Toma, in a black NYC shirt, was working with a friend on the Sochi boardwalk, where they draw temporary tattoos and make hair braids. A hardrock fan, she said she grew up in Moscow, but moved with her family to Sochi, which has a large Armenian diaspora. She said she had Armenian heritage.
Andrei, in his NYC shirt, was selling souvenirs near the top of Mount Akhun, which offers a panoramic view of Sochi. His girlfriend Alexandra joined him on this slow business day in late August. The highschool students met in their Sochi neighborhood and said they enjoy the same type of music.
Karina, a political science major, was walking toward a Moscow park with friends when I saw her in her Brooklyn jacket. This looks very much like a real Brooklyn highschool football, something that Travolta and the gang would have worn in the TV serial "Welcome Back Kotter."
Moscow's population has grown rapidly over the past 50 years, meaning many of its inhabitants have shallow roots. Alexei, wearing a NYC t-shirt, said his family's Moscow roots go back to the time of Ivan the Great in the 16th century.
If the outdoor market in Elista, Kalmykia tells you anything, it's that this region of Russia isn't doing well economically, something expressed in the number of young Kalmyks traveling to other regions for work. I saw Murat at the outdoor market in Elista in his NYC shirt. He said he came from Uzbekistan to work in Elista...an indication that the work/wage situation in Uzbekistan isn't any better.
Dasha and Lena were sitting on a bench under a big tree on an overcast day in the southern town of Stavropol, relaxing and chating as their summer vacation neared an end. Lena was wearing Nike hightops and a shirt that had NYC written on it in several spots, so I walked over to talk to talk to them. Lena said she studies economics and bought the NYC shirt while on vacation in Italy, which for some reason seems to sell a lot of NYC-themed clothing. Dasha said she studies management, but that her real passion is photography.
This couple was out for a stroll in a Moscow park as summer neared an end. Sporting NYC and Memphis sweaters, they said they were studying medicine and economics.
He was hanging out at a tiny cafe in the center of Moscow in his New York t-shirt. He said he moved here from Pridnestrovie, a breakaway republic wedged btw Moldova and Ukraine because he saw no future for himself there. He said he dreamed of a career in the music industry.
Anton, sporting a Brooklyn shirt, was walking with his girlfriend Katya toward Sparrow Hills, which offers one of the best views of Moscow, when I bumped into them. While taking a few photos, Anton suddenly turned toward Katya and kissed her.
The skies opened up and rain poured down when I saw Mikhail in his Brooklyn shirt in Moscow. Neither of us had an umbrella, yet he didn't mind chating or being photographed in the rain. He said he grew up in the former Soviet republic of Moldova. While working at an Italian restaurant in Moscow, he fell in love with a co-worker ... though he didn't start dating her until he changed jobs. She is from the Moldavan breakaway region of Pridnestrovie. They are now married and will be having their first child soon. He says they will continue to rent in Moscow as apartment prices and mortgages (avg ~12%) are too expensive - an all to common complaint. On a separate note, this is the second guy I spoke with this summer who married a co-worker from a Moscow restaurant - both women were from Pridnestrovie.