NIZHNY NOVGOROD: ''There is a widely held view that Americans' smile is fake and that they teach them to smile from childhood. What is wrong with that?'' ''In my view, it is much more pleasant to see people with smiles on their faces when out walking or taking public transport tha gloomy, gray faces," wrote Lena, a Nizhny Novgorod university student, in a long text on her Russian social media page dedicated to her trip to Texas through the 'Work and Travel' program. I asked Lena to share her thoughts about the US and she directed me to her text. "I often met Americans that confused Russia and Ukraine, some thought it was one country, others thought Russia was part of Ukraine while others didn't know the USSR even collapsed." She concluded her text with the following: "Don't judge a nation's people by their leaders."
NIZHNY NOVGOROD: ‘’Discover yourself through history,’’ is the motto of Vsevolod, the first backpacker I have ever seen on a foot scooter. He said he has traveled quite a bit outside Russia and is currently visiting Russian cities to learn about local history. Vsevolod said he took the foot scooter on this trip to Nizhny from Moscow. He said he is interested in visiting North Korea and Latin America. I asked about the most memorable moments during his many travels. Vsevolod mentioned meeting one of the men that drove generals around Red Square during the first Victory Day parade held in June 1945.
NIZHNY NOVGOROD: ''If you can energize people, they will bring their friends,’’ said Olga, 25, a fitness and health food enthusiast. In March, she invited friends and acquaintances to join her for morning exercises in the center of Nizhny Novgorod at 6am. At first, 2 came, then 5 and 10, she said. As summer rolled around, sometimes 20 would show up early in the morning. Two fitness events she organized on weekends attracted 160-170 people, she said. Olga found some like-minded individuals in two other cities to organize free exercises in the morning under her 'Smile Team' brand. Having gotten some people hooked on exercise, she is now trying to get them hooked onto her smoothies and health drinks, which she just started selling from a truck in the center of Nizhny. It’s the first steps in realizing her years-old dream of a health-food business.
MOSCOW: ''Male hairdressers weren't an exception 10-20 years ago, but the attitude toward them was much different,'' said Valery, a barber from Nizhny Novgorod with nine years experience. ''Hairdressers were considered to be the same as other service industry workers like cleaners, conductors and so forth. People thought that handing a pair of scissors wasn't anything special. That it was work for losers and dropouts.'' ''The attitude change when men started to really become interested in their appearance and felt that going to a female hairdresser or unisex salon was like visiting a women's club.''
NIZHNY NOVGOROD: Yulia and Elena (right) were practicing their fire show techniques under a bridge in Nizhny Novgorod before sunset. Elena, an engineer in the power industry, and Yulia, a lawyer met 2.5 years ago during a four-month street art project in Nizhny Novgorod. The aim of the project was to gather creative people in the city and together experiment with art forms, said Elena. Though they learned many things like ethnic dances and instruments, dance, it was the fire show that won Elena's heart. It is now her favorite hobby, she said. Elena said she parachutes, runs in races, does long-distance bike riding and travel with the help of couchsurfing, thus her work colleagues are not surprised she practices swinging fire in her free time, she said.
NIZHNY NOVGOROD: Most of the people next to the Nizhny Novgorod Kremlin were gazing down on the Volga on this sunny early evening.....Except these two teenage girls - Tatiana and Daria - who decided to dance. Daria, who studies classical dances, was giving Tatiana an impromtu tango lesson. I asked why now and why by the Kremlin. "Those who love to dance, will dance anywhere, anytime," responded Daria.
NIZHNY NOVGOROD: I was walking along Nizhny Novgorod's riverside at 5:30 pm when I saw Yura and Sergei playing their guitars. "We are just sitting, playing for ourselves," they told me. I chatted about 15 minutes with them and left to finish photographing the city. Yura told me they would be sitting her til sunset and that it was worth coming back to photograph it. I walked around for 3 hours and found myself back at the same spot right after sunset. The boys were still there, but were packing up their guitars. I ran over to get a last shot of them against the sky. Yura was right, it was worth coming back to photograph. To see some photos of Nizhny Novgorod, please click here.
NIZHNY NOVGOROD: Sergei was wearing a camouflage shirt, leather coat and punk-style braclets on his wrists. In his right hand he held a single rose. He was standing next to the rail station and said he had come from Derzhinsk, 40 km west. I asked why he had a flower. "I want to give it to my girlfriend. She has an important university entrance exam today." Sergei said they met four years ago. She will attend university in Nizhny while he finishes school in Derzhinsk. He said it won't impact their relationship. They like to spend their time checking out abandoned buildings. Their best finds are a gas mask probably dating to the 1950s and a 1887 kopeek coin. I asked Sergei about his future plans. I asked Sergei what he would like to do when he gets old. He said he wants to go into politics. To see some photos of Nizhny Novgorod, please click here.
NIZHNY NOVGOROD: Oleg and Alexei, 25 year-old twins, were walking to a music festival where they were invited to dance. The graphic designers said they grew up in a village outside of Nizhny Novgorod, but moved to the city where they now live. I asked how they got into dance. They said they were inspired by films, including Step Up, and gave it a try. Now it has become a serious hobby. The two also practice fire shows and dream of their own performance combining dance and fire.