MOSCOW: Daria, 17, was returning from the Tretyakovsky Gallery, one of Russia's best known museums. A native of Crimea, it was her first visit to the museum, so she spent four hours walking around. Having studied in an art school, she wanted to see up front the paintings by Repin and Vasnetsov that she read about in her text books. Daria said she studies philosophy and would like to become a speaker in her hometown. She said her shawl represents Slavic culture and religion.
ARKHANGELSK: The number of people exercising along Arkhangelsk's seaside caught my attention. I don't remember many people jogging or biking when I was here for years ago. Maybe it's because the boardwalk has been repaired or maybe its just part of the outdoor fitness trend visible in many cities around Russia. I asked Eva, 16, if she bikes often along Arkhangelsk's seaside. She said her parents recently gave her the bike for her birthday. However, Eva said she has been playing sports since a young age and would like to study sports medicine. "My grandparents have doctorates in science - my grandmother in pharmaceuticals and my grandfather in dentisty. They advise me to pursue medicine and it interests me. A sport medicine because I have been ice skating since childhood and I simply want to combine these two interests."
Katya, 23, says she was destined to take up skateboarding.
Having been asked at least 100 times how she got into the male-dominated sport, Katya immediately responds that she was born on June 21, which happens to be ‘Go Skateboarding Day’, the sports official annual holiday.
She then adds that the English version of her name – Kate – along with the first initial of her family name – S – spells ‘skate.’
”I have tried everything – BMX, dancing, samba, snowboarding. But life led me to skateboarding.”
ULYANOVSK: Emilia, a psychology student, was leaving her university that lies directly across a square from the Lenin Museum. She was dressed in all black, except for her light-colored sunglasses.
Emilia said she got into hard rock and gothic music such as Marilyn Manson at the age of 15, something that has influenced her fashion style.
Raised by her grandparents, Emilia said she has about 6 tattoos on her body. She also has two small ones – a heart and bow – on her neck, which she says are meant to symbolize a friendship of 12 years. Her friend has the same two tattoos.
Dasha, a third-year foreign language student, was sitting in a cafe near Moscow State University studying. She studies Finish-Hungarian as well as Czech and Lithuanian and hopes to do post-graduate work in Hungary. ''I love the country and the language. It is very difficult as its not Indo-European.'' Dasha practices Irish dancing four times a week. It is something she has been fascinated with since childhood. ''When I was about seven years ago, I saw River Dance and I simply loved it, especially the boots with the clicking sound. I said when I grow up, I will learn it.''
Katya, 14, was sitting with her friend in a McDonald's in the center of Rostov wearing a 'Bronx' winter hat. The 8th grader said she loves psychology, photography and dogs, of which she has two. Katya said she hasn't traveled yet outside of Russia, but ''I hope when I grow up, I will be able to travel and enjoy life.''
Svetlana, 20, was sitting near the second floor window of the only Starbucks in Rostov-on-Don on a late Saturday morning. There was only one other person on the entire second floor. A public relations and media student, Svetlana said in very good English that she was waiting for a friend to arrive to practice conversational English. I asked if she had studied English abroad. She said no, but that she watches US TV serials, such as 'Friends' and '2 and 1/2 Men.' Svetlana said that is why she prefers US English to British English. She said its hard to improve her English in Rostov. ''I would love to travel a lot and use my English. You don't have any opportunity to use it here.''
MOSCOW: Aigul was waiting outside a Moscow metro, holding flowers given to her by a friend in celebration of Woman's Day. Half Russian and half Kazakh, Aigul said she was a former accountant at one of the Big Four and now works as a financial sales analyst for a food company. Aigul said she likes making food herself, particularly desserts and just started promoting her goods via social networks. ''It is my dream to have such a business....and I want a small, cute cafe. Now, I am just taking my first steps'' in this direction.
MOSCOW: Katya, 14, passed me in the metro. She was hard not to notice. She was wearing a multi-colored coat, black stockings with white stripes, black hightops, purple and yellow scarf, green hat and maroon dress. And she was carrying a single orange-colored flower given to her at school by the boys as part of the Woman's Day celebration. Katya had just finished school for the day but was on her way to additional German language classes. Her English was already at a high level. I asked her what she would like to be when she gets older, certain she would say something like 'artist, designer.' She said she wanted to be a surgical pathologist. "It is interesting to know how the human body works and about diseases. I want to help the world to cure deadly diseases. Surgical pathologists know everything about the human body and their diagnosis are always right."
While in Khabarovsk, I poppoed into a new 'hipster' bar called Beer Beard and met some of the interesting patrons. Elizaveta, 18, was with her friend Zoya at the bar. She lives in a village of about 600 people some 30km from Khabarovsk. She studies at two universities in Khabarovsk and gets up between 5am and 6am to prepare for classes. She said she has been working since 11 - after her father passed away - to help her mom, a village school teacher. Her mom saved up and sent Elizaveta to the Black Sea in the south of Russia last summer for her 18th birthday - the first time Elizaveta flew on a plane and saw the sea. "I cried from happiness - like a child," she said of the experience. Elizaveta - like many other young people I met in the Far East - would like to move to St. Petersburg. "It is an amazing city...romantic..each street full of history."