Thursday, January 26, 2006

Oops, I almost forgot ....

Oops, I almost forgot to relate one last story from my New Years trip to Russia. While I waiting to board my plane, there was a 30-something American guy talking with a couple of English speaking 20-something Russian girls. Actually, the women had been to the US before and seemed rather westernized. From what I gathered, it seemed to me that they lived in the US and had been in Russia visiting family. The American was a tall, lanky, skinny guy ... long hair, almost no chin, sort of bug-eyed. Imagine Beaker from the Muppets with long dark hair and you get the general idea. He apparently works for Samsung, computer programmer or IT guy or something. I don't pretend to know that field.

In any case, in the span of about 10 minutes, this guy managed to reinforce almost every stereotype that Russians have of Americans ... particularly regarding food and cars ... that I have ever heard. He was sitting there drinking a Coke and chomping on a pack of Pringles and talking about how he couldn't wait to get a McDonald's quarter pounder with fries. He then started going on about White Castle sliders and how he once consumed 30 of them. He apparently had been in Russia for about 3 weeks as a result of work, and claims he couldn't find anything good to eat (!) The hotel he stayed at also gave him some sort of information, like "don't drink the water or eat the food" or some other silliness.

I felt a bit embarrassed to be American after listening to him. After all, I had just amused the airport security people with my small amount of Russian. When they were patting me down and asked to see what is in my front pocket ... I reached for it and offered my wallet, saying "это кашилок" ... they were very amused and tested my Russian some more. I think it is only proper to make an effort to learn some of the native tongue, when traveling in another country. Seems very disrespectful to me if you do not make the attempt.

So, I couldn't take it anymore .. and I went over and quietly interjected myself into the conversation. It was interesting to see the reaction of the girls he was talking up, and surrounding people, as I pointed out to him ... how his Pringle-eating, Coca-Cola guzzling, McD Cheeseburger coveting ... is very stereotypical. In fact, I hadn't ever even MET anyone who loved such food as much as this guy was describing. It was like meeting the fabled Bigfoot ... long rumored to exist, but never actually witnessed in the wild. He was pretty good humored about it and we started talking about other things. He REALLY wasn't interested in any Russian food, however .. it made me feel sorry for him.

Now that I have finished writing about this New Year's trip, I plan to keep this blog going with Russian cultural topics that I find interesting. I see there are enough political and social commentary blogs regarding Russia, and I figure I will mostly leave that to the heavy hitters. I'm more interested in other Russian topics anyway .... culture and history, food, clothing, language, and such. I'm working on a posting regarding Russian Fairy Tales currently, and have a long list of other topics I want to write something about. Anytime I read something interesting, I am sure to drop a more immediate posting about it.

For example, today I read a short little nothing piece about an English speaking reporter in Bishkek, trying to buy some shoes. I enjoyed the article mostly because I had been to Bishkek in 2003, have friends there, and remember how it was at the market. The author, Mr. Ethan Wilensky-Lanford, apparently works in central Asia and does free-lance writing and traveling there. Interesting way to make a living ... why didn't I ever think of it? Seems he also keeps a small journal at Reed College, his alma mater. If you are interested in central Asia at all, would make for some interesting reading.

I'll have another posting soon regarding Elena, my friend in Central Asia ... how I know her and how her photojournalism career is going these days.

No comments: