Saturday, 18 July 2015

It's a Beautiful Day in the Russian Neighborhood

     “It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood…” wait this is a Canadian blog written by a Canadian so neighbourhood.   I am getting perhaps a little sensitive to the spelling differences between British, Canadian, and US English for two reasons. One I have many Russians asking questions about it and I recently switched to a new writing platform that has a learning curve. So along with my upcoming Russian test I’ve become a little sensitive!  So today is a break day. No explanations from this guru of English. Now before you toss rocks and say, very correctly, I am most certainly not a pillar of English Grammar let me explain. I am all they have! The wrench you need to change the flat is not half as useful as the one in the trunk, or boot if we were slightly west! So it is on me, and all me. My simple explanation is that the man the created the American dictionary was politically motivated. Mr. Webster perhaps one of the first patriots wanted to set the language slightly apart from the one they had just broken away from. The next line of questioning is why Canada kept some British spelling and not others. Because Canadians are polite is always my answer. This seems to satisfy the inquiring Russian minds. It is true, but I am unsure if it is the truth. But that is another grammatical nightmare.

            One of the issues facing learning all over the world is correct information. While tomes of encyclopedias are most certainly not as easy as Google, they were reviewed by peers. Now I can post something like; Russians are very superstitious people and it will be true because I will hit on Google’s first page. Now in all honesty Russians are a little more superstitious than Canadians, but my own lack of Russian language prevents me from understanding if they actually believe or just culturally observe. My own Mom used to say things like. “Someone close is going to pass away.” When she had a Crow or Raven taping on the window in the morning. Readers of George R.R. Martin will understand the origins of this belief. But she didn’t actually believe it to be a truth.  Similarly, Mr. Rogers was not a Navy SEAL or CIA operator. But some sources on the net say he was. He was a great man and won the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which is the highest award a civilian can receive. See I brought this back around to the start of this tangent. He also worked for a while in Canada and his show was filmed and aired on Canadian television with the incorrect Canadian spelling. I would love to be able to say that my confusion around spelling and grammar was as a result of these inconsistent rules and application but I would be lying. I said as much to a friend David last night when we discussed some stuff around the topic of language. I had to be honest and say I just didn’t pay attention enough in school. So now I get to pay for it by leaning on the Chicago Book of Styles far more often than I should. It slows me down creatively, but then this is what I have this blog for. I get to loosen up a little.

            So today is a break day. While Inga is still helping out friend's children wanting to improve English language skills, I get to hang by the beautiful Black Sea and enjoy the sun. In keeping with the theme; who are the people in my neighbourhood? Let us continue.

   Well to start my day I go to do some writing in the little café under our building. It is a nice little place and quiet. They have free internet, and while it is slow, it is fast enough to check some simple facts before I mislead you all. The waiter is the same guy from last year and we met with a familiarity not uncommon in Russia but would be at home. He asks about my progress on the book and introduces me to his friend a new waiter. This guy is a yoga instructor and comes from the beautiful city of Saint Petersburg. He learned his yoga skills living in a monastery in India and we shared our mutual love of Indian cooking. I told him that we have many people from India living in our area of Vancouver and explained the Sikh immigration to BC.  His English is better than my Russian, but we understand each other enough to make it work.

The walk to the beach finds us going down our usual hill past all the shops that sell everything one might need and could have easily forgotten on the trip to Anapa. At the bottom of the hill is a jovial, fun man with a shiny set of gold teeth who is quick to greet me in the swinging handshake Armenians enjoy. Next door is Irene and the medical post. She is a nurse from the Ural region and makes the eight-day pilgrimage each year to Anapa to protect and take care of the various issues that can happen at the beach. She is a calm and kind woman who is very knowledgeable.

Next to that is the bar that, if you’ve been following my blog for a while you know I like to sit. The owner is another Armenian heritage family that put on an impressive spread of food and cold beer. A little way down the beach finds another café bar that serves hot food and these people are from the Ukraine, although they have been here for years. Inga helps this ladies son with English and I enjoy her cooking.

That is my little neighbourhood. Most of the people I meet can’t speak more than a few words in English and I can only speak a little Russian. But they have made the Canadian feel welcome and take the time to make sure I understand most of what is going on or if not making sure I am included. I may not understand what we are toasting, but all are quick to offer a drink. Russia is an inclusive society that truly revels in understanding a different perspective and culture.

Today I had a guest. David the boy of a Ukrainian family that recently immigrated here joined me in the water. The waves did their best to chase us from the sea with fury and foam. It was a fun afternoon the ended far too quickly for the both of us. Yet, as I sit here in the quiet writing to all of you I feel tired and think I shall need a little Mama’s Cha Cha to ease the pain in the shoulders. No bad days is really more than an idea it is a way of life. If only you are prepared to travel, learn, and leave your bias, behind in the airport parking lot. While it has been many many years since I have seen Mr. Rogers he gave us a truth, perhaps like many things from our youth we have lost or forgotten this truth. The world would be a much better, and safer, place if we all just remembered we are all each others neighbors.

Written by Fred Rogers | © 1967, Fred M. Rogers

It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood

A beautiful day for a neighbor

Could you be mine?

Would you be mine?

It's a neighborly day in this beauty wood

A neighborly day for a beauty

Could you be mine?

Would you be mine?

I have always wanted to have a neighbor just like you

I've always wanted to live in a neighborhood with you

Let's make the most of this beautiful day

Since we're together, might as well say

Would you be my, could you be my,

Won't you be my neighbor?


  1. And all along I always thought that Canadians held on to the "ou" in words like "favourite" because the country was founded by thrifty Scottish who wouldn't give up anything, including a vowel.

  2. My friend J will like that! I had only attributed the Scottish with the creation of copper wire. After two fought over a penny! Just teasing, its ok to be racist if you love everyone!!!