Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Russian Roommate

Just like my last stint in Russia, I’m living with a woman named Olga. The original Olga was my host mother Olga Petrovna, whom I affectionately referred to as OP. The latest Olga in my life is a 38-year-old editor with a nebulous past (mostly due to a lack of comprehension on my part). We also share our flat with her dog, Markus, an overactive Russian terrier (is that a real breed?) that enjoys shedding on things, running around like a hooligan, and disregarding my commands. Olga has explained that it’s because he doesn’t understand my accent, which just adds insult to injury. I have taken to repeating “сидеть” (sit) with every intonation imaginable, but my success rate continues to hover around 0%. If Markus doesn’t humor me soon, I’m hiding his beloved ball, and then we’ll see who gets the last laugh.

The best adjective to describe our apartment is “Russian.” The bathroom is split between a closet-like room for the toilet and a nearby (but not adjacent) room for the bathtub, sink, and washing machine. The entrance to our flat is guarded by two thick doors, both of which I suspect could stop a Soviet tank if it came down to it. Our kitchen was clearly not designed with functionality in mind, but it is more user-friendly than my first kitchen in Spain.  My room is massive—it may have once served as a living room—so in addition to my bed, desk, and wardrobe, there’s also a china cabinet and an antique bookshelf stocked with faded tomes. I’m sure I’ll be reading those voraciously, just as soon as I progress past a first-grade reading level.

Olga seems to enjoy taking me under her wing, even if my ability to maintain a conversation is only slightly higher than Markus’. On Sunday, she took me with her when she went to vote in the Moscow mayoral election, a process that was surprisingly similar to America’s.  Her polling station was an elementary school a few blocks away manned by the Russian version of PTA moms. A poster outside the voting booths gave a brief overview of the different candidates, so Olga quickly reviewed their respective merits and asked me to weigh in.

Olga: Which of the candidates would you vote for, Dzhessika?
Me: Uh…I don’t know. [i.e., “I can barely read, Olgs.”]
Olga: Which one do you like best?
Me: The young man, but only because he is the most beautiful. [I’m sure that sounded extra creepy in my thick, American accent].

I thought the police keeping an eye on things might have something to say about an out-of-place foreigner in their midst, but no one paid me any mind, and I half-expected Olga would let me punch her ballot like my mom did when I was a kid. No such luck, but she did buy me a marzipan pastry on the way out, which she said was an election day tradition. By the time we exited the school, a group of middle school girls had managed to set up speakers and microphones and were in the midst of a heavily-choreographed song and dance routine on the playground. I have no idea how this related to the election, but I will say that the lead singer really has potential. Someone get her an agent and get her to Eurovision because she is begging for pyrotechnics and a better set of back-up dancers.


  1. Yes. I approve of all of this - especially blogger. (I mean, if I can't convince you to join tumblr, that is...)

  2. Amazing. So excited to read what is to come! Especially if it involves castles, whisky and or vodka. (oh and hopefully sour cream, you just can't have a Russian meal without sour cream)

  3. Oooh. my. goodness. THOSE GIRLS. SO Russian! The hair (!), the pants, the scrunchies (!!!) (which btw, I know that Moscow has advanced but seriously, 1992 called and wants its scrunchies back). I just can't get over them, esp. the one with a hand-free microphone! Unreal. ONLY IN RUSSIA.

  4. Also why are some of them wearing winter coats already?!It's only September! 300 days of winter, or WHAT?

  5. HAHA I also just realized I'm posting under Mike's account. It's just me, lover. Whoops.

  6. Those girls ARE seriously hilarious!!! They rival European photo shoots in degree of hilarity!