About six months ago my American friend Felicia Kenny told her part of a story about moving to Russia and studying Russian. Now, it is the turn of her husband, Joel, who went with her.
Let’s speak English.
Thank you. My Russian is still not good.
If I asked you who you are in three words, what would you answer?
A geeky drummer adventurer.
Do you play any other instruments?
Only percussion, and I can’t sing well.
Toad in the Hole — Annwn
Your wife, Felicia, likes “crazy” ideas like moving to Russia. Do you like following her?
Yes! That is part of why we get along well. Sometimes she follows me on long motorcycle trips, sometime I follow her to other countries.
Where did you go together by motorcycle? How far did you take her?
Our longest trip was from Eugene, Oregon to Tucson, Arizona and back. We also went through California, Nevada, Utah, and Idaho. It was over 5000 km. We saw friends and family who lived in different parts of the country and visited the Grand Canyon and other national parks along the way.
How long ago was it?
It was in June 2011.
The 5000 kilometers trip seems to be really hard and “crazy” (don’t want to offend you), but moving to Russia is crazier, isn’t it? A new country, a new language...
The trip was a big adventure, but moving to Russia is a bigger change, of course. Learning a new language is difficult, but other than that, it has been much easier living here than I expected. Also, it wasn’t sudden. We’ve been married for almost 10 years, and have always planned on moving to another country eventually.
Sudden or not, it is Russia. A big and cold country.
And flat! This is the first time I have lived a place that isn’t surrounded by hills. I miss having a dramatic landscape to look at.
Did you fall in love with Russian birches (a non-official symbol of Russia)?
They are beautiful, but I’m not in love yet.
Did you like their taste?
Yes. Before I moved here, I didn’t know about birch juice, but it is delicious.
What was your first feeling when you’ve come to Russia?
The first thing I saw in Russia was the airport and everything around it. The first thing I thought was that except for the different letters on the signs, it seemed very similar to the state of New Jersey, where I had just flown out of.
And where were you born? I mean, which state.
I am not sure if it’s polite or not... Do you like New Jersey? (I watch American movies.)
(Smiles.) It’s not really like in the movies.
No, better. Felicia is from there, and so was the girl I dated before her. My favorite boss was also from there. It is flat, with lots of industry, lot of water, and quite a bit of trees. People seems to think it’s much worse than it is, but it’s actually pretty nice, and has lots of good people. So, kind of like Russia. (Smiles.) I hope I haven’t offended you. (Smiles.)
Of course, not.
Saint Petersburg is a European city. Would you like to visit other parts of Russia?
Yes! I want to see Lake Baikal, and Samara, and Tuva, and Arkhangelsk, and when it is more calm, I would like to visit Crimea. Felicia and I also want to visit Tomsk, to see a friend who lives there. (Smiles.)
Tomsk is beautiful now. The center of the city looks like Saint Petersburg. Even better! We have old buildings made of wood!
I enjoy old buildings, although old buildings made from stone are my favorite.
Let’s return to difficulties of a new life. Did you learn any other languages before?
I learned Spanish for two years in high school. I couldn’t speak it very well, but I could understand more than I spoke, and I could remember it even after ten years. Now that I am learning Russian I seem to be forgetting Spanish, though.
What is the most difficult thing in Russian?
Cases. We don’t really have them in English, and in Russian there are so many of them, and using them is so important.
What about Cyrillic letters?
They aren’t difficult for me. When we visited Russia in 2012, I hadn’t studied Russian at all, and by the end of the week we spent here I could read the letters without any real problems.
I wish people would always use the dots when writing ё.
So did you fall in love with Russian?
Falling in love with Russian is Felicia’s job.
By the way, cases give so much freedom!
I can see how cases are useful, but they are hard work if you don’t know them, and I am lazy.
I have met not-lazy people, but I am not like them. They get more done, but I think I am happier. But, in a few years, I think I won’t mind cases.
So, you wanna stay, yes?
Welcome (new) home, Joel.
Thank you! It is good to have Russian friends.
I can say it is good to have American friends.
Felicia and I aren’t normal Americans. Many people there seem very upset about their own problems. It makes sense if they have large problems, but even if they only have small problems, it seems like they spend all their time busy and worrying.
Being happy is your motto?
What would you like to say to our readers?
I think my favorite thing about Russia is making friends here. When you move to a new place in America, it is sometimes years before you have enough good friends. We haven’t even lived in Saint Petersburg for six months, and we already have so many friends to see, it sometimes seems like we’re too busy trying to visit all of them. It’s really wonderful.
Great! Thank you very much for your answers!