Sep 2, 2007

Введение (Introduction)

I figure that description should keep out everybody but people I actually know. But don't be fooled! This actually is my blog from Irkutsk, which will be updated every some-amount-of-time, depending on many unknown things that will be sorted out by an unknown date. Sorry that's all I can say now. Also, sorry that this first post doesn't have pictures, I forgot my camera.

I don't have much time for this post. But here's my tentative plan for the blog. Each entry will have some pictures, a few stories, some thoughts and reflections and observations (you can skip that part if you want, but i won't consider you a real friend anymore), and a question at the end. You can think about the question, and then post responses, since i think there's some sort of comment section, if I know blogs. which i don't, since i just started this one five minutes ago, and most of the buttons I've pressed along the way have been in russian, which by the way i don't speak.

Anyway, my post.

They told us to 'expect the unexpected' here... and of course that has proven true to an extent that i never thought possible. example: (also, the story section of the blog): On the flight from moscow to Irkutsk, we flew overnight, so everybody was asleep and/or miserable and completely out of it. So we landed in some city that had mountains all around, lots of rivers, pine trees, etc.... looked like your average siberian city. So myself and two others from our group got off the plane and went to a bus that was waiting to take us to the terminal. but i noticed that all the trucks and equipment said 'Ulan-Udey,' instead of Irkutsk. That's a different city... the capital of a buddhist region east of irkutsk. So i thought it was weird, but i asked some guy in the best russian i could, and he said... at least, I thought he said, "oh yeah, thats where all the equipment was made." made sense to me. kinda. in retrospect its definitely not what he said. Since we were actually in Ulan-Udey.

So the three of us walk into the airport, which is one dirty, smoke-filled room with a couple crumbling communist mosaics and kiosks selling booze and M&Ms, and looked around for the others. and they weren't there... and so we got a bit concerned. I asked some guy, "this may be an odd question, but where am I right now?" and he said Ulan-Udey. so... we waited around a bit longer. no others. and no phones of course, nothing. so we just stayed there at the airport, walking in circles, eating M&Ms, and trying our best to understand how this could have possibly happened.

I know, it just looks like some room at some airport.

After about twenty or thirty minutes the others showed up. I guess the bus that was trucking them to and from the airplanes had mechanical problems or something. maybe it got lost. I asked somebody but i had no idea what their answer meant. There had been bad weather in irkutsk, but the pilot had done a bad job of telling the passengers. or maybe we just didn't understand it when he said it. that kinda happens a lot.

Oh, also another good story. since i can't really understand what people say, like waitresses or police, I usually just say "same for me" as the person who answered a question before me, instead of my own thought. so it puts a lot of trust in the people next to me. And my flight was a dinner-flight, and so i ended up eating the fish-dinner. it was.... well you can assume what it was like. never again.


Thoughts and observations. Well... I'm pretty overwhelmed right now. The city seems completely chaotic, though im sure that will get better with time. my babushka (translation: senorita) seems nice, and very talkative. she stuffs so much food down my throat its incredible. we've had orientation for the past two days, touring the city, learning the rules, how to handle different situations, etc. we've also learned a lot about culture shock, since its particularly rough in these parts apparently. They say that the trip usually starts with euphoria, when every little thing seems amazing and exciting, and even really unpleasant details seem quaint or fun. and then it all turns on you, into depression and resentment... and after a while you adjust and level out. I can already see how that can happen. Right now, it seems like a great old time, to live in a crumbling old apartment building with huge iron doors. all the food is interesting, but i know that will get bad first. I'll be hand-washing my clothes, and using a bathroom that is almost too small to close the door once im inside, and ill be living with a very attentive, protective old woman in a very small space for a very long time. all of that sounds great right now... but come back around in a bit and see the conclusion!

Of course its all intimidating. I know I'll come out all grown up and healthy on the other side, having made a lot of progress on a lot of personal goals of mine.... and anybody who knows me well might understand why this will all be good for me, and how I ended up here in the first place. That is, aside from just being interested in russia and the language, which of course i still am. maybe its the euphoria talking, but this place is fascinating.

In today's Russia, it seems like Lenin himself is trying to sell me appliances.

its hard to say how ill grow from all of it... but im sure it will be in a real good direction. And I know ill have a better view of the world outside the one i know, so thats good.

I'm not sure what ive wrtten about in this entry, really, since im rushing. I have to catch a Marshrutka, which are like, these mini-van type things that drive a million miles an hour through crowds of pedestrians to get me home. They run all the time, but its hard to get on them. you have to yell at the driver to find out where its going, and yesterday our director shoved an old woman out of the way to get me a spot. and... I'm not sure i have that in me.



this week's question: How is it possible, that a country like this... where I have to shove old women out of the way to get on a bus, and where the grocery store is a baffling ordeal with three different check-out counters you need to go to, and everybody seems resigned to the fact that life makes no sense.... how did they put a person into space before we did?

pictures to come. stay tuned.


an update, the next day: two things. one... i need to do a better job of immersing myself, so this definitely won't be too frequent. less than weekly, probably more than monthly, but time will tell. I find myself thinking in english, which does me very little good here. I was at the drug store today buying allergy pills, and when the pharmacist was telling me about the side effects and possibly dependance i can get, i understood about 10% of it.... so that has to change.

second thing. i dont actually have to hand wash my clothes! i found a laundry machine, in the kitchen, that was disguised as a table with a cutting board on it. so thats good news.
The Irkutsk central market. I don't have any good pictures of the city, because when it was all new and exciting, I was too terrified of being mugged to take my time and take good pictures. That passed, though. So more to come.


Berta said...

well hey you. Ill be the first to post on your blog! Sounds like some pretty crazy circumstances. !! A crumbling apartment building, shoving old ladies around. whew. I must say that those circumstances are a bit more...err...challenging than those I encountered in spain. Anyway, more to come in my email!

Berta said...

You. I just read your title. ha.

Berta said...

by the way you can link to my blog from my profile.

Berta said...

and...I havent posted in quite some time...

Harry said...

hey there josef! sounds like Irkutsk (and I'm still having trouble grasping the fact that you are actually there) is going to be some kind of adventure. I hope you get better at Russian so no horrible events befall you, but on the other hand, this blog wil be more interesting if you keep the whole lost-american-tourist thing going. Have mucho fun...


Berta said...

I was looking for more posts.

But then again, I haven't posted in foreverrr....

asher said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
beth said...

are you trying to SHAME me into writing a public comment on your most interesting, amusing, comprehensive blog, the blog that lets us all know that you are still alive and well half way around the globe? bah! i'm a refusnik.