Saturday, 1 October 2011

unspoken connections

I don't know whether it is because I am of a certain age, or whether it happens to all foreigners, but there have been several moments of kind exchange with strangers (also mainly older people). In the Metro, there have been those who, hearing me speak English to a Russian friend, come over and greet me - in whatever language they prefer.  Today, in the supermarket, the cashier on reaching the end of my stumbling Russian and therefore realising I was a foreigner, reached under the till counter and gave me a discount card for a massive designer retail outlet; adding quite formally and in beautiful English 'a present for you.'

I find these encounters very touching - because if I understand correctly - it connects to something I also feel; that we were Cold War children, separated and isolated by politics.... and now (somehow unexpectedly) we can just be in the same city together, in an ordinary way. And I still find that a little amazing.

In a similar fashion, one of my colleagues has just come back from his family home deep in the Russian countryside - no running water or electricity, and he has been there all summer making repairs to his mother's house so it will be warm enough this winter - with a huge handful of home-made socks and slippers. On hearing that he was working with an English woman, his mother's friends also insisted on giving me presents.

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