yesterday i went to the central calvary in st. pete. i don't know why. i expected that, like always, i would feel retarded and out of place. which i did. i got to see my old friend kirill and meet his wife, which was nice and all. then as we were talking some random american kid interrupted to ask me where i was from.
laying aside the blatant american rudeness that accompanied the abrupt question, i tried to ponder what response to make. this is a question that, while innocuous enough, always leaves me a bit stymied. where am i from anyway? does that mean "where were you born?" or "where have you lived most of your life?" or "where do you feel the most at home?" fifteen years ago i would have answered "california" without a second thought. because fifteen years ago, the previous fifteen years i'd spent in california dominated my mindset. but now, having spent a few years in russia and 12 years in florida the answer becomes fuzzier. would i say i'm from florida? no, but only because i'd like to deny any association with a place i detest so strongly. but then, i lived all but a half year of my married life there. there's no denying that the time i spent there changed me and made me, at least partly, what i am now. am i from russia? definitely not, and yet in some ways i feel almost at home here even when i hate it.
i think i answered something to the effect of "i don't know," and emphasized my state of confusion with the universal sign of a lack of information, i.e. the shrug. my little american friend looked at me oddly, and asked how long i'd been in russia. a few months, i responded, and then, with a look of smug superiority he announced that he'd been there for a year. wow, i said. a whole year! oh, how tempting to put the grinning little punk in his place. but instead i let him saunter away, obviously tickled by his misplaced sense of his own experience. sure, he's probably never going to know what russia is really like; maybe that's a good thing. he goes to a church full of americans in the center of westernized russian civilization, with services translated into english. no doubt there's a church in seattle giving him money and putting his picture up on a wall and remembering to pray for him in the bulletins and announcements. but i don't begrudge him his safety net, or his smug superiority. he's probably got it easier after all.