By Stuart Harrold
Let there be no misconceptions, things are better than they were, in the "relations" between the United States and Russia, and the federation than during the cold war-far better. On the "surface" it might appear that the "politics" between the United States and Russia, or the federation, might appear dismal and dim at the moment. They might even appear tumultuous in current events. But that is just the "world" of politics, which is usually subject to change. But "underneath" the surface, "below" the surface, there are a lot of "good things" happening since the end of the cold war between the United States and Russia---that are beyond the realm of "politics." You need something demonstrative, something that demonstrates, the good will, something you can sink your teeth into. I can demonstrate, with some factual information and two stories, how things "are a lot better" than they were years ago, particularly during the cold war.
If you look up the University of Chicago-Russian language tutors, you'll find under WyzAnt, (which is a tutor registering service, where you make a profile, and they keep your address and personal information and the student goes through them) there are-if you dig right, if you look around, there are over 1,300 Russian tutors, not all, but mostly women teachers, complete with photos, and histories of their schools and where they lived in Russia-the many many schools in Russia or the federation, many of which are "native" Russian speakers. Many taught English in Russia.
Why are there 1,300 Russian women tutors in Chicago, or available for tutoring from other cities on the internet. Why? In the south, nobody likes Chicago, or to live there, it's too windy and too cold.
If you look up the University of Houston, which is a major city, the 3rd largest, with about 3.5 million people, there are over 1,100, Russian language tutors at the University of Houston. Now it's warmer down here. So why? Are there that many people that want to learn Russian? It is a hard language, and besides it's difficult to spell-when you are an English speaker.
Now if you think it's "just "the University of Moscow, that the schools have a foreign exchange program with, you wouldn't be quite right. The University of Houston has an exchange program with Novosibirsk State University, Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, along with another 11 other Universities in Russia, or I should say the CIS or federation. Novosibirsk State University also has affiliations with 124 other scientific schools. So you see it's not all the University of Moscow-there are schools all over Russia-or the federation, numerous schools. And numerous schools-that American students go to, just as there are major cities here that have "major" universities that Russian students go to over here. But you almost have to "be" in a major city to meet Russian students. In this town, which is small, and along the Gulf Coast, we have a junior college, a Maritime College, and a medical school. There are Russian students here though, even though it is a small town on the Gulf Coast of Texas. There are two girls from Ukraine that ride the bus. A girl is studying micro-biology from Russia at the medical school, and others. They were never here during the cold war. There were no Russian students here during the cold war. We're not a "major" city. They are here now. Some go to the medical school, some to the junior college, and some to the Maritime Academy. We're a resort town, with a beach, and a port, and even cruise ships. There is a lure to coming here though-there is a beach, and a warm climate. There are not "many" Russian students. Some. We are not a major city with a major university.
If you look up Tallahassee Florida, which is the capital, and home to Florida State University, which has a large nursing school, when you look up Russian Language tutors, there is not much there-at all, and FSU has an exchange program with the University of Moscow, so where are the tutors. If you scroll down, "the page" to other "cities" Fort Myers, Fort Lauderdale, Jupiter beach, you find, under these "cities" that that's where they are! South Florida. You see-they are Russian women, and men. So they live in south Florida, tutor from there, about 80 of them, because they probably hated cold cruel Siberia and now they are snow birds from Russia. Living here-in wonderful warm Florida, and tutoring the Russian language, to students before they get to FSU.
Now, I'm sure, that some Russian women teachers, who are on the internet, just have an "iron" in the fire, by being on the internet. In other words there might not "be" a lot of students that pay 45.00 an hour. But a lot of them actually probably "do" tutor, because there are way too many. And if you add in "other" major cities---there are thousands of tutors in the United States. Russians now, a lot of them. There are also a lot more American students studying now in Russia than during the cold war.
