Talking Politics. In a small village in the southwestern region of Russia I was asked my opinion about President Bush. After talking for a while through an interpreter, I stated that I thought Bush would probably go down as one of the worst presidents in our history. I asked him what he thought. He had an interesting response. "I think you have a good president. At least he is fighting for you and your country, even if you don't like how he's doing it. We can't say that here. Our president only looks out for himself and his cohorts. He's left the rest of us to fend for ourselves. And it's gotten pretty ugly in the meantime." After some back and forth banter, I could understand his perspective. It didn't change my opinion of President Bush and his policies, but I had to agree that at least Bush was doing what he thought was right for the country. At the same time, I argued that many would agree with me on the point that many of his policies do support him and the businesses of his buddies, but not along the lines of what my Russian friend was expressing about his country.
All in all, I found that it doesn't matter where you are in the world, one discusses politics at their own risk.
He later asked me what Americans in general thought about Russia. I said, "Vodka, Kournikova, nuclear bombs, and a sprinkle of Putin." He laughed, thinking I was joking. I asked him what Russians in general thought about Americans. After telling me that just about every Russian in his region of the country didn't like Americans, he said, "Money, money, money, movies, sex, drugs and violence." I laughed, knowing he wasn't joking. Then he said, "But it seems that America is a place of great opportunity and hope and you can achieve whatever you dream." I told him that for a lot of people that was true, but also for many other people they could just as well be living in a third world country based on their living conditions. By the way, my Russian friend told me he makes about 150 USD a month, a typical wage in Russia.