Friday, August 23, 2013

Hooray for Summer Turnovers

No, this is not a recipe for a delicious pastry. It's a post about what's known as "turnover season" in the Foreign Service.

Even though people trickle in and out of posts throughout the year, summer is when most turnovers occur. I'm going to guess at the reasons behind this: easier for kids to start school, better weather for moving, language training tends to end in the spring, etc. At a post as tiny as ours, summer turnover season can mean a change in up to a third of the staff, so it's kind of a big deal.

This week, we got three shiny new folks at post, including a new Consul General (aka head honcho) and a new Visa Chief and his wife. I met Barbara through my blog way back last February or March, after we found out we were coming to Yekat, and we even got a chance to meet in real life before we moved out here. Barbara and John have three children and a granddaughter the same age as Jack. In fact, it was Barbara who introduced Jack to the world of Thomas with his very first train.

Today Barbara and I had lunch and meandered around our neighborhood. I can't tell you how amazing it feels to have a friend out here, someone I already knew I liked, who loves kids, who enjoys hanging out and talking as much as I do. I've always said it doesn't matter where you are; it matters who you're with. I'm so lucky to have the two loves of my life out here with me, but sometimes a gal just needs a friend.

I'm happy to say, things are looking up here in Russia.

Friday, August 16, 2013

The Thing About Stereotypes

The thing about stereotypes is, they are often grounded in reality.

So, if you imagined there being a lot of tall, skinny, beautiful girls in Yekaterinburg, you'd be right.

(Yeah, the single guys don't mind it here so much.)

Last night I went for a little stroll with my Russian friend (yes, I actually have a Russian friend! I'm so excited!). Even she did a little double-take when we passed this gal. In real life she was about six feet tall (maybe more with the shoes on) and the dress covered approximately one eighth of her. She was also ridiculously tan, had that famous dyed-black Russian hair, and was with that dude. You see a lot of that here too.

As a foreigner, it can be easy to look around and see nothing but the stereotypes. For one thing, they're the most obvious. They stand out. Same goes for the middle-aged guys in track suits with their man bags (did I mention the guy with the teeny tiny briefcase? Like smaller than a purse? It was amazing.) and the babushkas, who really and truly do exist.

But of course, the bleach-blonde surfer who talks like his brain has been pickled in salt water actually does exist; Georgetown students really do wear pink polo shirts with popped collars; Paula Deen is a real live human being. Or so I'm told.

The thing about stereotypes is, they only tell part of the story. A very small part of it, in fact. And this is what my new friend is helping me to see about Russia.

Friday, August 9, 2013

A Tribute

Today I'm skipping my usual FS-related post to write about my grandpa, who passed away recently. You can read it on ScribbleBabble if you'd like to get to know him a little. He was pretty amazing.

Friday, August 2, 2013

One Year Down...

So technically we have only been in Yekaterinburg for a little more than eleven months. The good news, however, is that you can leave post on the first day of the month you arrived, which means we can be out of here on August 1st, 2014. Not that I'm counting down or anything, mind you. I'm just saying.

So, how has this almost-one-year treated me? It's funny, I was reading back through old blog posts and I have to say, they were pretty darn peppy. Right now, John and I are kind of at our lowest point. You'd have thought that would have come during the winter, but I've talked to people and a lot of them say the one year mark (or right before it) can be the hardest. Now that we're finally on the downhill slide, I'm hoping it will be easier for all of us. On the other hand, there's that part of your brain that says, "Good lord, we're only halfway done!?!?"

Some of you may recall that culture shock chart I referred to a while back - or "cultural adaptation curve" as they call it. As I was going through some of my CLO materials, I came across an article on culture shock, which I hadn't glanced at in a while. John and I seem to be experiencing several of the classic symptoms: withdrawal, loneliness, irritability, hostility toward the host culture... It's not a great place to be in. And the thing is, all of this is supposed to end around six months (at least according to all those handy dandy charts). At this rate, we'll start to get comfortable just when it's time to leave.

I'm wondering if any of my other Foreign Service friends have experienced this mid-point slump, and if you have any ideas of what to do about it. I know we'll survive, but I'd like to do more than just hang on by our fingernails for the next twelve months, ya know? In the meantime, all we can do is take one day at a time, look forward to all the travel we have coming up, and try to take out all our hostility on something other than each other.