Photo by Boaz Reisel/www.boazreisel.com
Nations and traditions, cultures and religions, languages and images… mix, but do not stir. Moscow–the modern Babylon–where fearless strangers, expats, Gastarbeiters, internal migrants, runaways, dreamers and vagabonds– singly and in diaspora–are building their homes. For some of them, living in Moscow was the desired goal. Some had just been washed ashore from the Yauza by the strong wave of emigration. Others, altogether, came only to visit but stayed forever…
Millions of fatal decisions made by millions of newcomers among the multimillion in Moscow.
My decision is now about three years old, and I am going to celebrate it throughout the winter as one of the coolest decisions I’ve made in my entire life–short but grueling.
Yes, exactly during this dank time in 2012, which seems to be so long ago, I announced to my native home of Almaty: “I’m leaving.”
I had five reasons to escape that I had vividly explained and had posted online before my departure. Today, I want to remember these motives and to determine whether or not I traded salt for salt…
Reason #1. I do not want to hear the sound of expectoration ever again
What can I say here? Neither now, nor then did I have any illusions that Moscow would open the door to a super cultural, and deeply intelligent society.
However, I have to admit that there are still significantly less “camels” than people (those who have been to Central Asia will understand), and the sounds of spitting are far from the main soundtrack of the city. Hallelujah.
Reason #2. Oh, you’re all wet!
This one is about Almaty. Speaking of humidity, I’m not just referring to the climate, but also the moisture from the puddles of saliva on the summer sidewalks, the piss in nooks and crannies, and masses of wet and dirty snow that are loaded onto the roadsides.
Surely, it’s my failure… because Moscow is all wet as well. If not from the rain, then from the watering machines (by the way, apparently even the rain is not a good enough reason to stop watering everywhere), and if not from the watering machines, then because of the melting snow (which falls and melts, and melts and falls for six months of the year).
Reason #3. Claustrophobia that is not compatible with the onslaught of Almaty’s mountains
I know that normally, people are excited by mountains. Not me. If only they were mounts of coke. Joking.
Anyway, the snow-capped peaks of the Tien Shan decorated my window view for more than twenty years. Now, I feel an ocular mini-orgasm every morning when I go to the window and see the glare of the river or the forest park, sleepy high-rises or the seething Garden Ring–anything but mounts. Cheers, damn it!
Reason #4. Unbearable urban curiosity
Let me explain. As soon as you step onto Almaty ground, dried right through by the hot sun, a million other people’s eyes fall on you. They shamelessly look at you, dig under your skin and won’t look away until you have turned a corner.
My skin has grown old prematurely due to these prying glances and is now recovering… in the magical city of Moscow, where no one looks at you because no one is actually interested. And it’s damn good! Now, the small introverted-sociopath inside me does the winner-dance. Literally speaking))
Reason #5. 20 years without love
After spending more than twenty years in the sharply continental arms of my native city, I failed to love it. This, probably, was the main reason for my escape.
Did I hope to love my new shelter? – No.
Nether to love, nor to find in its face – finally – my sweet home.
However, that’s exactly what happened. Despite the dank winter that met me here in 2012, despite the cold loneliness to which I am doomed by this city, and certainly regardless of the socio-political context. Amen.