Day 26 of the Nowhere To Be Project was all about travel memories. I was sipping the tea I purchased in Russia during my visit there last spring. The strong and distinct flavor took me back to St. Petersburg. It was there that I shared tea with a lovely Russian woman in her home, a traditional Kommunalka shared flat. This communal style of living was the norm during the Soviet-era of Russia and is still fairly common in St. Petersburg. While the space was visibly dilapidated and stifling by western standards, it offered my hostess a unique feeling of freedom because she actually owned her share of the home. Evidently, this is quite unusual for a single mother in Russia. I related to her sense of pride in accomplishment both as a woman and as a former single mom.
We communicated through a translator, yet with each sip of tea we realized that pretty much everything we thought we knew about one another’s lives was wrong. As a child of the Cold War, I was taught that the Russians were as close to evil as you could get. My counterpart at tea believed the same thing about Americans. These myths dissolved as quickly as our teapot ran dry. We learned that we were much more alike than different. We both worked hard, sacrificed for our children, found pleasure in the small things…our pets, treasured books, and hot tea.
Unfortunately, it seems as if our countries are once again drawing lines in the political sand. I am so thankful that I was able to visit Russia and so appreciative for the time I spent with its people. I find that travel erodes assumptions and misconceptions. Why not make a habit of having tea with the enemy?
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