Being an American Expat in Russia

Being an American Expat in Russia

I have been writing articles about life in Russia for Russia Beyond over the past few months, so I thought I’d leave them here for anyone who is interested:


Why Russians and Americans Are NOT that different

“The U.S. president is a bombastic, overweight businessman. Russia’s president is a lean and tough looking former intelligence officer who allows himself to be photographed shirtless. The preposterous manner how media portray these two leaders have fueled misconceptions that are ubiquitous among the people of both countries.”

* READ MORE *


Three Insane Conversations I’ve had with my Russian Girlfriend

“I don’t need your opinion!”
“Then why ask for it?”
She gave me a look that sends me back to my childhood, when the whole world was a mystery and I was the only one who seemed to know nothing. She looked, and she said, “I don’t need your opinion, I need you to reaffirm my opinion.”

* READ MORE *


Lost in Translation: Why one American Writer Often Feels like a Dog in Russia

“They were yelling all sorts of things in Russian that I couldn’t hear through the blood in my ears. There were any number of wonderful things that I might have said, like “Hey! stop! What are you doing? What is going on! We aren’t criminals! I am a dog! I am a dog!” but I was at a loss for words.”

* READ MORE *


How Russians Changed my Life

” I knew I must know something interesting. I must. I knew philosophy and literature and I genuinely enjoy 80s music. But, I couldn’t find anything to say. As I searched, I realized there was nothing to find; that I’d put it away somewhere. I’d put it away in some dark closet filled with the birthdays of unlikeable cousins and every math class I’d ever taken. Worse still, as I explored, I found that I’d been replacing all of those thoughts with new ones; chic ones, ready-made IKEA-style thoughts about How I Met Your Mother and the names of every Marvel character’s alter ego.”

* READ MORE *


Three Reasons You’re Not Funny in Russia

“Russians smile. Russians smile quite often, some smile big, some are all lips about it, some have an adorable gap between their front two teeth that they are sometimes embarrassed about, and sometimes see as a point of pride. Russians also laugh. They laugh quite loud and sometimes it is a bit annoying, sometimes it is infectious, and sometimes it fills a room.”

* READ MORE *


Three Things you Should Worry About in Russia

“If you’re coming to Russia, bring small bills and hold onto your change. For two years I’ve been in a passive aggressive war with the woman who runs the shop down the road because once I paid for beer with a 5,000 RUB note.
She remembers, always.”

* READ MORE *

 

Let’s Freelance this Bitch [Part 3]

Let’s Freelance this Bitch [Part 3]

Let’s Freelance This Bitch (week 3)

The Good, the Bad, and the fuck it.

Hello! It’s Elliot, Ben’s brother who decided to also say fuck it and quit his job to try living off of freelance work.

For this update, I wanted to highlight some of the habits you pick up when you start trying to work as a freelancer. Some are good. Others not so much.

The Good:

  • Reading: I am actually reading books again. Yeah bookS, with an S. Oh. Have I finished them? No. Baby steps.
  • Sleeping: Getting a solid 8 hours of sleep every night is nearly impossible but freelancing has allowed us to both (usually) do this. The sleep isn’t always quality but we’ll get to that.
  • Cleaning: When you spend most of each day in your kitchen, you are confronted by the evidence of your dirty lifestyle. Our sink has never been more free of dishes (and cockroaches).
  • Cats: We get to hang out with our cats all day—Wait. Are we just old people? Has freelancing turned us into babushkas? Shit.

The Bad:

  • Eating: We don’t always eat breakfast. Coffee is a much bigger priority. Wait, this was a problem before. We should really eat breakfast.
  • Drinking: Every night is the weekend! Right? Guys, right?
  • Work/Life Balance: 1pm in the kitchen, 8pm at a bar, 2am in the kitchen. These are normal times and places for work.

The Ugly:

  • Showering: I don’t think I need to elaborate.
  • Shaving: See “Showering.”
  • Clothing: 3 day jeans become 1 week jeans. We’re both essentially recurring cartoon characters at this point

SUCCESS!

Two articles in Russia Beyond.

Accepted as “blaster” (yeah that’s the position title) on Blasting News.

Part-Time remote work with NDA.

Video explainer script finished.

Accepted job writing text for online comics.

Total Made: $480 (More to come)


FAILURE:

3 Different pitches for a film news site have been rejected (ignored)

Still no word from Cards Against Humanity.

