Fliers advertising an insider’s view of contemporary Russian culture in the lower level of Henderson sounded too good to be true. Auturo Benza believed the advertisement was for an informative speech or a round table discussion. Leaving his workplace at 5 p.m. Benza knew he had to only two hours before the event kicked off.
Opting to be a sloth, Benza decided to postpone any activity until 30 minutes before the event. Benza soon found himself rushing to the nearest fast food restaurant and hoping for a parking spot on campus.
Henderson Room 008 is a small classroom with no windows and desks packed tightly together facing one direction. To Benza’s astonishment, the classroom was nearly full with elderly students.
“I was not expecting to see a classroom full of older people,” said Benza. “I had to be the youngest person in the room by at least 35 years.”
Benza went with the flow and ignored the awkward glances, it was now clear he had misinterpreted the advertisement. Within a couple of minutes the speaker walked in wearing a traditional Russian folklore attire.
Vera Kononova Brown, a professor at KU, grow up in eastern Russia until she was 18. She participated in many traditional activities and is very religious. Her presentation began covering traditional Russian attire. The presentation quickly became a evening full of music and craft.
Once the presentation was in full swing, a lot of the awkwardness dissipated. The presentation was not a general overview of Russian culture as Benza expected. It focused on two important aspects of Russian culture, tradition and religion. After the presentation was over, Benza made it a point to meet the Brown.
Brown explained the presentation was the second installment of a three part course offered by KU. The students in the classroom were paying for the information Benza stumbled upon. Benza offered gratitude and asked if he could attend the next installment.
“Just come in and sit down. If they ask you if you are supposed to be here,” said Brown. “Say you are my guest.”
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