I'm not saying it's a bad thing. And it wasn't like we were Amish. I could use a computer, could play video games that were rated Teen, could forgo the horse and buggy as a means of transport. It was just more sheltered than some of my friends.
Let me clarify. I had a lot of movies screened. Before watching the first Pirates of the Caribbean, my sister and I were required to watch the behind the scenes footage so we "would know that everything in the movie was make believe". I was twelve. Not long before that, a friend my age and I were watching Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark. We'd watched the entire movie and were really sucked into the plot line. Right before the final scene, my parents shut off the movie because they had forgotten that everyone melts and didn't want us to see the below average graphics of 1981.
And it wasn't just with movies. When I decided on attending Bak MSOA, which is a roughly 20 minute drive from my house if you take I-95 (and speed--which I never, ever do), my mother frantically tried to find any possible way to get me to school without taking the bus. She was terrified of me getting on a bus with a whole bunch of other kids, some of whom would be older than me. I'm not sure why. Maybe she thought buses weren't safe, or maybe that I would pick up a few new "vocabulary" terms (wink), or maybe she just thought someone would sneeze on me and I'd catch a cold and ruin my perfect attendance record. Either way, riding the bus was like trying to get a bill through the 113th Congress.
So, in line with the sheltered lifestyle, one of my biggest complaints for the longest time was that I'd never been out of the country. For me, foreign cities seemed like this horrible cesspool of crime and confusion. My mom was doing me a favor by keeping me in the States. (Aren't kids' imaginations just wonderful?)
And going on this trip I was a little nervous. I thought I'd get lost and then have no phone and then not know any numbers and have no money and just have to sit on the street and cry until someone found me and arrested me for loitering. I wouldn't even know who to make my one phone call to.
So when I got to Russia, I was a bit nervous. I kept people watching and concocting these stories in my mind about how that guy walking by me on the street had a samurai sword in his bag and that he would just whip it out and chop me into a thousand pieces. Or that lady would just punch me in the ribs because I looked at her for too long.
So when we were given time to sight-see, I made sure that I was in a group of three NYO people. After spending ten minutes and asking about five Russian people where we were on the map, we came to the conclusion that it may not be a good idea to venture too far away. So we decided to go to the nearby Mariinsky Theater and the newly built Mariinsky II.
Yeah, what an eye sore.
Since we performed in the Mariinsky II, we decided to see if we could explore the original Mariinsky theater. The three of us walked in and kind of milled about in the lobby and tried to secretly find a way in while looking as inconspicuous and not-foreign as possible. I think maybe the NYOUSA shirts may have tipped us off.
After about a minute of arguing about who would have enough courage to ask the guard if we could see the theater, I drew the short straw and had to be the one to inquire. He only spoke English "a leetle beet" and I tried to be as clear and use as many unnecessary hand gestures as when I'm talking to my mom's nursing home patients.
Upon my initial request to go inside, he said no. But he said it slightly hesitantly and teenagers smell weakness like shark smells blood in a fish tank. So, one of my friends brought up the fact that we were members National Youth Orchestra and we all tried to look as pathetic as possible to hopefully get an answer. With a gesture to follow him, he got up and led the three of us into a back storage room.
This is where the panic set in. This was what I was sheltered from. This guy was going to beat us up in the middle of the Mariinsky theater and we were going to be stuck there and miss our concert. Aside from our black eyes, we were going to be black-listed in the music community by Gergiev. So as I braced for impact. He pointed at the three of us and said "150 rubles each, 5 minutes in theater. No photo". 150 rubles being roughly 5 US dollars, I have never spent a better amount of money in my life. He took us inside the theater and it was breathtaking. I can't even begin to describe it. And because we told him just how gorgeous it was, he let us take some pictures. Unfortunately, mine didn't come out so well, but just fill in the darkness with the most extraordinary architecture and sculpture you can think of.
The three of us were reeling. After we left, we just walked in silence and occasionally one of us would awkwardly interrupt with an "OH MY GOSH THAT WAS SO COOL!" Yes, it was.
I don't think we realized until after we got back to the hotel that the 150 rubles we each had paid probably wasn't going to the Mariinsky theater. It was probably being used to buy some groceries or "apple juice" at a Russian bar. We had probably bribed a Mariinsky employee. I quite possibly committed a crime.
The guard was just doing some kids a favor, so it couldn't be really illegal, right? And if I had to do it again, I'd still pay the rubles even though it might be lawfully wrong.
Maybe my mom was right. If I'm committing crimes and not feeling resentment, then I probably wasn't sheltered enough.
I blame the bus.