My friend Sergey told me last week that there was a new shopping complex in St. Petersburg “that looks like the malls in American movies!” So today Aunt Kelly and I went, and to my surprise, he was right. It really did look just like an American mall, right down to the shiny new SUV being raffled off in the middle of it. Ignore the fact that the signs are in Cyrillic, and we could have been in Michigan or Minnesota or Maryland. Admittedly, there were a few differences: while the bowling alley and supermarket resembled their American counterparts, they aren’t usually part of a mall in the US.

And then of course there were the fur shops, which we explored thoroughly, trying on hats. Aunt Kelly said “If we were in the US, you’d freak out at the thought of going in a fur shop in a mall.” I said, “If we were in the US, I’d freak out at the thought of going to the mall, period, but somehow here I find its familiarity soothing.” I had a soothing sub from Subway, in a food court which also contained a McDonalds and a KFC. Mmm Subway… though the “Ovoshami” didn’t taste much like my usual Veggie Delight. Could be because of the substitution of cabbage for lettuce.

It’s good to know that in those times when being a foreigner gets tiresome (and it does, from time to time), there’s a place to go to feel sort of normal… and, ultimately, remind myself why it’s more interesting to be here than in suburban America.