CULTURAL HINDRANCES #2

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The evening sun over the Volga, Samara, Russia

In Russia, I am asked without circumlocution about my living circumstances. Often in the first hour of an encounter and mostly by other often older women. "Do you want to get married?", "Would you like to have children, you can handle them very well, you should have kids soon!", "Do you have a boyfriend?" And "Why are you in Russia?"

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MEANWHILE SOMEWHERE ELSE

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Last weekend I was at a wedding in Germany. Of the four flights I took, three were late (between one and five hours), and the fourth was cancelled. After this, it remains quiet this week. I have to sleep. On the blog of Janet Givens, however, I wrote a Guest post about an encounter in Finland. Take a look!

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CULTURAL HINDRANCES #1

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Pretty Lady, Sizran, Russia

I've lost the overview of what I've already written about and what I haven't. One thing is clear to me; I can't write about Russian traditions. My experience of the culture is entirely different from that in other (European) countries. All of my previous knowledge is tainted with prejudice. The cultural differences go so much deeper than I ever thought possible. I have spent the last three months getting rid of them. I have no expertise that would give me an inner compass. It makes writing about Russian traditions very hard and potentially a painful read for anyone who knows just a little bit about this country. I can't get beyond my own experience of this culture, and that fascinates me. So, I will write about the moments that have made me understand or experiences this culture with new eyes. And because it's easier to start where memory is fresh, that's what I'll do.

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SUMMER IN SAMARA

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Pink gate in the summer heat, Samara, Russia

The summer rain in Samara is heavy and loud. When it rains at night, it sounds like a herd of wild horses is running past my window. I don't know if this is because the rain drops are particularly large or particularly loud on the canopy cover. The rippling of flowing water in the downspouts sounds as if a medium-sized brook flowed into the Volga right in front of my window. The acoustics confuse me. They are incredibly unrealistic because the next morning there is no evidence of the imaginary masses of water of the previous night. Then the birds are chirping in front of my window, and the garden resembles paradise. On some mornings, when it's really quiet in the house, only the current of the electricity can be heard roaring through the walls, and the small guest refrigerator hums discreetly in the corner. Unlike in winter, the heating doesn't crack. In the distance of the house (or perhaps one of the neighbouring houses) I hear the first signs of life. Someone moves chairs.

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DIANA'S GOODBYE

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The Alm in fulll bloom, Switzerland

Diana's ashes are dancing in grey clouds over the Appenzellerland. As if ordered for the occasion the mountains are dipped in a wet grey dress. The vast expanse of rolling hills, so impressive in the sunshine, is shortened by a foggy wall. Thus the landscape appears small, almost intimate, more protected than it would ever seem in the sunshine. The humidity is high, and many water drops linger on the meadows that are still uncut and in full bloom. As our Footwear ploughs through the grass, the water pearls down along the thin blades of grass or spreads out over our freshly polished leather shoes. We stand alone in this vast landscape. The gloomy weather protects us from the otherwise unavoidable weekend tourists. One after the other, we reach into the little linen bag and lift the ashes into the sky. It's strangely direct and un-ceremonial. At the front of the abyss, looking over the rolling hills, I am alone with my farewell and watch my grandmothers remains dance over the meadows...

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