by Judith Goldsmith

The Blue Moon which overlooked the historic visit of President Reagan to Moscow had barely lost its perfect shape when I boarded a plane to Moscow with nineteen other American gardeners as part of an Earthstewards Network "Gardeners for Peace" tour of the Soviet Union. The rest of the tour group was a delightful bunch of earthy gardeners from all over the U.S., most of whom have been actively working for peace for some years: several community garden organizers, from California and Massachusetts and Michigan; two farming couples and an herbalist from Oregon; a research horticulturist from Colorado; and several others, including our tour leaders, garden author Kate Gessert of Oregon and Earthstewards leader Diana Glasgow of Seattle.

The recent warming of Soviet/U.S. relations has encouraged American citizens to visit the Soviet Union. What will they find? Those of us who've been find it a little hard to talk about, like trying to describe a trip through a time-warp, but there is definitely one overwhelming consensus: the more U.S. citizens that visit the U.S.S.R., and the more Soviets that visit the U.S., the better. We have a great deal to learn about each other, and the interchange can only help. So strap yourself in, and I'll try to prepare you for the future.

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When the U.S.S.R. fully embraces tourism, the first place it should start to re-make its image is the Moscow airport. It's modern enough, but the vast dark ceiling makes it feel like a gloomy and uninviting cavern. And passing through passport control could have given me a chill even in the most cheerful building. U.S.S.R. Passport Control was straight out of Orwell's 1984; the top of the officer's face was all that was visible through the window; there was not even a hint of an expression on it as he took passports, looked at them, looked up intently and directly at the passport-holder, then looked down and fiddled with the passport while the holder shifted nervously from foot to foot. It wasn't until Customs that the human feeling returned. One member of our tour, Geralyn Brusseau, (who owns Brusseau's Restaurant in Seattle) is starting a group for exchanges between cooks and other food-preparers called "Peace Table". When the Customs officers discovered Geralyn's Russian flyers describing her organization, along with pages of recipes to exchange with Soviet cooks, they held up the line until three other custom officers had been called over to read it. Then I heard "zamir" [peace] muttered over and over under their breath as the rest of us with our "I Choose Peace" buttons (in Russian and English) filed through. Apparently, they couldn't quite believe the mixture of peace-making with cooking and eating.

Luckily, the quick appearance of our guide rescued us from our "stranger in a strange land" experiences. (Most Americans wind up traveling with Intourist, expensive and fancy, and the only way to travel for individuals; as a group, we were able to travel with Intourbureau, moderately priced and less fancy, but reserved for unions and other organizations; it was more representative of the way Soviet citizens travel.) The guides are there less to watch over you than to help you have a good trip. You no longer have to stay with them if you don't want to. We found the guide and the buses provided for us a blessing which enabled us to communicate beyond pidgin Russian and to get to all the places we wanted to go fast and easily.

Moscow lies in a vast forest. The endless winter finally being over, thousands of people were out swimming in the lakes, ponds, and swimming holes which are found in the greenbelt that surrounds the city. The Muscovites are serious about a greenbelt: one side of the rim road is all trees and lakes, with the city starting abruptly and pleasantly only on the other side.

Next morning, we started the (to Soviets) serious business of touristing. Thousands of meretorious factory workers and youngsters are shipped to Moscow as a reward for their good work each summer, and there is a prescribed order to their tours, to which we were now introduced. First, you must see Red Square, the heart of the city. Then, there is the Kremlin tour, and Lenin's tomb. Red Square is the cobbled plaza between the Kremlin's walls on one side, St. Basil's Cathedral on the second, and G.U.M. department store and the old part of the downtown on the third. About the size of a football field or two, Red Square is certainly not as imposing as I'd thought; even the dais above Lenin's tomb where government officials are seated to watch official parades is just right above the square. G.U.M. reminded me of the central bazaar in Istanbul or the big city mercados of Central America.

The other standard place to visit, now-a-days, is Arbat Street. Moscow is trying its first tentative experiments with the renovation of the older sections of the city that the rest of the world is, freshening facades, and putting in planter boxes along pedestrian walks. Arbat Street was the first experiment, and (as most elsewhere) was such an enormous hit that two more renovated streets are in the planning. The Arbat is also the place to experience glasnost first-hand: for the first time anyone can remember, artists exhibit their works, people post flyers exclaiming (controversial?) information, musicians strum guitars, and stands sell soft-drinks and flowers. Small crowds gather at each. (Lines seemed to form instantaneously; people rush to get into anything that looks like a line immediately - after all, you can always change your mind later, and if you don't want what's being offered, probably someone you know does.)

