She comes from a small village in Siberia. Her parents remain there. She cant be more than 21 years old and doesn't see her family, but once a year. Up until recently, Sasha has been here alone. Her sister, Mary has now joined her. Sasha came to St. Petersburg to study Programming at university. Her third year keeps her busy, but allows her time to work three days a week from 5am to 2pm at the hotel.
I arrived late to breakfast this morning where I found Sasha interacting with the rest of the Munchkin family. She is a friendly young lady, curious of others and much unlike her peers. She presents herself clean and well groomed without the glamour. I order my usual cappuccino and proceed with eating a mix of European and American style breakfast. The Munchkins retire to the room with the Mr while I finish, in peace and quiet, the remaining of my feast, as Munchkin Two likes to call it.
Sasha asks me about Munchkin One. He is very smart she tells me. It is very uncommon to have a child such as he she tells me. It is because her mother is a psychologist she tells me she knows this. Sasha asks me what Munchkin will be when he grows up. To the average American, this is an odd question. I would like to say if I can just get him to age 18 without any major issues, he can be and do whatever he wants...I don't care. But I realize this answer will not do. Children are raised and trained from a young age to specialize in something. I answer Munchkin One enjoys gymnastics very much. So much in fact, he would like to participate in the Olympics one day. (We must find him a gym, I remind myself quietly.) I also say he may be an engineer. (I would not put it past him to completely disassemble the TV, computer or refrigerator one day while I am away only to come home and find pieces all over. He would fix it with some pieces to spare, but in much better working order than it was before.) we speak about Munchkin Two; she attends kindergarten. Sasha tells me Munchkin Two is emotional. Why yes she is! While this statement may seem bold and out of context, it wasn't. She was telling me of her impressions of us as she has asked me the same of her. Sasha tells me her impression of America...a country of enthusiasts.
Sasha is curious to ask about our time in St. Petersburg. What do we think? How do we like it? What have we done during our visit? And the most important question on her mind is "why Russia?" I suppose by now one would think I have become accustomed to such a question. It started in 2004 when we began the adoption process for Munchkin One. "Why Russia?" many would ask. I always had the answer. Eight years later, a different time, a different place. The answer isn't so clear for me now. I am not sure "why Russia?" Time will tell and reveal the answer. The most telling piece in her asking the question was the statement itself. It was this morning I realized a young lady does not see the hope and excitement in her own Mother Russia. Sasha was asking questions about her country, but what she really wanted to know was what I see in it. There is so much I do see yet so much to be seen. I tell her I want Munchkin One to be proud to be from here, but I want him to know the reality. She understood my answer. We spoke briefly about the election in America. She shared with me she does not like elections in Russia. She does not have faith in them. This is a sad reality. We spoke a few more minutes about life.
I could tell there is so much Sasha wanted to talk about. So many questions to ask. If she could, she would have grabbed a cup of tea, sat down and talked for hours. Her work prevented her from doing this. She thanked me for my time and gathered items from our table including a half eaten muffin I was planning to finish. Thats how it goes here....if you aren't finished eating cover your plate with your whole body as if you are going to duck and cover! Protect it with all your might or your half eaten plate is gone with yesterday's trash.
Sasha was a pleasant young lady. She has a boyfriend in Moscow, money in her pocket and studies at university. Despite the loss of hope for her country, you could see it gain in her eyes. And despite the lack of glamour on my eyes, she complimented me on mine. Perhaps she saw my hope for her?
Today I learned two things.... Young lady does not see the hope in her own country and every interaction you have, be it with a friend or stranger, has the possibility to not only impact a life, but change one as well.