The Tajik and Olga
In Irkutsk, when we find our seats on the train to Ulaan Baatar, we find a good-looking 40 year old Muslim man from Tajikistan in our cabin. He has studied English in school when he was a boy by showing us how tall he was, and remembers a few words. He shows us pictures of his wife and four kids back at home in Tajikistan. We show him pictures on the computer of our trek in 1996 in Kyrgzstan although aware that the Kyrgeez and Tajiks don’t really like each other very much.
We are able to figure out that he is returning to Ulaan Baatar to operate a “caterpillar” at a gold mine after a three-month summer break with his family. We soon put our sausage and cheese and bread on the little table and he pulls out his bottle of Vodka. He is charming and has a wonderful smile and a quick laugh…I like this man.
The next day Olga, an energetic middle-aged blond, begs to move from her assigned seat near the toilet at the end of the carriage so she joins us…immediately kicking the mellow Tajik up to the top bunk and spreading her belongings from one end of the cabin to the other. Fluent in English, she says she gave up her doctoral studies in Chemistry in 1993 because there was no work in her field, to become an entrepreneur and she makes the trip to Mongolia and China every few months to buy merchandise…”everything for health” she says. She instructs us where to get a cheap hotel in Beijing and gives me an empty bottle to have the Chinese traditional pharmacist fill for my psoriasis.
Soon she and the Tajik are really going at it in Russian…the bluster again…and I ask her what they are talking about. Olga is incensed: “He leaves his wife in Tajikistan to work in another country but when I ask him if she works he says no she has to stay at home and only leave when she is with him!” This goes on for awhile and is actually quite entertaining to watch…then she non-plusses Bob by showing him a picture of man (XY) and woman (XX) and showing him that with an unfinished “X” (referring to the “Y” that “there is a mistake!” When he objects she says “well maybe women are more clever. He just looks at her.
Tags: Conversations, Food, Funny Experiences, Russian Federation, Trains, Trans Siberia, Trans Siberia Train