Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Russian Celebrations and Parties!

Hey Everyone, Ok it has been almost a month since I last wrote.  I have a bunch of good stuff to let you in on, or at least I think it is good stuff that you’ll enjoy reading. I have been posting a fair bit of things on my public Facebook account about trusting the news and stuff that some may construe as a conspiracy theory ideology. I really don’t think that it actually falls into that genre of writing, but I am comfortable with the moniker if people still look at it and make up their own ideas.

I try not to push any ideology or attempt to change minds on this forum. I do a great deal of research and as a result of this study find interesting tidbits of information. Sometimes I share this on Facebook and other times I just keep it for the book. Well, most correctly the current MSS that will one day be shaved down to be a sequel to Grey Redemption. Yes, I am writing! Ok, so to keep this tight I will try to avoid the rambling style of that last two blogs.

Most Russians really like America/Canada culture. They haven’t met too many Canadians and I am trying to maintain that polite reputation we have all over the world. What I find really odd about Russian views on our two countries is that they seem to easily separate our political ideology, and the things we do guided by that ideology, and the people. To be more correct they easily separate our personal culture from our ideological culture. It is quite a feat if you think about it and something we Western cultures fail to be able to do. We lump it all together and racially stereotype the whole by the actions of a few or by the few powerful. Russians don’t and while educated on the west more than we are educated about them, still have odd beliefs.

I will use Rostik, a magnificent friend of mine, as an example. He honestly believes his life would be better in Canada than it is here in Anapa. Anapa is, you know if you read my blog, a resort city on the Black Sea and is truly beautiful. Comprised mostly of Armenians and Russians it is by most Russian standards a very affluent city. There is some dissent among the ethnically different people, but on the whole they get along. If you read the blog, you know Rostik recently married and he and his new wife have a very lovely one bedroom apartment and are miles ahead of any couple I know living in Vancouver. If you add to the equation their jobs and then compare it to life in Vancouver or the surrounding valley, they would be renting for life. They would never be able to own something and raise a family as they are doing here. I am not suggesting they haven’t got good jobs or are in anyway lazy. Quite the contrary actually, they work very hard and save on par with my mother. But we all know if your household income is below a hundred grand a year Vancouver is out of the equation, if you intend on having a stay at home spouse.  Here that goal is easily reached and without the use of credit.

I have been in credit hell as has most North Americans. Some learn right away how to use credit and others, like me, take a little longer to internalize that lesson.  That isn’t something that people do here. Credit is hard to get and for the most part not culturally used.

I explained these things to him and how our taxation system works and he still has this view that Canada would be the place to live. Then I ask him why he thinks I came to Anapa. This is the only thing that causes him to have some doubts.

Don’t read into this that I dislike Canada or that I don’t love living in one of the most beautiful places on earth. I am not suggesting anything like this. I am just pointing out that Canada and life in Canada, is very expensive by any standard. While it is true that Moscow is one of the most expensive cities to live in the comparison isn’t really about house prices. The added costs of utilities and tax-like surcharges add up to severely deplete one's disposable income. The culture of buying new everything and owning a car for each member of the household furthers this personal drain.

Russia has a flat tax, no added sales taxes, and a culture of reduce, reuse, and recycle. It is not uncommon to see a Lada made in the CCCP days rolling down the road. Designer fashion is in, but hey Adidas tracksuits aren’t expensive.  Seriously, see I poke fun at Russians too, fashion is important and people do save to buy the "in" shoes or shirts but you don’t have too. So long as the stuff you are wearing is clean, and taken care of, the requirement to fit in is largely not fashion based. When guests come over they do so to see you, and they ALWAYS bring a sweet, bottle, or something to enjoy with you as they visit. They really are just friends and do not care what they sit on while they share your company.  It is a different way of life from the average Canadian one. I am not saying one is better than the other, which is for you to decide, but it is less expensive.

 December brings the start of the holiday season, running the gambit of religious and cultural observances. For me it also brings an anniversary and birthdays. As this was our first anniversary, we wanted to stay in Russia and celebrate the occasion with Inga’s family. Las Vegas is a long way away for them and so they couldn’t actually make the trip for the wedding so we wanted to have a big party here in Anapa. We also share three birthdays in December and so we decided to roll them all together and toss a huge party instead of heading for the warmth of South East Asia.

It is really very inexpensive to have this type of party in Anapa. Restaurants are used to large gatherings and have set menu pricing that allow you to bring your own drinks. Celebrations are a common thing and everyone gets caught up in the atmosphere of fun. We picked a date and I flew Inga’s sister out for the fun from Moscow after we received word Mom and Dad were on the train from Vladikavkaz.

So with 13 for dinner and toasts flowing, we shared a multimedia show of the wedding and the year from when we met till we arrived in Moscow. It was a blast and everyone had a great time. Another birthday party was going on as well and we all joined together dancing and celebrating. It was only after the party that I was told of a little racism issue.

Russia is vast and has many ethnic, religious, and cultural differences. So big that the USA, Spain, and France could fit in Siberia alone! Despite all coming from Russia, many people still describe themselves regionally. For example, my wife describes herself as Ossetian and chides me when I say she is Russian. But for me it is like saying you’re a BC person and not a Canadian. Canada is huge as well and we all just say we’re Canadians, rarely breaking it down to ethnic regions. Russia is a little different as there are ethnic traditions between the areas. This being said I was oblivious to any real racism, until that night.

The Kavkaz  region includes Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan. The Russian areas include Krasnodar Krai, Stavropol Krai, and the autonomous republics of Adygea, Karachay–Cherkessia, Kabardino-Balkaria, North Ossetia, Ingushetia, Chechnya, and Dagestan. Three territories in the region claim independence but are not recognized by any independent states and these are Abkhazia, Nagorno-Karabakh, and South Ossetia.

The owner of the restaurant had initially agreed that, as her live music person was in Moscow, the DJ would play anything we wanted. On
the night of the party she commented that she hated Kavkaz music and wanted to charge100 rubles a song. I only found out about this after the party but what is very odd is this owner grew up in Siberia and the restaurant is in Krasnodar Krai! What makes this more bizarre is the birthday party, which was going on at the same time, was attended by mostly young Chechen boys here to study at the technology college. They joined us on the dance floor and toasted us and ours.   Ossetians, Georgians, Chechens, Armenians, Russians, and Canadians dancing together having a great time despite the painful history some of them share. Then one person from a vast distance away, having no connection to the historical pain and recent immigrant into the Kavkaz area sows old hatred. Hatred and history many, if not most, have moved past for the greater good. Some things remain the same no matter which country you find yourself living in.

Mom, Dad and Liana Stayed with us and together we had a good time. Dad set himself busy fixing little, yet annoying, issues in the apartment and I helped as I could. Reminded me of my own father, never able to sit still and just enjoy a lazy day. Mom made all my favorite Ossetian dishes with Inga and Liana’s help and we enjoyed my birthday on the day, even though I thought we had done the combined thing. My birthday present from Inga was some new ink for my arm and a great wind breaker.

The lull between those celebrations and the upcoming exodus to Thailand seems like a long one, but that’s deceptive. Christmas will be a quiet one with just Inga and I relaxing with each other. Then we have the first New Years to enjoy with friends here on the 31st before traveling to the cold of Moscow to celebrate the Russian New Year in the heart of Russia.  Then it is off to Thailand for three months in the jungle, doing research and lots of writing! Stay tuned for more updates and perhaps a rant or two.

Merry Christmas to those that observe, Happy Holidays to the others, and Best Dead Turkey Day to the rest.

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