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Sunday, October 31, 2004

happy halloween

i'm celebrating from net zone with a crappy russian candy bar, and techno/porn/counter strike enthusiasts. which is to say, clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right. if i set my mind to it, i can simulate just about everything from this northern russian internet cafe.

so we're having our first real snow in yaroslavl'. it started this afternoon around 4 pm and is only now starting to let up. it was one of those first snows in driving wind, so everything is covered with about an inch of snow from one side, which is an interesting first snow. i've taken some pictures already and in all likelihood will head out for a few more after my time here in the palace netzone expires. i can't post the pictures from here, but since i don't have much to do tomorrow i'll probably go to the university and see if i can get into our classroom.

so most of my american cohorts have already left yaroslavl' for their holiday travels and i was looking at a relatively uninteresting night between home and the internet cafe when hunter called out of the blue to say that he'd ended up in yaroslavl'. he and a friend are taking a bus tour with a bunch of russian tourists of the 'golden ring,' which, if you've foolishly been following my posts, you'd know is the circle of old russian cities in the north with lots of rotting old churches. i found them (hunter, bren and the churches) out in the cold at the end of ulitza kirova and we first stopped in at кафе актёр, which was crowded and generally crappy as usual. but i said i'd give it another try, and i did. so we went to my new hangout, МакМастер, the mcdonalds ripoff on my block. they have better fries, three beers on tap, and live a mere 2 minutes by foot from my home. so unless i happen to be in desperate need of a decent sandwich, there's little chance i'm going to make the 10 minute hike to mcdonalds or pay 5 rubles (15 cents? 20 cents?) for a tram.

so as i was saying, we ended up at macmacster and thawed out a bit. apparently it's time for me to buy a better scarf and a hat. after they finish dinner at their hotel, we're going to meet up again and see if we can find something interesting to do on a snowy sunday evening in the provinces....

Friday, October 29, 2004

russian glow bowling

so we've found something new to do in yaroslavl' - about 5 minutes from my house there's a bowling alley (with glow bowling at night). there are all of 6 lanes, and by american standards it's pricey, but split among a handful of people it's not too bad. we've already gone twice and somehow last night we made a few interesting friends and ended up staying there until closing. a-yeah. i ended up talking for a long time with a veteran who served in afghanistan, and who apparently had a military tattoo that meant his unit had killed 300 people. i can't independently confirm that because i didn't see that tattoo, but flash, our resident spook, said that he thought he recognized the tattoo. anyway, apparently in about a week one of the other guys is celebrating the birth of his son (at the bowling alley) and i really can't wait to see what that's going to be like.

and so it turns out i'm an awful bowler. the high point of my night was somehow managing a 125, and throwing two strikes and a spare, which left me one pin away from a free pepsi. if i keep wasting my money on bowling, i'm sure sooner or later i'll get that third strike and maybe even my free pepsi, waitress willing. i should add that the second game i somehow managed to half my score with a whopping 10 gutterballs (well, i stopped counting at 10). we were very ostensibly the only people there who would have benefited from bumpers, although i should add that danny's a sharp bowler. as is our fearless leader simone.

it's an interesting experience - the first time we went (during the day) there were about 30 screaming kids and their handler. the second time, it was an entirely different atmosphere. for one thing, it was already pretty late and they had turned the lights off. the balls kept getting stuck at the back of the lane and the mechanic who had to fix it each time just started hanging out behind us. it was smokey, well it's a bar too. so you get the idea. there is a big roulette machine and as danny noticed, like everywhere else in the world, there was the standard assortment of video games. also, there's a shortage of chairs.

