Somehow I pictured my move abroad to be something that happened at once. It seemed so straightforward: move to Kharkov in November, live in hotel through mid-January, move into apartment, get a Ukraine cell number, learn the language, presto new life! Seems simple, right?
Of course it’s not that simple, silly me! The apartment still isn’t ready… although there is a hope that we might move in this weekend (prayers, crossed fingers, and good vibes in our general direction would be appreciated). And while hotel life is great at first (maids, room service, laundry), being limited to one room gets old quite quickly, there’s no stockpile of late-night snacks, no drawers or bookcases, and it simply doesn’t feel homey (particularly this past holiday season).
We also have yet to begin language tutoring or get Ukraine cell numbers, primarily because we were in DFW for three weeks in December and just got back from a month in India, Cambodia, and Thailand. Reasonable reasons for the delays, of course, but speaking only about ten words in Russian and having no cell phone means I feel uncomfortable doing anything in Kharkov by myself, other than walking from the hotel to Alex’s office. Thus, I’ve gone on all my errands accompanied by Alex’s secretary, which makes me feel, on alternating occasions, like an obnoxious tourist, a kept woman, a doofus, and an infant. Niiiiice.
But I made a baby step toward independence and my future expat life today; I ran an errand by myself! It’s ridiculous how the smallest thing made a huge difference in my self-esteem and the knowledge that one day, this will be easier. Possibly even easy, normal, no big deal. I walked from the hotel to ProStor (a cosmetics store where you can also get lots of drugstore-like necessities), made a purchase, successfully communicated that I did not need a shopping bag, and then walked to Alex’s office. SUCCESS!
I’m not a patient person, and for this first success to come three months after the official move seems slow beyond belief. But. I’ve done it. And I’ll do it again, and I’ll go to other shops and coffee places, and I’ll make new friends, and I’ll learn this intimidating and difficult language at least enough to get by and be chuckled at by shopkeepers. I’ve got to remind my impatient self of the immortal wisdom of Bobo the Bear, in Muppets From Space: “Baby steps, sir. Baaaaaaaaby steps.”
And years from now, when this is a distant and rose-tinted memory, I’ll advise someone else in this situation that it will be okay and that in the end, as Calvin’s dad always says, at least it builds character.