Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Meet the Russians

We were invited to a bbq over the weekend. We told the kids that we were going to a Russian family's home but they are actually from the Ukraine, we just said they were Russian to explain that Eric would be speaking a lot of Russian during the evening. The man of the house worked on a few of the jobs that Eric supervised and they would speak Russian together. They've been trying to connect for a few months because Eric thinks that he wants to talk with him about his own company that he has started, a masonry company. Eric thinks this because his Russian is rusty and it is even rustier trying to understand Russian with a Ukrainian accent and that is what he has understood from their conversations. We still don't know if that was what he was explaining. The first thing we learned when we arrived, 30 minutes late, was that Eric is in the wrong profession, and so am I. This man is a mason and his wife is a hair stylist (pregnant with their 4th daughter) and their brand new home with a beautiful view of the sound was not only brand new but full of brand new furniture as well. As we were walking up the stairs she turned to me and asked,

"you leeve een big house too?"

And my reply was a humble, "no, our house is small and very old. Your house is much bigger and much nicer."

We walked into one of the rooms and I thought it was the master bedroom because of the enormous poster bed with lovely carvings in the wood, but it belonged to the oldest daughters. The girl Cannon's age had her own room that she'll share with her baby sister when the time comes. There wasn't a toy in sight, or a wrinkle on the bed. It was hard to tell that children lived there. We finally saw evidence of kids when we went to the finished basement apartment, and there in a cold, windowless room with a broken light above, were all the toys. So the kids played in the basement for a bit, they were allowed to bring the toys out to the living area of the basement, but with only girl things to do, it wasn't long before the boys were playing "wreck the tea party" and the girls were screaming. So the boys went outside to explore for a bit and of course when they came back in, Cannon tracked footprints from the front door to the back balcony door (we all had our shoes off). Luckily it had been a nice day and they were just dusty tracks and not muddy footprints.

They were obviously loving parents but it showed one of our cultural differences, that children often follow the spoke-when-spoken-to rule, which I could use more of in my house at times, and kids don't bother their parents. This came up throughout the evening.

So we had a delicious and large meal. The woman spoke some English and we chatted a little, I enjoyed listening to her accent. As she was mixing a salad, she remarked that it was her favorite -- a mixture of about 6 vegetables, thinly sliced and grouped around a plate with a big glob of mayo in the middle "weet a leetle biet ov keyhchup" that she mixed all together when it was time to eat. She was concerned that my food was getting cold before I could eat since I was holding Sommer and trying to eat and feed her at the same time. Keeping the food hot being another important thing to them.

The meal was good, Eric spoke in Russian to our hosts most of the time. Oh, the girls spoke English well but they were shy. And then it was Sommer's bedtime and she got fussy so I was pacing around and they apologized that they didn't have a place for her to sleep. No big deal, we'd just be getting home. But the wife had an idea, she brought the stroller inside, after carefully wiping down the wheels, and put it in the reclining position. I tried to put Sommer in it but she went stiff and squealed in anger about that idea. I kept giving Eric the "let's go" signal and he would nod. Not that I didn't enjoy our time together, but when it is time to go, it is time to go.

Finally Eric said that we'd better be going and they protested, saying that they had cake and tea for us. Then they asked about our kids' bedtimes -- 7:30 for Sommer, 8 or 8:30 for the other kids though Ridge stays up later reading -- and they were shocked since their children go to bed between 10 and 10:30. Then they explained that when they have guests over, and they do often, that usually the guests stay until midnight. Midnight?! With children around? I'm not sure how they expected the boys to last for 3.5 more hours but that was what they were expecting. So Eric said of course we'd love to have cake but we really could only stay for 20 more minutes.

She made two cakes. One was a plate of large circular rainbow wafers with condensed milk in between each layer. The other had layers of sweet baked meringue and not very sweet poppy seed cake with whipped cream between. It was interesting and I liked it though I couldn't finish all my slice. She asked me,

"you make cake, like thees or weethe box?"

I told her that I usually use the box mix since the kids like to help but that I often make cookies from scratch. I'm sure that she felt far superior to me by the time the evening was done since she also had something to say, in Russian, to Eric about Laine's eating habits that I know are horrible and it is my goal to change them but it would take more that just a firm Ukrainian hand to do so. I did like her and I guess I'm humble enough about my place in life that I was happy to let her be the queen of the evening. It was a good thing we did stay for dessert because that was when religion came up and Eric was able to give a short discussion about our church, the entire reason why he knows Russian in the first place. She had a lot of questions and was surprised that the Book of Mormon was also published in Russian. So guess what she's getting along with a baby gift?

I'd like to return the favor and have them over in the future, but first I need to figure out how to say, in a polite way to them, you are not welcome to stay until midnight.


Davidsonfieldville said...

hahahahaa....oh I just LOVE YOU PAIGE! What a great post...

mindy said...

Sounds like a very interesting evening. I had to laugh at the bedtime question because I had someone ask me about that the other night. It was a neighbor I just recently met who wanted to continue chatting but I mentioned that I needed to get in and get the girls to bed. She is hispanic and was telling me that in her culture parents are less strict about such things as bedtime. She said she lets her kids go to bed whenever they want. That's great for her but I look forward to their 8pm bedtime all day. Their lucky they get to stay up that late.

Audrey said...

It's interesting to learn about other cultures and there's always something that you like about someone else's. But when It comes down to it, I always end up happier in my own unperfect comfort zone! You're a good mom, Paige!

Team Biddle said...

OK, that's a great story. Midnight?! Holy cow...

Lark said...

What a great story. There is such a cultural difference - love the stroller part because you knew that would never work but were just trying to be nice. Well, I love all the parts - "your house is nicer" - this was fun to read!

curly girl said...

What a great post. Thanks for sharing. You handled it with your typical grace and poise! Culture is a funny thing, isn't it?!