Sunday, 18 September 2016
It Was A Dark And Stormy Night!
Anapa has me feeling like I am at home. Not only because Anapa is my new home away from Canada. It rained today, in a very non-typical way for this area of the Black Sea. For those readers in Vancouver, it rained as it does at home. In Anapa, the rainstorms are very tropical in nature or perhaps Russian in culture. I don’t write this meaning to be disrespectful. Russians work hard, play harder, and fight furiously. Just ask anyone that has met them in battle. When it rains here, it rains furiously. Inches, or centimeters, of water, fill the roads in minutes. The sky truly opens up and getting caught means getting soaked to your underwear.
Today, however, it sprinkled politely, like a Canadian rain, all day. Quietly whispering to go home soon or you’ll get damp. Reminding you politely why they sell umbrellas, from vending machines at our international airport. Russian people have asked me if it is true that Vancouver has stores that sell pot, or marijuana, from vending-style machines. I answer truthfully that we do, and when I add the umbrella machines, they are even more amazed at our strange country. But, they add, strange in a good way.
I have mentioned it before that Canadians/Americans and some Europeans have a hard time understanding Russian culture and customs. I was just talking about this with my English speaking waitress. I said to her, and now to you, I believe this is because normally when someone has a drastically different culture, they look different. It is a duck with various markings. The WoodDuck knows the Pintail is a duck, and it knows it will prefer to eat in the middle of the lake instead of the reeds. We humans are the same we perceive visual cues that tell us the person is a different culture and might have different customs or behaviors. It prepares us for it. Russians look just like everybody else. Perhaps the women are a little more stunning, and the men a little larger but on the whole the same. I am trying to walk that very fine line between what is and what I perceive, or think. I don’t want to be called racist or anti-Canadian/American. I do want to accurately describe and paint for you a correct picture. Personally, I believe Russian women to be the most physically beautiful in the world. But that is a bias and an opinion. I am after all married to Russian woman. She will say she isn’t Russian as people from Russia tend to identify themselves by where they came from. So someone from Anapa would say they are Kavkaz and someone from Novosibirsk might say they are Siberian. In Canada we don’t share this regional identity in the same way unless one is from Quebec, or perhaps Surrey.
The sky has opened up here, complete with thunder and lighting. I am writing this enjoying a coffee and incredible chicken wings at my new favorite bar/lounge. I tweeted about this place and posted on my Facebook page. It is called Timer_Lounge Bar. They may not have the beach view my last year's office had, but they have incredibly good food and a larger selection of drinks. If you’re an English-speaking tourist and looking for a bit of a break from the great traditional food Russia has to offer then look up Timer. They have a New York style of cooking, full of flair, elegance, and something hard to find in New York. Farm fresh, non-GMO ingredients sourced less than fifty kilometers away. If you’re one of my Russian readers, then give the place a try. It may be a little expensive, from a local perspective, but you can taste truly world class cooking and international food without flying anyplace. A New York steak without flying to New York. Just don’t cook the meat to well done, as is cultural here!! Try medium or medium rare… It’s safe. Trust me I am Canadian.
I went to the Market today. In American and Canada, it would be called The Farmers Market. My sister Carol-Lyn loves these types of things and frequently goes in California. Here they are just a part of life. Not really a thing, like in LA, but a regular, historically normal part of Russian life. Everything is natural, fresh, and grown/raised/harvested locally. The people are proud of their products and if you don’t arrive early you won’t get any. A sell out is usually the norm. It is difficult for me as they don’t put the price of things on the product as the regular stores do. SO I had to revert to apologizing for not speaking the language and holding out a handful of coins and small bills. Letting them take what they needed. Did they know I was a foreigner? Most certainly. Did anyone take advantage, and take more than they should? No! How do I know you’re asking? I watch other peoples purchases and get a feel for how much it should be within a few Rubles and watch body language. It is cultural to be kind and honest with strangers in the Kavkaz region of Russia. Perhaps it is the same in other regions? I don’t know as I haven’t traveled there yet. When I do, I will let you know.
The rain is pouring now, lightning is flashing brilliantly overhead, and the thunder sounds like artillery. The deck has a few centimeters of water on it, and I am alone. The locals and staff thinking the Canadian is crazy sitting outside under the umbrellas made really for the sun. It isn’t at all cold, and I do love thunder storms. The great thing about being in Russia is I am free to sit outside if I want. No waitress or manager urging me inside, as it is safer. I could get electrocuted, but it is MY choice. No Nanny Nation state sponsored rules oppressing me. The local saying here is; “My Life My Rules” and it is something those that scream about freedom should take to heart.
The world media was going on the other day about something President Obama said. He commented on something the Donald had said on Larry King about President Putin’s ratings. He compared President Putin’s popularity with Saddam Hussein, remarking that when you controlled the media, it was easy to have great approval ratings. To say I was confused by this statement would be putting it mildly. I have been here in Russia for over fifteen months in the past three years. I routinely watch Global TV Vancouver while I eat my breakfast and usually watch a little BBC at lunchtime. Something I couldn’t do when I was in Thailand. The difference? Media sources are censored in Thailand, currently under a Military Dictatorship, and are not in Russia. So I found it very odd that the sitting President Of The United States would make such a statement. Does he believe the citizens of the USA are stupid enough to believe that in 2016 Russian citizens can't watch, read, and listen to non-Russian bias reporting? All media is bias, Fox News more Republican-leaning and NBC perhaps less so. CBC more Liberal in Canada than Global News Network. But to suggest Russians are like the people of Iraq? It goes along way to confirm this Russianphobia that seems to be running rampant these days.
Perhaps I am biased? This could be true. Many of you that read my blog only know me from my fiction writing, and follow along here to see when the next new book is being released. But, many here are friends and family. The other day I read a quote I liked. “The best part of me is I am who and what I am. It happens to also be the worst part of me”. I speak my mind, and when something is an opinion, I tend to say as much. I don’t whitewash the truth, and I don’t engage in propaganda. My political leanings are Socialist, as are many Canadians, and I tend to call bullshit when I don’t agree with something. I exercise my right to free speech. I even called my previous Prime Minister a bad word right here on this blog. So you can take it as a fact that President Putin’s popularity numbers are pretty damn accurate. Statistics being what they are not withstanding. Not everyone I’ve talked to agrees with everything he is doing or perhaps the way he is doing it but they all agree he knows best and here is the big part. They TRUST HIM. Even if they don’t understand the big picture or the endgame, they trust he has the best interests of the country in his heart. That is something for both Canada and America to pay attention to. America is entering an election with many people saying they have a choice between bad, and worse. Canada has five choices, I almost typed three, as two don’t count, and in the end, we vote out a party rather than voting IN the one we want.
I didn’t start off with a political agenda for this blog. It just went that way. I guess when you talk about the differences in people and cultures it is bound to happen. Russians ask what other cultures think about them. They are curious about the world outside of Russia, and they know and remember history. So it is natural for them to raise questions and question motives. For example, I recently got asked this question.
“When the USSR put nuclear missiles in Cuba it almost started World War Three. Now America is placing the same type of missiles in many countries surrounding Russia. When we did it, we were called aggressive and engaging in brink politics. Now we are being called aggressive again. It is not us placing weapons of mass destruction in other countries.”
How would you answer that question? I couldn’t come up with anything on the spot and since the question was asked haven’t found a decent answer. Protecting sovereignty in small countries with a nuclear response is kind of like pissing on your Ice-cream cone, so your sister doesn’t eat it.