I realized something just now, as I'm sitting here in my office and an American coworker flashed me the peace sign because he's leaving for a month. Coincidentally, John left this morning for Western States and will be gone for thirteen days. All of the Americans here look forward to leaving, to "getting out of Russia." And I worry sometimes that our Russian colleagues and friends think it's because we don't like it here or that we think there's something inherently wrong with the place.
I'm not gonna lie - Russia isn't my favorite place in the world. But the crux of the matter is that Russia simply isn't home. I don't think it would matter where in the world I was - John's gone, and aside from Jack, he's the person I spend 100% of my weekend and evening time with. I don't speak the language, I'm too afraid to drive, and my one female colleague who generally takes pity on me when John is away is also on vacation. During the week I'm distracted with work, but on the weekends, without John, I just don't really have much of a life. If I was at home, I'd hang out with friends, have a playdate with Jack perhaps, maybe even hire a babysitter and go out with Sarah. I would drive to Target and Starbucks and walk to the neighborhood park.
But those simply aren't options here, and even if they were, I'm not comfortable here on my own. It's partly language, partly cultural, and partly I think a feeling that it's not home and never will be, so what's the use of trying. If we were going to be living in Russia indefinitely, I'd have to make more of an effort to make friends and learn the language and get comfortable, but in the Foreign Service, where you know you'll be leaving in two years (and especially at this point where I'm almost halfway through and have managed to get by okay so far), it's hard to get motivated. If you're from here, if this is "home," then your every day experiences are going to be entirely different from that of a temporary transplant. If you dropped a Russian in the middle of the U.S., they'd probably feel the same way, despite the fact that we have Target and Starbucks.
They say home is where your heart is. For me, a person who no longer has a physical home even in the United States, home is with the people I love, wherever in the world they may be. Here's hoping that my better half does awesomely at Western States and gets back to Russia safe and sound, so this place can feel just a little more like home.