Soviet teens mingled Wednesday with American students at Davis High School, met Thursday with Utah's governor and found out that although the Soviet Union and the United States are separated by politics and thousands of miles, their young people have a good deal in common.
But the young Soviets said they are amazed and perplexed by American television, and they may leave Utah, the "house of honey" state, wondering why Gov. Norm Bangerter might turn into an "orange vegetable."The students, sporting the universal dishevelment of youth, appeared bright and early Thursday at the governor's office, full of questions and statements of hope for better relations between the two countries.
But speaking through translators is an inexact way to communicate, and some of the exchange between the governor and the teens suffered as a result.
For example, when asked what was unique about Utah, the governor responded with a spiel about Utah's reputation as the Beehive State, so-named because of the emphasis on industry and hard work.
Both the Soviet translator, Natalia Igumnova, and the students drew a blank and turned to their American guide/translator, Megan Gorman, for assistance. She mouthed a few words in Russian and gestured, but seemed dissatisfied with the result. She later said the best word she could come up with for beehive was "house of honey."
As the visitors left, they presented the governor a glass slipper, a la Cinderella, which they said symbolized their wish that the dream for better relations between the Soviet Union and the United States would come true.
"I hope I don't turn into a pumpkin," the governor joked in apparent reference to his upcoming political challenges before the November election.
The Soviet translator once again looked confused.
"The best I've been able to come up with for pumpkin is `orange vegetable,' " Gorman said later.
Even when improved international communication is the goal, translations between Russian and English aren't always what they could be.
Maria Surmeneva, one of 13 Soviet students visiting Utah as part of the People to People Student Ambassadors program, said she was surprised at the similarities between teenagers of both countries, and Bangerter made the same observation Thursday when the state's chief executive met with the teens.
The visit has already forced her to rethink many of her preconceived ideas, Surmeneva said. She has found she likes all of the people she has met, and she now better understands the diversity among American teenagers.
Surmeneva said she wants to take want she's learned back to her homeland and share it with other students.
When he met with the students Thursday in the State Capitol, Bangerter said, "We have an expression in our country: To know you is to love you," and observed: "You look just like the young people in our state. I feel your aspirations and desires would be much the same as our young people. We can't have enough of these kinds of exchanges."
The Soviet students are in the United States for a three-week visit that will take them to nine cities. While at Davis High, the students ate a school lunch, watched a slide presentation about the school's activities, and then visited two classrooms to exchange ideas with their American counterparts.
The visitors also planned to visit Temple Square in Salt Lake City, a McDonald's fast-food restaurant, Snowbird Ski Resort and the 49th Street Galleria.
Seven Davis and 24 other Utah students are to participate in a visit to the Soviet Union this summer as a part of the same program. Last year, 39 Utah students participated in the program, which sponsored visits by 29 delegations representing 38 states to the Soviet Union. The trips involved some 900 U.S. students.
The exchange program, which began following the 1985 U.S.-Soviet Summit in Geneva, is in its third year. It is intended to give students from both countries an opportunity to experience educational and cultural activities in the host country.
The visitors are from the city of Kalinin, about 150 miles north of Moscow. They represent a dozen secondary schools. The students were selected through a competitive system that involved both teacher votes and votes from fellow students.
The Davis students were most interested in finding out whether the visit had changed the Soviet group's opinions about the United States.
The Soviets said the biggest difference they observed between Sovietteens and American teens was the fact U.S. teens were active in church worship. They said this is uncommon in their country.
When asked about their goals, one Soviet student said he hopes the two countries will find a way to eliminate missiles and to live in peace and harmony in the world without fear of war.
This brought a thundering round of applause from the Davis students.
Asked about their impression of television in the United States, the Soviet students shook their heads and expressed amazement that anyone could understand the plots of shows, with all the commercial interruptions.