There is something I like and dislike about America
Valeria Schekotova, not long ago deputy editor-in-chief of the newspaper Vyatsky Nabludatel, came for her first vacation in Russia after she had left to the United States. Before travelling to the USA, she said that she was going to see her beloved man - pen-pal Edward Hebert - she said that she did not need America as a country at all. Nevertheless, Valeria is currently residing in the States and she is doing fine there. Lera Herbert lives in her husband's house, she has a permanent residential permit, a good job and Russian-speaking friends. Her life has become stable.
When you left Russia, it was a grand transformation for you? What are your brightest impressions?
We are living in the south, in Shreveport, Louisiana, - a town with the 400,000-strong population. The winter temperature does not go down below zero there, so people do not have permanent heating in their houses. At first, it was very cold for me - I arrived there in February. Now we have a better heater. At first, all I had to do was to sit at home and wait for my husband to return home from work. I could not even walk anywhere, because Shreveport is not a pedestrian town - one can only drive there. So I was just walking around the house with our dog, sometimes me and Edward went to supermarkets for shopping. My communication was limited to books and the Internet. Speaking about the American meals - they do not have such things as soup or salad of cut vegetables. Salad for Americans is just salad - just several salad leaves, some cheese and various sauces. They presumably eat Mexican meals in the south of the States, and I can not make any comparisons that would be understandable for Russians - Russian people do not eat such food. They have everything ready and packed - one has to warm it up.
When I was leaving for the USA, I could hardly speak English. I could not watch TV, even if there were subtitles. Now I can perfectly understand the American speech with all peculiarities, although I speak with simple phrases. A friend of mine said, it usually takes ten years to start thinking English and to be able to speak it fluently. Edward knows some 30 or 40 Russian words - he knows something about love, he knows "babushka" stressing it on the second syllable, but I did not teach him any Russian bad words, as my friends here did.
How did you get a job?
There is only one newspaper in Shreveport - The Times, so my profession of a journalist was useless, as well as my other profession - a lawyer. Russian diplomas are not good in the States – they have an absolutely different legal system there. I managed to find a full time and an interesting job only in about 18 months. I was employed at the medical and biological institute. The American science is all based on grants: if someone substantiates a project, its importance and practical use, they will be funded. My boss and her group are currently proving the harmful influence of a medical drug on heart vessels, the positive influence that certain grape and grape wine components show on them. I was hired without even a diploma, because grant conditions stipulate supervisor's obligation to find an employment for socially insecure people. I started as a clerk, growing cells, but now I am a researcher. Slowly but surely, my wages are becoming closer to the American average salary, which means that I do not have to be worried about daily wants and needs. All social problems of an average American are solved, so they think about a place, where they can buy a house, a bank, where they can raise a loan, and so on.
So what country is better for you now - Russia or America?
I will not answer this question. Russia is my fatherland. There is something that I like and dislike about the States. I am not a malicious antagonist with my critical attitude to the American mentality and the state policy. I am just an observer.
I have heard and read that American people are naive and poorly educated. Do you think so too?
They do not read much, they trust their state and the majority of functions connected with their interests are executed by lawyers, which is very expensive. That is why Americans hate doctors and lawyers, because of their excessive fees, although they pay them anyway. When I was unemployed, I studied the American tax law - they have special simplified programs for volunteers there. I found out that my husband had paid too much taxes to the state. I checked everything and managed to return pretty good money to us. Nobody would do it there. Filling a blank for obtaining a permanent greencard implies the price of $500 for three hours of a lawyer's work! Southern Americans are special people - they are people of nature, men prefer hunting and fishing among all other entertainments, they refer to northern Americans as Yankees. My husband is more like a Yankee man. I would like to say here that religion plays a very important role in their lives. They are used to going to the church every Sunday, there are a lot of churches of various confessions there. This unites people, there is no stealing, no one will take your bag if you forget it. Yes, they are superficial people, and there is no other world for them, except for America. Their news is limited to local American news, Arab and Palestinian conflict reports and Iraq. Yet, they have super-professional documentaries with profound analyses.
Americans have a special attitude to what they wear. They basically do not care how they look and wear plain clothes. Sometimes I think that they do not know what ironing means. However, if you wear one and the same outfit to work for more than two days - your colleagues will not understand you, to put it mildly. I do not know what they wear in New York or Los Angeles, this is a completely different world.
Will you become an American citizen in five years after your arrival in the States?
Not necessarily. I do not have such plans for the time being. I can legally become an American citizen, if I pass an exam of American history and language. Yet, I would like to remain a Russian national so far not to have any problems with travelling to Russia, to my family. The American citizenship is needed for those who travel a lot - they can travel without visas almost worldwide. I do not have such an opportunity yet.
Interview was taken by Mary Lazareva