"European Russia 2006" story # 5

Staryy Oskol, Russia           July 25, 2006

My stay in the Russian town of Staryy Oskol ended on July 6. The stay had lasted nearly eight weeks - or, about a month less than I wouldīve hoped.
     During that time, I saw Nadezda and Elina nearly five days a week. I love dark-haired girls, and I love long-haired girls, so I sometimes felt like Elina had fallen into my arms from the sky. She was sometimes very playful and entertaining. Her dream is to make it in show-business, in America if she ever gets there. I would like to help her with this dream.
     Cinnamon-haired Nadezda was the one most responsible for making my stay there nice. She introduced me to the poor family of her friend, a family made of young parents and a squeakingly-tiny three-year-old named Liza. We played chess and other games all night in their falling-apart apartment. Sharp-smiling father Zenia flew with delight to tell me joke after joke after Russian-simple-living joke.
     Poor Nadezda had to translate them all for me. Hereīs one:
     "A high-ranking German official goes to the cabinet in his office and opens it, only to find the most-famous Russian spy standing there.
     "'What are you doing here?' asks the German.
     "'Iīm waiting for my train,' says the spy.
     "'Oh,' says the German, and he returns to his desk. A moment later, he gets up and returns to the cabinet, only to find the spy no longer there.
     "'Hmm,' thinks the German. 'I guess he mustīve caught his train."
     Nadezda later introduced me to her ten-year-old niece, Violeta.
     Nadezda has beautiful, confused-but-trying-to-be-strong eyes. Violetaīs were also blue, with a wizardīs potence. Violeta immediately came and stood in front of me. We conversed, she bravely tried her basic English from time to time, and it was big me who was intimidated by little her. She didnīt fear the silence between us. She just stood there staring, as if she was stronger than steel.
     Nadezdaīs dream is to somehow acquire a lot of money then build a wonderful place for orphans.
     I think the girls were sad to have me leave. Their town isnīt a place with a lot of hope. Elina told me not to forget them. Of course I wonīt. Nadezda told me to write a letter to her soon. I will.

Other than the good times with the girls, my stay in Staryy Oskol wasnīt that wonderful.
     I lacked a lot of the components of healthy living. I guess that traveling is always less healthy than standard living.
     I wasnīt able to work regularly. My living situation, with a family, was often terribly uncomfortable, due to my relations with them. And I didnīt have a phone - something which I now believe is essentially a basic human need.
     I had to leave. The biggest of many problems was: I had nowhere to go!!!
     My Russian language abilities were now quite decent. Several of my travel stories had finally been translated into Russian, and I carried copies which I could possibly sell. I had around seventy dollars.
     At some point, I resolved to go to Irkutsk. Thsi city was five-thousand kilometers away, near Lake Baikal in Siberia. But, I reasoned that my Russian would be good enough by the time I got there, to perhaps get a job as a waiter in Lake Baikal tourism if such a thing existed, and hopefully a place to stay would come with the job.
     God, Iīve got terrible ideas.
     Fifteen-year-old Ruslan, my best friend amongst the family I stayed with, estimated the trip would take me two weeks or a month. "Hitchhiking in Russia isnīt very good."
     He and a friend of the family drove me a ways outside of Staryy Oskol. On July 6th, I began hitchhiking towards Irkutsk.

do zvodania, Justin

Much thanks to Elena, Ruslan, Daniel, & Igor for the place to stay!

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