Don't Cough On Me! I Might Wake Up Fat!
I saw the effects of isolation and lack of exposure in practice everyday, when I organized soccer games and recreational activities for the schoolchildren and kindergarteners. I found that for every backwards stereotype I had about Russian people, a ten year old kid at the school would ask me to clarify a stereotype five times more ill-informed and ridiculous about American people and American life. I will never forget the first misconception that I flattened in Suzdal. On my first day of leading my group of boys in a sport camp, ten-year-old Dima would not come near me and continually avoided coming within ten feet of me in our first soccer game. Fifteen kids and I pumped up over fifty soccer balls for two hours before we split into teams for the soccer game. After hours of teamwork and getting to know each other, I saw that Dima was the last of the boys to warm up to my presence, so I asked him what was going on. He told me that he was worried that I would give him obesity. He said that he heard obesity was a plague in America and that it was violently contagious. He said that it was getting so bad that people in Canada were fleeing to Europe. After the complete shock wore off I realized that Dima’s misconception wasn’t as absurd as I initially thought. It is not unimaginable that he had heard of obesity referred to as a plague and without any exposure to Americans, I was the first that all of these kids had ever met, how would he have any way of humanizing and making sense of this use of figurative language? I am no doctor, but I was able to explain the causes of obesity in a way the boys could understand and Dima displayed relief when after my explanation of how obesity is not transmitted by germs, he asked to play on my team. Explaining the situation of poor health among many Americans with regards to obesity allowed me to reframe the situation into a great moment where I got to talk to the kids about what kinds of choices lead to poor health like obesity and drug addiction. It was these completely unplanned moments that granted the project and my presence, what I hope is, a lasting p with these kids.