Reverse culture shock hit me in the form of raw vegetables, a sharp craving for Russian oatmeal and a perplexity at the behavior of a barista at the local Starbucks (how can one man be so ecstatic at the order of a skim latte?). Shocking or not, it appears that cultural adjustment resembles a boomerang. As far as you fling it away from you, it relentlessly hurls back again in the series of questions, spontaneous comparisons and self-analyses. It begins to feel narcissistic. How extensively do self-analysis and self-absorption overlap? Then again, the queries come not only from within – everyone wants to know. I suppose the most striking peculiarity is the sort of dialogue I’ve formed that has begun to repeat itself to each fresh face. When these analyses become stale – will I start fabricating? That would plunge me into an even graver level of self-indulgence.
The human mind is one sly motherf*cker. We glorify, we romanticize – after less than a week! At a comedy show once, one comedian mocked himself for his behavior after his homecoming from a semester in Europe. Once you return home, he said, you start every sentence with, “When I was abroad…” and it drives people nuts! But it’s for a good reason. Each individual must reconcile his or her experiences with what has changed at home. You don’t leave and come back to the same place. Because places are founded in only in perceptions, and yours are forever altered.
And how can one possibly answer the question: “How was Russia?” I’ve noticed that generally, people aren’t too keen on knowing the truth – like fairytales, they want to hear a story that ends happily ever after. Call me a cynic, but it is much more interesting relaying the grungy, bizarre, even disillusioning details than creating a peachy perfect picture of your past four months. The failure of many to comprehend the fact that a semester spent in St. Petersburg is not four months of vodka and dancing bears only challenges me to tarnish their image. Study abroad minus so much studying perhaps, but substituted with new obstacles: disagreements with Russians, living in a place where social movements that occurred in the U.S. half a century ago are only embryonic, trying to communicate in a sometimes irritatingly difficult language. In the end, a person is left with last impressions, not the first thoughts that glistened in the September sunlight like the domes on the Church of the Spilled Blood. The fact is that “everything changes when you tell about life”; hindsight begins before you can even recollect.
 Sartre, Jean-Paul, Nausea (39).