After a day of getting oriented, including a tour of Moscow's metro (easy to use after you master the cyrillic alphabet), we went on to less standard visits: meeting with the head researcher on U.S. agriculture at the Institute of U.S.A. & Canada Relations, himself a citizen diplomat extraordinaire; a wonderful warm "Russian tea" with homemade jams and miles of cakes and home-baked goodies with the Moscow Society for the Preservation of Nature (a combination Sierra Club, Audubon, SPCA, and garden club); the Moscow Botanical Garden; the Tretyakov Museum (with an exhibit of previously "unoffical" Soviet art); the Exhibit of Economic Achievements (a permanent and interesting "county fair" of animals, plants, homes, and other trades); bookstores (very poor quality, although there are many foreign authors available in translation); the circus (incredible); and the gorgeous historic buildings of the Novodevic'e Convent, Kolomenskoye, and the well-preserved and striking Russian Orthodox churches inside the Kremlin, full of icons and candles.

The U.S.S.R., at least judging from the tour guide's careful recitation, is generally proud of their planning. And in some things they have been remarkably thoughtful. I was especially impressed by the forests which have been created around the apartment houses. Instead of building sprawling suburbs, as Americans and Europeans have allowed themselves to do, the Soviets built up. Dedicated to providing housing for all its citizens, the Moscovites razed villages on the outskirts of the city and gradually replaced them with thirty-story apartment buildings, which the former villagers were purportedly eager to move into, for the sake of their plumbing, kitchens, and other modern conveniances. The land around the residences is public space, worthy of any future ecological city, which residents use for morning calisthenics and walks, evening dog strolls, swimming in the lakes and waterholes, and, under agreements with the local government, home gardens. (There are few lawns needing high maintenance and water; green areas between trees consist of freely and lushly growing wild plants.) Each apartment complex is opened complete with stores so that residents don't need to travel to another part of the city for services. And each is at a bus stop. The bus is practically free (the ticketing runs on the honor system) and is a quick ride to one of the cheapest (5 kopecks), fastest, and cleanest metro systems in the world. Pedestrian underpasses under main streets speed traffic flow. Art is incorporated into many of the new buildings, especially art reflecting indigenous traditions.

Despite the highlights, however, my overall reaction was: If Moscow is the epitome of the Soviet Union, the result of their most focused efforts, it is a grim country. Well-planned and carefully thought out, and because of that, suffering from a numbness in the limbs which are only very slowly regaining circulation in the last three years since Glasnost. Life in the cracks is scarce. Everything is big and concrete, with grout oozing out the seams and corners that don't quite seem to meet, although they must, and poor maintenance of buildings once they are built. Centralization and standardization is pervasive: there are massive universities, massive sports facilities, massive youth facilities, massive stores, etc. etc. E. F. Schumacher would not be pleased.

Imagine yourself, your 1988 self, dropped into the U.S.A. of the early 1950s: post-war block housing going up everywhere, meatloaf and spaghetti on the average family's dinner table, factories turning out highly-standardized refrigerators and t.v.'s and other household goods, family vacations to resorts, job-oriented education, sports and science highly valued, families gathering around their tvs morning and evening, specializations (doctor, lawyer) relied on, do-it-yourselfing limited to weekend hobbies, magazines and books with little color printing, jogging unheard of, the McCarthy hearings going on, a strong political party dominating all branches of government, conservative standards of dress, secret alcoholism, big business and Keynesian economic theories, travel abroad unusual . . . Now you have an idea of what the U.S.S.R. feels like to a sixties person living in the eighties.