Monday, October 25, 2004

vote, damnit. and come eat my apples.

so i'd just like to remind everyone back home that i'm sitting around in russia and there's nothing i can do about the fact that there's an election in a week. i've already voted. please, please, please drag your friends, neighbors, and neighborhood vagrants to the polls. i really don't know how much longer i can haunt the internet cafe, compulsively checking various polling agencies.

larisa anatolievna showed up last night with two 50 lb sacks of apples from her dacha, and i could really use a little help. last night i had apples, apple pirogis, apple juice, and i think there should be left overs for tonight....so, open invitation for guests. the good news, i guess, is that they're cleaner than our apples because russians don't use pesticides. the bad news, of course, is that we use pesticides for a good reason.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

yaroslavl and burlington

i found out a while ago, but have constantly been forgetting to mention, that yaroslavl' is a sister city of burlington vermont. there's a big rock outside the cafe i ate at last night with a list of all the other cities. i'm not really sure what the program does, or whether there is any formal exchange of people/correspondence etc. but i was sufficiently surprised to see the name of a familiar little town on a rock in central russia to mention it here.

i'm not really sure how yaroslavl' and burlington ended up together, but then, i don't really know what the sister city criteria are. in the center, burlington almost seems like a bigger city because of the higher buildings and what not - yaroslavl' is much more spread out and buildings higher than 5 stories are banned in the center of the town. i live on the ninth (and highest) floor of a building that was built 'accidentally' in the 70's, so i have a great view of the city. yaroslavl' doesn't really have a body of water so vast as lake champlain, but the convergence of the volga and kotorosi rivers and the park in the area has a similar feel. i don't even know what the population of burlington is, but i don't think it's close to the 700,000 or so in yaroslavl'. i'm just glad we're all friends again.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

sox, jon stewart, and moscow...

so the red sox came back from 0-3 to beat the yankees. first team in history to lose the first three and come back to win the last four. it has to be the start of something, it has to be the start of something....

jon stewart. i'm not going to get into lengthy commentary because virtually every politics blog on the net has been all over this story, but if you hadn't heard about jon stewart's appearance on crossfire - well you're probably in the middle of russia too. you can read the transcript or if you're fortunate enough to have a real internet connection at your disposal, you can watch the video. here's a random excerpt:


CARLSON: Jon, Jon, Jon, I'm sorry. I think you're a good comedian. I think your lectures are boring.
STEWART: Yes.
CARLSON: Let me ask you a question on the news.
STEWART: How old are you?
CARLSON: Thirty-five.
STEWART: And you wear a bow tie.
(LAUGHTER)
(APPLAUSE)
CARLSON: Yes, I do. I do.
STEWART: So this is...
CARLSON: I know. I know. I know. You're a...
(CROSSTALK)
STEWART: So this is theater.
CARLSON: Now, let me just...
(CROSSTALK)
CARLSON: Now, come on.
STEWART: Now, listen, I'm not suggesting that you're not a smart guy, because those are not easy to tie.
CARLSON: They're difficult.
(LAUGHTER)
STEWART: But the thing is that this -- you're doing theater, when you should be doing debate, which would be great.
BEGALA: We do, do...
(CROSSTALK)
STEWART: It's not honest. What you do is not honest. What you do is partisan hackery. And I will tell you why I know it.
CARLSON: You had John Kerry on your show and you sniff his throne and you're accusing us of partisan hackery?
STEWART: Absolutely.
CARLSON: You've got to be kidding me. He comes on and you...
(CROSSTALK)
STEWART: You're on CNN. The show that leads into me is puppets making crank phone calls.
(LAUGHTER)
STEWART: What is wrong with you?
jon stewart is a champ. so, sorry for all the scrolling down. i got carried away with the cut/paste...but i can never really trust you to click my links, can i? right.

and so we have yet another vacation coming up - the first week of november (so oct 30-nov 8, counting the weekends). but we're really all working very hard here. roman called me from moscow last night and invited me to come visit him, which i'm planning on doing as the rest of the americans here are planning travels in russia and abroad. that's something to look forward to. if anyone else will be in moscow - let me know.

i guess one more interesting story before i go. well i don't know, i liked it. i was walking home from net zone after trying to catch the baseball game, and i ducked into this little store built into one of the city's old fortress towers. two guys in the store noticed my accent and started asking me questions and the like. anyway that's kind of the one nice thing about being in yaroslavl - a lot of people are genuinely interested in talking. they closed the little magazine in my honor and we sat around inside and talked for about 3 hours. the last hour and a half was dedicated to discussing the peculiarities of russian and american vulgarity, and the problems in translation. among the things i might have agreed to: going to shinnik's last football match, going to their billiards club, and going out with them again yesterday. i don't really know, it was getting late. so we'll see how that turns out. i'm am tired. so if you happen to me my favourite londoner, apologies. i'm going home to sleep. but i'll write back soon.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

the belarusian KGB

back in the u-s-, back in the u-s-s-r!

as usual, more great news from the former soviet union. the KGB in Belarus has arrested Illya Mafter, an employee of George Soros' Open Society Institute.
Belarusian KGB chief Leonid Yerin said late Monday that Mafter was arrested on fraud charges after being suspected of having "misappropriated some of the funds entrusted to him," the Interfax news agency said. "We are perplexed by the arrest of Ilya Mafter, who is working on a project benefiting Belarus and its people," said Aryeh Neier, the Open Society Institutute's president. "We urge the Belarusian authorities to release him without delay. The OSI is extremely concerned about his health and welfare."

The Belarus branch of the Soros Foundation closed in 1997, citing government harassment including the expulsion of its director and the seizure of its assets. OSI said Mafter was working on a project in collaboration with the Belarusian Ministry of Education to help expand Internet service. OSI's program in Belarus aims to provide Internet service to a broad range of organizations in the former Soviet republic of 10 million. UNDP administers the program. A report issued by the KGB said that the U.S. citizen was accused of involvement in fraud against Belarus' VELCOM cell phone provider, Interfax reported.

The news agency later quoted unidentified KGB sources as saying that Mafter is accused of inflicting $100,000 worth of damage to Belarus' communications providers, including the Beltelecom company, by organizing "illegal communications services" using the Internet. Mafter is suspected of "causing damage to property" and "working as an entrepreneur without registration or permission," Interfax quoted the KGB sources as saying....

Belarus' authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko has ruled Belarus with an iron fist since his first election in 1994, stifling the opposition and free media, and putting his nation on an isolated, anti-Western path. He pushed through a constitutional referendum Sunday that scrapped presidential term limits, allowing him to run again in 2006.


HA!

the RED SOX.

'watching' the sox at net-zone

i'm currently in net zone waiting for the red sox - yankees game to start so i can follow it online. it's not really the same, but options are pretty limited in yaroslavl' at midnight for baseball. net zone doesn't sell hot dogs, but they have beer, sukhariki, and about 30 people playing counter strike loudly enough to simulate the stadium experience. i don't know if i'll be able to bring myself to stay for the whole game...the way they're going i might not get to class on time in the morning. anyway, i'm not going to make any predictions publicly.

and a strange phenomenon, which i think is a symptom of my latent homesickness - i've started eating at mcdonalds. Макдоналдс. Биг-Тейсти. I've had lunch there the past two days, and it isn't exactly the most convenient of lunch options from the university. I should add that i've probably eaten in macdonalds in america a grand total of 3 times in the past 5 years, maybe fewer. i always thought that the big mac had tomatos, ketchup, mustard, and onions...you know, the works. but in russia no dice. i've turned to the 'big tasty' burger, which i'd never heard of until i got to yaroslavl'. it's a genuinely large hamburger with lettuce, tomato, and some kind of tasty-sauce. as it turns out, mcdonalds in yaroslavl' (i've only been to the larger of the two) isn't tremendously interesting because for the most part it's exactly like a mcdonalds in america (although cleaner and better staffed than most). you have to pay for ketchup. that was sort of odd. i think it's 7.5 rubles for a packet of ketchup. that's about 25 cents USD.

and somehow i forgot that 12-8= 4. which puts the sox game into tomorrow morning, my time. i'd just delete the whole post, but it's funnier for everyone this way. i could have just (finally) gotten some sleep and checked out the game from the university tomorrow morning when it will (probably) be almost over. unless they play for 18 innings....

