Saturday, April 10, 2010


One thing that I think would be good to have with me is a stick. The kind of stick that is thick and heavy-looking and one or two feet long. I would walk around, twirling it lazily and smiling to myself in a snarky way. I'm willing to bet that nobody would mess with a guy swinging a big stick as he walks casually with a look on his face that reads "I know a big secret. It's the kind of secret that involves everyone but me dying. Tomorrow."

That way, shop keepers won't yell at me when I try to order 1 kilo of ground beef and mispronounce a word. Old drunk men won't hassle me for cigarettes and money on the street, and, most importantly, groups of youth won't bother me when I walk through a park. Heck, they might not even stare!

Ms. Australia and I went to drink in the local Mytischi Municipal Park on Tuesday after work. We bought a couple of beers and decided to take advantage of the beautiful spring weather. As we walked through the park, searching for a bench to sit on, large groups of teenagers and early 20-somethings who had infested the place stared at us. They were all drinking and the young men, in the slightly-latino-macho way with their black leather jackets and their bright white Adidas sneakers, and sporting mullets, were glaring at us with open hostility.

We couldn't figure it out. We weren't even speaking, so there was no way for them to know that we were foreign, yet one group of teenage girls stopped talking and carefully studied us as we walked by. An old man once told me that he can tell a westerner by our eyes. "You people have kind eyes." He had said. "Whereas Russians have hard eyes." I don't necessarily subscribe to this theory because many of the Russian youth who live in Mytischi have had a pretty easy life thus far. This is, after all, a suburban town filled with Russia's equivalent of yuppies.

Last October, as I came home on the Moscow metro, I looked up to see five young men seated across from me. They were all wearing black leather jackets, black jeans and black combat boots. They were all blonde with closely cropped hair. The one directly across from me had the most piercing blue eyes I've ever seen. I know this because, when I looked up, I realized that all five of them were glaring at me with a very chilling cool and cold calculation. One of them said something and they turned to him, laughed menacingly, and then turned those ruthless stares back at me again. I tried to stare down the one with the blue eyes, but thankfully the train came to a stop and the doors opened and, right before they closed again, I jumped out of the train. Ha!

How did they know I was foreign? Those young brutes were obviously some sort of nationalist Slavophile neo-nazi gang. The youth in the Mytischi park were obviously spoiled kids acting tough. If I had a menacing stick to carry around with me, I doubt any of them would have stared at me.

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