There are some important differences from the U.S. 1950s: women are not hassled when traveling alone, bus-drivers sit at the head of the table with officials, babies in their carriages are left unattended outside stores (and passer-bys comfort them when they need it), there are next-to no visible poor, and there is rock and roll. It's quite an experience to be in a place where there is little nit-picking over who pays for what, because the state takes care of most everything. But the U.S.S.R. has not yet had its "1960s", its period of individualism and creativity. It feels very much like a middle-class industrializing 1950s U.S. It wasn't until the final stop-over of our trip in Copenhagen -with its individualized houses, restored inner city, bright shop windows, international cuisine, bicyclists carrying bread or flowers - that the impact of what I had experienced in the U.S.S.R. really hit home. Yet, not having traveled, or seen much of the west's media, Soviet citizens have little to compare their lives to. Soviet citizens are warm and loving, and they are trying their best, under very adverse circumstances, to figure out what's going on.

The Soviet people are very eager to have peace and friendship. Yet the overwhelming feeling I came away with was that I felt really sorry for them, a feeling I have rarely experienced in my travels. Travels to Brittany, England, Holland, Italy, Israel, Turkey, Guatemala, and Mexico all made me envious, in Europe of being in places where western culture is really done right, in third world countries of the vitality of the indigenous cultures. But it was hard to find vitality in the Soviet Union. Everybody has the basics: food to eat, shelter, health care, education (the absence of very poor people was very noticeable; I think I saw two beggars on the whole trip). On the other hand, few people, at least as far as I could discover (though I didn't meet any party functionaries or important people) have much more. Contemporary crafts, colorful magazines and books, foreign movies, inventive clothing, interesting recipes, flower gardens, interesting shops, are almost non-existent. Organization "by interest" is a growing, but still rare, trend. With the installation of glasnost and perestroika, street sales are coming into the open: herb- and knicknack-sellers, street artists, the woman with her scale charging people to weigh themselves, all draw good-sized crowds. And we visited several of the "rinoks" (the markets where people can sell home-grown produce, flowers, meats, and other commodities), and found all the same eager elbowing and bargaining that characterizes such markets around the world. The prices were high though, and even there variety was limited.

It was the same feeling I'd gotten visiting the Republic of Ireland in 1985. Everybody talks about what's wrong with the country (except in the U.S.S.R. they mostly think it instead of saying it), how come we're so stuck, so behind. In Ireland, people felt guilty about it, as though there must be something wrong with them, as is understandable after centuries of colonial domination. In the U.S.S.R., there is more bewilderment.

What's wrong? The government is making a valiant effort to house everyone in new, modern apartments by the year 2000, but construction is proceeding slowly and the building has been so shoddy that residents of the original housing built in the 50s and 60s are already asking for new buildings. Meanwhile, country towns (at least those we visited at the edge of Moscow) seem to be almost third world, with outdoor toilets and dirt paths (although of course that can also be a pleasant respite from city-living). Agriculture is in crisis, yet the solutions we heard mentioned were dangerously close to the mistakes the U.S. has already made: breeding vegetables and fruit for mechanical-picking; more irrigation (rather than the search for drought-tolerant crops); and allowing collective farms to contract with individual producers, which may help, but has the danger of turning them into share-croppers. Meanwhile, home gardens raise much of the food (80% of the potatoes, for example), with cheap seeds and information provided through tv programs; hopefully the contribution of home farming will continue.

And the food (as American gardeners our big complaint): Meals in our hotels were almost always the same: a small plate of cucumbers and tomatoes, sometimes with radishes or green onions; rather plain bread (though solid, and always in both white and whole wheat) with sausage and cheese, and occasionally jam; a soup (usually cabbage); and a main course with a big piece of meat, barley or rice or potatoes, and cabbage; a sweet desert, coffee and tea, mineral water, and sometimes juice or kvass (a nice fermented barley drink, very thirst-quenching). We all got the same food - although the service people really went out of their way to find something for the low cholesterol and vegetarian diets on our tour - and there is plenty of it, but since we didn't get much choice, lots of food got wasted. One thing Gorbachev himself recently pinpointed was the lack of variety and the lack of fresh fruits and vegetables.

But the worst problem is probably fear - fear of speaking up, of individual expression, of identifying oneself as disgruntled, of trying anything new. The Soviet people don't really believe glasnost yet; they stretch a little and try something, very tentatively; when that proves ok, they step an inch further. They don't feel secure that it's really going to last. Visiting a kolkhoz farm near Tashkent, we wanted to split into two groups, some to hear more about the orchards, others to visit the vegetable gardens. Later, our guide told us she'd overheard the officials saying they guessed it was now all right for visitors to go off without the guide there; this was unheard of in the past, when guides made sure visitors only saw the right things.

