Tuesday, March 2, 2010

First day in Vytegra

Day 4

Today was our first day in Vytegra! We started with an early morning with an 8:30 breakfast at the «Бистро». Before coming to Russia, I was very skeptical of the food, and I wasn’t sure if I would really like it, but I must admit that I have thoroughly enjoyed the majority of our meals! And breakfast this morning was no exception. We had farmers’ cheese patties (which looked like potato pancakes) with sour cream, Russian salads, cheese sandwiches, salami sandwiches, jam, and tea.

If it sounds like a lot of food, it is. I enjoy trying everything, even the things which I have not liked so much, but it is very difficult to make it through a whole meal, even with the foods which I really like. There is just so much food for every meal! I really find this aspect of the Russian culture interesting and foreign. A host must offer food to the guests or else they will be considered (or consider themselves, for that matter) very rude, just as a guest would be rude not to accept the food offered. This is just very different from in America, I think. Hosts and restaurants go to such extents to please guests even when they may not have the means to, and food is very important! This is why I’m trying my best to eat as much of everything that is offered to me as possible, though it is getting harder and harder because I am still so full from the day before, and each meal just keeps adding to the fullness! But I don’t want to look like a rude guest, even if I’m not so fond of what I am eating, so I do my best to eat a lot.

Even in the Museum today while we were working, the ladies working there were so hospitable and welcoming to us, and they continued to offer food to us in order to make us feel truly welcomed. The first thing they did when we entered was offer us a traditional Russian bread, which is dipped in salt, while the woman was smiling and wearing a very traditional Russian dress. The bread was very good, and she just kept insisting us to take more; she said that we were too bashful and reserved because we did not take as much bread as possible; I suppose that’s a big cultural difference. We don’t want to take too much and seem rude for overindulging, but the Russians see it as rude if we are reserved. It is a cultural difference which we are quickly learning to overcome. Later in the afternoon, after lunch, the very nice ladies of the library prepared delicious tea, cookies, lemons, and candies for us! They were very good, even though we were far from hungry!

I think that this aspect of the culture more than anything else that I have experienced so far really demonstrates the Russian hospitality that we have encountered. They want so much to welcome us and open up their culture to us and show us who they are and what they do. It is amazing to be here as an American and be so welcomed; it seems like most of the world isn’t quite so welcoming of us all the time. It is really neat and interesting to see that the schools and the students are going out of their way to prepare things for us and make plays and set up tours for a whole day; the city council set up a meeting with us just to welcome us to the city and introduce themselves to us; the press has set up meetings with us to get to know us better and introduce us to the town and welcome us; the museums have set up tours for us and welcomed us very warmly! The amount of kindness and welcomeness here has really surprised me and makes me feel more comfortable about being in a place which sometimes seems so foreign to me.

I really find it amazing that so many people have so much to offer us in terms of tea and food even when we know very well that budgets are tight and it is not easy for them to do so. I think that says a lot about the culture and about what is truly important to these people who have a great deal of pride in both their city and what it is they do. We seem to be stirring things up quite a bit despite the short length of our stay here.

So today, as I said earlier, we had breakfast at the bistro, and then we went to meet with the city officials and the local press. Next we visited the museum for the first time, toured it, and had an orientation to our jobs there. Jill, Ethan, and I were supposed to translate some of the labels on the history exhibit into English. After our orientation we went for a walk and saw the local cathedral, which was just amazing to see. We got to climb up to the top of the bell tower for a splendid (but very frigid) view of the entire city! Then we went to a little café and had a good and filling lunch (every borshch which I have had has been exquisite!). Then we got to work in the library. We had dinner at the bistro and then a reflection session, which got us very excited for tomorrow when we will visit our first school!

1 comment:

  1. Hi Chelsey,Glad you are having a good time kiddo!!!
    Love Mom