Russia, February 2, 1998
We sure had the good life living like kings in Moscow
|Expat living, there ain't nuttin like it! Now that I
am willing to spend most of my paycheck on housing, I am living like a
king. I am here, chilling in my new apartment, eating Cheez Balls,
watching the neighbourhood on closed circuit TV, listening to the hip
freshest tunes, enjoying life.
I am literally chilling in my new apartment. At 18-20C, (65-70F) it is chilly inside, of course not like the -15C street, but still not 75F. The landlord cannot fix the heat right now because Moscow has a central heating system for the entire city. The pinicale of state planning brought us an entire city on the same hot water and heating system. There are no thermostats in Russia, you get whatcha get because a central plant pumps the steam to all the buildings in a given area, regardless if you want it or not.
Usually the city goes through a cold spell in the fall where everyone is freezing because the heat isn't on yet. Then, in spring, the reverse happens, with a warm spell where the heat is still on. In some apartments, usually in the northern cities, like St Peterburg, people have to open their windows in the dead of winter because the heat is on so strongly. That, unfortunately, is not the case with my apartment.
Now, if I am going to be fat and happy in my place, I have to add a bit of Americana, that is where the cheez balls come into play. You can find real Planters Cheez Balls in random kiosks here, like the one at the end of my street. I felt there was no better way to relax, expat style, than with pure American junk food.
Yes, I have closed circuit TV. I know it sounds strange, but here it is more practical that luxurious. I am living a bit above the norm, and here, as anywhere, there are people who would want what I have. The TV is fun to watch. One camera shows the main door to the building, the other shows the entrance to my apartment. Both are in black & white, but it adds to the view. I can see most of the block with the main camera, and I enjoy watching the comings and goings of my neighbours. The camera in my keyhole is kinda boring. The scene doesn't change.
One of the things that Arthur (my housemate) and I bargained for in our lease was a new stereo system. Now I have a hip Moscow station on that plays a wide mix of music. Unlike America, where each station has a specific format, country, rock, classical, etc, each station in Russia plays many different kinds of music. There were only three radio stations in Russia for a long time, so they had to be diverse in their programming.
Now there are so many in Moscow, that specific formats are starting to emerge. I have the radio set to one of the last, non-formatted stations, so I might hear jazz, blues, Russian folk, African, or Arabic music over the course of a week. If I get tired of the radio, there is always a CD from the CD market here. All the newest releases, some even before the states, for only $3 a pop. Match that Tower records!
Life is good... today.