Olya was a story herself, one which illustrates the barriers through which the Soviet people must pass. She was a little slip of a woman for her 28 years (unlike most of the meat-eating, stocky population), resourceful at getting us special requests, an excellent translator, a walking encyclopedia of historical and other information. She complimented us warmly on the bus home from the airport for coming to talk about peace, in the wake of the Reagan-Gorbachev meeting, about which Moscovites had been very excited. But the first few days, she was very formal, almost wooden.

Then, slowly, as our exuberant 60s selves and the warm receptions we were getting began to get to her, she started to open up a bit. First, she started to admit why they were having problems with the housing ("I heard on the radio the architect of these Kalinin Prospekt buildings, the first ones built in the 50s, which won an international prize at the time, say that they were a mistake, they should never have been built that way, so large with so little nature and shops around them."); then the Stalin era ("I can admit that we are just finding out about what happened."); then the rinoks ("Such things never happened before, even three years ago - so many people making fortunes by flying in from Georgia with fresh food.").

When she heard me telling a landscape architect from Washington D.C. that I met on a Moskva River boat tour about the greenbelt and the interesting use of forest and public space I had noticed, she made sure to announce on the bus the next day that the trees had only been added after the first apartments had been built without them, in the 50s and 60s, and people had noticed that they missed having nature around them. And after hearing us complaining about the food and commenting about the agriculture (and in fact, hearing the director of her national research institution identify Soviet agriculture's problems), she blurted out at one point, "Well, we may be backward, but at least we don't have to worry about insecticides on our food." But other topics would make her so uncomfortable that she would abruptly end the conversation. She had been glowingly telling us that she goes to the U.S.S.R.'s homeopathic doctors and hospitals, and how homeopathic medicines are for sale in most pharmacies, but when I noted that homeopathy was illegal in the US mostly because the AMA doesn't like the competition, she changed the subject.

It was the orange that made it all come pouring out. Geneva and Claire had elected to pass up a tour and spend more time around the Arbat, even finding a small cafe to eat lunch in. For dessert, they were given an orange. Leaning on a wall, later, resting, Geneva had taken the orange out and started to peel it, when a woman came over and started pointing at it and talking very excitedly. When Geneva mentioned this story to Olya later that afternoon, Olya got quite flustered. "Oranges," she said, "you can get them anywhere." That evening, at dinner, Geneva was retelling the story as we sat at one of the two tables assigned to our group. Olya, at the other table with the rest of the group, overheard, and again got very flustered and excited, and finally it came spilling out. "It's very hard for me to admit that anything is wrong, still, even though it's allright now. It's hard for me to say these things, that there are shortages, that we don't have everything we want, that some things are wrong. I'm trying not to do it, but it's a habit."

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Luckily Moscow is not the epitomy of the U.S.S.R., though the Russians don't seem to have figured that out yet. Our next stop on the tour (we had been forbidden to visit Yerevan in Armenia, due to the demonstrations going on) was the wonderful city of Tbilisi in Georgia. Georgia is rarely visited by Americans, and more's the pity.

Georgia is a rich agricultural land of wine- and tea-growing, wonderfully-spiced cooking, and a "continental" climate that is warm and pleasant even when it rains. The people inhabiting it seem close in physical appearance and culture to their neighbors to the south, the Armenians. The Georgians, who have their own language, culture, and history quite distinct from the Russian part of the Soviet Union, have a story they tell about their origins: When God was creating the world and giving out lands to all the peoples, the Georgians were off in a corner, busy with what they love to do: picnicing. When God had given away all the land and noticed them over in the corner, having a good time and not asking for anything, he decided to give them a piece of the land he had saved for himself. The love the Georgians have for their land is as strong as can be implied from that story, and it is not lightly-felt. For thoughout history, there has been attempt after attempt to take this wonderful temperate agricultural heaven just south of the Caucasus Mountains and north of Turkey away from them. The Georgians have fought in war after war, every one of them defensive. Tbilisi has been destroyed and rebuilt FORTY times.

