If you read my stories, you’d know that I often express my appreciation for America — a rare phenomenon these days.
But of course, I’m aware of America’s many problems, in politics and everyday life.
Earlier this week my friend shared on his social media someone’s else meme or post and said “True that”
True that indeed.
I first came to the US in 1994, as a teenager. I spent my summer in Kansas, and then a year in Oklahoma. Already in Kansas, I observed that public transit was a pretty exotic experience. My host family gave me a bike, and even though it was pretty old, it worked just fine and every morning I rode it to a bus stop, a couple of miles away from the house. Then there was a long ride to my language school downtown. I didn’t have a bike in Moscow, because biking in the city wasn’t common. But I was very used to public transportation. A bus ride in Wichita was, however, nothing like a tram or bus ride in Moscow. At home, trams, buses, and trolleybuses were used by all, every day. In America, in Wichita anyway, being without a car was a sure way to join the ranks of the socially excluded. I don't want to appear racist or insensitive but my companions on the bus were all people of color, often obese, badly dressed, or looking suspicious. There were white folks too. One of them was scary. He spoke to himself, in a very angry tone. Sometimes he’d even stand up to give his speech. He had a habit of sticking out his tongue as reptiles do. After every sentence, he swirled it around his lips. So weird he was that I wanted to observe more of him but I pretended to fall asleep, worrying he might address me and react angrily to my Russian accent.
Then I spent a year in Enid, Oklahoma. I loved my time in Oklahoma, despite the challenges of being a foreign student. My host family was lovely. But the problem of public transit was worse. There was no public transport. My high school was miles away from my home so I couldn’t walk. Even if I tried, I’d be the only pedestrian in Enid. So every day after school I’d go to a library or a YMCA and wait for many hours for my host dad to finish his work.
Fast forward thirty years — I now live in America with my family. We lived in very different places. West Coast, East Coast, and in the middle. Public…