July 5, 2009 | Russian
Brighton Beach Field Trip
I visit a Russian neighborhood in Brooklyn.
Today I took a short field trip to Brighton Beach, a heavily Russian neighborhood in Brooklyn. I had only a little time, because we had family in town, but I wanted to at least get a look at it.
On the subway, the closer I got, the more Russian I heard. Two young Orthodox women near me kept switching back and forth from English to Russian. I heard them talking (in English) about what they were going to make for dinner that night. Meal planning is a start, but I am ultimately hoping for more exciting subject matter.
The Brighton Beach subway stop is aboveground, so you have to climb down stairs to reach the street level. Once I did, I promptly saw my first Russian signs, and I was able to make out the words РУССКИЙ МАГАЗИН, or “Russian store,” on the front of a shop. That was super-exciting, for about a second. Then the problem became, I felt too uncomfortable to go into the store. Then I felt like an idiot for feeling uncomfortable.
I walked out to the beach, where there was a huge wooden boardwalk, and rows and rows of old men playing chess and speaking Russian. I enjoyed watching them, but it wasn’t as though I knew enough Russian to just pick up and start talking to them, so I wandered off and returned from the beach back into the commercial area around the subway.
This time I noticed Spanish, English, and Russian signs, including a sign that advertised immigration services, very thoroughly, in all three languages. I saw a Black Sea bookstore down the street. An older man who looked as though he was somehow in charge of the neighborhood stopped me as I was walking along and asked if I needed help. I said no but thank you. He looked mildly amused.
Not long after that, I went home. Yeah, my first field trip was maybe a bit of a bust, but I loved it anyway.