Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Volga Spartan

Our youngest son is doing extra duty in the classrooms of Russia this spring, participating in one of Michigan State University’s study abroad programs. We felt that since his degree program involves international relations, it might be worth a couple added years paying back student loans to expose him to at least one other culture than that of East Lansing frat rat.

This does worry my wife Wendy and I some. Scott seems to have some talent for finding trouble. Russia is not a place to be doing that. It didn’t help when Scott tried to convince us that it was well nigh impossible for a student to get into trouble in a foreign country. Think he was confused about diplomatic immunity. He also insisted it was Russian tradition for students to down a shot of vodka before heading out to class.

And it certainly didn’t assuage our fears when we learned Scott listed his slightly older brother as his official emergency contact. This is the same brother who lost his only cell phone in a bar a couple months ago. A good Samaritan returned it about a week later.

What happens if Scott downs too many vodka shots and engages in a favorite Michigan State pyrotechnic activity, couch-burning, at Lenin’s Tomb? If the U.S. Consulate contacts Scott’s brother Greg to report that Scott was resting rather uncomfortably in some Soviet gulag, Greg most likely would respond with “awesome” or perhaps “hilarious.” Those being a couple of his favorite words of late.

Well, we did our best to send him off on the right note. Scott will be staying with a host family in Russia. Tradition dictates that he bring the family a gift made in America. My parents suggested that we send a jar of Nutella as a token gift (the label on the jar says it’s made in Canada-close enough). Nutella, a creamy mixture of nuts and chocolate, is big in Europe and in Russia also, we presume.

Scott balked at the idea, thinking it might be demeaning to be bringing his host family food, as if to say they don’t have enough to eat in Russia. Besides, his Russian was not fluent enough to translate a gift of Nutella. It might come out for example, “My grandparents said, ‘Eat this!’” That does lose something in translation, making Scott sound like the witch in Snow White.

I suggested that he present the Nutella as “a gift from your grandparents.” That seemed to work better. Just to be on the safe side, Scott also took some Detroit Tiger glassware.

So Scott has been in Russia for a week now, finding his command of the language to be good enough for a first-time visitor. He did complain that at least one Russian had shown a bad attitude in dealing with him. Scott has trouble handling those types of people and can be emotionally candid expressing his feelings in such situations.. I just hope he can be patient and keep his wits about him for another six weeks.

Condoleeza Rice just returned from Moscow, attempting to mend some fences as East-West relations have grown tense lately. I sure don’t need our family contributing to a new Cold War


Blogger Matty said...

Oh boy, I hope Scott does behave in Russia. It wouldn't be funny trying to get him out of a Russian jail. I heard the pastime in Russia is drinking vodka...and that every Russian family have vodka at every meal.
I also heard that a person can take offence at the manner in which a Russian speaks. For instance, when they say I love you,,,,it sounds like I hate you...they have such a rough way of speaking.
Maybe the vodka will keep Scott mellow or a pretty Russian girl.
Keep us up to date. I worry about kids going to foreign countries and disappearing.

10:07 AM  
Blogger Spider said...

The only thing he might pick up in Russia is a bad drinking problem (Stolichsnaya) and a Russian wife.

Watch Dr. Zhivago and learn some of those old Russian songs so you can be ready when he comes back.

10:39 AM  
Blogger LZ Blogger said...

Wow! Working in Russia... what a great opportunity for your son! ~ jb///

10:43 AM  
Anonymous squirrel said...

Oh my! I would be terrified to send my child abroad! Hell i'd be scared to send him out of state! LOL

11:58 AM  
Anonymous Kristy said...

I would think that Nutella would be welcome anywhere on the planet. And if aliens ever land, I suggest we approach them with open arms and Nutella too. Ain't nothing in the world that Nutella can't make better!

10:26 PM  
Blogger Peter said...

Hi Dave, hope to hear in a few weeks time that Scott is home safe and sound and starting to DRY OUT a bit from the vodka.

2:40 AM  
Blogger Kacey said...