Monday, October 18, 2004

suzdal'

So yesterday morning i left my apartment at 6:40 (still dark) after a few insufficient hours of sleep and dragged myself (on a sunday) to the university to catch a bus to suzdal'. Suzdal' is a very old russian village on the 'golden ring,' of which yaroslavl' is also a part. It's a couple kilometers from end to end, and has more or less been preserved as it was - the whole town was declared a museum during soviet times. I was going to refer you to the wikipedia article on suzdal', but for whatever reason no one has gotten around to writing it yet. And let me tell you folks, your lazy narrator is not going to be the one to do it.

We rode by bus for a little under four hours, most of which were punctuated by intermittent commentary from our professor over the bus microphone. we passed through yaroslavl', vladimirovna, and ivanovna oblasti, but the view was mostly dachas. sleep would have been nice, but you know, the history of open fields is cool too. to his credit, andrei yurievich (professor) did point out some interesting buildings and towns and the like, and it was certainly better than the movie we watched on the way back. (van helsing? has anyone else seen this??)

anyway it turned out to be a fairly long day, but our professor is a fun and interesting guy and he went out of his way to explain a lot of things to lelia and me when he thought we were having trouble with the tour guide. we were only inside one of the churches, most of which are closed up for the winter. in the church where i took pictures of the frescos we heard a traditional russian orthodox choir (or group of 6 guys. i don't know what's traditional, they just had traditional-looking outfits). they sang entirely without musical accompaniment, which is unusual sounding, and very pretty. i wish i remembered more about the individual buildings, but the only things i really took away from the architecture excursion were pictures.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

colder

it's already getting colder in yaroslavl' - the past few days the neon clock/thermometer on the way to the university has been calling it a bit above freezing. here in 'the classroom' we had to decide (until today) whether we wanted the space heater or the 5 intermittently working stone age computers with internet. so if you've seen a lot of typos in the correspondence home, it's not because we're stupid. it's because we're wearing mittens. this morning someone found another space heater which apparently we can run simultaneously with the computers and no risk of explosions or fires. my entire right side is currently basking in the warmth.

so what else is new in yaroslavl', you ask? not a lot. i saw a woman out walking with an empty baby stroller this morning. i saw that pidgeons do get run over sometimes. i finally found a mainstream course in the university - 5 weeks or so after it began. it's on the history of architecture in russia, and while it wasn't the first class i ran to sign up for, it fit my schedule and i like the professor. on sunday we're meeting at an unfortunate hour in front of the university for an excursion to suzdal to see churches, so if you're a fan of old russian orthodox churches, you know where to turn for pictures monday morning.

i stopped reporting on the locomotiv's trials and triumphs, but they've been winning more than they've been losing lately, and generally playing a lot better. they beat lada 4-2 last night (i watched from home) and they beat spartak 4-1 (i think) last friday. and then there are my two teams back in boston....

anyway i'm heading home. instinct. it's heated, and there is food. more soon.



Monday, October 11, 2004

sochi.

Pictures from Sochi are up. Here's the link.

So, as I sit back home on the eve of another monday, it occurs to me that there's probably no such thing as a relaxing vacation if it involves travel. Travel into, out of, or within Russia is no exception, not surprisingly. We had a relatively catch-free trip both to and from Sochi, but there was, I’d say, excessive waiting around at all junctures. We met at around midnight at Yaroslavl's main train station, had a few chances at sleep on the 4-hour train ride to Moscow, and then emptied out to stand around and wait for the metro to open up. Breakfast was at the American Bar and Grille at Mayakovskaya, which was great. Recommended, even. Maybe a bit expensive, but not bad for Moscow, and nothing but good for the vaguely homesick American. Unfortunately, at 6ish am we were late for the dinner menu, but i'm planning to get back there sometime for an allegedly-genuine hamburger. Also, they had old Larry Bird games on the TV set for most of the time we were there, which was great. I love those guys.

