I am used to the spitting in the street and to looking at the ground when I walk, I am used to seeing men with moon shaped faces sweeping the streets in all weathers and to seeing them shovel snow at 7 am in the mornings, seven days a week, I am used to the smell of the metro and feeling the warm rush of warm stale air hit me as I enter the metro's main doors. I am used to hearing adverts for products or services I don't understand as I strand on the steep escalator going down to the pit of hell. I am used to hearing car alarms that sound like amazon jungle animals high on cocaine, making mating noises at 3 am in the morning, I am used to being asked for change in shops by unsmiling grumpy women when they should have the change. I am used to seeing BMW's, Mercedes, Porsche's, Aston Martin's and Hummer's with blacked out windows, I am used to seeing old women bent down on pavements begging for small change, I am used to seeing drunks with dirty faces sleeping in the parks. I am used to seeing wild dogs sleeping in the sun and in the snow. I am used seeing people drive like pricks without signalling or thanking you for letting them in.
I have got used to being alone in Moscow, to walking and playing with my kid in the park, to being surrounded by Russian women and by cold expat women who mirror my country in attitude and in behavior. I have got used to driving in Moscow but I will never get used to seeing how people park. Cars are parked across zebra crossings, cars are parked half on the pavement and parked half on the road at sharp angles.
Before the snow melted, cars were dirty with brown snow and each time I had to go onto the busy road with my pushchair (child stroller) to get round the blocking car. I must confess, I took up a new and dangerous hobby, car graffiti.
Being very careful that no one was in the car, I would draw a penis on the drivers door, each time I saw a car parked blocking a zebra crossing or blocking a road crossing. Drawing penis on car door gave me a tiny satisfaction in knowing that the driver would understand my message but knowing in reality that the driver may not know why a penis had been drawn on his car door. Bad and selfish parking is so normal in Moscow and is a cultural thing, for many Russian drivers, it's normal and the way its done here. Drawing a penis on car doors was my frustration at their selfishness, communicated through a washable art. I know it was wrong to do but anger made me do it. I cannot accept Moscow parking, it makes my blood boil.
I have got used to freezing winters and hot summers, I have got used to not living in the United Kingdom where it is anything but united. For all the negatives of Moscow, there are many positives if you look for them under the carpet. Moscow has grown on me like my wart and I like Russian people. Sure, they take time to get used to and we have cultural differences but I am gaining an affection for these Russians. I would not choose to live in London and although I find it strange to admit this, I would rather live in Moscow than in London despite its cost, pollution and cultural differences. Moscow feels safer than London and more friendly than London. I like the many small markets dotted about the city. People with gold teeth selling big red tomatoes, small cucumbers, fruits and vegetables. I like the large ramshackle electronic markets and markets selling everything you need from fish and meat to plastic toilet pipes, mobile phones and every kind of cable. People survive in Moscow, they know where to shop and make their rubles stretch, to meet their daily living needs. Once you know where to shop and where to go, Moscow is full of bargains and secret places to buy what you need. It takes time and a lot of foot work to find these places but they are jewels in survival. The eccentricity of the place grows on you like a mad old aunt would.
Except for the parking, I have got used to Moscow like my old bottom wart. Moscow is there everyday and very much visible to me even shut off in my flat comfort zone of high rise living. I have finally accepted it for all the annoying things as mentioned above. I will still complain about it now and in the future but with a different attitude to before. Complaining is what I do, it's my job. If you see a penis drawn on your car door, it was me, I confess. Park better next time!
Photos: Examples of Moscow parking. I took this with my mobile while walking one day on just an ordinary day. These photos show the Russian love affair with big black cars and Muscovite's hopeless parking efforts. Of course there are worse examples of parking other than these photos that I was able to take but when I see crazy things I don't always have my camera with me. See photos.
See: Russian customer service guide
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