There just wasn't anything to do. Mortal Kombat provided some respite from the boredom, but not that much. The Asian Max spent the two days I was there on the X-Box; the others wouldn't play more than a few rounds at a sitting.
Deprived of the ability to spend their money, everyone spent hours discussing the few purchases that they had made. Just about everyone had picked up a Discman as a souvenir, since they cost about half as much here, and I watched as they pawed each others' selections, debated the relative merits, and considered trading them in for other models. No doubt those conversations were repeated innumerable times.
My first night, when I bought a bunch of beer, several of them got pretty drunk, but even then they were remarkably asexual for Russian students. Seryozha has parlayed his cultural capital into screwing a couple of the girls and Viktoria had her exotic boyfriend, but for the most part they were all as prudish as Americans. Maybe it's the fluoride, or maybe just something inherent in being an American wage slave that kills people's sex drive.
Seryozha's analysis of the situation was the most lacking. He kept trying to maintain a cosmopolitan Moscow attitude, pretending that he had figured out the essence of New York in his few days there and that he viewed his time in Warrington as something like a trip to the dacha. But it was easy to see through that; the J-1ers are almost always from far-flung provincial towns because those are the places where they'd be willing to subject themselves to just about any humiliation for the prospect of making a couple of Gs. In Moscow, that's just not that much money.
Seryozha found himself surrounded by a bunch of hopelessly primitive CIS hicks; even those admitted they fucked up. His Moscow elitism was transparent, however, because if he really had been part of the elite, what the fuck would he be doing scrubbing dishes at the back of BK? That's right, he wasn't even good enough to be presented as the face of Burger King -- he had to be hidden in the back. That's an awfully brutal slapdown: one moment he's convinced he's part of the vanguard of European culture, groovin' to DJ Sanches and discussing Pelevin in a club where he knows half the people, and the next realizing he's not even good enough to take some fat lady's order of a super-sized Whopper meal in a miserable suburban grease pit.
Much as he tried to impress the others by showing off his knowledge of Moscow's various clubs (he laughed at one chick whose knowledge of Moscow's scene began and ended with Park Avenue), really he was just highlighting how far he'd fallen from when he lived blissfully in ignorance thinking that Moscow counts for anything. His eagerness to show off what he'd seen ("I really just came to get a chance to see the US, but now that I have, I realize that Berlin is much cooler than New York," he said) made him blind to what was happening. He couldn't admit to himself that he'd been expelled from the Garden, and pretended he was at the dacha because the truth hurt too much.
The others, living in the long shadows of Moscow, had long known that they were nothing except cheap, expendable immigrant labor and could therefore they could see American provinces for what they were -- just another place looking to break you and humiliate you. They had always known they didn't count for anything and weren't afraid to admit what was true in Minsk and Vladikavkaz and Mariupol was true in Warrington, too.
It was more than just being broken, though, because they were all broken in a particularly American way. How rare is a Russian who, with a few rubles in his pocket, won't buy a bottle? Yet these kids were all diligently saving their salaries to pay back abstract loans or spend at some unnamed point in the future. While living in Warrington, they didn't drink or fuck, they repressed their desires to spend money on a good time, they had long discussions about shit they bought. They hated their jobs but trudged on, smiling when at the register, just like Americans are trained to.