Where's Sam the Man

48 countries, 12 months, one man, half a brain

Name: Samuel Hathaway
Location: Roaming..., Germany

Friday, October 12, 2007

A word about Babushkas.

Babushkas. The foundation on which Eastern Europe is built. Their aggressive resourcefulness drives all the multi-various cogs of a civilized nation: child protection and transportation, pocket Kleenex sales, and hostel breakfast etiquette. When the younger generation falters it is the Babushka, with her iron-jawed determination, who slaps the weakling back into place. When you try to dip your mug into the hot water pot, it is the Babushka who berates you in your native tongue to get you to pour the water, instead. Babushkas are the fiery coals the heat the furnace of progress.

When one sees the efficiency of these skirted soldiers of discipline, you have to wonder: how does one achieve the ranking of Babushka? It can be no small feat, surely, considering the single-minded focus and untiring energy which they apply to scowling at young hostelers tip-toeing across a newly mopped floor. What mine field must they navigate? What sumo wrestler must they thump into submission? What predator must they kill with a glance? Or is it something less obvious, and more elusive?

I believe I have uncovered the answer.

Everybody ages into a Babushka. While people-watching one day, it suddenly struck me: there were no old men! None! You were able to see toddlers, children, the teenagers, the young adults, the victims of various mid-life crisises, but the chain of development abruptly stops...and then you notice all of the Babushkas patroling the streets.

The answer was so simple and natural, but had eluded me up to that moment. It seems that the qualities of Babushka lie dormant in the blood of every Eastern European, man or woman. I have never once seen an intermediate phase (i.e. a male dockworker with the requisite Flowerd Scarf tied over his head), which leads me to believe that the evolution is quite rapid -- perhaps even overnight. The women would adapt readily, no doubt, to wearing the Grey Skirt and Flowered Shawl, but I imagine the whiskered carpenter would struggle pulling on his Brown Nylons for the first time -- indeed, he may even feel some shock when he rolls out of bed one morning when he sees himself a foot shorter, and a general bulge throughout his body that may not have been there before. But the younger men that I saw seemed to courageously look forward to this new step in their life, calmly chain-smoking as if nothing was going to happen.

I suppose they would be comforted by the fact that they still had their whiskers.

This is just one of the many extraordinary cultural discoveries I have made on my travels! And perhaps they are only remarkable to me, as an outsider. Maybe I should not pity the men, who miss out on the Western joy of being a grandfather; it is not for me to hold my own expectations and traditions above others'. I hope to have the open-mindedness to see more of these cultural nuances, and the sensitivity to accept them without judgement. After all, without the Babushka, would we even have a Eastern Europe?


Blogger vladimer said...

foarte interesant! What country are you in now and what is itinerary?? an experience w/babushkas: 8 died inone winter in my village - no heat/little food. They raised many parents' abandoned orphans to work in the real europe. where there are jobs. Questions - perhaps for your consideration or not: Exactly how necessary is it for you to have a clock? Does life interfere w/plans or is it the other way around? Is or should there be internet in Beloit? Precisely who is Ginger??? Attire shown of you, Markie and Geoff clearly mark you as Americans. Is there a less noticeable more acceptable fashion footprint? When was the last time you rode for a day or two without referencing the map??? Perhaps you might need to reconsider for your safety, the Turkey goal in light of current issues there w/ Kurds & Iraqs. w/huge admiration for your journeys

October 15, 2007 12:01 PM  
Blogger Maggie said...

Sam -- hello from me and also a message from your friend Sheen Newton: Hey Sam! Just wondering when your coming back so we can get together and talk! I love your dad's food and please bring me back a shirt from Europe . . . :)

October 18, 2007 5:57 PM  
Blogger Ginger said...

I am intrigued by your babushka explanation, Sam. Do you find it disturbing that there are no old men, only babushkas? I wonder what the natives would think of your explanation ...

October 20, 2007 7:39 AM  

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