Personal tools
You are here: Home Stories Ice Cream
Document Actions

Ice Cream

Peter Dyer recounts a communication lesson learned on his exchange trip to Davis’ sister city in Ukraine.

Ice Cream

click on photo to enlarge

Submitted by: Peter Dyer
This entry relates to Past
Category(ies) of this entry: Unforgettable Experiences

July 1991 was an exciting time for Americans to be travelling in the Soviet Union. The 45 year long Cold War was finally winding down. Hope was in the air for a lasting peace between the two superpowers.

In the spirit of the times Soviet and American cities were establishing sister-city relationships. Davis was paired with Uman, Ukraine. This relationship was based primarily on a series of exchanges.

Having worked for peace during the Viet Nam war and having studied Russian at school, I was eager to be involved.

I also spoke a little of the international language: music. My offer to organise an Uman/Davis music exchange was accepted by the Sister City Board.

 My friend Bill Scholer agreed to take his blues band (and me) to Ukraine. Our brief musical tour of the Uman area was to precede a similar visit the following month to Davis by a Ukrainian band.

We flew over the Arctic to Helsinki, excited at the prospect of discovering the virtually forbidden territory behind the Iron Curtain. At the train station we purchased tickets to Leningrad (now St Petersburg), where we were to meet our Soviet counterparts who would guide us to Uman. We lugged a huge pile of baggage and musical instruments to our coach, intending to board.

Upon seeing the gear, a conductor directed us to the baggage car.
However, at the baggage car a Russian woman in uniform said “Nyet” (No)! The train was leaving soon. It seemed the exchange might end before we even reached Ukraine.

 As the dialogue continued, the woman strayed from the subject. For an initially incomprehensible reason, we were now discussing her beloved son. As she spoke of him, she repeatedly used the word ”morozhenoye”-ice cream.

Her son, apparently, loved ice cream.
Suddenly it occurred to us to ask if she would be interested in buying her son some ice cream with some of our money.

 She was interested. The baggage car door opened, we loaded in our gear, the exchange continued and we learned a valuable lesson in cross-cultural communication: to listen very carefully.

This site provided with the assistance of the Davis Community Network.