Shortly before our move to Russia, I attended a class for Foreign Service families. In it, our teacher showed us a chart of the various stages of culture shock most people experience when they move to a foreign country.
It looked something like this:
Now when I saw this chart, all I could think was, honeymoon? Really? I already had a pretty good idea of what to expect from Yekaterinburg, and I didn't have high hopes. Then we got here, and maybe because my expectations were so low to begin with, I was pleasantly surprised by the place. Sure, it was smoggy and I couldn't communicate with anyone, but our apartment was nice, I liked my job, and the yogurt selection was phenomenal. Would I call it a honeymoon phase? No way. But I had a pretty positive attitude about the whole thing, and hey, it was an adventure if nothing else.
I find it ironic that this chart coincides so perfectly with the seasons here, because three months after we moved to Russia (somewhere in that giant dip of "hostility") it got cold. Really cold. Snot freezing to your nose hairs cold. A high of zero cold. No sane person would ever willingly leave their house in this cold. You get the idea. Also by some cruel twist of fate, we went to Paris last week. We walked around my sister's awesome neighborhood, and even though it was kind of rainy, forty had never seemed like such a perfectly reasonable temperature. Everywhere we looked: charm. Quaint old buildings, the marche, our cozy little rented flat...even the dog crap on the sidewalks couldn't dampen my spirits.
Suddenly, Yekat wasn't looking so great anymore. Suddenly, all my highfalutin notions that going to a large European city would be too safe, too touristy, too EASY, flew out the window on that crisp Parisian breeze. What the hell had we been thinking? Sure, we'd bid Rome and Prague high, but we'd also bid Yekat high (I think we all know whose idea that was). Screw the fancy yogurt selection! Paris had yogurt AND cheese, and delicious baguette, and pastries on every corner! I wouldn't be forced to eat meat or wear fur and lose my integrity within a two month period; I would survive on whipped cream and champagne and brie, for god's sake! I'd be gaining weight, not losing it. And I'd be able to get my hair done whenever I damn well pleased!
Some jackhole once said, "All good things must end." He was right, the little bastard. (I did mention the hostility phase, didn't I?) It's so cold here, guys. So very, very cold. And the sun? Where has it gone? How is it possible that it never crawls more than a couple of inches above the horizon, and even then it can't be bothered to show itself until 9:30 a.m. and cuts out early around 4? And it takes SO LONG to get out of this place. Five hours used to seem like an interminable flight. Now, it takes five hours just to get to the hub. That's our "short" flight. I can't even read the menus here - at least I could sort of fake it in France (Fromage? Oui!). If five days in Paris could do this to me, imagine what two full weeks in the States is going to do to me. Niet, I say! NIET!
According to that chart, I should hit the "humor" phase of this whole thing in mid-February. Har freaking har.
Still, at the end of the day, I know I don't have it so bad here. The apartment is blessedly warm (all hail the mighty radiator!) and I've got my boys, and really, there's nowhere you can send me that I can't survive as long as I have my family (and Skype - hear that, bidding gods? I need me my internet!). We are safe, as long as we look eight ways before crossing the street, and we have IKEA.
And in three more months, maybe this place really will start feeling like home.