Posts tagged “Russia

A Haunting

Posted on 10 June 2018

My most vivid memory of Saint Petersburg is this: Listen. The cold sun glares at me as I walk along the Fontanka embankment. I walk southwest to where the canal meets the Neva, and then turn around and walk back on the other side. I keep my gaze fixed straight ahead and step in time to the music in my ears. The grey of the streets and the buildings blends with the blue of the sky where the white light of the sun rubs them together. As a woman, I stick out with my flat shoes and casual clothes, but I’m stopped and asked for directions anyway. I’ve been here long enough, have been walking around long enough, to often answer. I walked a…

Glimpses of Slaughter and Silence

Posted on 20 November 2016

There was a wall before me. I ran my hands along it. I peered over it. I spent months perched on top, dangling my feet over the edge, observing. I scraped my elbows and palms, gathering glimpses at foreboding pasts and awful alternative presents, collecting calluses. The wall is cracking beneath my palms. Genocide seems far away. Even when standing on its grounds, an inexperienced mind, sans memories, isn’t elastic enough to fully accept this truth. When I was there, I tried, I really did. I looked at everyone my age and older: Which side were you on? What memories do you hold in your body? Around me, motortaxis zipped by. Rwanda truly felt safe to me. Reconciling pleasant Kigali with what I knew…

Endless, Expanding Returns

Posted on 1 April 2016

Some places tug. This can be a problem: there’s a line strung between places known and unknown, and you can only set yourself at one point on this line. I stumble, here. I visit places for the first time and it only entices me to learn more. This year, in less than three months after returning from Myanmar, I’ve already read three books on the country. I visit a place again, and only get sucked in deeper. I studied abroad in Saint Petersburg, and years later returned to Russia by way of Irkutsk. This year, I’ve also read three books on Russia and keep scheming up adventures for far-flung corners. And then there’s Finland: I’ve been seven times and am looking forward to my…

Scratch at the Surface

Posted on 11 March 2016

About a month ago, I was sitting in a theater, surrounded mostly by fellow U.S.-Americans, all of us concentrating on the people sitting on stage: namely, Maria Alyokhina and Ksenia Zhivago of Pussy Riot, promoter Alexander Cheparukhin, and translator Mariana Markova. I had bought my tickets for this event something like half a year prior, and “the girls” and their witty, sharp, and compassionate answers did not disappoint. Pussy Riot: the name alone suggests a spectacle to native English speakers in its crassness. I’m sure some people came out of that curiosity, and others out of a genuine interest (and concern) for them. Others for sure came out of a Russia connection: studies, a friend, family. The level of enthusiasm and respect for Pussy…

Kto Znayet, Who Knows

Posted on 12 October 2015

I used to walk the streets of Saint Petersburg, propelling myself forward at a strident pace. Sometimes, passerby would stop me and ask me for directions. I told them I didn’t know where I was, where I was going. I’ve seen people travel to Russia with an image in their mind. A romantic image: a dark but gorgeous, majestic place, literary geniuses winding their way through the lamp lit streets, symphony notes hovering in the air, poetry in the wind. A harsh image: never ending Soviet apartment blocks, grey sky, grey streets, grey faces, a hush all around, a terror gripping you, reaching out from every pulled-aside curtain in the window. A chaotic image: mafia men roaming the streets, lawlessness abound, money exchanges on…