In my last blog post, I mentioned that all of my colleagues and I got to take a trip to the local Russian infectious disease testing area, for our HIV/AIDs test. Well, it turns out that one of our students (the same one that got picked up by the police last month for resembling a Chechen) got an infection from the test.
I saw him within an hour of my blog post, and he showed me that his finger was very swollen and was an odd reddish/purple color. He brought this to the attention of our Residential Director. It resulted in a trip to the hospital where they took care of his finger.
Last night I had the quintessential Russian night-on-the-town. I went with three Russians and another American to a Russian folk concert/show. It was worth the 60 Roubles ($2.25)! It was a very good show with a ton of people.
We began the evening by having the group over to my apartment. My host lady stated that if there were going to be other men over, this meant that we had to drink. So she cut up some bread, an orange and pickles to go with the vodka. She seems sincerely concerned that my health will decline if I do not drink like a Russian.
After this little drinking session, the concert was really quite enjoyable! After the concert we (as is typical) went walking around the city for more than an hour. The night ended before 2300, but was really a good time.
On a completely different subject, I have gotten a question on how diverse Russia is. Well, there are maybe six-eight blacks in Vladimir (population 366,000). The blacks are primarily from Chad or from the northwest (French speaking) portions of Africa. At least three of them are Catholics, as I see them every Sunday at church.
There are some people that are clearly of Asian decent, though I think that they are primarily from Mongolia.
There are no Arabs or Persians that I have seen. As I said earlier, the one American in our group with even a slight middle eastern appearance, was arrested as a suspected Chechen (though he is Jewish).
How racist are the Russians? Very. They are a very homogeneous society and they don't seem to excited about change. I don't think that a day passes that I don't see swastikas spray-painted/drawn on the sides of buildings. Though other neo-nazi logos and slogans are also frequently seen around town.
To be fair, I think that most of the Russians don't per se hate minorities, they simply don't particularly like them. Their hostility towards a minority is more likely to be passive than active.
There doesn't seem to be too much religious intolerance. There are many Orthodox churches in our town, and at least two protestant meeting places (one fundamentalist and one mainline). I have been given literature by the Jehovah's Witnesses before. And I think that there may be a Mormon presence. As the ACTR said at our orientation in DC, Russians (as a people) don't usually come-out-against Jews, because such a large segment of the population is at least part Jewish.
As an illustration of the ecumenical Russian Orthodox Church, we took a tour of one in Yaroslavl. It was beautifully painted (as they always are). And on the wall was a scene of the Judgement Day. And there was Jesus in the center. And to his right were all of the good Russians ascending to heaven. And to his left, were all of the Arabs, Catholics and Germans making a rapid descent into the flames of hell.
Either way, I have not encountered any overt racism in Vladimir (other than the graffiti).
I will write more later! Poka!