Actually, you don't feel it walking around the city, for unlike the cold modern architecture of Moscow, Georgian architecture is tasteful, human-scale, and whimsical. Like New Orleans, the Georgians love iron work trim and balconies, and many houses have grape arbors running up their rows of windows. Crooked little streets abound, carved doors and pastel paint jobs, flower markets, bakeries, crafts shops (pottery, weaving) in the old part of town. (I'm told such "charm" can be found in the central Soviet Union also, for example in the "Golden Ring" cities near Moscow; Leningrad also seems to get good reviews.)

It was here, in Georgia, that we had our real baptism in hospitality. Our second day, we visited our first farm, a wine-growing sovkhoz in the Kaheetia region. After a tour of the vinyards and the winery, during which we had a warm interchange with a party of women who were at work tying up and pruning the vines, we were taken to the main hall, where we discovered an incredible feast had been laid out to welcome us. Later, we found that feeding the visitors is standard, but we never had a meal so elaborate put before us. There were little dishes all over the table with breads, meats, vegetables, all wonderfully seasoned. Banquets in Georgia have formal rules, and one of the party seated himself at the head of the table, announcing that the others had asked him to be the host. Our Soviet guide and our tour leader sat down near him, the rest of us filled in the middle of the long table, trying to intermingle with the other members of the welcoming party, all middle-aged men, who nevertheless wound up sitting mostly towards the lower part of the table.

Then the toasts started. All toasts are given by the toastmaster, or with his approval, and with the requirement that the glass be full when the toast is made, and emptied after each. The first toast mentioned the historic Gorbachev-Reagan meeting, of which this meeting was commemorative. And after that, the six Georgian men at the end of the table sang their first song, a traditional Georgian song sung acapella with incredible harmonies and six full voices. That's when things started to warm up, as several of us had tears in our eyes from the incredible welcome we were receiving and the heartfelt realization of our common humanity. More toasts followed, to peace and friendship, to children, to mothers, to art and beauty, to the earth, all beautifully spoken, with songs following each and plates of food still apppearing. (Georgians believe there should be as much food on the table when the guests get up as when they sat down.) We joined in, offering toasts to the seven generations about which the American Indians speak, to the hope that peace would be easier now; finally, Wren, the herbalist from Oregon, gave a toast which our hosts nominated as the best of the banquet. "It's not normal for women to give toasts in Georgia," she said, "but women usually work the hardest for peace and that's why we're here. This place, Georgia, is the first place we've really felt at home, and that's because we can feel that you, like us, really love nature. [Nods all along the table.] They say, as you know, that the world is getting smaller and smaller, that it's like a boat. [More nods.] Well, we just want you to know that we're very glad to be in the same boat as you." Evidently the boat image really crossed cultural boundaries, and the response was ecstatic.

At about this point our guide, told us incredulously that the hospitality we were experiencing was well beyond the standard for visitors. Our sincerity and warmth had gotten across, and songs and toasts came pouring out, songs about the beauty of the land, old Georgian melodies that Georgians often sing when they're together, but which tourists get to hear only on records.

And then the dancing started. Everyone was moderately to heavily inebriated by this time. Some of us in the middle had managed to cheat and not fill our glasses with each toast, but those sitting near the end had not gotten away with that. Our hosts, all stronger-than-oxes Georgian farm men, had not been lax either, though they are so used to wine that they were still solid on their feet ("As you can see, there is no `dry-law' in this part of the Soviet Union," joked our guide.) New musical instruments started appearing, and finally some of our hosts started dancing down at the end of the table, the Zorba-like dance the men do, and inviting us to dance. Even our guide had gotten thoroughly swept away by the spirit, and turned out to be a good dancer, dancing the traditional steps daintily and with little hand motions.

Only one woman was there from the farm, a middle-aged pleasant looking lady who was serving the food to the table. She was businesslike and serious at first, but after she started to notice how things were going she disappeared and reappeared with little black Georgian hats for each of us and put them on us. It was getting to be late afternoon (we had all, in unspoken agreement, decided to forget about whatever else it was we were supposed to do that day), but before we left we insisted on thanking the cooks who had prepared the meal - three men, who not having any idea what had been going on, were rather surprised at the scene when they walked out of the kitchen - and the woman who had been serving it. That probably did it for them; before we managed to get out to the bus, they had shown up with beautiful books for each of us, photo books of their favorite Georgian sculptor, Arsen Pochkhua, whose wonderful carvings of women, animals, plants, and mythical scenes really embodies the Georgian view of the world. And insisted on all autographing them. We left blowing kisses.

