Friday, August 12, 2011

The Times I Got Yelled At in Russia

The Russian people are the country's greatest and worse asset. In my time in Russia I met some amazingly kind and considerate people, and also some true jerks. One thing with Russians is that pleasantries, small talk, chit-chat, etc. don't exist. Russians are direct. They tell you what they want and how they feel in the same moment they are wanting and feeling it. I will never forget when a girl named Anna in our program from St. Petersburg asked a girl she didn't know who she sat down by us, with no other prelude: "Who are you? Where are you from?"

I got yelled at quite a bit in Russia. Russians were always unsatisfied with my Russian language-speaking abilities and generally liked to tell me about it in a strong, annoyed voice. Here is an brief outline of the times I got yelled at in Russia:

1) The bus driver from Finland

Technically this happened in Finland but it was the beginning of my Russia trip so I'll include it. He wanted me to stack a suitcase on top of another suitcase and I just plain didn't understand. So he yelled at me in Finnish. And I yelled back in English. Then we became friends.

2) Trying to use the bathroom on a train

Two women were cleaning a bathroom but I thought once they were done I could go in and use it. But they were telling me in Russian to use the bathroom at the other end of the wagon. Which of course I didn't understand so I just pointed at the bathroom and said timidly, "Now?" They got annoyed and raised their voices and pointed towards the other bathroom and I threw my arms up and said in English, "OK I got it! Chill out! I don't speak Russian!" and they said in English "Yes, yes, yes."

3) Waiting for the other bathroom

After getting yelled at by the ladies trying to use the first bathroom I waited patiently for the bathroom on the other end. Just as the guy in the bathroom was coming out another Russian sidled in front of me, paid me no mind, and started to go in I grabbed him by the shoulder and said in English, "Hey, I was waiting here." whereupon he brushed my hand off, said something loudly and angrily in Russian, and then went into the bathroom, closing the door behind him. I wanted to cry/beat him up.

4) Internet cafe in the Moscow airport

The floor had just been mopped and I walked on it. In retrospect I probably should've asked if it was OK to go in, but I was trying to do as the Russians do where if you want something, you just take it. But then a lady came walking after me and pointed harshly at the floor and undoubtedly said something to the effect of, "You ignorant, useless American. Can't you see we were cleaning this?" I replied innocently, "Internet?"

There were other times. Plenty of other times. But I don't remember them specifically. Granted, I met some wonderful Russians, too. But I'm still glad to be back in the US of A. Elated. I got picked up yesterday by my friend Scott's brothers yesterday and we immediately drove to Chipotle and ate burritos the size of footballs. It was glorious and I don't regret leaving Russia for a minute. Maybe I'll go back there one day. Or maybe not.

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