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Russian women in America

My first steps in the new country

By Anna Sokolova

Strong Russian womanWhen people find out that I am from Kazakhstan I am often asked about my first impression of America, American people, and American culture. Usually I think to myself that the biggest question is what was the impression of Americans of me, who met me not long after I moved to America. I will share with you 3 few stories and let you judge for yourselves.

First, I moved to America with open eyes, heart and ready to learn. First thing besides learning to drive was improving my English. I signed up for the “English as a second language course”. There I met my great Russian friend Olga. She was just like me, recently moved to America and trying to fit in.

Olga was a TV reporter back home and was eager to start her career here. Her husband advised her to find internship in any company even with no pay and start to work her way up. She was restless, ”Anna we have to do it!” Finally, I gave in. We met one day in downtown Jacksonville dressed in business suites and with stack of résumés. We went from office to office. Just imagine 2 smiling faces showing up and asking, “Do you need free interns in your company?” That’s when I learned that Americans indeed are very friendly people. Nobody told us what they actually thought. Just usual, “No, thank you. Not at the moment.”

After about 15 rejections, Olga notice organization that claimed to help you if you were small business owner. Olga stated: “People in front didn’t let us in any organizations. I am changing my tactics” She approached women in front and announced, ”We are from Russia and we are planning to open our small business. Who can we talk to?” What a different response! Person in front smiled and escorted us to the beautiful room. Then professionally looking women appeared and started the conversation. I was silent as I knew nothing about the business that we planned to open. Olga explained her that we would like to get some experience first helping other businesses for free.

One hour later professionally looking women finally offered us to be greeters during some huge business event in few days. Olga and I got so excited. Then Olga said: ”Where is that meeting going to be? I don’t have a car and if there is no bus stop close, I can’t come” I added: “I have a small child and actually have no one to watch him at this hour”. Women looked really puzzled (I hope that this is the right word for it). She escorted us to the door and promised to call when other volunteering opportunity appeared. We never heard from her again.

Second example of how I was perceived by Americans was when I went to my son’s school. Little, sweet first graders heard me asking my son, ”Where is your desk sweetie?” Surprisingly one little girl approached me, ”What language are you speaking.” “English I hope,” was my response. Then, little boy looked at me with those naïve eyes and exclaimed, “I am going on a cruise.” To keep conversation going I said: ”Are you going to take a ship?” All those beautiful kids turned to little monsters. They started to laugh and point fingers at me: ”She said that Kyle is going to ride a sheep…”

Third instance of my American experience was when I learned how nice and friendly our American neighbors were. We moved to the new house that did not have grass in the yard yet. My husband and our neighbors bought track of grass together. The morning that grass got delivered my husband suddenly got called to work. He looked at my mom and I and said: ”It is 100 degrees outside. We need to put grass down as soon as possible before it dies. Since you don’t know how to do it, go and help our neighbor to do it at his house first. Then he might help you with ours.”

My mom and I walked to James’s house. James was an active military guy with a strong muscled body. I told him that we going to help him to put his grass. He politely tried to reject our help, but we did not listen. My mom and I grabbed pieces of grass and started. He had to give in. Mom and I worked as a team, fast and efficient. A few hours later James offered us to take lunch. My mom said to me, ”Our grass is going to die; we need to finish his and go to work on ours.” I translated to him, ”No, we are fine.” I saw that James was surprised (or more correct word would be shocked). He looked tired. He couldn’t take lunch either since 2 women were working like crazy.

We finished his yard around 3 pm and went home. We knew what to do now and started to work on our own yard. James showed up in few minutes to help us. A couple weeks later James’s wife saw me and exclaimed, ”O my God! How are you?” “Fine”, I replied. Then she informed me that James’s body hurt for many days. He spent some time in bed and kept exclaiming, ”I never in my life saw 2 women working so hard.” She probably left out end of his sentence “and so insane”. I felt really proud.

What American people really thought of me when they met me then? I must tell you that they liked me anyway. American people are taught to be tolerant and patient to others. They took care of me and offered help, friendship and compassion. Some of my best memories are from those times. Just for the record my friend Olga does have her own small business now.

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