Home Moving to Russia Leaving Russia Impressions of an expat: Home again, home again
Last update on November 07, 2019

After living in Moscow, blogger Marco North creatively describes his experiences of reverse shock entry when visiting his stomping grounds of New York City.

The airport is pungent, smelling of every perfume all at once: Chanel and Gucci and ammonia and cigarettes. Faces are relaxed, wandering the duty-free with time to kill.

We sat on the bed this morning, staring at ourselves in the mirror. I always rest this way for at least a minute before travelling – a superstition but also a meditation on good moments to come.

In NYC the tourists are blissful, ignorant and lost. They ask me to take their picture on Broadway and 5th Avenue. They ask me directions, about where to go for lunch. The New Yorkers, the lifers, are stomping around in flip-flops, beating the heat. They are buying things for their apartments from Pottery Barn; maybe a piece of wood that will prop up something terribly important.

I glimpse at their fragile, magnificent lives. Two different young women are sobbing, one in heels late at night, the other with keys clutched in her hands on some stairs.

I eavesdrop on conversations:

“No, I can’t get her a cat!”

“I’m worried what he really means is…”

“…and then my hormones changed after a year of the injections…”

“But then if we go there, she never will.”

Their voices are measured, confident. Every word is pronounced like the narration for an imaginary PBS documentary. Accents are clean, pauses are long and dramatic — interrupted by horns and street vendors, by thundering garbage trucks and ambulances.

Two girls chatter on the corner of Broadway and 13th Street. “It was like I was exiled, but I wanted to be there,” she said.

On some days I could say the same, I thought.

There is a rooftop party on Saturday night, a penthouse with a pool on the 30th floor. There are models with boyfriend troubles, guys drinking Red Bull and vodka, coffee tables with giant photography books.The moon hangs fabulously low behind the Empire State Building just a few blocks away. The people and the cars are flittering along the orange lit streets below.

And after hangover cures the next day, after the sun slams down the avenues and I am cooking away, my feet know where to go.

I can close my eyes, and still navigate the streets. I feel clean, simple. I am an empty cup.

Reprinted with permission of Impressions of an expat.

Marco North is an expat New Yorker living in Moscow with his daughter. He is a professional filmmaker, published writer and a musician, known for the singular nature of his work. Read more about North’s life in Moscow via his blog, Impressions of an expat.