(For an explanation as to "why" students and American Universities, that is concise and clear, are staying during the "current" current events, and that they like Russia, and prefer education to "politics," and have done likewise in the past, go to Google, type in "American students in Russia" scroll down to "News for American students in Russia," click, then read "Russian Exchanges continue"
and you'll find "numerous" American universities determined to keep their Russian programs going. The students want to stay in Russia. They like Russia. So do their sponsors.)
Now if you "think" that it is the internet, you wouldn't be quite right either. Each woman Russian teacher has to have a Russian passport. Now that's government, Russian government, and people who work for the government that "allows" this to happen. Furthermore, you have to have a visa to be here, so that is govt. to govt. to the United States-plus, a work permit, which can be renewed. So that's between the U.S. Government and the Russian Government. People to People. The internet is just a way of finding a job. You can stay here, work, or marry somebody, go to school, apply for citizenship-you know the score. But it's about people and governments that "allow" it to happen. It's "not" the internet-ok. It's the "Governments" but-it's not what happens "on the surface" with politics.
Now, I have to go back, a few years-so that I can show "how" things have "gotten better." Better from what? So I pick a time; when Boris Yeltsin stood in front of a tank in 1991. Everybody remembers that one. It was interesting in the United States, for sure, as it was on T.V. and in the news for several days. Nobody knew what was happening, and all we had were the TASS reports in the newspaper, which was the mouthpiece for the Soviet Union. No Pravda. No Moscow Times. People wondered. People worried that Russia was going to have a revolution. So that is 23 years ago. 23 years is not much time "historically" speaking? So how have things gotten better in 23 years?
When I got my degree from my college, they didn't even have a computer lab. Computers came along mostly in the early and late 80's and early 90's. In 1991 there were home PC's, but not that many yet. The internet was new sort of, in its infancy. There were absolutely no cell phones in America in 1991. They didn't come along until 1995. By 2005 there were over 200 million. Now there are over 300 million, more than one for every citizen. I never knew, in 91, that I would have a computer one day. I never knew I would have several. I never knew I would have a cell phone--either. Nobody else did either. I had been a court reporter and sports writer for a small newspaper. I would end up "back" in school to get a degree in computer science, as typewriters disappeared from the shelves in the stores. You had to have a computer to write. I studied Russia during the Cold War, and loved my subject. I mostly read the articles from TASS in the papers, and the major magazines articles. I never really thought I "knew" anything. I never really thought that I might send an article to TASS, much less, I didn't even know about Pravda for awhile. Now that I have set the stage, let me proceed.
I order to demonstrate how things have changed and gotten better; I need to tell two personal stories, and I can show you clearly, how things "are better than they were," and at the end of the stories, give some other "factual" information as well, to show that "relations" between Russia and the U.S. are a lot better that people think. It's "more" than a plethora of tutors around, and students abounding. The thing about Pravda is that there are "not" many personal stories. Very Few, in fact-none. Most of the articles and essays are "political" but they do publish personal "letters," so perhaps Dmitry Sudakov and the editors of Pravda will "allow" this, as it needs to be said, so that that you can see what it is like for us as "Americans" in part, what it has "been like" I should say, particularly during the cold war.
In 2005 or so, I was in junior college. I was in my ceramics class. I took 14 ceramics classes and computer science. I made casserole dishes with a lid and a knob on top, to cook food in, so I was a straight A student. I had good artwork, but it took me awhile to get to be a good potter. Two girls walked in, in a spring semester and sat down. One had brown hair and brown eyes, about 21 and she was from Ukraine. The other, blond hair and blue eyes and was a student from the University of St. Petersburg, about 24. They were the first girls from Russia or the federation, we had seen, in a small tiny little junior college. I'm sure it was known around school from the 15 odd girls in this class talking and so on. The girl from St. Petersburg was an art major studying over here. For her first project, she hand built and sculptured a mermaid 12 inches tall, coming up out of a pool of water, with a shell behind. A beautiful mermaid with a face and body, carefully sculptured, and better than anybody in class could do. Nobody could come close to her sculpting clay. Everybody was astounded, and so was the teacher. I was secretly pleased, that we had "girls from Russia" in class, now, ok? So of course I wanted to talk to her about Russia. So I talked to her the first day, just a little, to see where she was from. Introduce myself.
