Our guest post today is by Steve Hague, an expat who married a Russian and shares with us his views on life in Russia today. He and his wife live in the large and interesting city of Kazan on the banks of the Volga River.
Pursuing the Purple Magic Liquor
In my last post I finished with “pursuing a dream is very important”. In the States I always felt as if I was in a slumber. Like Rip Van Winkle I pursued the purple magic liquor of success never quite reaching it. Chasing the dream and living the dream are two very different things. Being brought up in America we are taught success is everything, and fail to recognize the important things in life. As if (I’d been) living in a cave, I feel like I’ve emerged into a very real world called “Russia”. I’m not Washington Irving but I’d like to share with you my story. A story about waking up and living my “Life in Russia”.
Life is Hard in Russia
So what is life really like in Russia? I’d like to say it’s like living in a fairytale but everyone would know it isn’t true. The reality is life is hard in Russia. Yet when one looks close………really close something different appears. Repairing shoes isn’t easy, selling a few onions doesn’t feed the family, the lonely elderly gentleman selling a single bunch of flowers doesn’t bring in much. Yet the fisherman can give directions from his smart phone and the open market is full of vegetables. Each of them from the youngest to the oldest found something they could do, no one stops them from being productive. They all know their place in this world and are not ashamed to walk in it.
The Third Capital of Russia
What can I tell you about Kazan. Well, the Kazan Kremlin, the heart of more than a 1000 year-old city, is a World Heritage Site. We also have the second oldest university in Russia, Kazan Federal University was founded in 1804. In 2009 was officially branded as “the 3rd Capital”and also as the “sport capital” of Russia”. Living here is very much like living in any big city in America. We have our Mega Malls, fast food restaurants, theaters, and the list goes on. One of the major differences are the sidewalks, did I surprise you? Yes we have them but here you have to constantly be paying attention to were you are walking. Otherwise you might find yourself doing a face plant or much worse. Interestingly enough I’ve felt safer here then when I lived in America. When I first came we walked down dark alleys, and places one would never walk in a big city in America. No one has ever bothered us.
Bridging the divide between faiths
Kazan is a very fascinating place, it’s one of the few places were Christianity and Islam live in peace with one another. Tatarstan is an unusual example of a Russian region where the majority of the population is Muslim, but where inter-ethnic and interfaith strife is rare. Back in 2009 Hillary Clinton visited Kazan in an effort to discuss how to bridge the divide between faiths. In my own experiences I been able to gain a greater understanding and respect for those who practice Islam and the Russian Orthodox religions. The top left picture is the Temple of all Religions which really isn’t a temple but a mission, a “temple of culture and truth”.
This is only the Beginning
So to sum up my life here I’d say it’s been quite interesting. I’ve been able to travel to Israel, Cyprus, Moscow, St. Petersburg, Vladimir, Suzdal, Bolgar and many other places. I’ve meet wonderful people along the way that have enriched my journey and have changed my life. This is only the beginning and hope to spend much more time exploring this incredible country.