There is more to visit in Tbilisi, too: the Museum of Georgian Folk Architecture and Life, with beautiful traditional Georgian wood houses and furniture; the baths; and nearby Mzkheta, with its church on a hill surrounded by flowers and its central church ornamented with four old pre-Christian bull's heads, one holding wheat and grapes.

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On the other hand, don't go to Tashkent in Uzbekhistan unless you have to, and, even then, don't ever go in late spring or summer. (Ask for Bokhara or Samarkhand at least.) Uzbekhistan is in that nebulous area few Americans know anything about, between the steppes and Afghanistan. The people look Asian, and are mostly Moslem; they wear colorful clothes and have the highest population increase rate in the U.S.S.R.. Tashkent is a thoroughly modern Soviet city, having been leveled in a recent earthquake. It is dry and dusty, and unfortunately we got there right at the start of a record 104 degree heat wave . . . not a record in amount (Tashkent normally gets this hot in mid to late summer), but only in its occuring in June. Unfortunately, we also wound up in new tour buses fitted for air conditioning, with windows that didn't open . . . and no air conditioning. If you ever do get stuck in Tashkent, one of the nicer spots is the Uzbek tea house in one of the parks.

I was interested in the area mostly because it has the same wet/dry Mediterranean climate as California, and the same problems: irrigation systems built to bring water from the Amu-Darya and Sir-Darya rivers to the former "Hungry Steppe" to grow cotton are now salting up the irrigated land and lowering the water level in the Aral Sea to such an extent that the fishing industry there is dying and frozen fish are being shipped in from the Atlantic, while dust storms of salt sand sweep across the area. One of the men we met on an agricultural research institute tour, a very Uzbek-looking college-educated international co-ordinator for the institute, told us that people there would prefer to grow less cash-crop cotton and more vegetables for home consumption (as in other colonized areas, I thought, but didn't say). "Agriculture is traditional in this area," he told us. "Families always had fruit trees and vegetable gardens in their compounds . . . But now I'm afraid that many of us have forgotten how to farm. Lots of people, like me, are college-educated, and we aren't used to taking care of a cow or getting our hands dirty anymore."

The other interesting experience in Tashkent was the local Soviet guide (in each city you visit, an additional local guide is assigned to you). Aisha was a thorough believer and member of the Communist Party. Outside the ancient mosque in Tashkent, a Moslem requested that we not take any pictures of an important leader who was about to emerge and get into a car. "They're afraid of losing control," Aisha explained, which several of us found understandable, given the history of vagaries of Soviet policy. "I don't find it understandable," she snapped back. She explained how the Uzbek culture had been so backward when the Soviets started to modernize them that women all wore veils when they went out in public, and related how one monument stood where women had had mass veil-burnings when the Soviet government had decreed that veils were no longer to be worn. But she also related, rather unemotionally, how some eight hundred women were killed during those riotous times. Interesting. Made me want to learn more about how these changes came about. (Try Central Asians Under Russian Rule: A Study in Culture Change by Elizabeth E. Bacon [London: Cornell University Press, 1966] to start.)

Alma Ata, in Kazakhistan, wears its Soviet veil more gracefully. At the northern edge of China's Tien Shien mountains, it is cool and almost Alpine. We stayed in a resort area above the city, called Medeo, full of professional young sportsmen and sportswomen; visited the city's beautiful new museum which covers the area's unique paleontology and ethnology, and a folk instrument museum; and met asian-looking Kazakh descendants.

. . . . . . . .

A diversity of cultures, some much more intact and vital than others, makes up the U.S.S.R.. Gardener that I am, the culture of the country reminded me of over-ripe blackberries too long on the vine: hard & dry, but still sweet. When will the U.S.S.R.'s people come into their own? Things are definitely opening up: a main topic of conversation among Soviet peoples is all the new things that they are seeing happening around them. Americans are pouring in, and that bodes well for the flow of new ideas into the country. And many Soviets talked about how they hoped to travel, now that it was becoming more possible. (Since everything is owned by the state, not just permission but money for a trip usually has to come from the government.)

