Friday, June 19, 2009
I can’t believe that it’s been a week since I left SLC. Definitely time to define some thoughts about the “new” world around me. It seems like a blend of the reality I remember from my childhood and all the things I have learned about Russians form my textbooks. It’s not just the way things look, but also how people around me talk and behave. The most striking – and yet so obvious – thing is that people try to dress elegantly. Some do it better than others. You will find girls wearing leopard-skin shirts and purple skirts, and tall blondes that look like they walked off a fashion show stage. Make-up is normal and expected. When Katya, who is a licensed beautician, suggested that she will help me with my make up when we go to the theatre, I knew right away that the only way out would be to say I am allergic to cosmetics. All off her friends, who stop by unannounced (ok, they call her on the cell five minutes before they show up) wear make up and high heels. They also call her mom “тетя Наташа” (auntie Natasha), and for Katya all of her mom’s girl friends are also “тетя.” This doesn’t surprise me that much as it was also a common practice in Poland when I was growing up, though not on such a wide scale (I perhaps had two or three тети). Then there are бабушки (elderly women) and дядушки (elderly men). I buy my veggies from them on Lenin Street and Karl Marx Street. They typically sit on their little stools placed right along the sidewalk all day long and try to sell a few bunches of leeks and a few pickles. They take lunch breaks, too: «Маша, давай поработай ниемножко, а я пообиедаю» (Masha, why don’t you work a little bit as I have my lunch) - said one of the street vendors to another as she was taking the first bite of her sandwich (бутер-брот) – two thick slices of white bread with something in between. But bread here is good. I found a full grain with NO SUGAR or SWEETENER ADDED! I get tvarog (Russian cottage cheese that is nothing like the cottage cheese we buy in plastic containers at Smith’s), canned fish, fresh tomatoes, radishes and cucumbers (they actually taste like tomatoes, radishes and cucumbers, not water – and you can find an occasional worm in them, too) and make my yummy sandwiches for breakfast and my first lunch. I get my second lunch at столовая – a student cafeteria, where I can get a nice cabbage or beetroot salad for 25 cents (soups and main courses run at 50 cents). Food at such low prices is not available anywhere else, though. Overall, the cost of living seems to be as high, if not higher, than in the US. And so I can’t understand at all how people here make it by.