Tonight we board the train for the coastal town of Listvyanka on the shores of Lake Baikal. We will arrive sometime tomorrow evening. So in the interim we will have no wi-if connectivity. I thought I would spend this blog to tell you about average Russian life as we have learned along the way.
The young people are very curious. Most have learned some English in school so if they hear you speak or hear you attempting to speak Russian they often offer to help you or stand close to hear you speak English. They want to know about the states and NYC is a definite hoped for destination. Everywhere we have been the music played is in English. For the young people it is modern pop. The dress of young people is typical of what can be seen in any place in the states. They love their cell phones. Tee shirts with English sayings are common but the funny thing is that they don't always make sense in the context of the wearer.
Middle aged people often seem tired or stressed. They hardly earn enough money to cover their expenses. These are frugal people. Many families live in combined households, I.e. two families share one 700 square ft. Apartment. Because they live in apartments which they rent or if lucky enough own, storage is an issue. Thus, everywhere we have travelled there are thousands and thousands of rusted out storage sheds side by side close to apartment buildings. If they have had any success either by job, savings or inheritance they own a dacha. Dachas are typically very small cabins or shacks in the country. Almost all of the dachas have enough land for a garden and a banya. A banya is located in a small outbuilding that is basically a steam bath operation. One goes in and becomes steamed up, goes out and is whipped with small dried birch limbs with dead leaves still attached. This whipping brings the blood to the surface of the sweaty body and then you either go back into the banya or jump into a cold water body or snow and then return to the banya. Dick and I are scheduled for a banya experience in a few days....I'll let you know all about it....Parents worry about their kids especially whether they will finish their education because that is the only way one gets ahead here. Without an education the wages are menial.
Older Russians are reserved and stern. They are polite but do not put themselves out for foreigners. The older women appear especially devout in their religion. They are vocal if they feel something is amiss and we have seen them take younger people to task for their dress or for their childcare. They often live with their children in a multigenerational household. They take care of the household chores because everyone else who can is out working. They may be a pensioner.
As a whole the people are very proud of their country. Some of the older people seem to yearn for the old days, the younger people seem like any young person in the world, wanting to travel and experience life.
The countryside is lovely for the most part. One does see individual homes but they are more like a dacha, small and well worn. Roads are mostly dirt ones in the villages. Services are very limited. There is a very good highway system here. People drive on the same side of the street as we do but cars may have steering wheels on the left or the right depending upon which country it was imported from. Most people strive to have a car and there are millions of cars, trucks, etc. We have also seen boats, skidoos, motor scooters etc.
Public transportation appears very efficient. Russia works by the clock. So one needs to be on time and can expect to get to where one wants to go on the exact predicted time of arrival. There is rigidity regarding time.
Most rivers are polluted and one cannot drink or eat the fish from the rivers. In fact, like many countries around the world, there is no potable water. So one needs to have bottled water or boiled water available. One keeps ones mouth shut tight when showering and brushes ones teeth with the help of bottled water.
Vodka is generally cheap and ok. Wine is very very expensive and usually lousy. Don't ask for a mixed drink....you know that story.
Food is interesting. There is basically no distinction between types of foods by meal. It is all the same. Cucumbers are probably the most favorite food and are sold and served everywhere. It is the prime crop in every garden. Dick says the milk here is very good. What you may think is beef hamburger may in fact be kangaroo. Chicken is often overcooked and tough, same with pork. Vegetables are fresh, well seasoned and cooked very well. Spaghetti is often served with just butter and Parmesan cheese not other kinds of sauces. We have tried various dishes so we are experimenting but after a while.....did I tell you that we have both lost weight.....not a bad thing. Our Lipton cup of soup the other night was heavenly.....
Are we having a good time? You bet. It has thus far been a great experience. We are about half way through our journey and feel like it is going too fast. But we so look forward to the second half.....