"Siberia 2007" story # 47

Tomsk, Russia           February 7, 2008

On the evening of January the 4th, a disastrous one for me, I'd worked to show my guest a good time. After all, she'd called ME, saying she wanted to come over to translate into Russian one of my stories about Tomsk, because she'd liked it so much.
     But, with her new relationship with Pavel secretly in the works, she closed herself off to me in every way. And Pavel, to my surprise, joined her in dishonesty.
     As I was translating for them the honest thoughts in my "Book of Philosophy", I read:

"It feels like humanity has abandoned me." (J.Breen philosophy)

On January 5th, I was exhausted from speaking and stressed out. I observed a Day of Silence in the city.
     I managed, pointing, with my hands, to buy fruit and a chocolate "sirok" in the corner store. I wanted to express that the "sirki", at eight ruble's apiece, were expensive. I pointed at them then made a "big" expression with my arms. The lady said, "Eto - chto znachit?" (What does that mean?) We both laughed.
     During this and the next few days, though, my feelings towards Tomsk were dismal. Pavel hadn't been the first Tomskurvian whose friendship let me down. My trip to Siberia, an interesting place, had included some good and some bad things. Put them together, and what do you get? ... MODERN ODDYSEUS' TOP 5!!!, awoken from a year of hibernation.
     After so much sleep, it's grumpy. Here are The Top 5 Worst Things About Siberia:


Russians wish for and spend most of their time thinking about money. They also want sex, power, and alcohol. These are personal desires which, if fulfilled, would provide society with nothing. Most people also want to have fun and friends. Some, though, don't even want friends.
     The most intelligent Russians use their intelligence for their own benefit. They can be quite heartless, capable of deceit.
     It hasn't occured to most that their happiness depends on the success of the society at large. (But, I will admit that the economical life seems to be improving. Siberia is not a poor place.)
     One of the main reasons why I don't have sex is because it's bad for the community. I believe that, in the story of Adam and Eve, the couple's mistake was having sex. If they hadn't, they'd still be living in paradise.

Of all the Tomskulls I knew, none shined as brightly as small Nastia. Her tainted-green eyes were kitten-like when we danced, when we built our own Scrabble game then played, and when she swung on a swing in the snow. Yet, she was capricious, unable to keep plans. We maintained a strong friendship until late December, and then she suddenly stopped seeing me.
     A number of people, including my first roommate and some of my favorite acquaintances, didn't answer their phones if they didn't feel like it. I guess this is normal everywhere.
     Although I'm anti-cellphone, I find that I can always answer mine, even if I may not be enthused about who's calling. I'm strong enough to treat him like a human being and respond to his call. I also find that there is no limit to the number of people who I can treat like family.
     A gentle blonde named Anya and I called each other often, though I'd long ago given up hope of us doing something fun together. She said the words, "Ne smogu" (I can't), a lot, and we agreed this was probably detrimental to her self-determination.

A female teacher at my Tomskottish school said, "Our men are weak. It's our women who are strong."
     These days, Russian males primarily like to play computer games and/or drink when they're not making money.

In Soviet times, retired people were rewarded with a pension double what the workers made. Now, the pensions are very small. Old people work as cleaners, shovel snow, and beg.

     I suspect the army perpetuates the tendency of Russian men to be macho, alcohol-loving, power-hungry, yet obedient. (Today, however, most educated males avoid the "mandatory" army service.)

The MODERN ODDYSEUS' TOP 5!!! is beginning to get stretched out ... and now it's happy! Here are The Top 5 Best Things About Siberia!* (* - with help from European Russia)


Dostoyevsky really understood people. Turgenyev's simple tales were pleasant.

4. "SIRKI" -
These snacks are so delicious that a higher life form must've brought them to Earth. Thin chocolate surrounds sweet curds, which are half-frozen yet soft and creamy. The "tvorog" (curds) surround a fruity filling, or sweet condensed milk, or caramel, or chocolate. The snacks are log-shaped. Sometimes, they have a chocolate cookie as the base.

