This is the question I get asked the most – why Moscow? Why did I come here? Why indeed!?
It was never my intention to live in Moscow, or anywhere in Russia. I didn’t know anything about the Russian Federation. I only knew what Mr Austin-Crowe had taught us in high school about the Soviet Union. Many years before, in my Gingin District High School year 10 classroom, I was fascinated by the efficiency of the place (the Soviet Union, not the high school). We learnt how there was equality for all people living in the Soviet Union at that time, and how everybody had a job, and a flat. I think Mr Austin-Crowe was secretly fascinated by it, too, because he really sold it well! (Hi Mr Austin-Crowe, if you’re reading ).
It wasn’t a realistic view, of course. How could it be when we were learning from books and not going there to find out for ourselves? But for my 15 year old brain it was some kind of Utopia. Despite thinking that, it was never my goal to live there, or even to visit actually.
But, somehow I managed to end up here. So, how?
My love affair with France
A short history: For as long as I can remember, I’ve been in love with France and all things French. When I was 13 I started learning French at school. This only lasted for 2 years because then I changed schools and French wasn’t on the menu. I continued to embrace all things French and imagined that maybe one day I would visit the Eiffel Tower. Find myself a Frenchman to marry. Live in spitting distance from the river Seine. Eat snails and frogs legs. And live happily ever after.
Move forward about 25 years, and I started looking for a way to live there (I’d gotten sidetracked in the meantime). I’d almost found the answer several years earlier, but something beyond my control happened, and I had to go back to Australia, extremely disappointed that my dream had been shattered (that story is for another time).
Some time later, approaching my 40th birthday, I decided that I didn’t want to be in Australia when I turned 40. Idea – I would celebrate my 40th in France! Then I decided that I didn’t want to come back to Australia after I turned 40 in France. However, that would prove difficult because my passport/nationality doesn’t allow me just to turn up in any country I choose and start a new life. Sigh.
Become a teacher!
I decided to do the only thing left open to me (with the exception of finding a French husband) – learn how to teach English and get a teaching job in Europe, if not in France itself! Brilliant idea!
So, I did a teacher training course and started looking for a teaching job in western Europe. Being Australian, and not able to get a second citizenship eg. British, I had to erase all of western Europe from the countries I could look for work in. The only chance us Aussies have to find legal work in western Europe is if we have such unique skills that nobody else in Europe (including the UK) has. Only then can an employer can give you a job (with a legal working visa).
I wracked my brain trying to think of some unique skills I have that nobody else in Europe has but……..crickets….
Map of the world spread out on my bed in my studio apartment in Perth, I started from France and moved east. I checked out Poland, as it seems to be quite popular as a teaching English destination. Unfortunately you have to be there in the country to find a job, they don’t hire teachers from abroad. Because I didn’t feel confident enough to go to Poland and knock on doors looking for a job I continued moving east (on the map, not physically) and the next place I found was Moscow. Well, there were some places in between, but after doing some research they weren’t suitable either.
Moscow – snow, bears, potatoes and cabbage, vodka, Russians. Scary. There’s the old saying ‘beggars can’t be choosers’. Well, the desperate can’t be choosers either (and I was desperate to get away from Australia and get closer to France).
So, after a couple of phone interviews with a couple of schools in Moscow, a language school in the centre of Moscow offered me a job! I had 2 months to prepare to leave my home, my family, my life. There was so much to do and so little time!
I decided to spend 10 days in Paris before heading out to Moscow to start my new life. It was the end of the year when I left Perth, Australia, and I arrived in Paris on the morning of 31st December, ready for a new year and a new life in Russia.
The 10 days in Paris passed far too quickly. I spent my time with friends (fell in love!) and delighted in the Parisian winter air, so cool compared to the scorching Australian summer heat that I had left two days before. My French improved out of sight. I ate baguettes. French bread really is to die for! I drank wine. But, all too soon, I had to head off to the airport, to Moscow, to start my new life. Terribly sad to leave Paris and my friends, and also petrified of what awaited me in my new home.
I DON’T WANT TO GO!!!!!!
I don’t think I’ve ever been so scared in my life, sitting in the departure lounge at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, after checking in and going through security. Wondering what was waiting for me on the other side of the British Airways direct flight which I’d booked while I was still in Australia; before the terror had set in, before I’d changed my mind.
Have you ever wondered how to get out of the gate waiting room area if you change your mind about flying somewhere? It seems impossible. I looked everywhere and couldn’t find an exit (fortunately for me, as it turned out). My wish was to go back through security and go back to Paris and live there forever. No can do. I was trapped, and with a thumping heart and dizzy head, I boarded the plane for Moscow, not knowing my destiny.
And that is how I ended up in Moscow!
So, why do I stay in Moscow? I’ll save that story for another time.