The Russian People

For most of my travel through and around Vladivostok, I’ve relied on Volodya the driver. Manning a white Toyota Land Cruiser, he cuts a direct and forceful path through the traffic here.

I would describe Volodya two ways. First, he looks like Béla Károlyi, the gymnast coach from Romania. He coached Nadia Comăneci and Mary Lou Retton, amongst others.


Anyway, Volodya looks like Bela. But he’s silent. Utterly silent. And expressionless. For three days, I barely heard a “da” or “net.” Until yesterday.

Yesterday, he suddenly spew forth several paragraphs of Russian in one gigantic outburst. It’s as if he saves up all his words for a month or two and then lets them out only when they’ve reached a critical mass.

The Russian journalism professor who was with me said Volodya was talking about his upcoming weekend off and how he would be spending it alone the woods killing birds. Then Volodya laughed.

High heel flat tummies

On the other end of the spectrum are the many Russian girls who seem to be entirely focused on looking beautiful — and most succeed. In my classes, for example, many — if not most — wear high heels and makeup. They seem determined not to turn into the stereotypical Russian babushkas.

My class
My class

A friend of mine terms these girls — who fawn over each other in a curious sort of way — high heel flat tummies. It’s a pretty good description. All I can say is, I hope the Russian boys deserve them!

Above is a picture of the students in my class. In many respects, they’re the same as the students I teach in America. Some are interested, some are not. Some try to hide that they are playing on their cell phones, others take overly extended bathroom breaks. But, they are a fun bunch and I’m glad to have the chance to spend some time talking multimedia journalism with them.