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Russian Roulette

Russian Roulette #thirdculturekid

I am half-American and half-Chinese, and spent my entire life growing up in Beijing. You look at me and expect one language, but I'll give you the other one.

You will be confused by how native I sound. To most Chinese people, I look foreign, and they lose it when I open my mouth and speak to them with a Beijing accent. Many Americans look at me and can tell I'm some kind of Asian, and are confused when I sound and act like a regular good ol' American.

I went to university in the States and in my third year, went to Russia to study abroad. My classmates were freaking out about the move to Russia - the cultural differences, the different standards of living, a completely foreign language environment – I was not. Why? I have seen it all before.

I have lived it.

I have been a foreigner my entire life, and I was ready for - even looking forward to - these challenges. My Russian is pretty good. Before heading out I felt like I had a solid understanding Russian culture, history, and art.

November. We've been here for two months. It's a cold, windy Siberian Saturday evening. I had been out drinking and was heading home for the night, so I flagged down a cab.

I climb into the front seat, pretty tipsy but feeling good, and the cab driver starts trying to speak to me in English. Cab drivers are especially good about meeting foreigners, and most have stories to tell.

We make some general small talk, where I'm from, why am I in Russia, etc, etc. I reply in English, holding my cards for the big reveal - the fact that I can actually speak Russian. After a while, we lapse into silence.

Then, in Russian, I ask him, “give me a fucking cigarette, eh?” (a rough translation of a phrase I picked up from some university buddies), and he gives me this look.

“You speak Russian?”

“Yeah man!”

We then proceed to have a lively discussion about well, everything. This Russian cabbie that picked me up in the middle of fucking Siberia, and my kinda-tipsy self, were becoming fast friends.

So I ask him “are we gonna have a smoke or what?”

“Shit, of course! Shit! Hey, I also gotta pee, can we stop real quick?”

“Sure, dude”

Then something happened that I will never forget. He pulls over to the side of the road, we step out of the car, light up the cigs, unzip and take a piss right there on the side of the road.

By Tai

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