Reality checks...

>> Tuesday, 16 October 2012

I'm sitting here listening to Lily Allen sing 'Oh my God I can't believe it... I've never been this far away from home' and sympathising.

For various reasons, I'm feeling quite a long way from home myself right now.

Russia is a capricious host; most of the time I feel reasonably assimilated but now and again, just when I've dropped my guard, she throws in a curve ball to remind me that I'm not in Kansas anymore*.

This morning, for example, I was driving on a busy road and - ironically - just congratulating myself on how well I was negotiating the famously aggressive traffic, when some (expletive deleted) in a shiny black merc swerved out from behind me into the lane I was pulling into, missing me by centimetres.  He then pulled the same trick on two cars in front of me before repeating the process back across the highway as he drove into the bus lane to disappear into the distance with, thank god, no harm done.

I dearly hope that he was also accompanied by sound of shutters clicking on some of the newly installed Moscow bus lane cameras that should charge him 3000r (approx $100 or £60) a pop for the pleasure of using the traffic-free lane, but something tells me that that sort of money won't mean too much for this driver. Such is life in this city.

I've also been struggling recently with another reality check that often slaps me in the face when I'm not expecting it; the casual racism displayed by far too many of Moscows' residents, many of them highly educated and who should ruddy well know better. This is top of mind after a couple of incidents over the weekend, hence this outburst.  I should probably keep it to myself but after all, this is my blog and I need to say this somewhere: how the hell, Russia, do you ever expect to be treated they way you want to be by countries in Western Europe when you persist in treating people of any colour except white as somehow 'less', and as objects of suspicion if not outright derision?  Sometimes, living in this country is like watching a playback of some of the worst parts of 1970's Britain.

There is racism everywhere to varying degrees, I know that, and the racism here is based on the fear and ignorance of a previously mainly homogonous society adapting to a more global outlook, but that doesn't make it any more acceptable.  It's manifestations and the stupidity it is based upon, along with those who exploit that, makes me angry.  Actually, it makes me spitting mad, whilst of course the people who are on the receiving end of this kind of behaviour are far more dignified about it than I am, rising above it and simply getting on with their lives.

*Obviously a reference to Dorothy's words to Toto on her arrival in Oz.  But you knew that...


Expat mum 16 October 2012 at 18:28  

Mind you, if you had been meaning the actual Kansas, you wouldn't be far wrong about the racism at the moment, especially directed towards Obama.

MsCaroline 17 October 2012 at 00:23  

Sounds very much like the drivers here in Seoul. As far as I can tell, the bigger and more expensive your vehicle, the greater your disdain for traffic laws in general - and your fellow drivers in particular. Racism here is alive and well, too. I recently learned that it is only foreign teachers who are required to be tested for AIDS before signing a teaching contract: no such law exists for Korean citizens.

vegemitevix 17 October 2012 at 13:50  

Can't get my head around racism and still come across a fair bit in the rural community we live in. They can't cope with difference of any kind. Sorry you're feeling away from home. Hugs! Vix x

Iota 17 October 2012 at 17:56  

I have those "not in Kansas any more" moments too...

Sorry to hear Moscow is dealing you a woe or two at the moment. Glad you always have the blogosphere to offload into.

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