Here’s an old post I wrote on the second day of being at my new host house.
Today I was so frustrated with my host that, in complete honesty, I felt like crying at a few points. This feeling is actually quite a common experience — each time I study abroad, I get it a few times to differing degrees. It’s now much easier the fourth time studying abroad because I know why I am feeling this way and I know how to get through it, but it still is not the most fun.
Reason one why I was emotional today:
- I think my host means well, but sometimes when I’m struggling to tell her something she will just command me to do another thing. For example, she has a lot of rules in this house and is very particular about how the door knobs must be operated. I’ve messed up on it twice and she’s somehow seen/heard it both times. The second time around she asked me if I didn’t remember what she said. I was trying to tell her that “no, I do, and I actually did turn the door knob the way you want me to” but was stumbling through the words. Russian is HARD. Anyways, as I am trying to explain that to her she cut me off and said “Change!.” Essentially she wanted me to change into my outdoor coat because we were going outside. “Change!” probably sounds really harsh to an English speaker, but many languages have one word commands (so does Korean, for example) that are just part of the language and culture. It was more like she was saying “put your coat on.” However, at the time I was frustrated about her particular rules with the door knobs (and MANY other things) and how she cut me off in my explanation, so the last thing I wanted at the time was a one word command.
I was actually warned about my host having many rules, the resident director described it that she “hovers,” which so far is very true.
Reason two I got frustrated:
I have a really fast metabolism and at home I eat A LOT of protein. Usually 3-4 eggs, one chicken breast, sandwich meat, a protein bar, etc throughout the day in addition to other food types. I probably eat around 2,000-2,300 calories a day because I also exercise. Starting tomorrow I am also going to a new gym here. Getting that membership and navigating the language for that is a completely different story.
Well, my host again I think has good intentions, but keeps feeding me food that leaves me so hungry at night that I’ve been waking up at 3am from hunger. Anyone who knows me knows that I eat a lot of meals and will clear out your fridge if you let me do so. So I need to find a way to get in more calories during my day which is very busy. I also am trying to navigate the “yes, I like your food, but I just need to eat more of my own that I also buy” situation. I don’t want her to think I don’t like her cooking.
Part of the problem is that her cooking has been mostly pure carbs. Not many vegetables or protein — two things that take a while to digest and keep you full for longer. For example last night she made pasta with butter. And today she made me some frozen dumplings with sour cream on top. Produce here is very expensive too. Anyways, food culture is definitely something that is going to take some learning here for me. Also — please do not worry if you are reading this post. I have since been getting a lot more food and eating heavier lunches to accommodate.
Reason three I was emotionally exhausted:
Don’t get me wrong, I love tea. But my host’s kitchen is an absolute disaster. It’s dirty, there are wet things all over, half the table is covered with all this random crap like artichoke jelly and things in clear containers that “who the hell knows what that brown mush is.” It’s a little repulsive…. But apparently this is also what a few of my friend’s host kitchens are like.
The Brita filter she uses (since you cannot drink tap water in Russia) has brown stuff growing on it, which I learned after she had fed me two cups of water. And so, out of curiosity, I checked inside the tea kettle when she was not at the home. There is slimy brown gunk coating the bottom. I was floored and also upset because I was sooooo thirsty and figured that if I boiled water it would be safe and cleaner than both tap and the Brown Brita Water. Usually in the states I drink about 2-3 liters of water A DAY. So yah, ;( the water situation then stressed me out.
What made me more emotionally frustrated was that she was not letting me leave her home to go get myself some water. I understood why. For starters, it was dark and snowing outside by the time she got home. And two, she still had to explain to me how to do her door which has 4 keys and is old and complicated.
Regardless, I need to figure out a way to tell her no to the tea. Or, I want to buy her a new kettle but do not know if that will be seen wrong — like “oh, you are so bad at cleaning the kettle that her is another one.” Maybe I’m looking too deep into it. Maybe I have the Korean culture of “do not decline food” ingrained in me right now. Who knows!
*note: since writing this, the issue has been resolved! If people are interested I can write a separate post on this.
Then to put the cherry on top I had one more bad interaction in the host house that almost tipped me over the edge and I honestly could have cried right then and there. Remember, I was also jet lagged. Fortunately, I kept it together. So her shower is a really old shower in an also rather dirty bathroom that needs a solid scrub. The shower is run by a gas fire that is about 2 feet away from the water nozzle. I have to light a match and then light the gas burner (which is inside with me in the main part of the shower) and blow on it until the fire gets bigger. Then I have to wait until the water heats enough, which it never really gets that warm, before showering. And while showering I have to be careful of the gas burner two feet away from me.
Sorry this post is getting so long. But, I did the order of the gas, blowing, adjusting the flame, the water, etc incorrectly and she — for very good reasons — got very stern and told me what I did was not good at all and very dangerous. But the stern tone of her voice and how said it multiple times almost threw me over the edge. From the doorknobs to the moldy tea, to now the gas shower (and allllllll these other rules she has in the house like when I can use electricity to charge my devices and when I can take showers etc) I was ready to throw my hands up. It had literally been one day inside her home.
I’ve had so many other things happen within the last few days — like making a complete fool of myself trying to do different tasks like buying a new phone plan or checking out various gyms and then getting a pass, or handing over the incorrect amounts of money at stores. But these things — which used to make me SOOOO frustrated (almost like feeling trapped in a five year old’s tongue) the first few times I studied abroad — now are so beyond me. I really could care less about those mistakes as I really learn from those. But the water/food/doorknob/rules/shower at the house situation got me stressed in a new way I’ve never really felt before.
I talked to my teacher the next day and he confirmed my feelings saying that he can tell she is very “anal” and has a lot of rules from a meeting he had with her. But that once I get to know her more she has a good sense of humor and will begin to open up some. And of course, by then, I will know all of her rules, too.
Wow. Thank you if you made it this far in the blog post and if you enjoyed/learned about my experiences/struggles. Things are slowly getting better and I’m getting used to a very new way of living. I told her things just felt dirty and she laughed it off saying that I am really “a daughter of a doctor.” So, this is just her way of living and I’m going to embrace as much of it as I can.
Tldr: living with a host is HARD, Russian culture is HARD, food and water situation is new and more stressful than navigating being an American in Russia.