Saturday, August 6, 2016

Пойдёмте в ресторан!

Janet Murphy, Union Springs School District

Breakfast at the Profilaktory
Every Wednesday night this summer in Barnaul, all of us dressed up and went out to dinner together.  This may not seem like much, but these restaurant excursions were very different that the meals we ate together at the Profilactory and will remain some of my fondest memories of the experience. 
Lunch during a hike -- lunch at the Shinok River waterfalls
Eating in a restaurant in Barnaul is an all night affair.  You don’t just order, eat, and dash as you can in the United States.  In Barnaul, there is a lot of downtime.  In the United States all food is timed to come out together (everyone gets their appetizer, everyone gets their salad, etc.) but things arrive piecemeal in Russia.  As the night progresses and the waitress delivers food, your neighbor could be letting you taste their appetizer while you are sharing a nibble of your dessert.  This pace allowed for a lot of food sharing, conversation, and time to lounge comfortably.  Typically, each Wednesday evening dinner took at least four hours from start to finish.  That’s a lot of downtime to bond and this turned out to be a blessing in disguise.  At first we were baffled by the fact that it took four hours to eat a meal together but very soon we loved and appreciated the time to just sit and relax with great food and greater company.   I noticed too that gradually we began to simply choose seats as a group rather than scramble to sit with teachers in one cluster and students in another.    

Enjoying fresh-pressed apple juice (a group favorite)
during a Wednesday dinner
Leadership, Learning and Empathy between cultures are three goals that the Fulbright-Hays Group Projects Abroad program fostered this summer in Siberia.  As we went about our days in Barnaul, on weekend excursions in the Altai, taking in cultural experiences everywhere and in our language study classes at the University we strove to build positive bridges between the United States and Russia with every interaction.   I would say that the Wednesday night dinners contributed to building similar bridges amongst our community of travelers.  While each piece of the entire experience was important and we spent a lot of time studying, working, shopping, and riding the bus together, some of my fondest memories (and best candid pictures!) will be from the Wednesday evenings.  Tonight as we head out to our last restaurant evening together I am looking forward to great food, many toasts, and the warm camaraderie of my wonderful traveling companions. 

Приятного аппетита! Priyatnogo appetite!

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