The new school year has started here (can you believe it?), and my family is getting back into school mode. After just a few days, I already can tell that it is going to be an interesting, thought-provoking year. For instance, this evening’s dinner conversation revolved around how each country has its own cultural and social context to take into account when studying its history, arts, and language.
That reminds me of my experiences studying German and Russian in high school, and how it was so eye-opening to learn about the cultures of the countries along with the technicalities of the language. Of course, being a grammar nerd even then, I found the technicalities fascinating in their own right. I love the way German just starts with a root word and then keeps adding prefixes and suffixes to fine-tune its meaning. My favorite word was the verb for “to dust” (as in dusting the furniture). However, in German, it was not “to dust”, it was something like “to uncover from dust”. My teacher pointed out that Germans are baffled as to why we would want to “dust” our furniture. Put dust on it? Hmmmm. [Note to self: Add item to Scrapbook Project List – “Make page about learning German. Get high school German textbook out of storage and photograph it.” Yes, I have to confess, I was so attached to that text book that I neglected to return it when the school year was over. I am sure that I owe my high school quite a large fine by now.]
My introduction to Russian language and culture came much earlier, when I “shadowed” my dad as he took a college Russian course. I participated in class just like the adults, I did the homework just like the adults – I just didn’t get an official grade like the adults. Whew. [Another item to add to project list “Make page about learning Russian. Get college Russian textbook out of storage.” Yes, I still have that one, too! Seeing a trend here … but my dad had purchased that one, so no fines to worry about!]
I did not continue taking language courses when I attended college myself (I was a chemistry major), but I did take a class in Russian Literature in Translation, where we read some fascinating books. Some very long books. I kept under-estimating how much time it would take to read a certain number of chapters of War & Peace, and the day before class would be spent doing nothing except reading War & Peace. I learned so much from that experience (and not just about time management).
Fast forward several years, and I again found myself in a situation where my bits and pieces of Russian language and culture could be connected to real life. (Fortunately, I didn’t have to actually speak or read Russian, thank goodness, because I have to admit that when I stuffed my brain with all that chemistry, I think a lot of the Russian got shoved out.) While I was working in Philadelphia, I got to spend a lot of time with a gentleman who had emigrated from Russia as an adult. He was my whitewater kayak tutor [Add another item to project list – “Kayak pages”.] However, most of the whitewater rivers were many hours away, so our group traveled all over the mid-Atlantic region to reach our favorite kayaking spots. During one of the car rides (to the Youghiogheny, if I remember correctly), my mentor made an interesting request. He asked us to sing him English nursery rhymes and tell him our traditional fairytales. He regretted that by arriving in the USA as an adult, he had missed out on that entire part of our culture, and he wanted to fill in the gaps. So we whiled away the hours singing “Old McDonald”, “Mary Had a Little Lamb”, and many more. Of course, we threw in some traditional car ride songs like “The Ants Go Marching One by One” and “Ninety-Nine Bottles of Beer on the Wall”. [Uh oh. I see another page coming about car rides. That list just keeps growing!] In return, he regaled us with traditional Russian fairytales and children’s songs. It was so fascinating to compare notes about the culture that is passed down to children in our different countries.
At that point in my life, kids were not even on the horizon for me. But later on, when I did have children of my own, I collected many, many books to read to them: nursery rhymes, fairy tales, picture books, and “board books”. And so without consciously thinking about it, I did my part in passing our cultural heritage along to the next generation. My kayaking mentor would approve. I have let most of these books be moved on to entertain and delight other families and other children. But some of the books I just could not bear to let go (definitely a pattern going on here). Fortunately, those books are NOT in storage; they are tucked away in my bedroom closet. So this evening I pulled them out and looked at them. Just seeing them brought back so many memories – it gave me goosebumps and made me a little teary-eyed. And the best part is that instead of putting another item on my Scrapbooking Project list, I can actually make the page Right Now. Yay! So here it is.
Content: Creative Memories “Tropical Getaway”, “April Afternoon”
Fonts: Hyperbole, FFF Tusj