The Christmas-New Years Holiday is complete and we are back to work. We had arrived in Yekaterinburg on December 30 after a 50-hour train ride. We spent two weeks with relatives and enjoyed the colder weather. New Years Eve delivered –28 to –30 below zero weather; this is perfect and just what you expect for Russia.
After 2006 turned (on the Caesarian calendar the normal western New Year) it started to warm up and by the time we went to the train station to come home, the dirt parking lot was a sea of mud. This part of the world has not embraced the use of salt and magnesium chloride to mitigate snow. The thaw which put temps up to a –2 to +5 just caused a huge mess. By the time we returned and got on the train we were relieved that we had not gotten any dirtier that we had –mainly shoes and pant legs.
During the return trip, the Kaz Immigrations and Railroad cops combined forces to be annoying. They inspected/scrutinized our passports/visas on three separate occasions. One fellow finally told us that they were suspicious of us since no Americans usually ride trains; they are in too big of a hurry and take planes. Between the time of the first inspection and the third, they had apparently verified our residence in Almaty and whom Sophie works for. There is also a general crackdown on undocumented workers right now and that has made the immigrations types extra vigilant and pesky. The U.S. should be as intense with its borders!
Finally and this part is for Leslie Raymond who is fastidious and doesn’t like dirt. She is constantly fighting dirt and what Nadia calls “GERMOZ”. Leslie will attest to having one child who was a Messy-Marvin and the other was born with the “Clean Genes” she possesses. Anyway, we had other kids on the return train that proved to be good playmates for Nadia. “Artour” (roll that “R”) was the nicest little boy. On the raw side was a lad named Sergey about 5 years old. He loved the attention that Sophie and Nadia lavished on him, but his lack of parental supervision during the trip (and we are guessing during his day-to-day life, show him to be a little “maug-lee”). Mauglees lack all social graces and typically eat like animals. Remember the mud I talked of earlier and all the people who walked onto the train. Please imagine a filthy carpet running in the train wagon’s corridor and visualize a round Russian bread (like a pretzel) called a “soosh-ski” being rolled down the carpet runner. Visualize finally Sergey tapping the soosh-ski on the bottom of his sandal just before inserting it into him moth – WHOLE – and then chewing it down to be swallowed in one mighty bite.
I’m not squeamish about dirty bathrooms on trains and other such facilities in this part of the world, but Sergey was just amazing. He probably has the highest immunity of anyone on the train due to his consuming all of these microbes in bite-sized doses, but to see the food go into his mouth after coming off the filthy train carpet was disturbing on several levels.
Sophie is fanatic when we travel, trying to keep things sanitary. We all came back healthy thank goodness. Next time I will be traveling with at least two giant cans of Lysol and share one with the likes of Sergey.