Saturday, 19 November 2011

Looking in looking out

I've never felt particularly at ease in the early hours. I jump at shadows, I create monsters out of dark shapes and I door watch. I know what I'm watching for and I know it won't come, but I still watch. Utterly exhausted and suffering from excruciating sears of pain through my body, it would be appreciated if my brain would stop working overtime and let me sleep, but it doesn't relent often. I stand at the window most nights, looking out over the yard and observing the occasional car pull in, its occupant dragging himself out and trudging through the ice towards the block. Nobody looks happy here. There just seems to be, within so many people, some kind of deep melancholy which I can't quite place. Not the stereotypical 'Russians don't smile', but something that runs a little deeper.
Everything is grey. Everything is hard work. There's little pay off.

Walking along streets, through corridors of old women selling their recent picks of grubby vegetables, sat on ever softening old cardboard on pavements becoming increasingly slushy from ice and snow, I feel uncomfortable sometimes. There is an old woman who sits on a chair in the same spot every day, outside a market, an ancient weighing scale at her feet, and sometimes a few pairs of knitted mittens to offer. There are more who sit in their spots holding out tins with signs next to them. In Moscow people sit on the metro steps, filthy in the below freezing temperatures with their hands feebly stretched out, blending into the walls as more fortunate people stride by on their business. In Uglich, a small, wrinkled woman followed our group around showing us 'postcards' she had cut from a pack, selling them for 5 roubles each.

Everything is so pretty in the sunlight, imposing Soviet grey buildings look grand and full of historical interest, mildy painted pastel town halls are pretty and babushkas offering up their jars of pickles seems sweet and almost whimsical. But now it's grey and cold, everything is starting to assume an oppressive tint. I hurry through streets to the warmth of home and ignore the babushki and the old woman with her tin, still in their places, unable to move. I resent the bland buildings blending into the snow filled sky, creating a bleak scene as far as the trudge home stretches. My legs protest from the cold and seize up once I'm indoors as punishment for attempting to live here.
It's not even December. This is not a forgiving country. I knew that. But standing here now, it appears worse looking out than it did looking in.

I think it will be quite nice to go home after all.

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