"Siberia 2007" story # 31

Tomsk, Russia           September 23, 2007

Three-and-a-half months of homelessness came to an end, when I began living in an apartment far from the center of Tomsk. As of September 1st.
     My roommate is (/was) Muslim. His father's Turkish, his mother is a Balkarian from the Caucasus Mountains, but he's Russian. And yet, he's not very "Russian". He laughs like a love-rich child whose life hasn't become tough yet. The "chyornoe" (black - said to simply mean darker-skinned) skin around his stunningly-rugged eyes, and his mouth muscles under black beard stubble, light up when his small frame laughs. He mostly plays his handheld Turkish drum and sleeps too much.
     I receive decent pay teaching (English) in a university, but work little, and I also enjoy teaching in a high school.
     This week, I became a bit sick.
     A light-gray, drizzling, cold premonition of winter has gobbled up the autumn.
     But, WHY have I become sick? I don't just become sick, I think.
     My life is pretty healthy. But ... I ride in "marshutkas" a lot.
     Marshutkas are shorter buses that drive around Tomsk. In the best-case scenarios, I sit on one of the bus's twenty-six seats, getting worn out from the slightly sickening feeling caused by an uneven ride. In worst-case scenarios, I cram myself into a dense "taiga" of standing passengers. We exchange money and change with the conductor by passing it through the taiga. During peak hours, crawling traffic jams prolong our "jolly ol' fun" in the marshutkas.
     I more-often-than-not ride in the best-case scenarios. And I make the most of my time, reading M. A. Bulgakov's "Sobache Serdtse" (Dog's Heart).

"'Ne boites, on ne kusaetsya.' ('Don't be afraid (of the dog), he doesn't bite.')
     "'Ya ne kusayus? ..' udivilsya pyos." ('I don't bite? ..' the dog thought, amazed.)

Almost no one reads in the marshutkas. Thus, the peoples' time there seems to be just a huge black hole. If I'm to go anywhere and return home, I must ride about an hour and a half in marshutkas. I hate marshutkas, I've decided - although they have a rather comely name.
     I've decided I hate my life, living far from the center. I get few things done; I still haven't found places to play basketball, soccer, "lapta" (Russian baseball), nor to ballroom-dance; I can't really go to nightclubs; my friends are far away. I don't think I'm physically sick as much as I'm repulsed by and tired of city life.
     But, why am I unable to do what so many people can do? Why am I so weak?
     A year and a half ago, I quit masturbating. I also don't smoke, drink coffee, nor drink alcohol. I would think abstaining from these age-inducing activities would make me stronger, but that's often not true. I'm like the month of August: red-hot somtimes (I play sports and climb mountains better than ever), but cold half the time. More specifically, I can't do things I don't want to do. I can't hitchhike when I'm tired of it. I can't speak Russian all day long, even if well-meaning people want to talk to me.
     Maybe I heed what nature tells me now. I follow freedom, maybe.
     Recently, the following was written in my book of philosophy:

"It seems most people are just trying to get through this life: cigarettes, religion, pills & antibiotics, coffee ..."

When I was on the path to giving up masturbation, my health-expert friend Lucas "Johnny" Seipp-Williams advised me by saying he masturbates less when things in his life are running brightly and smoothly. It's rather clear that people with bleaker lives turn more frequently to drugs and vices. Perhaps the inverse is true? Perhaps temporary pleasures from vices better enable people to endure unglamorous lives.
     Russians lead hard lives. They drink rather a lot. They have a lot of sex and smoke a lot. They (especially the men) don't live very long lives.
     I should be able to find a place in the center soon. Although I'm down to $15 and Muslim doesn't charge me rent, I somehow have options.
     Muslim's friend, Sasha, a soft cute female ball full of laughs and clever humor, says I complain a lot. Maybe she's right; but, I'm a university teacher, and she and Muslim are university STUDENTS. So, what does she know!?
     My younger brother, a traveler himself within the ornithology field, says this: "Having a good place to live is important, but not always easy ..."

I'm lucky I enjoy my two jobs. - peace, Modern Oddyseus

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