Russian dream of the foreign sky

Luiza is not the first one in Sochi I meet who tells me that she wants to explore the world.

The charm of London, the freedom of Amsterdam, the romance of Paris, the passion of Barcelona and the exotic Japan…

Images are so vivid: London Bridge, coffee shops, La Tour Eiffel, Sagrada Familia and sushi. They seem so real, with the pictures online, but they are unreal. They are only images, and the sense of real only comes from imagination, which can be regarded as a form of illusion.

What is real?

At least you should experience things by yourself, she said.

That could be the reason that she always brings me to the café in Sochi which is renowned for international cuisine and fusion.

That may also explain why the Japanese roll is everywhere in Sochi, even in an Italian restaurant.

Luiza knows how to hold chopsticks. She reads National Geographic. She watches British Top Talents and America’s Next Top Model. She listens to world music, from Arabic to Italian and French. She seems to know many things, at least a bit of everything about the world.

These are not real, she said. They are just the experiences of someone else, not  mine.

That was why she has been saving money for an epic journey to Western Europe. She first takes the train to St. Petersburg, and then crosses the Baltic Sea by ship, followed by a bus journey to Amsterdam. The only thing she remembers about the long journey is the card game she plays with her brother.

She only has a week in Amsterdam and Paris. So she visits Van Gogh Museum, La Tour Eiffel, and other landmarks of the city.

She never forgets about taking pictures, especially those with her face. The pictures make her feel so real about her experiences.

After a week of dreamy days in Amsterdam and Paris, she comes back Sochi through the same route: first by bus, then by ship and finally by train. 7 days of her 2 weeks journey had been spent on transportation.

That is the only way Luiza can do with her monthly salary of RUB 20000 (roughly 677 USD).

When she comes back, she looks at the pictures taken in her journey. Most of them look almost the same as those photos she finds online. And yet, when she shows the pictures to her friends from her camera, she feels so real. The envy from her friends makes her even feel more real, and the process is like a ceremony that certifies her real travel experiences of the outside world.

She decides to stop spending money on the café with the international cuisine and fusion. Instead, she saves money again and hopefully she will embark on her next journey to somewhere in this planet.

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About Brian Yeung

Growing up in Hong Kong, pearl of the orient, I have been exposed to many cultures throughout my upbringing, from Sushi to British Top Talents and Tetris. And yet, after my stay in Europe, Russia and Southeast Asia for study and work, I realise a lot of cultural perception and presentation are just myths and stereotypes. Exploring the real accent of a particular country and its culture becomes my agenda of traveling. I value travel as a way to discover the diversity of life choices. After all, life is just the consequence of our many life choices; the one who is aware of its diversity is the luckiest person alive.

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