Good-Bye America, Hello Russia...

The Adventures of a Confused Person in a Naked Society  


Part II

  It is weird to the think that I no longer live in DC... I have no phone there, no address, no part of my life is there except some friends and the headquarters of my agency.  
  The flights were a bit bumpy but generally OK. I had a brief stop in Switzerland before changing planes to fly out of the West for good.  
  On one hand, it feels strange to leave behind the life I had in DC, but on the other, I was nervous and excited about what lies ahead. While in some ways this is a RETURN to a place I once visited, it is also the start of a new stage on my life and a journey to a place so transformed by time and politics.   
  I left the USSR and am returning to Russia -- in 1990 I was a traveler who stayed for two weeks and had barely worked before but now I am going there to LIVE and work as a diplomat. How life has changed -- how my destination has changed! It is all so enormous that it is almost impossible to cram into my head. The future is so exciting and so terrifying but this is the life I chose and wierd as it seems I love it.   
  After flying over much of Europe, I finally landed in Russia. As I left the plane, I thought I strange it was to be back to Russia, the place I visited before Taiwan, China and Hong Kong -- a place that I have been strangely associated with both at work and otherwise (like early in Taiwan) for so long. I am back.   
  As I left the plane, I found Sheremetevo Airport to be largely unchanged, especially ceilings that were decorated with metal tubes and the once ever present cabbage smell. On the other hand, there was the new "green channel" for hassle free customs where they decided to stop bothering tousists too much.   
  I was met by a colleague and as drove, I looked out over the route and noticed many changes: better infrastructure (few of the crumbling bridges I remember from 8 years ago), new buses (not the packed behemoths of years past), cleaner streets, more cars, colorful signs (maybe advertising is not so bad) and no socialist propaganda (it is weird to see the formerly socialist Komsolmolskaya Pravda newspaper sposoring a concert by the Rolling Stones!   
  After driving around, we entered the embassy compound and walked around. From passing through the guards to seeing all of the kids outside, it was like an unreal slice of American suburbia dropped right in the middle of Moscow.   
  Later on, they drove me to my apartment (which is on the 9th floor -- and elevator goes to the 8th only!). After passing through 3 big doors I was in. The place is fairly large with all new furniture, carpet and appliances. It is nice. Later on I took a walk and saw many kinds of purebred dogs (including a Great Dane). Russians are proud of their purebred dogs (exported pets most have a "certificate of worthlessess"!   
  On first look Moscow seems much more orderly and less crowded than China (and much richer). But downstairs there were some expensive cars with thugs hanging around -- they are body guards for the rich and have no interest in me. Thank heaven for poverty.  

To Russia 1999-2000

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