Friday, June 20, 2008

Getting into the Russian Groove

By Ryan Chapman

Whoever said 70 percent of all communication is non-verbal, never went on a date with a girl who speaks zero English. I would have to say about 12.5 percent of communication is nonverbal, and that’s on a good day.

Armed with my Russian-English Dictionary, pen and paper, and four Russian 1001 classes beneath my belt, I went on a date with Liza a Russian girl who speaks no English.

The date started off a disaster, I ran out of Russian phrases within 34 seconds, and then desperately searched my dictionary to form sentences to keep spirits high. Next we resorted to drawing pictures to communicate ideas, unfortunately I’m no artist. When my stick figures came out looking like hot dog buns, I thought the evening was doomed.

Luckily her bi-lingual friend met us and we went to a café. Once a medium of communication was established, the date went great! One of the best first dates I have experienced. It was great how humor could be translated from one another using an interpreter.

After being in Russia for two weeks I’ve started getting into the groove. Of course, I still obviously stick out in public, but I am starting to feel more at home. One interesting thing I have noticed about Russians is that they are not friendly. You will never see two strangers greet each other or even make eye contact when in public, but despite the cold appearance of Russians, they make great friends.

Roman and Jack (his real name is Youginnie but prefers Jack around Americans) are two of my Russian friends. These two guys are amazing. They buy us drinks, negotiate cheap cab rides for us, and bend over backwards for us Americans. It was difficult at first trusting two random Russians, who we met on the street. I think the secret to it is to never trust anyone fully. Now I don’t mean to sound like Donavon from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, “Don’t trust anyone.” It’s just the fact that there are serious incidents of foreigners getting kidnapped and robbed by people they trust. So far everyone in the Study Abroad group has been lucky with the people they have interacted with.

One really cool tradition I have took part in here is football. The nights Russia plays football, the entire country goes crazy. I have been to two different bars on football night and each time it is like a holiday. The entire country seems to come together for the 90 min of the game — its great. I can’t begin to describe the energy in the bar when Russia scores a goal. It’s unlike anything I have seen. I think back to my time in the States and am jealous. I can never remember Americans coming together in such unity over anything. While it was just a sports game, I couldn’t help but think how we as Americans were lacking in any activity that brought the entire country together.

So far, we have spent 16 days in Russia. I would say about half of the 35 students are missing home in one form or another. I am definitely not in that group; I absolutely love it here and don’t want to go home anytime soon!

(Pictures contributed by Lillie Steele)

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