If I am proficient in anything, then in "being abroad." Here in Samara, it's the fourth time that I live in a country where I don't speak the language. By now, I know the problems that I will have to face and how I can deal with them. I know the steps that I'll go through before I feel comfortable for the first time. Of course, the experience is different in every place, but often my coping mechanisms are the same. This emerging template gives me security in communicating my needs. I can suddenly tell where I am at and what I will be able to do in the end, most likely. That fascinates me.
Here in Russia, everything takes a little longer than in Europe. There are fewer baselines, less common ground, more culture shock if one wants to call it that. There are a lot of interested and interesting people, in this town. With people, I find it harder than with the side effects of loneliness or confusion. To find the right ones, you have to meet a lot of them. Every meeting is fun but often strenuous. So far, I am mostly talking to people in English or German. Western foreigners are a rare commodity in this megacity, and as the young people often learn these two languages, I have a good chance at finding a diverse group of individuals. Since I am culturally uninformed, at least within the borders of this country, there is much to learn and to discuss. Culture studies at its best and just the way I like them. My Russian is not sufficient to keep a conversation alive just yet, but I am working on it. Only today, I practised shopping with my Russian teacher. We both felt stupid, and between giggles and embarrassment, I might have understood a few central formalities. From now on, I will be able to answer to the everyday conversation at the supermarket – after the question with the bag – with something other than "njet". (Besides the daily zebra crossing, this scenario brings reoccurring horror.)
Last weekend, I attended a “Stammtisch” of the Goethe-Institut in Samara, and who would have thought, I am not the only person from Halle. What are the odds! Sometimes a dose of easy and almost instant sense of familiarity is what the doctor ordered. We didn't have a deep long conversation, only the superficial exchange of schools, people and other common reference points. That was all it took to send me home with a smile. Sometimes, the world is tiny and cosy, until it reveals its full size and intricate beauty and we realise that this tangibility is deceptive. In Halle, we would've never talked to each other and Halle is a village. Our meeting in Samara allows our similarities to be more important than our differences. In Samara, the world is a village. In Halle, the village is full of worlds.