way through a huge crowd at the turnstiles and decided I should take the pack off and check it before getting onto the escalator. As I was taking off the backpack, it opened up wide and everything fell out onto the muddy wet floor of the station. Did I mention it was winter? I dropped everything and chased a can as it rolled away from me.
I managed to gather everything into a pile and hurriedly crammed my sugar, flour, juice and tomato sauce back into the backpack. The cheese and sour cream had been in a separate plastic bag so I just shoved that into my cloth bag and proceeded to the escalator. Through all of this people were stepping over me and around me and somebody had actually stepped on my sour cream so it was all over the inside of the plastic bag. Nobody had missed a step to even think about offering me any help. All of my bags were filthy from lying in the muck on the floor and my hands were also filthy from gathering everything up off the floor. I was cursing the Metro, the Russian people, the Russian Federation, my husband, and anybody else I could think of and I plotted all the way home that I would just pack my bags and get the next flight out of town. Plus by this time I was sweating from having too many clothes on in the crowded Metro.
When I reached my apartment building and entered the elevator that rarely worked properly, a woman followed me in. She had been out walking her dog.
Woman: Which floor do you need?
Woman: I am on the 8th floor. The lift has been in such poor working order.
Me: I couldn’t agree more. I was stuck in it recently and waited over an hour to get out.
Woman: It is not reliable.
Woman: You should really wear a hat. You might catch the flu in this cold weather.
Me: It really isn’t that cold out.
Woman getting off the lift: Good bye. All the best!
Me: Thank you. Good Bye
Continuing up the elevator all I could think of was what a country filled with contradictions it was!
I managed to salvage everything but the sour cream by transferring things into non-muddy containers. I cleaned my apartment from top to bottom and washed all the floors and I felt much better when I was done. By the time my guests arrived for dinner, I welcomed them with open arms without any thoughts of fleeing the country.
Life as an expat can be challenging anywhere but the people you meet along the way make it worth it.