I always have mixed feelings. It is home, still, and despite half of my life spent in US, I haven't lost the skills we own since birth, inherited in our genes. I can make it as well as any Russian. What I find difficult is the sexism of Russian men, the lack of freedoms - I never thought I'd use those words, but as I get older, I see it now. Women "fighting" for feminism here should shut up and try make it in a country of Men Power, where, if you are single, you can't call a plumber and not be taken for a ride/fooled, where sex is expected as part of payments for small favors, and where you are looked down upon - yet expected a lot from: full time job and "bringing the bacon", house chores, grocery shopping, cooking, kids taken care of - and oh, yes, looking beautiful, always. Payingfor services does not guarantee its accuracy, or even having them done, and nowhere to complain. Men are forgiven for everything they don't do: in these days, jobs are hard to get by, so they, proud roosters, often don't work, yet still don't pick slack at home. They cheat, drink, yell. They alienate, laying lazily on the couches. Yet they are fought for a hard battle among women. Having a man (who are few and far in-between) is a status.
But inside all that, I still have my mother and my sister there, and I will keep coming, as long as they are hanging in there. Mom is doing OK, I guess, Tanya - running around like a maniac: working, getting food for the two of them made and taking it to mom's house (a mile away, walking, almost daily) and trying to have a social life too. The reality of Tanya getting old - and subsequently, eventually, dying - completely alone is starring at us. Due to my father's job - military - and often moving, we never lived close to any family members, never developed close connections, and now they are far away (and again, no cars, flying is expensive). Moscow is huge - and a very lonely city.
I love coming to help. Being youngest - and strongest - I am used as a physical power, and I am ok with that, proud even. I give my mom and sister a haircut, clean mom's place (on my hands and knees, scraping rugs with a little cloth, because the vacuum died a long time ago, and she doesn't let anybody touch her dirt but me, so it happens twice a year), help my sister unload dad's garage from possibly useful stuff (no way those scraps can be used after 20 years sitting in there!), visit 2 cemeteries (my nephew, and now my father - the number of graves grows, the number of living relatives, well, gets smaller...), and simply provide moral support and help with decision making. We are family.
This visit, I also haven't missed a bit in gym visits - Tanya has a membership allowing friends to come. Speaking of male dominance, there is a sign there saying: "Men, put weights away". Not "all, members, friends...". And the air was tense when I lifted heavy weights, without looking around or saying a word and not looking cute and in desperate need of help. We did go to the City Center and walked in two museums with wonderful exhibitions - despite the despair, Russians haven't stopped being art lovers. And that makes it all worth living.
By day 5, I want to be home. Not because it's difficult there - I thrive in difficult, I seek it here - but because I want to be in my own place, not a visitor, not a guest. I want to manage my time myself, and I want to be able to talk to Larry daily, tell him all my thoughts, share what happened, exchange opinions. I want to be heard. I also want to walk around with my head high, and not try and "fit in", because somebody might be useful for my family, and I can't hurt anyone's feelings. I want to be myself.
Torn between two worlds, this is my life. The life of a first generation immigrant. I didn't choose it at first, but I live it now. And so it goes.
|Walking (illegally) across railroad tracks to the garage place.|
|This is what visit to mom looks like - hauling stuff.|
|A row of garages (we live in buildings, and garages are far away).|
|The inside of a little box called "garage" hasn't been cleaned in 20 years.|
|Dragging heavy objects from the garage to Tanya's place.|
|Pushkin Art Museum.|
|Private Art Collection.|
|Cathedral of Christ the Saviour - it was blown to pieces in 30's and rebuilt recently.|
|Icon - one of the exhibition pieces.|
|Golden Autumn - my favorite time of year.|