Ever since my life changed from being a sheltered child in Kazan to living on my own across the ocean in New York, it has been a challenge to reconcile my two, very different worlds. In one, I knew the rules and was loved. In the other, the rules were ever changing due to the diversity of perspectives, and I had to earn love. For the longest time, I would fight the differences, trying to lump conclusions and observations into a misshapen luggage of perceptions. Time after time, traveling between the two homes made me anxious and insecure.
The period of adjustment would take roughly two weeks. Shorter trips - just a mosaic of memories, no transition. “Cultural jet lag” seems to fit the description of how that adjustment period felt to me. One of the examples of my behavioral disconnect would be being open to strangers upon arrival to Russia. Having learned in U.S. the benefits of acknowledging humankind, I was led by the first impulse to do the same everywhere. Not much reciprocation here. On a present: I find that, in Kazan, strangers are now treated as less of a threat than they used to be. People nowadays initiate random conversations, ask for (and receive) directions, and so on. It did not feel like this even a mere decade ago. I suspect, some of the traumatic experiences of the 90’s are to blame, in part, for relative caution and vigilance which residents have cultivated, as a result. Needless to say, the current shift makes me hopeful and sure makes my transition smoother.