Wednesday, September 26, 2012

A Siberian Train Ride

I had to go back to Central Siberia.  Once again: Siberia is huge.  From the Lake, I took the train into the Central-East.  My hosts there was a Russian couple in their late 20's.  The guy was a microbiologist and had a PhD in biophysics.  The girl was a dancer and an entreprenuer as well.  What I found most interesting about her was her cheeriness and vibrant spirit.  She sang whenever she did anything.  And in her - even though she did not know it - I found someone who had the power to cast out sadness with a simple song.

I'll talk more about these two later, but when I left them, I took my Siberian train ride in.  So far, I've had three train rides in Russia, all spanning overnight stays - all bunking me in a sardine cart.  This is about my train ride back into Central Siberia.

You have to book train tickets early if you want a lower bunk.  Lower bunks are the way to go on a Siberian train ride because the upper bunk is more crammed for space and it's harder to access your gear.  Each cart had six beds four on one side of the isle (two on the bottom and two on the top) and on the other side of the isle there was one on the bottom and one on the top.  Somehow, by luck, I finally got a lower bunk with a table.  I didn't know it would turn into a battle for space.

I sat down and across from me was an elderly Russian couple.  On the other side of the Isle was a Central Asian.  At one of the stops, came two more Russians.  One sat on the other side of the isle.  He reminded me of a dorky looky teenager with glasses - only now he was probably in his 30's.  The guy who had the upper bunk had a build of a washed up boxer.  He had shaved blonde hair and icy blue eyes.  He had the upper bunk

He took a look at the upper bunk, and he took a look at me.  He took a look once again at the size of the upper bunk, and he took a look at my small body.  He sat next to me and started blabbering Russian.

I just said in Russian, "I don't understand.  I don't speak Russian."

He then said, "Well, you speak something and understand some things."

I replied, "Very little."

He went on and on blabbering in Russian loudly but laughing too.  He started pointing to his body, which was massive and getting a bit of pot belly at once.  He pointed to my body, which was lean and small and stressed the difference.  He kept using the Russian word: Look!

"Look!  Look!" he would shout.

So I shouted back, "Look!  Look!"  and pointed at my train ticket.

At this point, the elderly couple and the two in the isle started laughing.  I think the elderly couple knew then who was going to win this battle.

So - he started up and begged and pleaded to switch beds.  I asked for money.  He pulled out $12 and $24.  I refused them all and said, "Not enough."  They all started laughing again.  Perhaps - if money was a main driver of my heart - he would have won then.

I said I would trade him my bed though if he bought me four liters of vodka.  At that, the passengers started laughing.

I acknowledge he was big and persistent and loud but jovial.  Yet, it was still like a fierce wind blowing against a small statute.  I didn't move.

So - he gave up.  He finally started asking about me.  I told him I was a recent law graduate from Los Angeles.  He then grabbed my right hand without even asking me.  He placed it in his left hand and traced my palm with the index finger of his right.  I felt like a doll's hand was being placed in a bear's paw.  He had rough palms, and I later found out he worked at a Siberian oil rig.

He was reading my palm.  But I had no idea what he was saying.  I did finally understand that he thought I'd only live until 38, unless I gave him my bed.  I said, "That's ok.  Good age to die."  And the passengers again started laughing.  I felt like I was in some old I Love Lucy comedy.  He also said I'd have a beautiful wife, and made tongue movements and kissing movements like a snake.  I understood.  The passengers started laughing again.

So - he gave up.  He went and bought me a beer, conceding his defeat.  I taught him how to say cheers, and he then pointed to a pretty girl in the cart behind us.  He started rambling again.  I understood one word and said it - kind of loud, "VAGINA?!"

At this point, my Russian said, "SHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!"

It was too late; the grandmother started laughing and so did the grandfather and the rest of the passengers.  The people in the other cart looked at us and wondered what was so funny.

I said, "You like her vagina?!"

And he said, "SHHHHHHHHH!!!!"  And in his broken English, he only said, "You!  Girl for you!  Not me!  You!"

I smiled and said, "Pasha (Paul) thinks your crazy."

And with this line, we just kept drinking more beer.

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