Day 3 – TSR…It’s running together

22 Sep

Day three or four.

It’s now all running together. I’ve slept three nights on the train, that I know. We bounce.  We rock.  We drink.  And, the train forces us into a spacey haze. My fellow travelers – the young bucks – have a routine. They wake, drink coffee, eat noddles, take a nap, eat noodles, drink tea, take a nap, drink vodka, eat noodles, drink beer, sing songs, drink vodka, eat noodles… then go to bed.

My routine is – wake early, head to restaurant car, hang with Mark from London, drink black coffee, eat rice porridge with cream and butter, drink coffee, write, read about Siberia…. get off at a stop, walk around, stretch my legs, buy dumplings with cabbage, water and bread… make coffee, graze on nuts, learn how to play poker, win at Swedish card games, drink beer, eat bread, drink warm beer, eat bread, down shots of vodka, sing songs, brush my front tooth and go to bed… No naps here. The lull of the train does not make sleepy, it invigorates me because we are moving – traveling across Siberia. I don’t want to miss anything.

We’ve traveled through four time zones. Yes, as

I look out the dusty window, all I see is distance. Inaccessible. Cold. Distance. The word Siberia, to me, means distant and detached. I read some place if Siberia were detached from Russia, it would still be the largest country on earth. It’s bigger than US, Alaska and western Europe combined. In the Siberian town of Yekaterinburg was where the last Russian Czar – Nicolas I and his family – were slaughtered by the Soviets. They tried to get rid of all traces of their body, but transport broke down and they did not have enough acid…or so the story goes. Years and years later, the bones were discovered and confirmed that his entire family and servants were brutally murdered. Stalin to Yeltsin and rulers in between wanted to destroy the house where this brutal murder took place so it would not become a tourist destination or shrine. I’m learning that the Soviets recreated or rewrote history as it best suited their interests. No one really knows what happened after Lenin and before Putin.

Looking out the window – old, dilapidated wooden houses fly by. Blue, orange and green chips of paint rest on the wooden fences and window panes. The color adds some energy to the landscape’s dreariness. Small farms of cabbage, potatoes and more cabbage are in neat rows. From where I sit, the homes are built for small people – like leprechauns and not amazons. Smoke billows out. It looks cold. It is cold. I wonder about insulation. When temperatures reaches -45 F or -75 F, how do they stay warm? Hot water? I’m from Florida, so this type of cold frightens me.

Siberian became the peasants Wild East. It was born out of optimism and dissent. They came here to own land. Farm it. Provide for their families. The father east they traveled, the government and church tentacles became less choking. Siberian solitude set them free….Until Stalin. It reminds me of our settlers of our Wild Wild west – self-reliant, realistic, stubborn…and loathed corrupt governments and churches.

Misty rain. The train lumbers over more bridges. I think we are going around 75 mph. The train keeps moving. We have fourteen stops today. We’re moving through some of the richest oil fields and natural resources in the world. But, it’s all so distant. Life out here feels heavy. Heavy.

My blond waitress serves me porridge. Today, it’s not really porridge buy white rice with a large chunk of butter. Looks like they did not have time to mash it. No worries. Rice and butter and black coffee works for me.

Last night, my compartment roomies had dinner in the restaurant car. Yes, we splurged. Some Russians were doing shots of vodka and started dancing with the waitresses. They could barely stand up. Old men. Pudgy. Big bellies. Pitted, inflamed red skin. Dry hands. Clothes – what looked like – cake in dirt and cement. They could have been the train workers. Next to them were some Dutch travelors downing vodka. By this time, our table put down two bottles of wine and we’re moving on to hot beer.

WE had no idea of the time. I believe we went back to our comparements around 1 or 2 am. I woke around 4:30 am – at a train stop – having to go to the bathroom. Well, the rule is you can’t flush the toliets when the train stops. Yikes… the reason is that it spills out on the train track. I could hear men mumbling in Russian and tapping on the train canisters. They were checking to see if anyone is stowed away underneath. I was praying that this stop was 3 mins or so. Nope. No suck luck. I paced back and forth down the hallway in my striped stocks, tights and oversized night shirt. Willing this train to move. I looked out the window and watched the train police check under the trains. And, circle it. What an awful job. In the middle of freezing Siberia, checking for stow aways at 4:30 am. The train finally starts to lurch forward. I run into the restroom and shut the door. It lurches to a stop right when I flush. DAMN. I hope I did not spray anyone. Fearful, I bolted out of the restroom and into my mini-compartment. Safe. I feel back asleep.

I woke a few hours later to the train stopping again. It was 7 AM or 11 AM, depending on who you asked. I put on my boots, sweater and ran out the door. I have 15 mins of freezing freedom – to buy dumplings, bread, water and dry fish. (Not buying dry fish!) Everyone hurries off the train with the same thing in mind. I see two young, dirty guys who look like they’ve been partying all night sprint from the train to the mini-store. Moments later, they are running back to the train with four oversized beers in hand. Man, they must have been partying all night – and decided to continue on throughout the day. I wanted to applaud them. And, applaud the fact my room is not next to theirs.

We wake early tomorrow – around 5 AM – and go to Lake Baikal for a few days. We’re off the train. I can’t wait to take a shower. My hair has gone from dishwater to dirt brown. I see fragments of blond. Oil is good for the hair. Or, so they say. I’ve been using baby wipes to wash. I don’t feel as nearly as I thought. But, I certainly don’t have the “fresh” feeling either. If I can keep me breath fresh, then I feel good.

After Lake Baikal, we get back on the train for Mongolia. I believe it is an overnight train as well. A few days in Mongolia, and then down to China. Strange. Very strange. I enjoy the quiet time. Just sitting. Writing. Talking. There is something isolating about it all – Just like Siberia. You’re absorb by its silent isolation.

One Response to “Day 3 – TSR…It’s running together”

  1. MaryStuart (sister) 29/09/2010 at 10:59 pm #

    The toilet, splashing…no flushing until you are moving….GROSE!!!
    How in teh world are you handeling the cold! WOW! I am impressed. You are cold if it is under 77 degrees. I can’t imagine the smell….eek! But I am glad you learned how to play cards and get your beer tollerance up. impressive. miss you!