In this class, you were not allowed to talk to the "girls" in class. It was a woman teacher. You could walk by someone's desk and say, "That's a nice piece, it looks good," but you couldn't carry on a lengthy conversation with anybody, because you are supposed to be doing your artwork. You are not supposed to be talking. Well, particularly after I saw the mermaid, I wanted to talk to this girl again and ask her any old thing about Russia, and because over here, you don't meet many girls from Russia, it's a small town along the coast. She could have been in any University, she was that talented. What was she doing in a small town junior college? So when the teacher got busy, I went over to her table and stood beside her and asked her,
"How are things going in Russia? How do you think the elections are gonna do?"
And she looked up at me and smiled so happily, happy that someone wanted to "talk" to her-a fellow student-an American, and talk to her about Russia, and might know something about Russia, she was thrilled. She said something like,
"Oh, nobody knows what's going on in Russia. There is a lot of confusion. Nobody knows who will win the elections!"
And I said, "Well, I can tell you who will "not" win the elections!"
And she smiled-so broadly, so happily, that somebody could say such a thing, and her eyes got really big, and she was so happy! She said, "Ok, who "will not" win the elections!" So glad that somebody could straighten out Russia by at least eliminating some people, but more importantly, somebody telling it to her face in America, when she probably didn't think anybody over here even knew about Russian politics, which I don't, I just know a little-enough to be dangerous.
So I mentioned some politicians. Each time I mentioned a name, she stopped me. She would "pronounce" the name correctly in Russian, and then--make me use the "correct" pronunciation, because I was obviously pronouncing the names wrong. I just didn't say them right, I gave them a plain English pronunciation, and she wasn't having any part of that. She made me say each name in class. By now the teacher was watching, but saw that this girl was excited that somebody "talked" to her, (and she was in America) so she left us alone for a moment, so that "she" could at least be welcomed to America by having a conversation about her homeland. I beat it over to my pottery wheel and decided to talk to her later. She had a boyfriend that met her every day after class.
On another day, at the end of class, when people were putting their work up and covering it with plastic, I talked to her again. I told her basically that I was "very" optimistic about Russia, and that they had plenty of money, and that if they moved toward any kind of govt. they were bound to do well and I mentioned a little about oil and gas reserves and whatever else was in the news. I want her to know that I at least knew who Gazprom was-
She already knew all this, she already wanted to "spend" the money from the "new found" wealth of Russia, in the spirit that people over here want to do the same thing and tell the govt. how to spend the budget, or the states how to spend money, or how to spend what people hate-property taxes, and so-in the same vein-and she made no bones about it! But she had a nice idea. She wanted the Russian government to spend the money on a new Hospital System for all of Russia and the federation!
She stood next to me, putting her pottery away, as demurely, as can "be" and said, "In America, when people go to the hospital," and then she explained what she knew to be true. "In Russia, when they go to the hospital"and she explained the difference. She smiled broadly! I thought she was mildly critical and for a second she lost me-she spent all of Gazprom's money and Rosneft's too, such an expensive idea! It would take all of the United States medical equipment, and we would have to manufacture more, just to keep up with her-expensive! I guess, if you come from a big country-you have "big" ideas! We have some hospitals over here, but they cost a lot of money, and a country with 14 time zones-gee, she had "good intentions" though. She wanted "good things" for Russia. She wanted to take care of everybody and spend all the money! I thought that maybe she was a renegade from St. Petersburg and they threw her out, for having such big ideas. That's why she was over here! She seemed very formidable, a mean Russian bear girl! Spending everybody's money-just like everybody over here! Everybody thinks they know what's best for the govt. She seemed like a tough Russian girl, and she was quite good-looking. I liked her right away. Maybe I'm a renegade myself.
