Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Map assignment

Hey guys! Today I'll be sharing another one of my favorite assignments I wrote for my Moscow in Transitions course last semester. For context, at three points during the semester (immediately after arrival, around ten days after arrival, and once more in our last week before departure) we were tasked with drawing our own maps of the city, marking places of familiarity or significance with no aid from any reference materials or technology, and then describe the evolution and changes we observed among them. This is the one that I wrote days before leaving Russia. Hope you all enjoy! 

One of the things that I always strive towards the most by far when spending extended periods of time in a new city or country is building a relationship through a sense of regularity and routine. At the time that I submitted my first Moscow map assignment, through a desire to immediately begin exploring some of the city’s most well-known areas, as well as random objects of my own interest, I had already begun to form a certain degree of experiential knowledge, even over the course of just under two weeks. However, the greatest difference that the new version demonstrates is the regularity and routine, and how those have changed my relationship to the city.

In the Green Door anti-cafe near Chistiye Prudi, I have cried from laughter with both international and Russian friends while playing mafia and board games, strengthening my command of the language through practice rooted in laid-back and fun memories. At the Frau Brotchen cafe between RSUH and Novoslobodskaya, I have forged a friendship with the owner and a few specific members of her staff who have seen me in there nearly every day, as I stop by for a revitalizing cappucino and fluffy, heavenly tvorozhnoe kaltso in breaks between classes or to power up on my way to the metro. At Pinza Maestrello in Chistiye Prudi, I have deepened my knowledge of the cuisine of one of my own cultures, this delicious new flatbread-like take on pizza that has become quite prevalent in Italy in recent years. At Gorky Park, I have danced and laughed with friends through some of the final bright sunsets and open blue skies of the fleeting fall, and returned for some introspective snow walks alone on brighter, overcast winter days. I have come to identify Kievskaya and Belorusskaya as my favorite metro stations I have seen, admiring the beauty of their bright patterns and cultural homage to Russia’s neighbors.

On multiple occasions this year, friends coming to visit me in cities that I’m staying or living temporarily, but don’t fully call home, has made them feel more like home to me. In the first week of December, a good friend of mine who I had met on my FEG program in Iceland during the summer of 2016 came to visit me here in Moscow from Germany. It was in the week of her visit that I was able to see how much my relationship to my surroundings in this city have deepend. Though I certainly don’t have all the informations or answers, I was able to lead, direct, help, and translate for a friend who could not speak a word of Russian or recognize any Cyrillic letters, and was successfully able to ensure her a comfortable stay. Because of the inner turmoil and self-doubt that I have admittedly experienced in my time here, particularly during the tumultuous first days of adjustment following my arrival, realizing that I was able to act as a makeshift Muscovite guide and comfortably use my Russian to ask for, order, or contest the price of almost anything with no issues was incredibly empowering. Having this newfound map encompassing so many places in the city already in my mind upon her arrival, I was already able to propose itineraries day by day, keeping in mind what clusters of monuments to visit and restaurants to try were close to each other, sometimes even remembering how to get to them without having to consult the Yandex Metro app I’ve long since downloaded on my phone.

As such, I now know that whatever adversity I may have faced here, both situational and purely psychological, has been worthwhile. I’ve made roots in this city, and expanded the boundaries of my familiarity with it far beyond Korpus 4 and the RSUH campus. I feel proud of the relationship that I have succesfully been able to build with Moscow, and know that I will be able to easily return to and strengthen it at will in the future.

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