A couple weeks ago, I had the privilege of meeting two small Russian children at the small deli shop next door. One was Katya, a 7 year old girl, and the other was her younger 4 year old brother whose name I sadly can’t remember. And their parents? Back in their apartment a few streets over. I couldn’t believe it! How can a 7 year old and 4 year old wander around the city alone? Well, with the help of our translators Tatiana and Beata (two of our Russian professors that happened to be at the deli also), we discovered that parents allow their children to wander around the small city alone since it is “safe” and well known by their kids. Of course, there was no way that the little boy would be allowed to roam around without his big sister watching over him. Just like anywhere in the world, if a sibling is responsible for taking care of their younger brother or sister, they better make sure that they take their job seriously or else their parents might kill them. So when Beata kindly bought the children a dessert, Katya sat her and her brother down, got both of them silverware, and made sure he used the bathroom when he was done. I was extremely impressed by how mature Katya was for her age! After they finished eating, I had fun playing with them inside of the deli. Although I couldn’t understand 90% of the things they were saying, nodding and smiling was good enough for them.
Saying goodbye to Katya and her adorable brother was more difficult than I thought it would be. It felt strange leaving two young children alone in the middle of a city. But these past three weeks, I have seen more children running around alone or in groups than I ever have in my life. This is something unique about the Narva culture, because this would be unheard of in a busy city like Moscow, or even in the small suburb in Maryland that I live in. Ever since seeing how nice these two kids were, I have tried to interact with kids as much as possible because they can teach me a lot that I wouldn’t learn in a classroom. I went to the local youth center the other day and made some more new friends. Hopefully, throughout this trip I can continue to build relationships with the locals that I can look back on and remember fondly after our time here has come to an end.