See, before I moved here, I had some general life rules. These included your garden variety rules like "don't do anything you wouldn't want to be blackmailed with," along with long-standing life rules such as: don't eat meat or fish; don't wear fur; don't smoke; don't get naked with your coworkers. Etc.
I'm sorry to say I have failed miserably.
Before we even got to Russia things were starting to go downhill. I purchased Furdinand, my Canada Goose coat with the coyote fur collar, and it was difficult at first, but once the temps dipped below freezing, I realized how wrong I'd been. Fur, my friends, is wonderful. It's soft and luxurious, warm and waterproof, and it comes in so many lovely varieties. Today I spotted two ladies walking ahead of me on my way home, and I started to develop serious fur envy.
|At least a dozen small mammals were harmed in the making of this photo.|
Then there's fish. I'm very much against the fishing industry and what it does to our entire ecosystem. In a lot of ways, fishing is even worse than the meat industry. But that same shallow part of me that thinks maybe it's okay for a coyote to die just so I can be warm also decided that killing a trout is a lot less cruel than killing a cow. And so I've started to eat seafood occasionally. I don't even really like it. I just get so sick of the food here, and sometimes I'm so desperate for protein I'll go wild and order things like squid for lunch (albeit on a business lunch menu where there is no veggie option, and most of the time I end up giving it to John because it totally grosses me out). It's shameful, I know, but what can I say? I'm weak.
Last night I was invited out to dinner with some coworkers. We went to a hookah bar. If you know me at all, you know I'm not a smoker. It's terrible for you, it's a nasty habit, and it smells awful, and up until last night I had never taken a puff of anything, legal or otherwise. But now I can say that I have taken two small puffs of a hookah (mojito flavored, for the record), mostly because I felt like a total loser for not doing it. That's right, not only am I a coyote and fish killer, I'm also a total wimp when it comes to peer pressure. I'm also sorry to say that hookah smoke smells just as foul in your hair as cigarette smoke at the end of the night.
At the end of the day, this is Russia. People here wear fur, they eat meat, they smoke hookahs, and they go to the banya, and it's just the way it is. When in Rome, right? I'm trying to tell myself that some rules are made to be broken every now and then. This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience (God willing) and I'd rather have a crazy story to tell than look back at this time of my life and say, "Gee, I wish I'd loosened up a little and tried that stupid hookah."
But I'm pretty sure my views on communal nudity aren't going to change any time soon.