*Click photos to enlarge.
Russia! I'm just finishing my first week in this vast land of resilient, hardy people and am loving every moment.
|Airport luggage truck.|
My Uncle Dennis and my cousin Jana met me at the airport. Russia requires tourists to register with a hotel within three days of arrival, so we took the bus to a hotel where I stayed the first night, before moving to my uncle and aunt's apartment for the rest of the week.
The first few days I was looking at the city through my western eyes and noticing the run down buildings, roads and buses, but those things quickly faded to the background and the fascinating Russian people came in to focus. Rugged men with weathered faces, little children in bright hats of red and pink, and babushkas with scarves keeping a watchful eye on the surroundings.
Jana and I walked around exploring the city on Tuesday, taking in Lenin square, parks, little corner markets, Russian Orthodox churches, and booths selling candy and fresh bread, all the setting for people going about their daily lives. Russians can seem to be a bit rude to our way of thinking at first, but they are simply much more somber in their appearance and direct in their communication than we are. They do not smile much in public, and do not consider it a form of good manners like we do. In fact they tend to view our constant smiling as a bit fake, and have a saying "He smiled out of pure politeness," which is not a compliment. They also dispense with the formalities we consider normal when speaking. I was taking a photo in a bakery of some desserts, and the shopkeeper asked brusquely in English "Why are you taking pictures of my food? Why don't you just buy it?" This might be said jokingly with a smile in America, but she was serious and blunt in her manner. It was a reasonable question, and she would have asked the same thing to a Russian. I have found myself quickly adapting to this style of public interaction, and appreciate that it makes for great clarity. Just say what you are thinking and be done with it. It's not considered rude at all, it's just a much more straightforward style of communicating than we are used to.
Hope this finds all well!