Patricia Friedman – HoISZL


Screen Shot 2015-09-21 at 10.44.36

What’s one of the most interesting things that have happened to you in your life?


“A few years ago, I was trying to fly from Beijing to Kiev (I was living in Ukraine at the time) and I remember that as an American that you’re not supposed to be able to sorta ‘jump’ flights within Russia, meaning that you you can fly in or fly out – but you can’t fly to two places. On my ticket though, it said “Siberia – Moscow – Kiev” and I thought, ‘Well, they issued me the ticket, they let me board the plane, this must be fine’. I made that initial assumption.


When I arrived in Siberia for the first time ever, I was the first person at the customs desk – that had never happened to me before, I was super excited – but very quickly I realized that it wasn’t a great thing that happened to me. I saw the customs guards coming out; they had brought my bag off the plane. I thought, ‘Oh no, this can’t be good’. That’s what happens when you make an assumption, right? Things don’t work out very well for you – as a result of that, I ended up spending three days in customs jail! Essentially, they mistook me for a spy. I thought, ‘well, I must be the world’s worst spy’, if this is what’s happened to me. Plus, my Russian was only good enough to order a cup of coffee. But they, in part, thought that I was a spy, because I made a second assumption – that I should act really tough around the Siberian customs police, that it wouldn’t be good if I showed them that I was at all scared. But that was the wrong way to go – because I appeared so unemotional, it made them think twice about me. Eventually, the US embassy got involved and they were able to convince them that I wasn’t a spy, but that I was a schoolteacher.


I guess the moral of my story is this: if you make one assumption, don’t make a second one; and if you get arrested by the Siberian customs police, just act normal. Or maybe the moral for me is: people often think I’m a spy.

Or am I?”