Both of my daughters have been to Russia on missionary trips. The older one went as an English teacher to a missionary camp. The younger one went to one of our church's missionaries to make a video film of their activities for our national church office. They took the younger girl's passport and did not return it for several days. While filming in Red Square, they were given the third degree and had to tell the authorities that they were filming a family reunion. My teaching daughter was very surprised by the lack of good bathroom facilities, but on the whole, she loved going there. I hope Scott doesn't do the typical American college boy things --- they might not be as understanding as his loving parents. (Did you take away his matches before he left?)

10:44 AM  
Blogger simply me said...

I think its wonderful that you and your wife are so supportive (and with a superb sense of humor I might add). I think Scott is so fortunate - I think its so important that we see how other people live. Scott will be fine and his experience will enhance his life forever. As you know Dave, my Jon is 14, I am dreading his going away to college, I can bet I will be puking when he goes to another country (without me).
Good for you that you gave Scott this gift.

6:03 PM  
Blogger Granny said...

Best wishes to your son and a Happy Birthday to you.

How did I know when you've never heard of me? You mentioned it in your comment at Merle's.

Ann (aka granny)

5:04 PM  
Blogger Carine said...

how funny that you mention Russia and traveling! My daughter is whisking me away for a girl's weekend in NYC and we are visiting a friend of mine from High School who spent 10 years working in Moscow on a grant!

6:19 PM  
Blogger Lee said...

I understand your concern over Scott, Dave, but this could be the making of him and he probably will surprise you by his good behaviour. Remain positive. You've installed good values in him and I'm sure they will come to the forefront during his time in Russia. :)

7:16 PM  
Anonymous squirrel said...

Happy Birthday Dave!!

8:51 PM  
Blogger Merle said...

Hi Dave ~~ I can sure understand your worry about your son, but let's be
positive - - he will be fine!!
You may be right about the beautiful
people being born in May!! Thank you for the Greetings and I hope you are having a very Happy Birthday also.
Glad you enjoyed the jokes, but I think stupid pollies are everywhere!!
Take care, Regards, Merle.

12:32 AM  
Blogger WordWhiz said...

Well, at least you've heard from him and he got there safely!

Kids!! They're why we have gray hair!

8:02 AM  
Blogger OldHorsetailSnake said...

Maybe he will convert them into Michigan haters?

3:21 PM  
Blogger Granny said...

Hi Dave and thanks for the visit.

Don't let the MySpace link mislead you. Someone asked me to join up and I did. I've discovered I almost never use it unless someone leaves me a message.

2:04 PM  
Blogger Babette said...

Good idea, Hoss!

There aren't many activities that inspire young SPARTAN men more than studying abroad.

An MSU shot glass or a SPARTAN lighter paired with an MSU matchbox would have made lovely and useful gifts.

Za vas, Dave! May you live your inner SPARTAN vicariously through your son!

10:25 AM  
Anonymous vicki said...

Wait- are you saying there's culture in East Lansing? That can't be right.
I'm not sure which is worse, Dave- a daughter in Africa with lions or a son in Russia with never-ending vodka. Both sound risky. Whatever else, he'll come home with a changed sense of the world and that's pretty exciting. They do have phones, there. I know this because Abby has a, um, boyfriend in Russia. She, too, has become fairly fluent. I just keep hoping he doesn't get a visa.

3:18 PM  
Anonymous schnoodlepooh said...

It's a great opportunity for him. I hope he can behave himself.

11:01 PM  
Anonymous Terri said...

Great post, Dave. I smiled all the way through it.
And what a great opportunity for Scott! I'll be anxious to hear about his mishaps....opps! adventures...as these six weeks move along.

6:16 AM  
Blogger poopie said...

OOOOOhhhhhhhhh! I love Nutella.

12:51 PM  
Blogger MSU gal said...

it is also a Spartan tradition to down a shot of vodka before attending class, so your son should have no trouble in Russia!

4:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


11:00 PM  

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