Thursday, September 13, 2012

Prisoner in Serebryany Bor

I may not be able to speak Russian, but I do know how to unlock a door. Or at least I thought I did…

The problem with learning a language is that no matter how long you’ve studied it, when you get down with the natives, you feel completely incompetent. And let’s face it, you are. And when I say you, I’m talking about myself. But thanks for keeping me company.

The problem with feeling incompetent all the time is that it starts messing with your head.

Yesterday was my first day at the theater. Not actually working, but sorting out my contract, getting the grand tour, and then waiting on a couple of my colleagues to help me heft my bags through the metro to my new place of residence. Permanent place of residence, I might add. Most of the day was spent in Russian, and despite the horrific sense of inadequacy which Russian brings to my heart, I was at least able to keep up with the conversation. Successfully followed the meeting on my contract details, my work schedule, and some of the ins-and-outs of the Bolshoi. Score!

But then my colleagues escorted me to my home which, as a side note, happens to be in the middle of a forest. And they were speaking real-time Russian. And all sense of self was quickly diminished. I started settling in to discover, as I had been warned, that I have the worst internet connection in existence. Farewell self confidence and my mother’s words of reassurance. Lifeline to English-speaking civilization officially cut.

Head officially messed with, I had a bit of a problem figuring out the lock on my door. I’d try to unlock it and the key would just turn and turn, accomplishing nothing. (CRUCIAL: I’m talking about the lock on the inside. Which requires unlocking to leave the apartment.) My Russian colleague tried it once. It worked, of course, and he looked at me like I was a complete idiot. Which I definitely felt like at that point, so he wasn’t too far off.

Instead of trying it again, I decided to unpack…finally! It felt fabulous!!! There’s something so grand about NOT living out of a suitcase. I then whipped up a quick pasta dinner, tried to rejuvenate my tired soul with a considerable amount of success, THEN attempted opening my door and STILL couldn’t, so I called it a night and took a couple shots to knock myself out.

Shots, you ask in disbelief?!? No, I have not taken up drinking despite the current abundance of vodka in my surroundings. (For the record, in my new digs I have only one coffee mug, no normal-sized glasses, and four shot glasses.) But as a “welcome to Russia” souvenir, I successfully managed to pick up the cold virus that was rampant in my hostel room. For a solid week I’ve been surviving on an evening shot of my Tylenol Cough&Cold. Possibly the most valuable item I hauled across the world with me. Its current status makes my survival of the coming year questionable. See below:

This morning there was sunshine and with a slightly clearer head post a solid night’s sleep, I thought I might have the intelligence and confidence to get my door open and venture outside. I REALLY wanted to run...the weather was perfect and that’s not an easy commodity to come by in these parts! So I grabbed my keys and gave it a go. And they turned and turned. And didn’t open the door.

6 hours passed. I did some Russian reading, then tried to unlock the door. Sent a few emails while I had a briefly functional internet connection. Tried to unlock the door. Waited by the window, pretending to study Russian verbs while hoping for a passerby who could try opening the door from the outside. No luck. Tried to unlock the door. Examined my exit options and realized the only window was a bit high and had a screen to inhibit my exit. PRISONER!!! Tried to unlock the door. No success. My self-confidence is not at a peak, given the Russian language, so the repeated attempts were made hoping that the problem was with the door, but secretly fearing I’d simply found yet another Achilles’ heel---locks. Put on my shoes and jacket, determined that I would make it to the store…no food and no toothpaste was not going to happen…and tried the lock again. You guessed it. Didn’t work.

Call someone??? I had no phone numbers for anyone within a 45 minute radius of my new residence. And besides that, every outbound text I’d tried sending the evening before had been met with the word ERROR. Service issues or my issues? The constant questioning. Can’t work a phone, can’t open a door, can’t get the internet to work…enough of the mind games!

I kicked the screen out of the window.

Four hours later I’m back inside. My door still doesn’t work. I even had a Russian try it. Just to ease my mind. I’ll likely still be locked in come morning. And there’s a 100% chance I won’t wake up fluent in the Russian language. But know this:
I will take my shots tonight and I will vanquish this cough and cold. I will leave the apartment tomorrow, albeit through the window. And I am going to speak my terrible Russian to my class and to anyone else who will listen. I may be losing daily battles here in Russia, but I will kick down as many screens as necessary to be sure that I win the war.


  1. Well..maybe not a 100 percent chance you won't wake up a fluent door opening Russian speaking genius... :)

  2. You seriously kicked out the screen? Dude. Photo please.


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