The evening we are to leave Yekaterinburg on the train, Bob loses his change purse containing a credit card getting out of a mini-bus. Olga’s son drives us in his car to the internet cafe on the way to the train station so Bob can email the bank.
Waiting for Bob, he and I have an interesting conversation. I make a comment about the importance of having all the information you can get your hands on and he agrees…free press or no. He tells me he has been reading a web site about American foreign policy and is afraid, that since we invaded Iraq, that someday we might go to war with his country. Alarmed, I try to reassure him that this would be very unlikely and give him my email address and ask him to send me the url.
We get on the train at midnight to find two adult women and a child in our berths and no amount of turning on the lights and loud talking and piling of our luggage in-between the beds will dislodge these people who are stubbornly pretending to be asleep.
We collar the carriage “mother” as I call her (who almost wouldn’t let us on the train in the first place because she was confused by the fact that we were ticketed through to Ulaan Baator) and she finds us a new cabin with Vladamir (is every Russian man called Vladamir?) who seems to be pretty familiar with this route. He is a diesel engineer on his way further east to Chita to “advise,” we gather, considering we have two words in Russian and he has maybe three in English. We settle in, glad there are only three of us instead of four.
The next morning we share each other’s food and he orders delicious Russian borscht for us all from the attendent at the end of the carraiage who makes our soup in a space maybe four feet by three feet at the most. Then Vladamir wants to talk…to tell us everything…in Russian. We get maybe a tenth of it by interpreting body language. “Maxi, maxi, he says and points to Bob when he shows him the map of Nepal and Mt. Everest.
I see some Russian girls dressed in skin tight pants with flat stomach showing beneath a short jacket and above a very short mini-skirt and knee-length spike-heeled boots with very pointy toes and with little short-handled purse slung over the shoulder clicking along the platform. “Russian girls,” I say to Vladamir. This he understands. “Russian gerls! Russian gerls! he exclaims proudly. Cick click they go down the concrete platform. They love the clicking…you can tell. They will spend a month’s earnings on a pair of shoes. There are websites with 40,000 of these girls looking for western men to marry, Sasha told us in St. Petersburg. They are sharp and are disappointed in their own men who only seem to want to spend their time drinking beer and vodka.
Tags: Conversations, Homestays, Russian Federation, Trains, Trans Siberia, Trans Siberian Train