We are not strangers to cross-cultural tides, having weathered the ins and outs of Russian life with its ‘Far Side’ propensities: everything from watching a Russian balance a refrigerator on his bike as he carried his prize home, to downing sour horse milk as lunch guests of an old, crusty Siberian in his yurt, to shivering while buying ice cream cones from old women selling outside in the frigid Siberian winters in what was affectionately called our market’s “frozen foods section,” but seeing our first Mermaid in the Ob Sea tops them all.
The event unfolded on a sweltering August day near Akademgorodok in the summer of 1992. Twelve of us very green Americans on our first short term mission trip to Russia found ourselves far from familiar anything’s that day as one by one each person inched up a rickety skinny makeshift ladder to mount a rather large, old boat. Our hosts were our Russian interpreter friends, and we were bound for a most unique R&R adventure.unfolded on a sweltering August day near Akademgorodok in the summer of 1992.
Once we were settled on-board, the skipper hoisted the anchor and we made our way out into the open sea. We were moving at a fairly good clip. The fresh breeze and fine mist spray renewed my sweaty brow.
It cooled us all down a bit. But not enough for my uninhibited, boisterous, gorgeous, interpreter friend, who at that very moment said, “I think I will get a little naked now.”
As she removed her clothes piece by piece and threw them into a messy pile in the corner of the boat, she smiled, obviously enjoying the shocked attention. And then, in an instant, our Siberian beauty twirled, hopped up over the railing, and dove majestically into the sea.
The Russians among us mostly laughed and the Americans among us mostly stood speechless, stunned by the sudden display and unsure as to what to do next.
After what seemed like the silent pause of the century, one American member of our team found his voice. “Sheeesh,” he said, almost reverently ”I didn’t know whether to spit or whistle!”
We all laughed; a few more brave souls joined our Mermaid in the water, and the rest of us found the rods and reels and went fishing.
15 March 2018,
27 June 2019 (revised)
Images courtesy of: