The roots of my affection for Russia, Russians & Splean

spb band

     We all enjoy listening to music in our own way.

     I found the first Russian pop song that I like. I heard it at a flea market and went over to the guy blasting it on his tape player to have him write the name down. Then I noticed he was selling what looked like homemade photos of half-naked women. The lower half. He tried to entice me, randomly pulling out an 8×10″ glossy of a woman languorously leaning against a car, asking, “Erotica?”
     The band is Splean and the song is “Anglo-Russkiy Slovar” (English-Russian dictionary). The video is horrible.

ef russia

     Get in the van!

     Other than my previous visit to Russia last century, which left an indelible mark on me, I have spent the most time among Russians while working for EF language school/camp in California. It was a summer program where European and Asian teenagers came together to live on the Long Beach State campus to learn English in the mornings and have free time otherwise. It was the “otherwise” that made it hell for all of us working there.
     The Russians made an impression. They arrived angry upon realizing that what they were promised back home from EF was all lies. EF lied to everyone, but the Danes, for example, took it in stride, deciding to make the most of being in California. The Russians weren’t so forgiving, and many of them made it their raison d’etre to cause trouble.
     Some of them. I tried to focus on the others, who were extraordinarily well-read and expressed pure contempt when I confessed that not only had I not read any Russian classics, but few American neither. They were deep, thoughtful people, and they piqued my interest about Russia and drew me towards them. That is, when I wasn’t taking some numnut to the hospital thirty minutes after telling him not to run by the pool or when they weren’t stealing my keys, or getting caught for drinking, or burning the fence, or for anything else I have successfully forgotten.
ef russian girls


     Everyone who thinks I should write a book about my travels, the best stories are really from the three summers I did that ridiculous job, partly thanks to the Russians. Just look to the left here. Sorry the picture is small. I can’t find the original, but this is evidence of the mistake I made on a weekend trip to Las Vegas when I told everyone to dress up because we were going out for a night on the town. These two Russians were 14 and 15 years old.
     There are a dozen stories just from that one weekend, but when you take hundreds of Euro teens to Las Vegas, it’s impossible to come away without a dozen stories.
chinese in russia

     The Chinese. They’re also attracted to Russia. The Chinese have completely dominated Europe this summer, and their numbers are no less prodigious in Russia. It’s very surprising that the Chinese have such a huge presence in out-of-the-way places of heavy cultural significance like Suzdal.
     What are we to make of Chinese tourism? At first I was dismissive, thinking that the Chinese probably don’t even know where they are half the time, but I shouldn’t be so quick to judge. On my first trip to Europe, I hardly knew anything about the countries I went to before I visited them, and what better way to learn about the world than to go out and see what’s doing? So I applaud you, Chinese tourists. Welcome to Europe! Now please, can you all stop shouting? And close your legs.

     Why don’t you stay with me? You can follow along with RSS, subscribe to an email feed, see what’s cooking on Facebook, pray that I’ll say something worth remembering on Twitter and if you are really slumming it, there’s always Google+. (I’ll follow you back!)

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The roots of my affection for Russia, Russians & Splean — 2 Comments

  1. I did one summer (the burning the fence one), which was enough to keep me away from Russia (and the Russians away from EF) for a long time! Will this visit of your result in any stories to persuade me otherwise, do you think?

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