Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Marta craves friendships nearly as much as she craves sweets now. She loves making friends. And she's real good at it.

Funny, but I've met quite a few people thanks to her as well. Playground acquaintances. Here in Moscow, the majority of them happen to be of really diverse backgrounds.

There's a girl whose father is a Syrian Arab married to a Russian woman.

And a girl whose father is Turkish and mother an ethnic Russian from Turkmenistan.

A Kurdish boy and his older sister (I wrote about them here).

A boy whose mother is half-Georgian and half-Russian and whose father is Georgian.

Another boy whose father is Georgian and mother from Belarus (father is fluent in Russian, English and Armenian, in addition to Georgian, while mother is Russophone and regrets not knowing Belarusian).

A girl whose mother is African American and father Russian.

A girl whose father is Jewish and mother a crazy mix of Mingrel, Abkhaz, Turkish and perhaps something else as well. They are leaving for Germany the day after tomorrow, for good.

A girl whose father is Armenian and mother a Mountain Jew.

A boy whose father is Turkish and mother Russian, but who spent much of her childhood in Japan and has some family in Israel.

A boy whose mother is an ethnic Russian who fled Grozny during the First Chechen War.

A Polish girl - named Yulia, of all things.

No Ukrainian friends so far, but we've got plenty of those in Kyiv.

Lots of Russian Russians, of course.

And a perfectly peaceful atmosphere. Except for those sandbox battles for toys that have nothing to do with anyone's ethnicity.

Yes, Moscow is like this - very diverse. The paradox, though, is that there are too many people with village mentality here, all those xenophobes who don't really belong in this huge city. I don't meet them in person too often, thank God, but it doesn't mean they do not exist.

I keep thinking of Iowa City - a village compared to Moscow, but they celebrate Cultural Diversity Day every year there and don't run around demanding Iowa for Iowans. Their attitude towards diversity may be a bit too idealistic, but if Moscow could borrow some of this idealism, it would perhaps change the attitude here to a slightly more realistic one.

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