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Lots of Q's & Enlightening A's

I ask questions to complete strangers:
"What color would you use to describe Murmansk?"
"Do you have any childhood memories you'd like to share now in front of everyone?"
"What's one thing you'd change about Murmansk?"
"Can you tell us your family's story?"
"What is so important about tea in Russia?"
"Has the weather ever really gotten in your way?"
"Do you still look at the polar lights and think they're amazing, or does the effect wear off eventually?"
"Have you ever traveled outside of Murmansk?  Outside of Russia?"
"What do you think about America's gun problem?"
"What are Russian superstitions?"
"Where should I go in Murmansk if I want to understand the city?"
I get asked questions by complete strangers:
"Do you like Obama?"
"What is life like in New York City?"
"Why are you so interested in polar night?"
"Why not come for polar day?"
"Do you speak English and Russian with your daughter?"
"Why do you find tea so interesting?"
"How long will you stay in Russia?"
"Do you like Russia?"
"What are your impressions of Murmansk?"
"Can I interview you for my internet radio show?"
"When is your next master class?"
"Did you have any ideas about Russians before you came here?"
"Is this your first time in Murmansk?"
"How does theater in Murmansk compare to theater in New York and Shanghai?"
People drink pu'er tea that Svetlana and I bought in Shanghai and eat some cookies, fruit, etc.  We spend a few hours talking back and forth, asking each other these questions and others, finding answers that I write down in a special notebook that I believe Sveta bought for me in Union Square in New York City two or so years ago, not knowing then that I'd be using it for a project in her hometown.  It's an interesting thing to talk to strangers so candidly.  Russians are not famous for their openness, and yet I'm finding that they are rather open given a little time and some humor.
I visit a university class with about fifty students studying English and translation.  My translator, the Awesome Olga, set it up with her teacher.  I stand smiling and introduce myself and the project.  I talk about myself.  People seem interested.  I ask if there are any questions.  The guy sitting way in the back asks if I've noticed that Russians don't smile.  I say I've noticed and that it's not something that really bothers me since I like talking to people, and they usually smile after a few words with me.  He smiles.  Textbook example.
I tell them about the portrayal of Russian's in American movies like Rocky 4 (little Rocky training in wintry Siberia, being tailed by unsmiling military dudes while Drago is getting pumped with steroids while on state-of-the-art exercise machines... and then the little American beats the massive Russian who finds his individuality in the seventh round)... or Red Heat (where Jim Belushi pairs with the Terminator and the laughs just keep coming for a solid ninety minutes, or not)... or The Hunt for Red October (James Bond vs. The Shadow, which I've never seen)...
They learned about America through movies and TV.  I supposed some of their older brothers and sisters (around my age) may have watched copies (of copies of copies of copies) of movies on VHS that were overdubbed by one guy who played all the characters (but he didn't change his voice... he just translated everything that was said). This was a rarity, and my wife was fortunate enough to have this experience.  She also watched all the same cartoons that I watched, but when she was a little bit older and things had already started changing after the USSR collapsed.
Every so often it comes up that she and I really did grow up in different worlds, but it was something of a catastrophe for her world when everything changed in 1991.
"Do you remember how things were before 1991 in Murmansk?"
"Have things changed a lot since then?"
"What hasn't changed?"
This is field research.
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