The famous Solyanka Cafe in Kaliningrad, they don't give discount on your bill, but they generously discount your age. A reason for my toothful smile.
(Fuschia Snails. Installation art in the Milan, December 2009).
Getting old is a state of mind, aging will start to crawl slowly if you put if off your mind and live your life fullest. Try to learn Russian language, all the difficutlies and complexities you encounter will activate your entire body and soul, you may stay young for a long long time.
At the Russian custom when I came in from Kaliningrad to Poland, they habitually took a serious and prolonged look at my passport. At one point the female officer summoned a male colleague to discuss what to do with me. In the meantime, several phone calls were made. The entire busload of passengers were waiting for me, sometimes, the entire plane-load of passengers waited for me. Sometimes I feel so bad, that I wished I could say thank you to them for being so patient.
After a good 25 minutes or so, she smilingly asked me in English, "You, 20?"
I smiled at her, and said, yes, 20 year-old but that was 20 years ago. Perhaps it is due to the rarity of Asian tourists in this part of Russia or their perception of a near-40-year old, differ greatly from us, that I tend to lose all the years that I have grown in my life, and became young, or impossibly younger again.
Hence, I am timeless in Russia, at least in their eyes.
Two weeks ago at a famous Russian cuisine cafe "Solyanka"in Kaliningrad, I placed a bottle of beer togеther with my favourite Solyanka soup (a kind of meat-based or vegetables-based Russian soup) on my tray and prepared to pay in a queue. The young and fresh looking cashier said ''Passport" to me in Russian which I did not register at all. I hate to admit it is not my bad listening but a flat refusal to expect this request to pop up straight at my face, first time in my life.
Then another young cashier came near to me and asked me "how old are you?" in English. Now I realised what was going on, and strangely I was slightly annoyed, and said to her in Russian - I am double the age of what is required, don't ask for my passport please. She was immediately embarrassed and took the one thousand roubles I pressed on to her. When she returned my change, I asked her to guess my age, she smiled and said, sorry, you really look very young.
I owed her a thank you, that I failed to give her there and then, for such a twisted compliment that I could not swallow.
My Mongolian classmate in her late twenties who likes to drink beer every now and then would be asked the same question in the supermarkets too. Trully embarrassing when there is a long queue. I would like to think that Russians in general are more cautious with foreigners, than to think I am or we are, really looking that ridiculously young.
My Russian teacher said to me when I first came to Russia, that I look no more than 25 years old in her eyes. Every now and then, she would ask me what is my secret. When my spoken Russian was still raw then, I would say simple things like, sleep well, eat well. Later on, she would pop up the question, and I would say things like always have positive outlook in life.
But that didnt satisfy her, when she came to visit me at my flat, she said there must be some secrets in your skin care products, maybe I can find that in your bathroom! Two months ago, she even trusted me entirely on the specific brand of antioxidants that I am taking, and requested me to get the same for her from Singapore. She said to me, why didn't you tell me earlier, you see, I know you have more secrets, before you leave Russia, you better tell me all. I believe that is Russian humour, nothing more.
By the way, I came home puzzled and slightly unnerved from "Solyanka" and checked on internet the legitimate age to drink beer in Russia.