So travel is boring. We got to Sochi calmly on an entirely respectable Aeroflot flight. I guess I'd expected a lot worse from Aeroflot, but it was only typically-cramped and we got a relatively complete (and I thought tasty) meal for a two hour flight. So thumbs up, Aeroflot. I bet you thought the airline of the former Soviet Union would be lousy too. Yeah, but it was ok. At the airport, we were greeted by a gauntlet of taxi drivers, which was great. The first ones were ok; they played it cool and, well, let us keep walking if we didn't want a taxi. After the first 4 or so on each side, they were all a bit more desperate. As if maybe we had changed our mind after the first 18 tempting offers and were really deciding we didn't want to walk to the hotel after all. After the gauntlet, there was a handful of other cabbies milling around, not even bothering to ask. They were good too, and I'd have gone with them if we weren't all going to the hotel together on a marshrut thing. Which is to say, a van. Also, one of maybe three or four really great points in my trip, and I don't even mind mentioning it, was at the airport. Right after we got in, a group of 15 or 20 really-pretty-going-on-modelish girls landed (2 or 3 of whom...) and were milling around together. I don't know where they came from or why, but I'm positive I've never seen anything like it.

Anyway our luggage came shortly and we were quickly whisked away within some 15 minutes, or at least before we could find our senses. I'd feel bad in retrospect that nothing came of it, but even the girls in our group were kind of standing around gawking.

So Sochi. It was warm and sunny and one of those airports where you walk around outside the airplane instead of through some big gate. I really like those. The whole thing actually reminded me a lot of Mexico in that the airport was pretty second class, everyone was smoking inside, the cabbies looked hungry, and there were palm trees half heartedly planted around the parking lot. Also on the ride over I saw a guy jackhammering in sandals, which is sort of pushing the bounds of what i'd consider second-world. Anyway, putting it that way makes it sound as if I didn't like it. But I did. It was charming even, in a tourist-town sort of way, especially before we got into the Sochi-part of Sochi.

We checked into the hotel late afternoonish and had a "free day" to wander around and want sleep after our 15 or so hours on the road. We met up with the kids from Moscow, exchanged cell phone numbers, ate dinner, had a beer down by the beach, and went to sleep fairly early.

Day 2

That's dramatic isn't it? We all got up early, had the first of decreasingly tolerable breakfasts at the hotel breakfast restaurant, and got on the bus to Красная Поляна for our first of two hikes. Little did we know, it was cold and rainy there, and at the top of the mountains where we were to be hiking it was snowing. We were all in shorts, t-shirts, and the like. As an afterthought I grabbed the rain jacket moms bought for me before the trip to russia, which turned out to be really sharp. Our guides told us that it was going to be around freezing at the top and we'd be out hiking for about 4 hours, and suggested that we head into the gear shop for overpriced tourist-outfitting. Your tempered new-englander made the right choice and decided to stick with the shorts, t-shirt, rain jacket combo which fortunately proved to be adequate (despite the weather) once we got rolling.

We had a pretty considerable ride (almost an hour, I think) on a series of four chairlifts, which brought us to the top of the mountains where we would be hiking. The pictures from this part more or less speak for themselves - it was incredibly foggy, and although that was gorgeous in and of itself, the view we missed (but caught on the way down) was an entirely different story. I ended up being the odd-man out at the back of the line for the chairlift, and had the good fortune of riding up with one of our three guides, one very charming Vika. We talked about skiing, life at Krasnaya Polyana, the mountains, the fog. She was great.

At the top of the four lifts was a little base camp with a small cafe/bar. The drink of the day was Глинтвейн, which I've given a capital G in awe and respect. Hang onto your seats, folks. It's warm-going-on-hot red (fortified?) wine with mulling spices like the ones we throw in apple cider back home. And a chunk of orange. It was spectacular, and between apple cider and glintvein (so ugly transliterated...) I don't see why anyone needs hot chocolate. Anyway, after two cups of it and two snickers (не тормози!), I was more than ready to face the light snow, freezing weather, and whatever else the mountains of the Southern Caucuses had to throw at me. For the geographers in the group, we were hiking along (and for all I know across) the border with Georgia. I guess here I'll just cut the narrative out a little and let the pictures speak for themselves. Anyone who's hiked/photographed big open places knows that pictures never suffice, but there you have it. It was beautiful, and a great hike. Our guides were very sharp, even in the thick fog.

