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Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Kids and Culture

There are always pros and cons living in a suburb so close to our nation's capital. Sure living in a highly congested area with crazy drivers and the occasional rude people are a bit annoying, but living in an area so rich in culture is just amazing. Its an easy drive for Northern Virginians to experience all sorts of cultures like going to China Town or attending different cultural festivals around the area. For me and my family, experiencing culture starts in the home.

My husband is from Russia. Born during the Soviet Era, he had his share of seeing so many things that still amazes me. Luckily his family was well situated during communist rule so he doesn't remember bread lines or anything of that nature. His memories consist of going to the dacha on weekends with his Grandparents, playing in the snow as he is from the Siberian region, watching Nu Pagadi, and eating all sorts of delicious cuisines like blinchiki, macroni po-flotski and pelmeni. After moving to Moscow, he would take two street cars and a subway train by himself to his school near Gorky Park. I was amazed he did that alone as a child, but he described that during that time it was safe like the 40's and 50's were to Americans. He even recalls (while he lived in Moscow) when the iron curtain came down and the tanks were in the streets of the city. He wasn't scared as a little boy, he just wanted to play on the tanks. His parents wanted a better life for their little boy and for themselves, thus decided to move to the United States.

Now imagine being a little guy who barely spoke English and waking up in Miami, Florida (he arrived during the night) and seeing the ocean off your apartment balcony, feeling the warm sun on your face and palm trees blowing in the wind after living in the cold climates of Russia. My husband was in love. He was amazed by the large food stores with food lining the shelves. Even though he never was hungry or never wanted for anything, it was just amazing to him. Talk about culture shock, but he adjusted well. He quickly learned English and made many friends, several of whom were Russian themselves. My hubby grew up into a well educated, cultured and loving individual. That is what I want for my son.

I grew up typical American style. I lived in the suburbs with my parents, went to public school and spent vacations visiting my Grandparents. I did appreciate the fact that since I was half Hungarian, that my parents educated and showed me my Hungarian culture. I grew up attending Hungarian festivals in Cleveland when I visited my Nagypapa and Nagymama (Grandparents in Hungarian), learned some Hungarian phrases and enjoyed all sorts of Hungarian dishes. I was a proud Hungarian American and still am because of my parents.

I was once told that it must be hard to adjust to my husbands culture and how amazing that is that I can adapt to that. Perhaps it was my upraising on being introduced to my Hungarian culture where I don't think its a big deal. I honestly feel lucky that my husband has that extra perk about him. It makes for a rich culture in my house and it is educational. Instead of thinking the typical 1950's thoughts that Russians are evil, I find them to be a very welcoming, loving and a culture that loves to celebrate. Education people!

What I want for my son and have been demonstrating to him since the day he was born is both of his cultures. He is an American mutt being Russian, Korean, Hungarian, German, and Scandinavian, but mostly his blood line is Russian and Hungarian. I want my son to be fluent in Russian, even though I know how to say very few phrases. I encourage my husband to speak Russian every day. I buy children's books and activities in Russian to help with the language and perhaps even teach me a little more. My family also enjoys on occasions a Russian meal that my son loves to gobble up. When he gets older and has a better attention span, then we'll go to Russian concerts. As far as him learning his Hungarian roots, he will learn everything that I know. He will learn the few phrases I know, eat the cuisines and if there is a Hungarian event to attend, then we will be there. He will be one of the few in his school that has a Nagypapa and Nagymama.

My thinking is, everyone in this great country of ours came from some where and you should learn about that culture or if you are interested in other cultures (as I am) then embrace it. A person can learn a great deal from that and educating your children to know those things in my opinion is priceless.

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