Oct 25, 2007

Фотки! (Photo collection, Lake Baikal and Buryatia)

It occured to me, that I haven't really told any of you anything about anything here in Russia. I keep getting questions like, "where are you living?" and "are you taking classes?" and "do you speak russian?" So i decided its time to do some catching up. Or rather, decided its time to write the stuff that travel blogs are actually supposed to talk about.

But that's boring. So instead, I'm just gonna write that stuff as fast as possible, and attach lots of pretty pictures.

I live in an apartment with a single, working woman who's proably around 55 years old. I take five classes here, all in Russian with Russian professors, but taught only to stupid foreigners. The classes are Russian Grammar, Russian Speech, Baikal Studies, History of Siberia, and 20th Century Russian History in Film.

I travel to school and around the city on miniature buses that recklessly weave in and out of traffic, although now that there's snow, I opt for the slightly more sane, actual bus. I eat butter all day, and wear a leather jacket so people don't stare at me. I take balalaika lessons but don't understand the teacher, and I think I'm in the local Rotary club, but i don't understand the meetings. I might do some work at an orphanage in the city, but i don't know where it is, and can't communicate with the children.

I also travel around in my free time. To the east, there is a republic called Buryatia. The Buryats are for the most part Tibetan Buddhists, of Mongolian descent, and smile a lot more than your average Russian. Not quite as far to the east is Lake Baikal, the beautiful-est, natural-est, cool-est place on earth. To the south is Mongolia. I'm going there tomorrow, and coming back in two weeks. And to the north is endless, frozen nothingness, probably really scenic, completely inaccessible, and crawling with bears, and I think tigers, too. Straight down is America.

Also, I've been experiencing all sorts of important personal and intellectual growth, but that stuff is private, so mind your own business.

And enjoy these pictures:

This was on our trip around Buryatia, in the capital Ulan-Udey. It's the world's largest iron head, or something like that. Its hard to tell from this picture, but they gave Lenin more asiatic facial features, so the Buryats would identify with him better.

Buddhism is the most colorful religion of all, by far. This is me, and a bunch of other people, outside what i think is called a Datsan. There are tons of them, almost all built in the last 15 years. I guess communists didn't like religion or something.

This is some bridge somewhere. Steppe, too, and mountains. And a river. See the river?

In the hotel in Ulan-Udey, we lived on the 3nd floor.

This is in a village somewhere. I didn't expect to spend so much time in villages, but it seems like I'm always there. Which is really awesome usually. It just occured to me that i might be charged per megabyte here, as well as time... oh god lets hope not.

Baikal. Beach, and taiga, and behind it steppe, and huge mountains with snow, and a gigantic, crystal clear lake that you can safely drink out of. And later you'll see cliffs. My heart still belongs to Lake Michigan, of course, but... these days, its mostly out of pity.

Sea-cows. They don't know how lucky they are...

The name of this tree was the first word i knew in Russian, but not English. Then I looked it up. It's a larch. They're everywhere, and some guy on the street told me its the only tree with needles that come off in the fall. And they turn a golden yellow color, and there are huge stands of them that I didn't photograph 'cause it wasn't sunny, but look really nice anyway. And there's this weird chewable gum-like stuff that comes from them, too. And the old woman who sold it to me on the side of the highway said it was good for my teeth somehow.

Moderately scenic.

I didn't put these photos in any order, but this is a nice conclusion. Just wait for winter, when the lake freezes.

As for me, I'm off to Mongolia for the next 11 days or so. And I'm late for my balalaika lesson. And i really hope these pictures aren't going to cost me my bus fare home.


Berta said...

Great pictures!

The lake looks really beautiful.

beth said...

i hate to admit this, but siberia looks at least as beautiful as coastal maine.

amusing blog, as usual, and great photos.

hillary said...

keep eating that butter. it's good for the soul.

also, lake Michigan is a giant toilet. but i'm glad you won't forget where you came from. you should probably spend your money on a face tattoo of lake Michigan instead of food.

hillary said...

by the by, i figured out how to leave comments!

Adam said...

I have always wanted to go to Mongolia. You're a lucky man. Enjoy and keep the great pictures coming!

happer said...

With all the butter there, do they have Kentucky Butter cake?

Hope all is well Joey. . .I sent your blog on to Harris.

We'll enjoy reading your blog. . .

Mrs. P

Natasha said...

ося, твая кожaная куртка очень красивая.

и мне очень нравится когда ты описываешь свою ежедневную жызнь.

какой у тебя адрес? мне легче писать вручную.