Being a unicorn.

It’s common knowledge that unicorns are rare. Personally, I’ve never seen one but I’ve met people who have. Those people are strange, but hey, that’s the world we live in. During my time here, I’ve felt just like that, I feel like a unicorn. Not only because of my charm, wit, and good looks (yeah!), but because of my rarity. When us Americans prowl the streets, people turn their heads. When we talk, we talk loudly and over each other – typical American style. In America, that’s normal and people will hardly pay attention to you. However, just talking and walking here will garner attention from everyone on the street – from the mother with her kids, to the drunk man barely hanging on to his favorite bench in the park. When we order something at a restaurant, our accents give us away if not a blatant grammar mistake first. People sitting nearby hear us sloppily ordering yet another batch of garlic bread, and while they may be concerned about our carb intake, they’re more likely interested in exactly who we are. Everyone within hearing distance immediately stops their conversation and falls silent as we converse about various intellectual topics like food poisoning and getting a pump in before going to the beach. They look, listen, and just take in who we are. They’re genuinely interested in these foreign people invading their store, bar, or restaurant. More than once I’ve overheard, “I think those are the Americans everyone is talking about.” And they’re right. We are. In Tartu, an Estonian man told us, “Holy crap! You guys are just like out of the movies! This is so exciting.” We’re famous (or possibly, notorious) just because of where we are from – and that’s very interesting. Many can’t possibly fathom why these people, these Americans, would want to come to their city. When they learn that we can speak Russian too, they’re even more surprised. More than once we’ve been told, “You’re American and you can speak Russian? I can’t believe this!” with palpable excitement in their voices. Nobody expects us to be here, and whether we wanted this attention or not, we’ve made a name for ourselves here. We’re unicorns – Americans in Narva.

 

-Chuck Knowlton

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