Friday, April 3, 2009
From Russia with Love
In these two weeks here, I have learned a few things about Russian culture:
The Russian people…
1. …are deathly afraid of drafts.
Apparently, there is no greater sin in Russia than opening a window and allowing fresh air to come into a room. They believe with total sincerity that drafts cause illness. For this reason, they keep their homes roughly the temperature of hell and refuse to sit on the floor or go barefoot for fear of getting sick. You can share eating utensils all day long and cough directly into your hands, but God forbid you should crack a window to relieve yourself from the oppressive heat emanating from the radiators that never stop pumping out blazing hot air.
2. …really like paperwork.
We must have filled out the “required forms” for our lost luggage about 5 different times. At one point, I made the egregious error of crossing out one word and replacing it with another. When I turned this form in to the customs official, her eyes narrowed and she wouldn’t even touch it. She pushed it back to me with her pen and said with total disdain and in broken English, “Lady. Fill out again. No mistakes. Do right this time.”
3. ….do not believe in keeping their dogs quiet.
During our stay at the retreat center, there were no less than 40 dogs barking 24/7 in the Siberian countryside. Maybe they were trying to keep warm – who knows. All I can tell you is that I have never hated a living creature more than that first night when I was trying to fall asleep. I am not talking about an occasional bark or even a chorus you might hear in the middle of the night. I am talking full on crazy kennel barking. Constantly.
4. …have an incredibly tall and beautiful female population.
When we got off the plane in Moscow and began making our way through the terminal, I thought that maybe we’d accidently landed on the set of a James Bond flick. I kept expecting a young Sean Connery to come around the corner, lighter in hand, for the cigarettes of the high heeled leggy beauties peppering the terminal. In America, I am fairly taller and thinner than the average woman. In Russia, I am a troll.
5. …are just as interested as we are in having great relationships.
For all the differences I noticed, one thing is certain: There are far more similarities. After a few short hours there, I was able to see that we all really want the same things. Peaceful homes. Happy families. Good friendships.