After we got back to the starting point, we all rode down on the chair lift, which was cranked up to full throttle and rocking unbelievablely because we were late. And hey, everyone wanted home. I rode back down with Vika, and the conversation picked up as it left off. At the bottom we returned our ski-poll-walking-sticks and went to check out the local bee farm. Apparently the area and Krasnaya Polyana in particular is famous for its honey, and we were treated to a couple hot samovars of tea and various jars of honey to sample before a brief tour of the bee hives. We had dinner nearby in a very Southern-US themed place, complete with a poster of Russia's man-of-the-people Vlad Zhirinovsky. Exhausted and sated, we all got on the bus and dozed off on the way back to Sochi (to the extent that provincial Russian roads permit dozing off). The bus driver had one of the girls answer his cell phone when his wife called. Which is to say, he asked the girls, “Which one of you speaks the best Russian?” and then gave her the phone. I can't imagine why anyone would do that to himself, but he did it, and it was great.

The next day was a "free day," which is to say we had nothing planned as a group. All the days were technically free days, as no one was required to come along on the hikes and a few of our best and brightest deferred on both occasions. I decided to skip out on a boating expedition that morning because I’m not nuts about boating or waking up early. I didn't do much in particular during the day - sat out around the beach during the day to catch what glimpses of the sun I could. It was 50% cloudy, and somehow the sun managed to dance the dance and stay behind them. In the evening Rohan and I had a few friends over for a drink, and I'm told we got to bed sometime before sunrise.

So this is already heading into day four, and we met up with two of our three guides from the trip to Krasnaya Palyana (alas, minus Vika) for a trip to a really gorgeous canyon, the name of which I forgot. You'll never know what it's called. I was, we'll say, still feeling a little under the weather from the previous evening's festivities, but I was alive enough to enjoy the scenery, if not the hiking. We did a little rock climbing in the morning. jay fitzgerald if you're still reading, you'll be happy to know that you could speak english to russians about climbing and they'd understand everything...bouldering, traverse. russian words! Боулдеринг. I'm not sure how they'd spell it. I explained to Sergei the idea of buildering (and the word play). Anyway, I'm a lousy climber and I didn't do very well, but it was fun all the same. I think I'm going to let the handful of pictures from this expedition more or less do the talking because my memories of the day are somewhat tainted. In the evening we had a tasty bbq-style dinner, and there was an eagle tied to a post and a little bar-store with old guns from the great fatherland war. Which is to say WWII. I asked why they had guns and an eagle. The guns, they told me, were from the war, and the eagle, well, they bought it when it was a baby. Isn't that why you have your eagle?

So we rode back home, and I went to bed at 7 pm. I slept until 9 am, and awoke to another "free day" in Sochi. I should add that Sochi as a resorty-sort of place is not a place I'd run back to. Certainly from American there are a billion closer and more likeable places with, for example, sand beaches. Even from Russia, a trip to Turkey or Egypt is probably cheaper and relatively more interesting (if you don’t have to worry about the visa/passport hassles). We hit Sochi at the very very end of the tourist season, and things for the most part were already shutting down. Again, this isn't to say that I didn't have a good time...just that after another couple 'free days' I think I might have managed to exhaust all nearby entertainment. We had free bracelets at the local water park on the beach, and I was one of a couple in our group that managed to get down to the desk in time to collect mine. I sat around at the water park for a few hours in the late morning, and then went out looking for comrades, as no one else had arrived. We slept on the beach and swam in the sea. I had an interesting conversation with a fellow on the breakwater who was collecting snails for dinner. Josh, Danya and I returned to the water park for a few rides on the water slides and then headed back up to the hotel for dinner.

I should definitely mention the restaurant at which I ate the majority of my meals. It was (I think...) either turkish or kurdish cuisine. Cuisine is an obnoxious word. Basically when you show up for dinner you have a choice of either chicken, lamb, or beef. You get a skillet with fried meat/vegetables...I'm not a culinary expert. It was all very tasty. I recommend the lamb. I always recommend the lamb when it's coming from somewhere south of Russia. Also we had hands down the most friendly and accommodating waitress in Russia, and that in and of itself was a treat. So yeah, while i'm writing third class restaurant reviews, here's a thumbs up for the restaurant 'magnolia' on kurortnaya prospekta in Sochi. Ask for the girl who likes chatty Americans.

