Ever since arriving on hallowed Russian soil back in September 2014, I’ve noticed that there’s been quite a bit of changes taking place. With the upcoming World Cup, naturally the city is undergoing a beautification process, much to the consternation of those who are getting fed up with the nonstop construction. However, I thought I’d mention the relatively smaller changes I’ve seen throughout the years here.
In all honesty, the one thing I notice on a daily basis is how the transportation system has fairly radically changed since my arrival. I mean, how couldn’t I? As I walk to the metro, I see the marshrutkas (the ubiquitous minibuses around the former Soviet Union) run by the city. Before the change, which honestly I couldn’t quite tell you when they were made, you would see all kinds of dodgy-looking ones operated by guys who could be described as “having seen things”. The prices have remained the same, probably due to not wanting to royally piss off a good chunk of the populace, but the quality has markedly increased. No longer do I feel like I’m about to take a ride to Middle of Nowhere, Moscow Region! Plus there’s actual wifi onboard, so that has become a game changer. However, the metro has drastically changed as well. For starters, one can now hear English announcements there. This may not be a big deal for some, especially as there’s going to be a horde of tourists here this summer. However, some expats opine that this entirely removes the learning curve for newbies to Moscow, and that it’s quote-unquote ‘cheating’; this typically results in some “back in my day” declarations, which are warranted in my opinion. Why’s that? I remember being scared out of my mind that I was going in the wrong direction, since there wasn’t a linguistic crutch I could lean on. Nowadays, new visitors are in luck, which I feel some pangs of jealousy towards. Getting back on track though, the metro has gone through a major expansion. There are about 225 metro stations replete with the Moscow Central Circle (which is exactly as it says on the tin) with more planned over the next 4-5 years. Heck, even a month ago, three new stations opened up at the north of my line. This just attests to the extent of which Moscow is expanding (i.e. incorporating towns), and it’s giving me mixed feelings. Further highlighting how things have been changing is the fact that new wagons are being rolled out, which frankly speaking, are awesome. Just the other day I was praising the fact that there are now outlets to recharge one’s phone-it’s the small things that matter! Plus the overall feng shui means I mentally do a little fist pump when I see one of these bad boys pull up. At this point, going home to the DC metro is going to be like traveling to 30 years in the past. Gotta love seeing these much needed updates to an already solid system!
Remember how I mentioned construction two paragraphs ago? Yeah, there’s a lot of that going on, for the ever pervasive World Cup reminders and the perennially expanding capital. Okay, maybe it’s because I lived in the outskirts of Moscow, but I don’t remember seeing as many workers four years ago as I do now. While the end results look spectacular, having to put up with the detours, dust, and general inconvenience is something that took a while to get used to. Things have died down so it’s not as bad, but I guess there’s a sense of seclusion of having lived in the far northwestern part of the city compared to living just outside the city center that lead to this being a bit more of a shock. Or maybe that construction only really began since I’ve been here; it’s hard to tell.
Finally, this may be something that only manifests in my world here, but I swear there’s more of an expat presence here than my first few years. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, because I’m glad that more and more people get to experience the Moscow that I know and love! Even in the metro, overhearing English hasn’t become a “Do a double take and yell ‘we’ve got a foreigner on board!'” type of event. Yes, it’s extremely uncommon, but again, it signifies that I’m not the only foreigner. I’m guessing this trend will continue to develop despite the fact that it’s so damn annoying to get visas to Russia, since the government is pulling out all the stops to deliver two months of advertising. As long as this doesn’t undermine my cozy perch as an ESL teacher, I say let people come and visit!
I realize that this post was thrown together fairly quickly, so in case any of my fellow expats/ex-expats spot anything else that I may have missed, I’ll be sure to add as needed.