Brighton Beach – Russian-Arab Folklore

To my joy, I moved into a new neighborhood and I can once again explore a new territory. What’s really fascinating about living in NYC, is that every time you switch apartments, even within the same district, you have a guarantee that you will have a new set of neighbors. And I don’t even mean neighbors who look like you, but neighbors coming from an entirely different culture than yours. I recently moved to the far south of Brooklyn, to Brighton Beach, and I knew that this meant that most of my neighbors will be Russian (which is visible on every corner, since there are Russian signs everywhere). I was happy about it because of the grocery products – I have good access to quality cream cheese and the prices are much lower here. The Russians are not that different from us Poles, so the culture shift wasn’t too jarring (still, I have that Russian women here, just like on the other side of the Atlantic, display similar taste for extreme make-up and gaudy clothes, even at 7 am and in extreme heat).

What really surprised me here is the number of Arab families. I am the only white girl with blonde hair on my street, all the other women are wearing traditional Arab clothes, some of them wear burkas. I have to say that I feel uneasy when I suddenly see a completely covered woman in front of me, with only a pair of keenly observing eyes looking at me. I don’t know the culture, I don’t want to judge it, but I have to say that burkas make me rebel inside. Unfortunately, I see them as a form of oppression and I would like to speak to those women and learn what do they signify for them. Especially what does it mean for them to wear a burka in a country like the United States, which is infinitely more liberal than Arab countries. I still need a few days to get used to knowing that I live mere few steps away from an Islamic Center, where all the men are praying, and that my Arab neighbors (men only, of course) gather in the evening in the basements of their building, sit on carpeted floor and discuss things. But that’s all ahead of me. I already got used to more unfamiliar things when living in this city. As for now, I am looking at them and they are looking at me. And we still didn’t quite figure out what do we think of each other.