Thursday, June 18, 2009

First impressions

And so, so far I have not experienced any great surprises. People in Moscow were as elegant and as shabby as I had expected; as hospitable and unfriendly as one can imagine; and as poor and as rich as in any other place in the world, though here the gap between the two groups is way more obvious – there seems to be no middle class. My hosts, both of them with higher education, are renting a tiny apartment which they had to renovate at their own cost, and even with the fixes the place provides a quality of life closer to that of a trailer than that of an apartment building. All public bathrooms are unclean and paid. The only place where you can relieve yourself without purchasing a meal or without paying is McDonald’s, which btw has a luxurious interior and offers wireless internet (and is more crowded than any McDonald’s I’ve ever seen in the US). People smoke everywhere. Children, no older than 12, smoke openly in public places. Police is everywhere and does nothing besides enjoying little strolls or fast rides in their brand new Mercedes (ok, that one was a shocker). And the city architecture is a mixture of various styles, with the post-soviet buildings sticking out their ugly facades everywhere (I was told that in total they have nine buildings which look like the Palace of Culture in Warsaw, which, after all, was a gift from the Russians to my country). And just a quick comment on the program director here, our native lady from Krasnoyarsk – young, tall, good looking, very sure of herself, cocky and pushy. This is the first impression, and I hope I will be able to see the brighter side of things once we begin classes.

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