they didn’t think about us as much as we thought about them

Posted by CarrieB on Monday, January 30th, 2006

I am sitting in my Hotel room in Samara, Russia with an open beer, with a BBC Documentary on Billie Holiday playing on the TV in the background. We’ve dubbed this hotel we are staying in “America” as many of the people staying here are from the US. Also the hotel has any of the amenities you would find at finest chains. In Samara, one will find many US based companies. Actually a lot of business (US based or not) goes down in this town. Some of Russia’s biggest and Brightest reside here. Here is an interesting fact, As the Germans spread its “territory” into Russia around WWII; Russia moved organizations and bright minds further in country to Samara. In this town they found more protection because of the eastern location. These people and companies stayed.

I have to say that all the people I have met in this town live up to the history of the biggest and brightest. I am overwhelmed by how generous and gracious and articulate people have been. I know we are lucky/ spoiled. My Dad has spent three weeks here, once in spring of 2001 and again in the spring of 2005. I have heard many stories of the friends he made here. I am delighted that now when I hear him tell stories of names and places in Samara, I can nod in agreement. Luba, who was my Dad’s interpreter on his first visit, has served as our coordinator here. She has been amazing. We went to a dinner of these dumpling/ravioli type meat-filled pasta things that are really good. They are served with sour cream and or tomato sauce on the side. We also had cheese fondue, (FUNdue as I like to call it) and Vodka.

Yesterday, we went to a park near our hotel. Mind you it is winter here, cold like MN winters can be some days in January. Still with the cold, like in hardy MN people are still out and about. In Russia however, the people are out clad in Fur. They love fur. Long-Fur coats for men and women alike. They are also quite fond of their hats. Think of the most stereotypical Russian hat you can think of, and that is what they really wear. Huge fur hats sit upon each head that goes by. The park was beautiful. Being in large cities for the majority of my time that last month, it is nice to be in a smaller town with forests and green spaces. While in our case, snowy-spaces. People cart their small children around in strollers that have skis in-place of wheels. Very smart and efficient. There were what looked like hybrid between squirrels and rabbit milling about. Some daring folks found pleasure in feeding them whilst (rodents mind you) perched on their hands. Not something anyone would see me doing. There were skiers as well as snowboarders… Lots of activity we even were able to conduct a conversation between Bob and Luba on a horse-drawn sleigh. Pretty winter picture.

Another friend of my father, Darina is also hanging out with us. She will be our interpreter during the days. She is really sweet and intelligent. She is a student at the University, so she will connect us with some people there.

We have a busy week ahead of us. In my next email I will formulate more of a feeling about what people here think of the US. From what I can tell at this point, based on the people we’ve talked to - Russians did not think about the US as much as Americans thought about Russia during the Cold War. They were content living their life in “the best country,” while people in the US prepared for bomb raids. I think the Russian government kept a lot of what was going on between the two countries quite. This observation is solely based on a few conversations… however I found that really interesting. In a couple of days I will revisit this.

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