When I initially shared my plans to visit Russia with my friends and family, they were puzzled. They told me outright that I was crazy. For the typical South Carolinian, Russia is associated with crime, communism, and vodka - but I don't see it that way.

As a devoted admirer of Russian literature and art, I tend to idealize the struggles of life in Russia. Recently, I realized I couldn't just be an observer from afar anymore and decided to delve into the culture myself. Although I enjoyed visiting the Kremlin and Moscow, they didn't fulfill my expectations. Fortunately, I met a new friend, Yuri, who invited me to spend the weekend at his countryside dacha in Ostashkov. Before heading home, I also explored Torzhok. While these places shared similarities with Moscow, it was precisely the differences that I was seeking.

The above text is essentially a medley of stereotypes about the typical traveler to my country, where I was born and raised. Despite residing in the world's largest country, I hadn't experienced "true" Russia until I took recent trips to rural towns. Though some of these places are only a three-hour drive from Moscow, I still feel like an outsider.
Sadly, I notice myself fitting into the very stereotypes. By imitating foreigner snapshot style photographs I am trying to explore my national identity and my relation to the country I am living in.
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