Then she said something very sobering. She said she hoped that Russia would have a govt. eventually that would be good for raising children-which to me was interesting. Very concerned for Russia. She thought it would "take awhile," (meaning after 1991) but that is all she knew. But she liked Russia, even though she was over here studying, and a little critical. We have plenty of critical people over here. Join the crowd.
I thought, after I left, that she was very intelligent, concerned, and formidable. Mostly formidable. I liked her. She was an expert artist and something to contend with. She was Russian. Her English was perfect.
I talked to her one more time, toward the end of the semester, at the end of class, when people washed their tools and put them away in their lockers. I asked her:
"What are you going to do?"
Over here, if you meet a foreign exchange student, it is a common question to ask somebody, if they are going to try and stay in America or go home to their country, and use their education that they got here, there. It is harder, to get citizenship here, than it used to be. It takes some Mexicans years and years-just to get citizenship. They don't hand it out like they used to. It can be "hard" for people to stay in America, Visas run out and so on. Work permits expire. She said:
"I don't know; go to different schools for awhile. See the country."
I thought if she went home, she would make a big addition to Russia. She was already such a good artist when she got here. She learned that at the University of St.Petersburg.
I decided after class to make her a present, sort of from the United States-to the girl-a student-- from Russia, because I was into computers and downloading, and I wanted to download her a song from the 70's, that was very popular over here for about 20 years, that was critical of "everything" from the Vietnam war to the govt. just to "show her," that we have them same problems, even in our music-people dissatisfied with the govt. or what have you. Not really a protest song, although, there are plenty, but just a good song from that era. Put it on a CD for her. Music, just to be nice, and because I was into downloading music and making CD's.
You see, you have to realize, that for the people over here-that are "in the know" which is not the whole community, just the fact that there are Russian girls or students over here-it has a "calming" effect on those in the community that are "in the know" probably the same as American students over there. It is always the same reason, because Russian girls here, "is a lot better than it was," (the cold war) for the people who study, are self taught, and read the news now, because a lot of people, they don't even know, they just go about their daily lives. But the people who are "in the know" we "like it" that there are Russian girls here-in the community, because-it is "better" than the way it was-get it. In other words, not much propaganda, fear, and paranoia. Russian girls in the restaurants and stores are a lot more interesting and better, Russian girls from Ukraine at Wal-Mart, better. Much better.
I burned the CD and I made the mistake of giving the song to her in class. I walked up to her working table and said,
"I made you a song; it's from the 70's. It was very popular over here. It is like people using music to express all these ideas," and I explained it to her for awhile what it was. I explained the "social importance." She smiled and thanked me for it happily. After class, from another girl, I found out that the teacher took it away from her.
Over here, in the educational system, if you have a foreign student, the teachers feel, that they should control who "exerts influence" on a student, and what that influence is, so since it was a ceramics class, I could have given her a piece of pottery maybe, but since I gave her music, and I was disseminating ideas-she should stop me. In reality, it was a "gift," and the teacher had no right to take it. It didn't belong to her. I could have, and should have given it to her out of class. It didn't take long to decide, that I had been in the class to long, so I decided to drop. A Russian girl helped me decide, to drop a class, and that I didn't like the teacher that much anyway, and she didn't like men in her class anyway, so I dropped, but I was a little irate. I didn't feel like I was going to corrupt anybody or govt. with a single song from the 70's, but there are cautious people in this world, and they think they know everything, and a lot of them are in education. When I went to drop, after the semester was over, and clean my locker out, she was there and she was so happy, she made sure I got everything, even though I was an A student for so long.
Everybody knows, what is the best "even for relations" between the U.S. and Russia, even if you are an art teacher.
