Saturday, October 30, 2010

Children of the USSR

Do you remember the first time you saw a banana?

Do you remember your first sip of Coca-Cola?

How about the first time you held a slinky in your hands, watching in waver back and forth?

"The slinky was like a miracle. Really, it was." The girls at English club explained to me. When the slinky first came to Russia, it was an unbelievable combination of metal and miracle, moving almost of its own whim. The girls' eyes lit up as they spoke about it: "Rachel, we are children of the Soviet Union, this thing was to us a miracle."

Other students have told us stories of their parents' first encounters with Coca-Cola. One family, who resided in Azerbaijan during the time of the Soviet Union, told us how one of the uncles had traveled to Moscow and while there had somehow procured a bottle of Coca-Cola. He brought it back with him, nearly 75 hours by train, to show all of his friends, neighbors, and relatives. He then proceeded to pour out a tiny taste for all 20-some members of the family to try. Hardly enough to make an impression on one's taste buds, yet more than sufficient to create an endearing memory of the product.

Approximately the same time frame, bananas began to become available for purchase - imported all the way from South America. Bananas! I can't imagine my childhood void of bananas; in fact, I can't even imagine a time when "B" in any alphabet book did not stand for "Banana." For goodness sake, what word did they find to represent the "Б" in the Russian alphabet book?

It's incredible to take in these moments of history, to better and better comprehend the unique cultural differences that go easily without being said or noticed even apprehended. In some ways, it feels just like that splash of Coca-Cola when you want the whole bottle. Though bit by bit, we're taking it in.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010