That night I went back down to the beach with friends and much to everyone's surprise, we ran into the handful of other Americans we were there with. Our ever personable leader Simone had already made the acquaintance of one of the shopkeepers and one of his patrons when I arrived, and we ended up hanging out around one of the kiosks for an hour or so, talking about politics in America. The shopkeeper closed up, and I ended up talking with Genya (I think that's what Simone said his name was. He and I didn't end up personally trading names.) for another three hours or so until a bit past 2 am. I'm not sure exactly what he did or who he was, but I was more than willing to listen. He referred to himself a few times as a 'pedagogue.’ Suffice it to say he was one of the more interesting people I've met in my twenty years, and I'm not even going to try to list or remember everything we talked about. He was probably in his late 50's, or early 60's. We talked and walked on the beach for about four hours, he bought be a couple czech beers, and taught me that no one should ever have to pay for a toilet. There were some other things, but you kind of had to be there.

And so yeah. That was hands down the high point of my trip, and easily among the better evenings i've spent in Russia. Friday morning we were up again early for a breakfast that was just foolishly unappealing. I seriously would have eaten that egg thing from the first day every day if they'd offered it. It was fine, even tasty, and there's something to be said for consistency in mediocrity.

The rest of the day was long and traveling, but somewhat easier than the trip to Sochi. There was no throng of models at the airport, but we did get to go through a bunch of security. Somehow Russian domestic security is a lot more relaxed than in America. I don't know why or how, but I know that it is. Also another interesting note - when our captain landed in Moscow, the whole plain burst out in applause. I'm not a frequent air traveler, so I don't know if this is common, but I'd never seen it before. It didn't happen when we flew to Sochi, or into Moscow from Germany (and let me tell you, I couldn't even tell when the Lufthansa captain touched down). So I don't know whether it was an expression of relief? genuine applause at the (in my opinion average) landing, or what? or what?

And so we had what was billed on the schedule as a free afternoon in Moscow. By the time we stored our baggage at the Yaroslavl' train station, it was already four-ish and we had to be back at the terminal by 7:45. I was unsuccessful in contacting the handful of people i know in Moscow, and really I'm to blame because I forgot to call people ahead of time. Sorry Roman. Sorry Hunter. Sorry Emma. I called your cell phone, and your mom courteously reminded me that you're actually in America at the moment.

I wandered around and ate my first meal at a Sbarros. Sbarro? I don't even remember how it's spelled. There's one in Biddeford, ME. Oh, Biddeford. I bought my second russian copy of Erofeev's Москва-Петушки, and sat around the train station with decidedly less literate russian drinkers (than erofeev...) and read until 8. unremarkable train ride home. can you tell i'm getting tired? irregular capitalization. incomplete sentences. you're handling it well, though.

The cabbie in Yaroslavl' ripped us off, and I was too tired to argue with him for long. I got home and Larisa, someone bless her, was waiting up for me (midnight-ish) to warm up food and tea.

So I guess I can end it there. My trip to Sochi. It was a good one. I’m positive that I forgot a lot, whole days maybe, but the abridged version is always a trick. I didn't send any postcards because i'm a bad person and I didn't have your addresses.

Friday, October 08, 2004

back from sochi

well i got into yaroslavl' from sochi around midnight last night, and only very recently woke myself from a long nap. oh wait, that was jackhammering under my window. for the time being, suffice it to say the weather was nice and i had a great time. it'd take me another week to write about everything that happened, but after the weekend i'll post some pictures and stories. also net zone has hiked the rate for unregistered users, so i guess i'm finally going to have to tote the passport down here and get myself registered. i'm not sure why a free registration gets me discounted internet access, but what the hell i'm not organizing an insurgency.

anyway, more soon. i'm going to read the news and my email. did anything happen?

Friday, October 01, 2004

leaving for sochi

i'm off for sochi by way of moscow late tonight, and i likely won't be around a computer for the coming week. i don't know exactly what we're doing, but hiking/beach/'jeeping'/and rafting are all on the list as of now. more soon.