Fortunately I saw this formidable Russian girl one more time. I never go to the movies, although I used to love to go to the movies. But people protest Hollywood over here, and they don't go to the movies, because a lot of them are so bad. But if there is a good movie I might go. But it costs, like 3.50 for popcorn, 3.00 for a drink, and over 6.00 for admission, so it's not cheap, so people protest that too. People bring their own candy and hide it, particularly ones with kids, because they don't want to pay for candy. Anyway, there was a line outside the theater, about 20 people, and I was standing in line. I was facing the parking lot, smoking a cigarette, and she came walking out of the parking lot arm and arm with her boyfriend. She saw me first and she waved furiously and continuously for a long time, and smiled happily. I waved back. Even her boyfriend smiled at me. I was her cohort, the guy who talked Russian politics with her in class and about her homeland. She was letting me know she was happy to meet me, and that maybe the CD didn't matter, with the expression on her smiling face. They already had tickets and went into a side door.
This was 2005. 7 years later, 2012. I had an apt. for 8 years, but the property sold and I had to move to a boarding house until I found an apt. which can be hard to do in this town. I had a small room on the second floor, which had a hallway of rooms. They were the same size as Japan. You stretch your arms out and touch the walls on either side-just about. Very narrow rooms. Camera security everywhere. I had a small bed, a miniature refrigerator, a decent T.V. At the end of the room was a nice desk and I had a new Dell computer, speakers, and a small printer. I had a perfect computer work station, and a window that looked out on the street. I published my third book from that room. This is what you can do over here. I downloaded my manuscript to a publisher in Colorado, called "Outskirts Press." They're on the internet. No Agent. Anybody could do it, even from Russia. Pay 600.00 and your book is published and put on the internet. Another 100.00 for an E-book. If you sell any books, they are printed on demand. It's called POD publishing. My book was a collection of short stories. I didn't think it would get published. The very first story is about a guy who took some clothes off to show the scar he got when bitten by a large rattlesnake-when he went to go to the bathroom out in this large field full of grass along the freeway. We have a lot of snakes here. There is also a story, about the street girls over here that were pulling their hair out because they wanted to get $2,000.00 FEMA checks, which everybody was getting, after the hurricane that evacuated everybody. They evacuated, they lost money, they lost food in their refrigerators, but they didn't have employer phone numbers, or permanent addresses, so they were furious, because $2,000.00 is a lot of money to a street girl! I knew Charlotte, who was a street girl that hung out at the café where I went all the time for coffee. Just friends. She told me about all the "girls" going crazy. It was funny to me, so I wrote about it. The govt. just wasn't going to pay the street girls (prostitutes) $2,000.00. Some of their customers offered to let them use their phone numbers and tell FEMA that they were their "maids" but FEMA, well, whatever..... They published me. I thought they might not, because they publish a lot religious books. It is all women that work for Outskirts. So if you need a publisher, and you are Russian...They liked my book and wrote nice emails.
At the same time in my desk drawer was my first story to Pravda, English version, Moscow, Russia. I wrote about the Military, which is not my specialty, but I was hoping, more than anything that I would get in Pravda and they would put me in because I wrote about General Pace, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Russian General Baluyevski, Russian military intelligence. It sat there. At night read Pravda, and I would send it, and it would get published, but I was still learning about Pravda.
The story would get read by a 19 year old Russian girl first named Svetlana, who was a straight A student from Russia, who used my computer every night when she moved in next door to me. But-that is a different story. This story is already too long and needs to be continued.
I wouldn't be surprised if Pravda doesn't publish this. But, when it comes to the "relations" between the United States and Russia, it's just that "this" is not on the "surface" like politics is.
You cannot discount all the tutors over here that are Russian.
You cannot discount all our students over there.
And you can't discount all the Russian Students over here, who are an addition to American soil-either.
You can't discount Svetlana.
As I said, things are a lot better than were. Hopefully, more later, as it will "take me" more pages at a later date if Pravda allows. There is more to be said.