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It’s no secret that Americans tend to pay full price if not more as tourists all around the globe.
My newfound friends (mostly broke college students just like me) appreciated that I made sure they didn’t have to pay more just because they are Americans.
And I certainly appreciated practicing bargaining in Russian like I used to back in Uzbekistan when I went on grocery runs at the bazaars as a kid.
We sang through the rest of the song together with huge smiles across our faces.
I don’t have the best memory, but I vividly remember a few things my American peers said to me when I first immigrated:“Are you a terrorist? You’re not a Barbie doll.”“Uzbekistan is in the Middle East, right? Either way, I’m writing this article to address to educate so that other kids will be spared of such demeaning questions and may be welcomed with more thoughtful ones instead.
In short, we had no money but we were rich in cultural experiences and in close relationships with those very different from us. We moved to a suburb in north NJ as we already had some family and friends there, a support system. I had really, really long hair that I had never strengthened in my life. Most girls around me had straight hair, lighter skin, and wore Uggs. Maybe it was my vulnerability that inked them onto my memory, or maybe it was the shock at the underlying ignorance and lack of education about my culture that they revealed.
After all, they used to be part of the same whole (the Soviet Union, to be specific).
The modern dance performance we saw at the New Mariinsky Theatre was one I will never forget.
For context, Russian culture was a huge part of my life growing up.
I watched Russian TV, danced Russian dance; Russian pop culture was my pop culture and despite the fact that Uzbeks have their own music, TV, films, books, etc, I didn’t actively separate the two in my head. This doubly-landlocked country is located south of Russia and Kazakhstan and north of Turkmenistan in Central Asia.
My father received ownership of the apartment after I was born since we could no longer live in his parents’ 5-bedroom apartment where two of his married brothers and their families lived. My sister and I were enrolled in the Russian department of the school (versus the Uzbek), which is how I learned to speak, read, and write in Russian.