Friday, December 3, 2010

Иностранец// Foreigner

Since I’m done traveling for now, I’m going to post about a few random things and experiences here in Russia. The first is about my FAVORITE word… or the lack there of. Иностранец (I-no-stra-nets) meaning foreigner is a word I’ve heard being thrown around by Russians since the first day I stepped into Russia. I don’t have a problem being a foreigner, I know I’m not a Russian and don’t plan to be one anytime soon but for some reason this word just bothers me. I guess being from New York, you don’t have to point out there are people around you that don’t look or talk like you because since the day you’re born, that’s the case. You walk around going about your business and occasionally when you’re downtown you see the ‘foreigners’ or tourists who crane their necks up to see the skyscrapers which calls only for a chuckle because even though they are obviously tourists, I never get tired myself at looking up at the building with what seems to be a never ending roof. I never have to turn to someone on the subway, who mind you I don’t know, just to say “foreigners” as a group of [insert ethnicity] tourists make their way around Manhattan.

Me being a foreigner at the monastery in Yaroslavl, Russia
 But none the less, I’ve heard the word whether I’m speaking Russian or English, walking or sitting, whether in Yaroslavl or Moscow. And it feels like I’m whining in this post, but I dunno, the word sounds like nails on a chalkboard every time I hear it. I just want to turn around and answer in my best possible Russian, “Yeah so, I’m a foreigner, who also speaks Russian”. Sometimes if I’m speaking English and I hear someone say my favorite word I’ll switch over to Russian to let them know I heard and watch as they stare in awe. Once while we were shopping for souvenirs, we were talking in English and the lady in the next little tent said foreigners to the lady we were trying to buy from, but she had heard us ask “How much” in Russian so she quietly murmured back in Russian “yeah but they speak Russian” and I just had to laugh it off.

I’m done thinking about the word but every time I hear someone say it I automatically get this scenario in my head. [Insert a Russian person addressing everyone on a bus] “PEOPLE OF THE RUSSIAN FEDERATION! Becareful, there are non-Russian speakers among us. We don’t know what they’re capable of since we don’t understand them. The boy might possibly have a bomb, we heard him mimic the sound of an explosion going off. Please, exit the bus or walk quickly away from them. We’ll try to negotiate with them, this is not a drill!” So I just end up laughing because only my imagination could come with things like that. But, once in Moscow on the line of a Burger King, I talked in English and two guys in front of me looked back with such wide eyes that I thought they were capable of making this scenario happen in real life.

Being a foreigner, I also wonder what people think of me every time I walk by. I wonder if they write me of as an American or come up with outrageous assumptions like the lady at a kiosk. I was by my apartment and I stopped to buy a Snickers since dinner wasn’t for the next two hours. So I asked in Russian for a Snickers and this is the conversation that took place in Russian, mind you nothing to deal with Snickers or candy: Lady: Are you an Arab? Me: Me? No, why? Lady: No, well you just look like you could be. Where are you from? Me: I live in the United States, but I’m Puerto Rican, my family is from Puerto Rico. Lady: Oh! You’re such a handsome young man. Me: Thanks (As I pay from my snickers, grab my change and walk away).

I have no idea where the idea of being an Arab came from, being that I am no where near the color of an middle eastern especially being in Russia these last few months. Just as funny, my host mother has given compliments about my hair and how I have such nice, straight, dark hair and once she asked, “It comes from your people right?” but I wonder if she knows who my ‘people’ are, she’s know I’m Puerto Rican but its interesting to see how people think and what they see.

Enough about being a foreigner, we’ll see if I crack one day lol!

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