Tuesday, October 04, 2005

ROCK STAR OF ROSTOV

My first day in Rostov was full of some doubts but mostly it was full of a lot of ups. Although I started off the morning being very upset that I couldn’t communicate with the women who work in the Cantina, I soon felt a lot better due to the reception I was getting from people I was meeting. Never in my life have I felt so much like a celebrity then over here. The people seem to just be so worried about their “American teacher” that I actually am being too well taken care of and it’s a little annoying for someone who is such a loner. However, I am more then happy to have everyone watching out for me because it makes me feel safe.

Waking up around six in the morning was not my desire, but my body told me it was time to wake up. After getting ready and writing some, I waited for Lucy to show up at my room, so that we could go up to the Cantina. When she arrived, we headed straight up stairs, about three floors, to where I will be eating everyday while here. The women who work in the Cantina are all very kind to me even though we cannot communicate. They try to make sure I have enough to eat; even when I tell them I am full they still bring me food. While I ate my breakfast, Lucy had to go and make some calls to find out what we would be doing for the rest of the day. As I sat alone in the Cantina, I started to feel a little blue about my circumstance, mostly because of the fact that I’m in Russia but cannot speak the language well enough to communicate with anyone. However, once Lucy returned her and I finished eating and soon were off for a day of sight seeing. Lucy first wanted to show me the University’s buildings, and especially our departments, which is where I’ll be teaching most of the time. The departments are a few yards away from where I am living, so there will be no long walks for me to take and it will be really hard for me to get lost. Now the buildings are really strange for me to describe because they are a lot like how I described Moscow, they are two different worlds meeting to make one. On the outside, the buildings are beautifully colored and look like the perfect college campus; however, once inside the buildings it feels as though you have traveled to a war infested city where bombs have destroyed all that stood. Then when you pass through the corridor to the halls, which house the lecture rooms, you feel like you are at Colorado State University-Pueblo. The lecture rooms look a lot like how the classrooms at CSU-Pueblo look. These drastic changes in appearance are the only real thing so far that I have seen to make me feel that I am in a country that isn’t as well off as the US.

Lucy and I traveled from one building to the next trying to find an open computer lab so that I could e-mail home. Yet everywhere we would go, the computer rooms were closed, and Lucy was joking that they’re normally open and that it must simply because I am here that they are closed. Lucy has been very kind to me and I really like her. She is from Chechnya, but has lived in Rostov for 16 years. I have never meet someone who is so interested in learning about the correct forms of English, but who also loves to teacher –her and I should learn a lot from each other. Anyway, after looking with no luck for a computer lab, we decided that we would go and find a supermarket and other places that I might like to know about. While heading to the supermarket, we ran into another colleague of ours, who was very happy to meet me. She told me that there were many students who wanted to meet me and show me around Rostov; yet, she was in a hurry to get to class and told Lucy and I she would get in touch with us. Soon we were at the supermarket, which is a lot like our own supermarkets but just smaller. I wanted to buy more water, some yogurt, milk, juice, and beer, which our of course the major food groups. I couldn’t believe how cheep food was, and yet Lucy was trying to help me pick out the cheapest food. All that I bought, which would have come to like twenty American dollars, was only about six dollars. I was really amazed how cheap everything is here; compared to American prices everything is really inexpensive but people here still struggle to survive, so it makes me a lot more grateful of life in America.

The rest of the day, Lucy and I just wandered around campus and Rostov looking at the buildings and how people live here. Around lunch time, we returned to the Cantina and Lucy ordered me food. She then had work to do, so I was left alone again. When I got up to clear my table and head to my room for a nap, there were two girls standing in the hallway looking at me. As I walked out of the Cantina one apologized to me for no reason, in English, and when I responded she freaked out. She became very giddy, like me at a Garbage concert or while watching Buffy, and asked if I was “the American male teacher, who came here to teach.” I of course said yes, and to that again she freaked out. Her and her friend just both became very happy and started to ask me a million questions at once. I felt as though I was some celebrity and that they wanted to have my autograph and a picture with me; it was a very surreal moment. Being shy but also quite enamored I talked with the two girls for awhile. They told me how they had heard I was coming and how all the girls became very excited. It was funny though because they told me how all the girls were hoping that I wasn’t married or fat. In fact, one of the girls even said that I was really skinny, even for a European. Apparently Americans are stereotyped as being fat, because even Lucy had said that she was expecting a “bigger person.” These comments are well taken by me because I did spend a lot of time loosing all that weight, but I’m also modest and told Lucy that I used to be fat.

At six o’clock, Lucy and her husband Mustafa came to my room and the three of us went for a walk. It was a really pleasant night. We walked down one of the main streets of Rostov, which also happens to be the street I live on, and then we walked through a park that is not that far from my room. The park is really a sight to see, because it was built in two layers. Both layers of the park have different aspects from playgrounds to botanic gardens –I’ve never seen such wonderful gardens in a park (I’ll have to get pictures during day light some time to show what I mean). While in the park, we decided that we would stop at an outside café and drink some beer. The three of us sat around for about two hours and just spoke about where we were from (all of us being foreigners to Russia) and about our families. It was something really amazing because America, Chechnya, and Afghanistan as countries have horrible relationships with one another but at this table we didn’t even think about our nationalities, we only thought about the person. I learnt so much from Lucy and Mustafa that I can ever look at these countries the same. Before tonight, I thought that these two countries were not more than third world countries, whose citizens were trained to be terrorists (even being a liberal American, I have these stereotypes in mind); however, Lucy and Mustafa made me see that humanity in these countries and their people. Simply because a few individual citizens do something negative it reflects on the whole society (hmm…sound familiar?). Overall, today was just an amazing first full day in a new country. I also learned some more Russian, but I’m too scared to use it…

3 Comments:

At 1:41 AM, Blogger Riekena said...

Huh..."Rock Star" eh? Why does that seem to ring a bell? Hehe, that's awesome.

 
At 10:53 AM, Blogger James said...

You know for being a quite person, you sure have a lot of smarta*s things to say!

 
At 2:17 PM, Blogger Riekena said...

Yeah, but that's why ya love me, right? I just make sure that when I do finally speak up that I'm heard (and then hated).

 

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