Jan 15, 2008

Вторая Глава: МЕСТЬ (Chapter 2: THE VENGEANCE)

You know how Gmail scans your emails and thoughts for 'keywords' in order to direct certain advertisements at you? Well yesterday they found a particularly fitting one. It was the big one on the top of the pages, and said "Ride the Trans-Siberian Railroad - Don't miss the adventure of a lifetime!"

It was funny, 'cause just that morning, I'd gotten off of that very train here in Irkutsk, and I hadn't even realized it was the adventure of my lifetime. Unless by "adventure," they meant "four days in a tiny train compartment with six drunk Ukrainian soldiers, screaming filthy anecdotes at you round the clock, even after you make it very clear that you only understand a quarter of the words." But I guess you have to be concise in advertising.

Anyway, I've made it back from my adventure to my home-ridiculously-far-away-from-home here in Irkutsk, and wow. This country is huge. Of course there's no way to know for sure, but I'd say it's at least as big as America. And I made it all the way to Moscow on the train, then escaped to Scandinavia, and then saw more of Western Russia before another train ride back here. And all of that with only one enormous problem, plus tons of pretty pictures, on my brand new Canon 7.1 megapixel Thief-magnet. Those come later though, complete with stories and reflections as you've all come to expect. First you have to read about my problems. It is a blog, after all. I'll try to keep it short.

I lost my migration card, which is this little piece of paper Russia invented to make me feel unwelcome. Basically, you write your name on it at the airport, and then you can't stay in any one place for more than three days without "registering," which means having a guy in an impressive uniform glower at you, then put a circular stamp on your card. Nobody tells you this at the airport, but if you lose the card, you can't live in Russia, nor can you leave Russia, and if you do, you will have trouble getting a new visa to return. New cards only exist at border crossings, which as you might imagine, can be very far away. There's another delightful passage in our Middlebury Orientation pamphlet you've heard so much about, it reads something like this:

"As for the question of what to do if the Migration Card is lost, the Russian government has not provided an answer."

Today is day 2 in Irkutsk, and after day 3 I need to leave for the Mongolian border if its not sorted out. There, I'll probably be able to cross, but will only get back in if I can smooth-talk my way into a new migration card. And I've only been here four months - I only smooth-talk at the second-grade level, at best. Even off the train, the 'adventure of a lifetime' continues!


So I hope you enjoyed Chapter 2: THE VENGEANCE - Come on back for Chapter 3: MONGOLIAN WINTER! Read along with me as I claw my way out of a bureaucratic black-hole in the land of Genghis Khan! Feel the sting of the negative-50-degree nights and the howling wind of the Steppe, ride with me on the world's toughest horses from yurt to yurt in search of food, and learn with me, as I take correspondance courses in Russian language from the University of Ulan-Bator. Chapter 3 will leave you cold, hungry, and uninterested, as our hero fills out form after form at Russian customs, all from his new home in the empty Mongolian border town of Kiakhta. DON'T MISS IT!


geoff said...

i haven't laughed that hard in a long time. joey, on the train ride back to mongolia, DEFINITELY upgrade to business class.

hillary said...


my sister's friend went to russia to visit her russian-american immigrant friend who was living in russia last year (st. petersburg) and one of her stories involved the two of them having to sleep on stairs at a train station. a drunk russian man who was continuously taking swigs out of a vodka bottle kept putting his hand on her knee, and every time she would smack it away and say "NO" he would mumble something, in russian of course (which she did not speak), and then take another swig from his vodka.

point is, don't let russian men touch your knee. if necessary, strike for your rights. they like that there.

Kam said...

Where did you learn to write like this? It's so VULGAR.

And by VULGAR I mean hilarious.

I'm glad you're swinging your new "Canon 7.1 megapixel Thief-magnet" around, mostly so I can selfishly enjoy the pictures you post. Which by the way are awzum.

Do tell how this whole migration card fiasco works out. That is, if you have Internet access in the Gulag.

- Kam -