Leigh-Ann: Sleeping With Lenin
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Moscow, etc.
Tough question: The existential “who am I”, “what is my purpose”, “why do I exist” – more intelligent humans than myself have puzzled over this question for many millennia. I prefer to spend my time doing better things, such as vandalizing my soviet flat, checking out hot Russians at the gym and riding the metro to work.
Where do I come from? Well if I remember correctly, I come from a single-celled organism. But I might be wrong. I never was that good at biology.
I arrived in Moscow on January 24th, 2011. It was not the best day to arrive. They blew up the arrivals lounge at the airplane; I was on the other plane from London they targeted. Luckily enough, we got stuck in traffic on the landing strip. Только в России. Only in Russia.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
Sleeping With Lenin is my second literary endeavour. My original blog was called the TIP Guide to Moscow, it reviewed bars and other places both on and off the grid, covered my trips around Russia, gave advice on how to survive the winter. It was more like an introductory guide to Russia written by a rookie.
This is blog number two. More time, more experience, different perspective. After the first year of total craziness, I signed on for another contract, another year, a different company. I have just entered into my third year here, I am already thinking about my next visa, so it doesn’t look like I am going anywhere. Sleeping with Lenin is about jumping the fence and surviving the fall. It is my new and inappropriate commentary on love, life and survival in the Federation.
Do you have any favourite blog entries of yours?
My blog entries are about as long as my concentration span. The latter rivals that of a gold fish. According to wordpress, articles should not really be longer than 900 words max. Readers get bored. So do I. I am currently trying my hand at video editing so there is also a series of über-short documentaries (2min each) on what is really hiding behind the wallpaper in a soviet flat. It is more fun than watching paint peel. I promise.
But if I were to choose one, it would be the introductory note to my 2nd anniversary.
Tell us about the ways your new life in Moscow differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?
If you don’t experience a culture shock here, you must be dead inside. Every day is a culture shock, because we are wired differently. In any situation, we generally opt for the most likely and/or logical solution. In Russia, and more potently in Moscow, let your mind jump to the obvious logic path, and then ignore it. There is one simple rule, if it makes sense, it will not happen. Planning for the unexpected is unnecessary toil, just go with the flow.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Moscow? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
Had I been the best boy scout in the world, I would not have been prepared for Moscow. I arrived with a pocketful of coins and a bag full of preconceived ideas.
It is a whirlwind. It heaves and pushes in the most incredible way, reminding you that you are just along for the ride. It gives you the energy of a thousand Spartans, and it sucks it right back out of you. The French word for rollercoaster is “montagnes russes” (Russian mountains), and now I know why.
I wouldn’t change anything. Our decisions are what bring us to where we are now. I am happy with my situation. I wouldn’t do anything differently.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
I have narrowly escaped a terrorist attack, been searched and interrogated in a metro cell, held up a Kalashnikov point by the police, seen my first attempt at giving a bribe refused, witnessed a Mexican stand-off between drunk Russki and a drunk Caucasian with a gun on a rainy Sunday evening, ruined more pairs of shoes than I care to remember, rolled in snow before jumping into volcanic hot springs, mastered the art of vodka drinking, lost weight, gained muscle… I am having the time of my life.
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Moscow?
- Don’t come to Moscow for the money. To truly experience Moscow, you have to really want Moscow. If not, you will probably grow to despise and eventually hate her very quickly.
- Don’t be fooled into thinking this is Europe. And this is what is fantastic. From the outside, it all sort of looks the same, but scratch the surface and the culture, history and beliefs will surge out. This is where to look for the real Moscow.
- Eat soup. Eat kasha (porridge). Buy gloves and socks from the old ladies in the street. They are amazing. They will keep you warm all winter, and they cost nothing.
How is the expat community in Moscow? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
There is a friendly and warm expat community in Moscow. There is something to do every night so it is impossible to be at a loose end. If expats were vegetables, I would say “they come in all shapes and sizes”.
How would you summarize your expat life in Moscow in a single, catchy sentence?
You don’t change Russia, Russia changes you.