Our trip organizers were especially amazed at the difference in treatment our tour got than when Earthstewards first started leading exchange tours four years ago. "When I brought over my first group of farm women," Diana Glasgow relates, "we sent all these letters and got positive replies. But when we actually arrived, they were aghast: `Farm women???' They didn't know what to do with us. We got maybe one or two of the visits we requested." In contrast, our Gardeners For Peace tour got nearly all of the couple dozen special visits we'd asked for. Our guide was as surprised and delighted as the Earthstewards. (Special thanks go to earlier citizen diplomat visitors who pioneered and opened the way.)

The Soviet Union is opening up to new possibilities. This is not to say the road to creativity and new ideas will be smooth. Our first evening in Tbilisi, we went down to the main square to see the end of the festival of flowers that had taken place that day, getting there just in time for the dance performances and beauty contest (another new thing) which ended it. A big crowd gathered around a raised dais, with spotlights and microphones. The presentations included both school children in traditional costume doing traditional dances and teenage girls dancing to rap music in punk clothes. A young English language student, a teen-ager with a child, struck up a conversation with me, telling me what everyone was saying and which beauty queen contestant was from which school. "Which girl do you think is the most beautiful?" she kept asking. "Do you like this music? Do you like these clothes?" She was very concerned about whether her friends were keeping up with the latest trends in the west, asking if I'd brought any fashion magazines with me. I wished I could tell her somehow that it was her opinion that mattered, that the future would have to be invented from within.

I had brought along two books which turned out to be perfect accompaniments for such a trip, and really put this experience in perspective: Theodore Roszak's Person/Planet and Alvin Toffler's The Third Wave. Both of them speak, with different emphasis, about the change that is happening as both capitalist and communist countries move into the "post-industrial" age, a period which no longer will have the emphasis on standardization, specialization, synchronization, concentration, maximization, and centralization that the industrial age valued. This period is "post-industrial" not because there will not be industry, but because the biggest changes will now be focused around renewable energy, intelligent environments, de-massification of the media, new types of producer-consumer relationships, short-run customized production, and other trends not encouraged in the past. And as Toffler notes and Roszak emphasizes, this period will be marked by people seeking to find themselves as individual "persons", with their own unique talents, interests, idiosyncrasies, habits, and destinies. Part of that search is the seemingly-mad trying on of styles, customs, and ideas which characterized the sixties: an attempt to learn about Far-Eastern religions, American Indian customs and crafts, African music, and many other cultural riches all in one generation. The end result is a rediscovery of ancients roots and a flowering of individual creativity such as can already be seen starting today in the U.S., Scandinavia, the Netherlands, and other western nations.

The trend is so strong that both capitalist and communist industrialized systems have to step out of the way, as the U.S.S.R. is currently discovering. But for most of the Soviet Union, the third wave has not yet hit. And it will probably be a slow and somewhat painful surge. All printing presses, radio, and tv stations in the U.S.S.R. are still owned by the state; xerox machines and computers are rare; and, although rock and roll groups are included as entertainment breaks in the standard tv broadcasts, there is certainly not the variety of musical exploration that has blossomed in the U.S. (Berkeley is rarified air, I know, but we have Nigerian highlife, Balinese Gamelan, Japanese taiko drums, Jamaican reggae, and Peruvian flutes, among other styles, not to mention the new World Fusion groups.)

For now, Soviet citizens can only dream. Which reminds me of a scene which occurred at the close of our trip, waiting around in the airport for a plane which had been held up. We'd probably been doing our usual complaining about the lack of variety in the food we'd been eating, when Olya, our guide, asked Geralyn, the restaurant owner, to describe one of the salads she might make in her restaurant. Geralyn's description included, I think, lettuce, bean sprouts, cilantro, mushrooms, sunflower seeds, carrots, red peppers, and nuts, none of which we'd had during our U.S.S.R. visit. Olya, rather sadly, but with a smile on her face, then told us how she used to play a similar game one summer with some friends at a camp, when there wasn't much to eat: they would ask each other "What are you going to ask your mother to make for you first when you get back to Moscow?" and each would name and describe some favorite dish in detail, while the rest savored the thought.

Dream on Olya, and the Soviet people, we wish you well. Someday it may all be yours. Its within your power. Glasnost is just the beginning. I wish you a "sixties" to get you all the way there.

Source: https://people.well.com/user/mareev/publications/essays/ussr.html

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