I’m writing a Yahoo series about my adventures teaching English overseas. For 3.5 years I’ve endured the frozen rivers of Russia, protested with Turks in Istanbul, and battled bureaucracy in China. I’ve also seen things that brought me joy, like a pristine Russian island draped in snow; stars over the Mediterranean Sea at the foot of a Turkish castle; and a temple viewpoint where a Chinese empress once admired the lake and forests at her Summer Palace.
It took divorce and loss of my rich housewife home to launch me in a new life teaching English overseas. I missed my California children terribly and struggled each day to survive inside the economies of the countries where I taught, with little help from anyone, no credit card, no exit plan. I often felt like a target, an American woman walking alone. Tall, blonde, with blue eyes and fair skin, I constantly felt the stares of darker men and was attacked in each country where I taught. But being nobody made me blend in better and live like the people around me. I could take photos with my little camera, looking like a tourist, not a journalist, as well-equipped news teams held back by buildings when I walked past.
So here’s a little joyful story of what happened when I was so bored in Samara, Russia that I rode the 17-hour train to Moscow and right back again:
“Russia is a strange and magical place, a place of fire beneath the ice. Lonely strangers can meet on a train as it rushes through the long Siberian winter, snow all about the tracks and fields and forests, and moonlight shining through the window of the dark, cold space between the wagons where he takes her for a kiss.
It was the most needed and romantic kiss she ever had, for months had passed without a hand upon her. And he trembled with her, and also wept, for he had been working hard for the railroad, trampling through the snow beside black metal rails. Like a scene from a war movie, he is there, his eyes a vague green in the moonlight, his smile so transitory, his hair a type of blond, the smell of tobacco on his breath. The train tracks click, click, click beneath them, the wagons sway, and then his stop approaches. It is late, and he must go home, and she must travel further up the line. He holds her for a moment against his chest, in the circle of his arms, then steps out the open door into a whirl of snowflakes and is swept away.”
You can read more adventures in my book, “Fire and Ice.” I hope you enjoy my Yahoo stories.