Saturday, January 17, 2009

Cynicism, Jealousy, and Influences

So, I've been thinking a lot about Russia the past few days. Maybe it has to do with the fact that I dreamed about Moscow, maybe it's that several of our District's future outbounds have IMed me over the last several days, or maybe it's because I've been following the blogs of several inbounds from various places. Most likely it's a combination of all of them.

I think Russia did something to me. Because I came back and while I encourage exchange students no matter where they're going, there's a part of me that has an almost superior attitude that borders on being cynical. It's like a part of me is like "Oh, yeah, you're going to [Insert Country Here] but it'll never be as good/hard/worthwhile as going to Russia." which is a stupid attitude to have. No Exchange is created equal. But then Russia's not for everyone either. I've been hearing from people who are in Russia now and they are complaining. Complaining about the same things I complained about, actually. And I want to slap them and tell them to get over it because that's just Russia. Russia seriously does things to you. It's an exchange where you hate it a lot. But then suddenly you realize how much you come to love and care for it, it gets under your skin so to speak, and once it does you can never forget it. I know I've probably said this before, but maybe I feel the need to explain because maybe this time someone will understand better what I mean. Or perhaps not.

I was thinking about why I would feel this way; Why do I go around with this attitude. I thought that maybe it has something to do with the fact that surviving Russia is an accomplishment, it's a particularly hard exchange. So part of me looks at other exchanges as 'wimpy' though that's not true as each country poses its own challenges. So I think it has to do with that, but at the same time I think a part of me is jealous. "Oh this person is in Spain and isn't homesick and is having the time of their life." Perhaps I'm jealous because that wasn't my exchange.

Please don't get the wrong impression. I loved my exchange with all its crazy ups and downs. I got to see some of the coolest things in the world got to experience things, learned a cool language. But I think the jealousy stems from the fact that my exchange wasn't roses and sunshine. I had to Work at my exchange. Whereas it sometimes seems like the people who pick other countries get there exchanges handed to them on a silver platter. That's part of the jealousy. The other part is that it's really depressing to read all these interesting stories of adventures that other people are having and have your adventure already be old news. It's one of the most depressing feelings in the world.

One of the blogs I've been reading is a friend of mine who's spending her exchange in a very well known European country. She's having a great time and in one of her recent blog posts, she mentioned all of the cultural things she was going to keep doing from her host country when she came back to America. A bittersweet feeling welled up within me as I read this. She doesn't yet realize how much you are influenced by the world around you, and how hard it is to do something out of cultural context.

When I was still in Russia I had determined that I was going to bring some cultural things back with me. I was going to kiss people when I greet them, I was going to eat Sour Cream on bread with jelly, I was going to continue to drink chai all hours of the day and I was going to answer the phone with "Allo?"

Since coming home I haven't eaten a single slice of bread and sour cream, I don't really kiss anyone on the cheek to greet them, I rarely drink chai. The first day I answered the phone and automatically said "hello" was rather traumatic and now when I pick up the phone if I don't consciously think about using "allo" half the time I say "hello." But these things have no context in this culture and so it's hard to keep doing them. Not doing these things is just another grim reminder that I'm not in Russia anymore and every day I'm forgetting, every day I'm losing something else.

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