The Autumn Colors of Moscow

Trees of every possible autumn color litter the city – smooth chocolaty brown, dark furry green, sun-soaked maroon red, and golden yellow-orange. Sheets of endless golden flora and fauna embellish the embankments of the Moscow River. The sidewalks along the road are glossed with bright leaves that have glued themselves to the tiled walkways. The clouds are muddled light grey and the streets are shining from last nights rain. This is Moscow in autumn—Pushkin’s favorite season in Russia and understandably so. The city’s strong, robust colors are felt everywhere, during every interaction, and at every street corner.

Brown is the color of the coat of the boy I met at Teatralnaya Ploshad who, to my surprise and delight, said I spoke with an impeccable Russian accent. It is the color of meeting new people because it is warm and comforting and it absorbs heat from the sun, as all dark colors do. Brown is the color of the brunettes—the adorable girls from Nizhny Novgorod who braided our hair on the boat as we sailed along the Volga River.

Green is the color of the plants in the university atrium where we sang along to Russian rock heroes—DDT and Kino. It is the color of the worn-out patterned fabric on the seats of the avtobus I take to university every morning. It is the color of tarkhun—the spicy, carbonated, and incredibly bright green drink we drank at the Georgian restaurant.

Red was the color of my face as blood rushed to my cheeks when I got my hand kissed for the first time by a complete stranger. I don’t remember the stranger but the recollection of the unexpected, yet courtly gesture will stay with me forever. Red is being called devyshka on the street, because it sounds so sweet and so feminine.

While, yellow is the color of the banana my khozyaika packs for me for school every day. Yellow is the glow I get when I am mistaken for an Armenian or an Italian. But the brightest yellow is when Russians call me by the diminutive—that one extra (or less) syllable makes all the difference in the world evoking such a feeling of subtle affection and familiarity.

To me Moscow is a multifaceted, multicolored kaleidoscope made up of all of these colors. Every day I see a different combination of geometric shapes, hues and angles. Through these brief snapshots and fragments, like scenes from a movie—is the best way I can describe my experiences in Moscow. I wonder sometimes if this is real life and if my experiences in this tremendous capital are real. I am communicating in a language that is not my own, that is inherently unnatural to me. Everyday I force my tongue, my lips, my throat, and my voice to twist and turn in an inherently unnatural way to evoke a sound that I didn’t learn through an organic process of my predetermined life but through a process I mandated. My journey through a Moscow autumn has shown me bursts of color, adventure, and excitement that I wouldn’t have experienced anywhere else.

By: Leena Halabi

Program: Advanced Russian Language & Area Studies Program (RLASP)

Term: Fall 2014



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