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The summer of 1996 was the first summer I spent in Moscow (NOT IDAHO) for two of the most glorious and miserable months of my life and one week in St. Petersburg, being a stupid tourist. Life in Russia was both miserable and glorious. I experienced what felt like true freedom, not just from my family, but from this oppressive culture of many cultures we call American. I saw many strange and beautiful sites: a gypsy woman exposing her chest, with disfiguring scars from being burned; I encountered the same woman twice on the metro in a city of over 8 million people; I viewed Lenin's body; I lived in a ghetto; I rode on public transportation every day and enjoyed feeling like I was a part of something. NOTHING prepared me for the culture shock experienced when I returned. Everybody bitching about not having money for shit when my host mother goes to the store EVERY DAY because she lives DAY to DAY. We don't do that here. Russian is a very difficult language to grasp. Even though I can tell you to f**K off, I still can not express myself as freely as in my native Ky drawl, which was the most frustrating aspect of my journey.

We were so scared of "The Russians" in the Cold War because we were prohibited to look inside. The Reagan years were a hoax. There is nothing to people, objects, and places that are "secret" for long, once we realize that basically we are all still people, with hopes, fears, and aspirations, just like everyone else on the planet. It's the ordinary things that surprised me, like silly superstitions, how a stupid Russian jingle sticks in your head too, teaching a grown woman how to blow a bubble with bubble gum, or trying to make a Kentuckian wear shoes, indoors that is.

What frustrated me the most was that few Russians have the motivation to get out there and work. Communism spoiled them, because no matter what kind of worker you were, you still got to go to Sochi in the summer. Now, because they have been such followers for over 800 years, they never learned the principal that if you want something bad enough, it will happen, but not immediately and not without change. And, we all know, change is the most frightening aspect of our American existence too. Just ponder what would have happened if our government failed and we had corporate Russia coming into our city, TV programs, and every day topics of conversation.

I never knew as a group that Americans can be SOOOOOOO obnoxious. In groups we are loud, wear ugly clothes, bitch and moan about our accommodations so everyone that understands English can hate us even more. I was not proud of other Americans, in fact I was embarrassed. Part of me, however, still wanted to go up to them and talk, to express myself, to share a part of the amazement, but... Actually, the person that overwhelmed me with nauseous feelings was a girl from Kentucky pretending to be British. She bitched and complained about American habits, and exhibited the most despicable American behavior to me since she didn't even know how to even say simple phrases such as "thank you" or "how much is this?" in Russian. Not that Russians are known to so be kind...but still, this is no excuse for bad manners.

Anyways, I left a part of myself there, and I want her back, so I'll be returning to Russia... probably for the rest of my friggin life. Russia is an obsession/disease you catch that is fatal. If you enjoy yourself, then there is no solution but to go back and get a taste. If you hated it, then you have to go back and justify that hate. It's the strangest sensation...

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My SECOND trip to Russia

So you are probably asking yourself, why in the hell did you even bother on taking a second trip to Russia? I really wanted this China set...that's the only reason I spent 10 weeks in Russia again... No, I went back because it is so facinating... and to take some photos on the changes that women have seen.

The woman that I lived with could not understand why American women wanted to be emancipated, although she is almost 40 and has never been married. In our society, that's really no big deal, but over there, if you don't have a man telling you what to do... then there must be something wrong with you!

I learned a lot and I learned nothing. I talked to this woman named Elizabeth in Charles DeGaulle airport about how I felt like the older I got, the more stupid I have become, but she says that is becauseI have become more objective. She went on to say that even though we all can basically study, it's knowledge that gets us anywhere in this world and what we do with it. I so totally agree with her.

Yeah... check out thisplace to hear and see more about this year.