I was on the eight hour train from Petersburg to Moscow, completely disillusioned with my own ignorance. I had never committed seven major faux pas in a row (that I’ve been aware of), and I’d never slept in a train bunk with an old Russian woman staring at me from below with her beady eyes and flashing her gold teeth when she wanted to let me know of something I’d done wrong. She was not mean or cruel, just strict amd fastholding of traditional cultural norms regardless if her victim is aware of them or not.

She was on her way to the south to relax. During the trip her grandson was learning how to spell, scrawling down the russian equivalents of “tomato” and “dog” – i.e. things I learned less than two years ago. The kid may have been fluent, but I found it comforting to know I can write better than a 6 year old Russian boy. He spelled “car” wrong – what an idiot!

If you didn’t detect the mocking self-aggrandizement, I suggest you review the concept of subtext and brush up on sarcasm. This will no doubt be helpful for future Squeaky Robot posts.

We’ve been in Moscow for a while, also known as ‘the rudest city in the world’. Is this prestigious title license for me to be rude as well? Unfortunately no, because I not only represent ‘Murica and its ‘Muricans, but also novice snorkelers as well, and I would hate to give them a bad name.

I’ve heard of Russian hospitality but haven’t seen it. People seem to be rude for no reason, miserable at work, and it appears they designate most of their energy towards trying to screw foreigners over, leaving you with serious doubts in the good of humanity. But the fact is, Russians are much like their popular dish Chicken Kiev. A fried oval-shaped piece of white meat filled with melted butter, it is tough and crispy on the outside and oozing with herbs and delicious grease on the inside. But add some pressure, or effort, and you can easily puncture the callous exterior to reveal heaps of rich melted butter in the center, or kindness. As it is with the russian demeanor – strangers appear to be hostile and uncaring, but take the first step to ask a question or make small talk and the facade quickly melts away, and the real Russian character is revealed to your benefit.

 I am sitting on a third story window sill, listening to jazz music coming from the street and watching the Poplar pollen float about, as it does in Moscow every spring. There is a light breeze and I am content, a true homage to the present and its fleeting ways; there is something to be learned from being as carefree and wistful as this spring pollen, as indesicive and playful as the breeze, and as open to seizing the moment as a sudden thunderstorm. There is something to be said about just letting go.