It is always interesting to experience a new culture, especially when one interacts with locals on a daily basis for an extended period of time. I have always known that Russians do not celebrate Christmas on December 25th like we would normally do in the States and many other parts of the world. Instead the Russian Christmas takes places on January 7th, because the Orthodox church follows the old Julian Calender. Being here in Russia during this time of the year, I have come to learn that while this is true, welcoming in the New Year is the start of a ten day working holiday for most people, and is a significant event for grand celebrations. As I counted down with Larisa and her family and friends last night, there were so much food and and of course, alcohol, to go around! As I leave Ufa for another Russian city to visit a friend on a 20hour train ride, I am sad to leave this place and the many people who took great measures to make my stay memorable.
During the last week, I was able to observe as Larisa interviewed patients with my set of questions. As it turns out, coordinating interviews are a long and complicated process. So far, about 15 patients have questions my set of questionnaire measures. In the stroke knowledgeably assessment, I was quite surprised to learn that even among this small group, when asked to name at least 3 stroke warning sign or modifiable risk factor many were not even able to state a single measure despite indicating that they had received information on such stroke prevention education from their doctors or mass-media health promotions. However, when given true/false questions about modifiable risk factors after stroke, many were able to give the correct answer.
There were many smokers during the group interviewed so far and we were able to get a variant of types of smokers and their opinions on smoking and stroke. However (or maybe fortunately), many had quit drinking after their operation and as a result, many drinking measures were not applicable.
Sometimes I find it hard to believe because on the several occasions that I was able to hang out with Russians, so many drinking (as well as smoking) takes places. Often, when they hear the reason why I am in Ufa to conduct this study relating to smoking and alcohol, they laugh so hard and say that “this is a Russian thing.”
Perhaps we often take our health for granted when we are strong and youthful, knowing that our amazing body can handle the many abuses we do to ourselves. At a later age in life, hopefully we become little wiser and try to change our behaviors for the better, knowing that the body is no longer as efficient as it once was, especially when a slight mishap can easily result in costly medical bills later on during our older years.
When you pop that Champagne bottle when the clock strikes 12, I hope you will drink in moderation! Wishing everyone a happy year and good health ahead! Happy New Year!