Tuesday, September 21, 2004

i am not a mushroom hunter

i had a fairly packed weekend, which is why i haven't written much lately or posted the hockey pictures yet. at the moment, i have to run back over to the history department and try to find a mainstream university course that will fit into my middlebury course schedule. the whole process is a nightmare because the russian university course schedules change regularly for the first few weeks. anyhow, that's the most immediate project. since i don't have a lot else to do today, i'll probably be back at some point to share some observations on my first trip to a russian dacha and my first (in russia) mushroom hunting expedition. i didn't bring my camera to the dacha unfortunately, but there were several floating around so i might be able to find some pictures.

well...maybe i have time to talk about the mushroom trip, which was somewhat less entertaining than at the dacha, and literally, far less fruitful. although all of the mushrooms i found were very large and pretty, larisa anatolievna threw them all down the garbage chute and then proceeded to wash her hands for much longer than i imagine was necessary, as if for greater effect. and this is considering that i carefully avoided a bunch of the ones that i knew were poisonous/questionable.

wihch leads me to my major problem with mushroom hunting, at least in the fashion we undertook it. we drove and hour and half on a school bus to someone's dacha, and walked around in the woods and gathered the handfuls of mushrooms we could find. the most successful catches were all small, mostly-already-nibbled, not-terribly-appetizing looking mushrooms. we then had a picnic lunch and drove an hour and a half back to the city on 'roads' such that no one had to worry about accidentally catching a nap. at this point, you can probably imagine that gathering mushrooms was not the primary or even secondary goal of the expedition, which i suppose is fine. you can buy large and very tasty radioactive mushrooms from ukraine all over the place, or you can buy them in markets from babushki who are going to gather them anyway. more than anything, maybe i'm bitter that i didn't find anything edible after two hours in the woods.

on the lighter side, i found two woodpeckers, a pretty river, lots of frogs (we were considering gathering them instead..), and some strange poisonous plant that looked like mint and stung like hell. i pulled one leaf off, and immediately tried to drop it because it felt like it had thorns all over the underside of the leaf. as it turned out, i think it was actually some kind of crazy inland jellyfish poison sap, because there definitely weren't any thorns in my fingers. my hand stung for about an hour and i had a line of swollen little white bumps that looked like insect bites. fortunately for all involved, i managed a miraculous recovery, and am currently feeling fine. but just don't say i didn't warn you that it's probably not a random mint plant in the russian woods.

so i think that's all. i have some pictures for later, hopefully.