5. DDT

And HM reminds us of STRONG, OPEN WOMEN; "OTECHESTVO" (middle names are formed by taking one's father's name and adding "vich" or "ovna"); LONG WINTER; UNCONQUERABLE LAND; GOOD CONVERSATIONS; and TOMSK'S BEAUTY.

In Tomsk, a few days passed, and then I wrote an SMS to Pavel: "Cep*ycb Ha To, 4To Ka*eTcR 4To TbI CKPuBaL rPaBDy." (I'm angry due to that it seems you hid the truth.)
     A few hours later, he called me back. As always, he was enthused to speak to me. And he claimed I'd been mistaken. He'd had nothing - "ne deystvi" (no actions) - to hide from me. "Oh," I said. I quickly apologized.
     The next evening, as I awaited Pavel in his flat, I read a Lermantov play called "Two Brothers", about brothers who conspire against one another in competition for a girl.
     Pavel came home; we chatted; he and his shoulder-length, blond hair appeared as a guru.
     I told him that, in the past, I'd at times not respected him due to that he seemed to be "serving" me and wanting attention. With aging, blue eyes, he enlightened that it's normal for people to reject what they don't understand. He said he just likes helping people.
     In regard to January 4th, he said I'd made a mistake by trying to restrict the sexy, young woman in her freedom. He said I shouldn't get offended by other people's actions.
     It was late. Pavel had to leave, to go speak to his son. I stayed to use his internet, and Pavel said I'd probably be gone by the time he returned.
     It was midnight when I was leaving to go to my wooden home. And Pavel was returning, with ... our aforementioned sexy, young woman. I was shocked. But, I'd already experienced too much stress to let this offend me.
     Two days later, Pavel and I went together to the bus station. We were picking up Katyona, a fun salsa dancer from Novosibirsk, a short blonde with a rare, precious character. It was for this visit that I'd stayed in Tomsk.
     It was -30-something Celsius, so Katyona wore puffy snowpants, which made her the only person around worse-dressed than me. Ha ha!
     She laughed at me a lot, too. I gave a tour of my house, and a giant rat sprinted across the room. She screamed happily and ran after it to get its picture.
     In the evening, Pavel played his guitar. He free-style sang a song about me, while I played a flute free-style, "tootle-tee-lootle", and we all laughed.
     Thirty-one-year-old Katyona (I'd thought she was ten years younger) juggled her shoulders sassily, and we danced. She was warm and fun during her overnight visit.
     I think I like her so much because she doesn't take me seriously. Her visit gave me renewed hope that there are a lot of surprisingly great people out there in the world.
     The day after Katyona's departure was my last full one in Tomsk. Pavel suggested we celebrate at his place. My best Tomskruffy friends came: curly-haired Sasha and orange-skinned Tanya; the two sisters who co-own a beauty salon; and a wise, slightly-older female friend with whom I have great conversations.
     Of these, the sexiest was probably the youngest of the sisters, Olesa. She was my funny friend. As she was leaving, she called me to the door for a personal good-bye, but Pavel came and stood over us for some reason.
     Oh, boy ...
     This difficult Siberian stay would leave its mark on me:
     I've become a better dancer and gained confidence in grabbing partners.
     I learned that when you meet a girl dancing, and she invites you to walk outside though it's freezing, you have to both wear your furry hoods while you kiss.
     I learned that if you tuck your scarf into your sweatshirt, you'll stay warmer, and you won't lose your scarf.
     I'm stronger. I survived the Siberian winter (well, almost half of it).
     I realized I should've bought a map and taken more side-trips out of Tomsk.
     I learned a lot about psychology, from Dostoyevsky and living Russians.
     And I realized I'm a bad dresser. But, at least I don't wear snowpants.

- Modern Oddyseus

Much thanks to Muslim; Nastia & Dima; Elena & Olesa; Sergei, Roma, & Natasha; another Nastia; Marina & Lena; my scary house; Danya & Katya; Nadya; Olesa; Sasha, Masha, & Misha; and Pavel for places to sleep!

go to the previous story                                                                                   go to the next story

J. Breen's modern-o.com