I live near the edge of the Moscow city limits in the north of the city next to a Metro station named Bibirevo in the neighborhood of the same name. The neighborhood is the peak of Soviet hideousness with prefabricated high-rise buildings built in the early 80’s that are now in quite a state of disrepair. It is, however, quite family-oriented and the community in the building seems quite strong with many children playing around the buildings. This last weekend was council clean-up weekend, and it was nice to see the community effort of raking up leaves and sweeping up broken glass—something certainly missing in the U.S.
In addition, there has been a spate of building in the neighborhood and two large malls have been erected right near our building so that we have all the conveniences of modern American mall life. I can eat me Sbarro pizza, then go to the hardware store pick up some bolts, and finally sashay over to the grocery store to buy some imported soy sauce and tofu. Thank goodness for these little pleasures.
Our flat is perfectly comfortable except that it hasn’t been remodeled since Soviet times and has no washing machine or television, and the only radio it has is the old state-controlled type that you have to plug into special jack and only receives three stations. But these, nevertheless, are part of its charms as it is quite easy to pass an evening reading and writing with very little interruption.
Part of this quietness is due to my English (from outside of Birmingham) flatmate (roommate) Mark (known to some as Darth) Vada. Mark is a self-described strange guy. In fact one of the first things he uttered to me was: “I am an antisocial person.” Needless to say this was a strange welcome to Moscow, and I was a bit worried.
I must say now , however, that we get along very well and Mark is a kind and intelligient person—albeit still very strange. We have had good conversation on topics ranging from illegal immigration to the best way to navigate Moscow by bus.
Physically, Mark measures about 6’4 and weighs maybe a hundred and twenty pounds. Okay, he is scarecrow-thin and very tall. He as lanky straight black hair that falls down over his eyes and a red face with what appears to be bad acne scarring.
Mark does not talk unless talked to. I am still not quite sure how he teaches. He works seven days a week, and, until he was forced to go on holiday in order to renew his visa, he had not taken a day of vacation since he arrived in September.
Mark is very neat. He assiduously mops the floors every two weeks and keeps the place generally spotless. He is also an avid student of the Russian language—though since he doesn’t speak to anyone he can’t really say anything. He does have a good passive knowledge though.
This, I hope, will provide you all a small insight into the lodgings in which I now find myself.
P.S. Sorry for the strange prose. I think I am being effected by the Gogol novel Dead Souls , which I am currently reading, and have been suffused with a strange style of writing common to Penguin paperback translations of classics. Read Dead Souls if you have a chance.