Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Be prepared to bribe the cops; don't drink vodka cheaper than 5 kopecks; and "D.T.A" - words of wisdom before I leave

The standard reaction to hearing that I'm moving to Russia has been something along the lines of: *eyebrows up* "Umm...why?"

True, Russia does have a reputation for being cold. But this is Canada! Aren't Canadian winters just as fearsome as Russian ones? (I guess I'll find out...)
Besides the weather, Russia seems to conjure up some negative connotations for someone who considers herself a HUGE Slavophile, its hard for me to view Russia through anything but rose-tinted glasses sometimes. And I know that could be dangerous. I definitely idealize Russia to an extent, but at least I'm aware of this trend to romanticize the country, right? Actually, I am a little afraid that the "real Russia" might turn out to be a crushing disillusionment for me, but I'm also excited, ready to challenge my pre-conceived and naive notions of this country I've loved for so long. Should be interesting blog-worthy material, at the very least!

Anyways, I've gotten a LOT of advice from people, some helpful, some troubling, some (unintentionally) hilarious, and all well-meant and appreciated! Russians and expats living in Russia have all told me about the corruption in the police force, advising me to carry a limited amount of American money on me "just in case" I need to bribe a cop. I remember one time in Russian class, this guy was regaling everyone with a story about how one time, back in Russia, he got a phone call from his dad in the middle of the night. "I'm too drunk to drive home," he told his then-fourteen year old son. "You're going to have to drive my car and come pick me up." Okay...first problem with this scenario: what kind of role model is this father? Drunk at the bar in the middle of the night? And then is there no legal driving age in Russia? Oh, but it gets worse...on this kid's way to the bar, some cops pulled him over. "What did you do?" I asked this student, aghast at his story. "Oh, I bribed them," he said casually. The other Russians in my class all nodded, like well, duh. Umm...ok. When I was fourteen I was not driving at 3am to pick up my inebriated father from a bar and bribing police officers. I was watching Disney movies with my family and tucked away sleeping by 9pm! (My life was a little more sheltered than the average Canadian kid, I admit...but still!)

I've also been told to avoid drinking a shot of vodka that's cheaper than 5 kopecks, because people have died from it, and also to avoid Russian soldiers. My boss here in Ontario wanted to buy me some mace to smuggle into the country, but I didn't think that was such a wise idea...My dad has already told me that if anything happens to me, he will not hesitate to pull a Liam Neeson from the movie Taken...which is kinda cute in a way, but it also scares the hell out of me! Above all, the number one piece of advice I've been given has been succinctly shortened down by my relatives to "D.T.A.": Don't Trust Anyone.

"D.T.A." includes the obvious, like creepy men in black leather jackets, but also, I've been told, little kids and the company I'm going to be working for, Language Link. I think this is a little overly cautious, but my relatives were telling me this at a family party where quite a few of them were at least a little tipsy...anyways, I've promised them all that I will follow "D.T.A.", because, after all, it is a pretty catchy acronym anyways, kinda like "G.T.L."'t believe I just referenced Jersey Shore there...okay, my next post will be about something lofty and academic just so I can prove that I'm not a total uncultured cretin, I just have a slight weakness for cheesy reality shows sometimes... :)

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