So here's my somewhat convoluted answer:
At different times different things are hard. Without doubt the whole language thing is a doozy (or however you spell that). But other than that obvious one, which has plenty of stories on its own, there are a few other difficult things. I don't know that I can narrow it down to THE HARDEST thing of all, but here are a few, in no particular order:
- Weather--when it's beautiful in St. P, it's really beautiful, but when it's not, it's really not! This difficulty took me by surprise, which might have increased the trouble I had with it last year. This year I have been more prepared mentally for the increased clouds and days and days without sun, but the weather still takes its toll. For instance, already the sun isn't very visible until after 8am, and that's on a sunny day; if it's a cloudy day the sky just becomes a slightly lighter shade of gray until it returns to darkness that evening. Getting up in that darkness is difficult because you think, "Surely it's not 6:30 already!". And there's something about the pressure changes here that literally make your head swimmy and bring on more headaches than I recall having in the States.
- Loneliness--this one also isn't quite as bad as last year because now I have several more friends. Those of you have have moved to a new place where you knew virtually no one can relate to this, I'm sure; but then add to that the inability to actually talk to anyone because you have no idea what they are saying and you can't be understood either, and you can more fully understand the loneliness that can occur here. But as I said, it's much better now than last year!
- Church--yes, this might surprise you, but going to church has been hard for me. Again the language factor plays a huge part here. As my understanding of Russian increases, so does my desire to go to church; but this has been a big struggle for me. Thank God for iTunes and podcasts!
- Transportation--in some ways this isn't too bad; I enjoy all the walking that we do; however, as Isaiah gets bigger and heavier, this has been a bit more of a challenge, so I thought I'd go ahead and add it to the list. Russia has just about zero comprehension of what "handicap accessible" means, which also effects young children until they can walk.
So, there's a long answer to what might be thought a simple question. And just so you know, the difficulties definitely don't outweigh the joy of living here with my family. I get to learn a new language, provide my child with the knowledge of a different culture, and best of all know that I'm following God's calling for my life as a wife and mother living in a foreign land.
And by the way, if you have any questions that you'd like answered, whether they're about Russia or anything else for that matter, please feel free to ask them in the comment section or to email me at theslawsons (at) siberiangrits (dot) com.