Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Back in the USSA

I am officially back on US soil. I had a farewell dinner with friends on Wednesday, packed my bags (leaving most of my belongings in Moscow to guarantee a swift return), and made the multi-leg journey back to Seattle on Thursday. Unfortunately, America didn’t exactly welcome me with open arms—my passport was flagged at JFK and I was taken aside for additional questioning. It turns out there’s a drug trafficker out there with a similar surname and until she’s apprehended, I’m going to be given extra scrutiny at border crossings. If this leads to body cavity searches when I return to Russia in two weeks, I’m not going to be happy.

On Friday, Stephie and I headed out to Whidbey Island for a camping trip with my three oldest friends. Against her better judgment, Stephie let me take the wheel for the first time in nine months—I managed not to drive off the ferry, but it’s probably a good thing this country doesn’t have dash cams.

Reunited with the Little One

When we got to our campsite, Lindsay and Stephie pitched our tent, and I pretended to help. They soon discovered that the tent had a broken zipper, so Lindsay and Stephie set about brainstorming a solution—in the end, Stephie spent the weekend duct taping us in and out of the tent. It’s a good thing I surround myself with people who have basic survival skills or I’d have died a long time ago.

Who needs street smarts when you have friends with street smarts?

Our campsite was situated on a heather-strewn bluff overlooking the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The views were stunning and, as always happens after I return from a long stint abroad, I was reminded that Washington State is one of the greatest places on earth. It was the perfect setting for a weekend of hiking, sitting around a campfire, eating too much American junk food, catching up with friends, and laughing until I couldn’t breathe.

Even though Lindsay, Anna, Abbey, and I are all now adults, we still defaulted to the parents in our midst to take care of us. Lindsay’s mom cooked up meals from her trailer, and Abbey’s dad kept the drinks coming when he saw us empty-handed. Knowing I’d been in Russia, he gave me an extra large pour of wine and said, “This’ll put you in a USSR state of mind.” And that was even after he stopped Abbey from spiking it with vodka.

Since I still have the stuffed witch Anna gifted me on my sixth birthday, I was beyond thrilled by her reaction to the souvenir I brought her from Russia. She’s enamored of her Putin mug, and enjoyed her morning coffee in a cup adorned with photographs of Volodya in various macho poses – shirtless Putin astride a horse, bare-chested Putin crouched in a stream, and Putin perched in a tree in camouflage.

Anna: Do people in Russia actually find Putin attractive?
Me: Do people in America not?!

Her look of horror led me to believe that Russian sex appeal just doesn’t translate to America. Reacquainting myself with the US has been strange, especially since I’m off to Texas tomorrow. If that doesn’t bring on the culture shock, I don’t know what will.

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