Fun Stuff:

We went on vacation! Romania is one of the best places either of us have ever been. For perspective, Ben hasn’t lived in America in almost 10 years. If you are looking for a cheaper, significantly less-crowded, and equally (more) beautiful European destination, check Romania. Don’t believe me? Look at this:

Picture1

Elliot Davis, 2018

Ben’s Book, The King of Fu is officially out on Paperback! He and Nikita had a reading at Mayakovskogo Library. Enjoy Ben’s nervous face below:

Picture1

Previous work:

3 Reasons you’re not funny in Russia (Published in Russia Beyond)

How Russians Changed my Life [Published in Russia Beyond]

3 Insane Conversations with my Russian Girlfriend [Published in Russia Beyond]

Why Russians and Americans are not that Different [Published in Russia Beyond]

Why does Bitcoin Have Value? [Published in Hackernoon]

The Longest New York Minute [Published in Dataspaceone]

Who Owns Your Body? [Published in Dataspaceone]

RATE CARD:

Article Writing (Technology & Business) 400-600 words: $100

800-1000 words: $150

1200+ words: per project

Article Writing (Lifestyle) $50-100 based on
Editorial Services (Creative works) $.05 / word
Editorial Services (Technical) $20 / hour
Copywriting for Social Media Per Project
Resume Writing $200
Web Content Creation Per Project
Social Media Creation / Management Per Project
Video Production Services Per Project
Voice Recording $15 per minute

[min charge for any project – Equivalent of 1 Hour]

 

​The King of FU

​The King of FU

Hi everyone! Our first book got published…

It is a somewhat demented poetic magical-realism memoir about growing up in America in the 90’s.

Illustrated by Nikita, published by Nada Blank Press and written by me.


If you don’t have a kindle / live outside of the US, you can get a digital copy straight from the publisher here:

https://www.nadablank.com/copy-of-epress


You can also get it on Kindle or Paperback on Amazon. It is up on Kindle Unlimited right now as well so if you’ve got that you can read it for free.


You can find it on Amazon here:

http://bit.ly/KingOfFu


 

*Note: if you are buying it through Amazon, please buy the paperback. The hardcover was a test copy that did not work out, but was bought by a wholesaler before it could get taken down.

 

How Saint Petersburg, Russia Inspired me to Write Magical Realism

How Saint Petersburg, Russia Inspired me to Write Magical Realism
artwork by Nikita Klimov

Before I left for Russia, when I’d tell Americans where I was headed, they’d say, “why the hell are you going to Russia?” And, I never was able to answer, as much as I wanted to. I was only curious and even more curious about what made people quite so afraid. Were there monsters in Russia? Were there spies down every alley and primordial bits of darkness that I’d have to navigate in order to avoid being lost forever?

On the plane, I began reading a book called, Russian Fairy Tales (The Pantheon Fairy Tale and Folklore Library) by Aleksandr Afanas’ev.  I’d traveled before, read fairy tales before. I have sat and read Grimm’s Fairy Tales then got off a train in Berlin where blue skies and a clean and orderly Starbucks greeted me.

When I closed “Russian Fairy Tales” and exited the airport in Saint Petersburg I was greeted by a heavy gray sky and a crumpled-up man who skulked toward me, hand outstretched and said, “cigarette?” Even as I remember it now I remember that he certainly had wooden teeth, a long gray-green beard, and probably only one ear and certainly his left eye was completely black.

A Leshy if I ever saw one.

I hadn’t slept much on the plane and I was full of mostly tomato juice and anti-allergy medication. From the airport, I found myself on a bus where an old woman in a vest with iron teeth and a limp demanded from me the tokens I had exchanged my money for back in the terminal. She spoke a language I didn’t know and smiled in the same fashion as a leather jacket, or a boulder.

Something was afoot.

When I started to meet Russians and they found out I was American they’d say, “why the hell did you come to Russia?” And, I was never able answer, as much as I wanted to. This made everything even more curious and I had to wonder, is there a secret that everyone doesn’t want me to know? Are they protecting me from getting eaten by the Baba Yaga? Do they not want me to inform the rest of the world that they are using Domovoi to spy on foreign ministers?

Not long after getting settled, fearing a tartar invasion and wondering if the curator at the water museum was a Rusalka KGB agent, I was rescued by an artist who said,

“I wonder if you could float down the Fontanka River to Finland.”

And I replied, “No one would survive that.”

And he informed me, “a babushka could.”

From there we took refuge in the grounded reality of the internet. We started working together creating art and stories every day for a project we called Flash-365. I was drawn more and more to finding stories and I looked in all of the usual places you find stories; walking along canals, on the broken-off noses of old statues, and just behind the fake-teeth of the elderly.

Just as an old man or woman will have more stories to tell than a child, so I found that Russia–being old and somewhat senile–had more stories tucked away than America, and with age comes a frailty of reality that brings to the surface superstitions and ideologies that are deeply rooted and deeply felt.

In the end, magical realism became a coping mechanism for myself as an observer of a multifaceted and emotionally complex culture that I can never hope to fully understand.

