Warm Heart Beyond Language Difference
``An-nyung ha sa yo... Jae erumen Nastia immida..(Hello, my name is Nastia)''
A pretty girl with blond hair and blue eyes came up to me and introduced herself. This was how I first met my host sister Nastia who I lived with for five days during my stay in Russia. We could hardly talk to each other since I cannot speak Russian, and she speaks neither Korean nor English. Nevertheless, we became great friends and I cried harder than I ever had before when it came time for us to part.
My journey to the heart of Russia began early this month when my school, Suwon Foreign Language High School, selected 14 students as ambassadors to visit High School Number 28 in Russia for a cultural exchange. After mulling it over for a long time, I applied for the program.
Taking away a whole week from school was not an easy decision for me, as I'm about to take a KSAT in November. I was not sure about the idea of going to Russia, but my parents strongly recommended I take advantage of this opportunity.
They said, ``We think a one-week-trip to Russia is way more valuable for you than studying at school, especially as a delegate. I hope you make good friends and learn about Russia.''
I was a bit worried because I could not speak any Russian. However, I soon found out that my worries were over nothing when I met my host family and the Russian students. The reason was that when all languages fail, one must rely on communicating with feelings of heart.
The time I spent in Russia has become one of the most precious memories of my life. My host family took me to many famous places in their city, Vladivostok, and tried to provide me with as much Russian traditional food as my frail body could take.
They were very kind and sweet to me. They did not care that my hair was black, my face was yellow, or how short I was compared to them. They treated me like a real family member. When I coughed or even sniffed slightly, my host mom would come to me and give me medicine, some of which was even homemade. It reminded of my mother in Korea. From her efforts, I realized that the role of motherhood transcends physical and cultural boundaries.
Of course we encountered some trivial misunderstandings. For example, one day, I decided to buy a gift for my host family to express my appreciation. I dropped by a flower shop and bought 10 red roses. The reason why I chose to buy flowers was because I heard that Russian people usually give flowers to express their love and appreciation.
It made me smile just to imagine their happy faces when they got my surprise present. Full of expectation, I arrived home and with biggest smile, I gave them the flowers!
At first, they seemed happy, but as they examined the flowers carefully, their faces started to twist. Then they began whispering to each other, and started to laugh. I could not figure out why they acted so funny. The next day, I told my teacher about my present, and asked why they reacted so strangely. She started to laugh and said, ``Oh, Da-hee! You have to be very careful when giving flowers to Russians. Even number of flowers is only for dead person. You have to make sure to give odd number of flowers.''
Finally I realized why they seemed uncomfortable. As soon as I got home, I told them that I did not know the Russian tradition about giving flowers and I was very sorry. They smiled at me, and continued to say `okay' and `thank you.' I felt sincere thanks for their generous mind.
From my experience in Russia, I not only learned about Russian culture, but I realized that Russian people have a warm heart and loving mind even to foreigners. This further deepened my belief that language differences are not a problem when you try to reach others with a sincere mind and true love in your heart.
Leaving them was the hardest part of the trip. When I got in the car to go to the bus station, Nastia sat next to me. With trembling fingers, she gently pulled out a neatly folded piece of paper. Softly, she started to read to me these words. ``Dahee, I will think of you every second, every minute, and every hour. You will be in my heart and I will be in your heart forever...''
She cried so hard that her voice began to crack. I cried with her and we hugged each other. I felt the warm feeling in my heart burn deeper. Although it was only five days, we truly connected with each other.
Now the worries I had before going to Russia have melted away, because I've returned with once-in-a-lifetime memories.
Instead, I am working as hard as I can in every activity and class, because I want to make up for the time I spent on my precious trip and also, I've gotten the confidence and passion back to go through this rocky but vital journey in my life. ``Spasiba Russia(Thank you Russia)!''
Jung Da-hee is a senior, attending Suwon Foreign Language Highschool in Gyeonggi Province.