Maybe if I had slept well on the flight, or if I’d been reading Sherlock Holmes, or if I took a taxi rather than the bus; or if it had been a light summer day rather than a thick fall sky, if Saint Petersburg had bike paths instead of canals, if Peter the Great fell in love with Asia instead of Europe, if Ghengis Khan had gone South instead of West, or if some important someone somewhere along the way choked on a peanut and the city where I now live had been changed, I may have gotten off the plane and written a comedic teleplay instead.

Let’s Freelance This Bitch [Week 2]

Let’s Freelance This Bitch [Week 2]

My brother and I decided to quit our jobs and try to whole digital nomad thing. We both have school loans totaling about $800 a month. But, before you feel bad for us, here are the facts:

We are men. We are white. We are in our twenties, college educated and if we broke down on a street corner and cried “MOOOOMMMYY.” Our small-town Massachusetts mother would morph into a mythical beast, fly to Russia to burn our enemies and carry us home in the crux of her wing.

We are privileged as fuck.

I say this now because I’ve been traveling almost ten years and I’ve seen many travel bloggers say shit like “you can do it! It’s easy!”

Bullshit. These people are often white, middle class, from America, England or Australia, and for the most part, attractive. Not all—mind you, but sift about on these travel forums and you’ll see what I mean.

These posts are for entertainment and hopefully to provide some insight and resources for anyone else looking to do some freelance. And bored people.


SUCCESS!
Writing a script for an online shopping platform explainer video
One ghost written article for a tech-company specializing in trading platforms
Total made: $300

FAILURE:
We both had articles rejected from The Only Social. I guess we were not for them, you might say they were anti-only social. -_-
Lifestyle article on writing magical realism in Russia rejected.

Fun Stuff:
Cards Against Humanity call for card-makers (Submit before August 31, 2018):
Cards Against Humanity is putting out an open call for card makers. You submit 5 black card ideas and 15 white card ideas. We have both submitted to them. If we fail, we will post those ideas here. If we succeed, well—they pay $40 an hour so, not a bad gig. Here is the link:
https://submissions.cardsagainsthumanity.com/

Previous work:
How Russians Changed my Life [Published in Russia Beyond]
3 Insane Conversations with my Russian Girlfriend [Published in Russia Beyond]
Why Russians and Americans are not that Different [Published in Russia Beyond]
Why does Bitcoin Have Value? [Published in Hackernoon]
The Longest New York Minute [Published in Dataspaceone]
Who Owns Your Body? [Published in Dataspaceone]

RATE CARD:
Article Writing (Technology & Business)
400-600 words: $100
800-1000 words: $150
1200+ words: per project
Article Writing (Lifestyle)
$50-100 based on
Editorial Services (Creative works)
$.05 / word
Editorial Services (Technical)
$20 / hour
Copywriting for Social Media
Per Project
Resume Writing
$200
Web Content Creation
Per Project
Social Media Creation / Management
Per Project
Video Production Services
Per Project
Voice Recording
$15 per minute
[min charge for any project – Equivalent of 1 Hour]

Let’s Freelance this Bitch

Let’s Freelance this Bitch

[WEEK 1]

My brother and I live in Saint Petersburg, Russia. We recently decided to quit our jobs and try to become freelance writers, because—fuck it. There are so many blog “abouts” that say “I made a living from my laptop traveling the world. I am a digital nomad woo-hoo!” But, how easy is it, really? We don’t know yet, but we’ll find out.

Here is our Journey.


SUCCESS!

One recurring editorial client.
One script editing and voice recording with promise for future work.
One ghost written article about property management.
One Lifestyle article for Russia Beyond
One recurring job writing local guides for hotels
Total money made: $270

FAILURE!

Rejected article on “Drinking in Russia”

JUST FOR LAUGHS!

We’ve responded to ads for:
Captioning 32 pictures of cats for a series of Veterinarian holiday cards (sadly no response)
Writing a full fantasy novel for 500 bucks (also sadly no response… yet)

Previous work:
How Russians Changed my Life [Published in Russia Beyond]
3 Insane Conversations with my Russian Girlfriend [Published in Russia Beyond]
Why Russians and Americans are not that Different [Published in Russia Beyond]
Why does Bitcoin Have Value? [Published in Hackernoon]
The Longest New York Minute [Published in Dataspaceone]
Who Owns Your Body? [Published in Dataspaceone]

RATE CARD:

Article Writing (Technology & Business) 400-600 words: $100

800-1000 words: $150

1200+ words: per project

Article Writing (Lifestyle) $50-100 based on
Editorial Services (Creative works) $.05 / word
Editorial Services (Technical) $20 / hour
Copywriting for Social Media Per Project
Resume Writing $200
Web Content Creation Per Project
Social Media Creation / Management Per Project
Video Production Services Per Project
Voice Recording $15 per minute

[min charge for any project – Equivalent of 1 Hour]