Wednesday, October 04, 2006


It is past the equinox now. The equinox - one day when all our days are the same length. The time, in Russia, when it was not that the days were shorter, but that the nights would now be getting longer. A tide mark of time.

Here, in southern California, it is still warm during the days. Some days it even still gets into the 80's, more than warm. I like this, because I can ride my bicycle, but I miss the autumn. I would have liked to ridden the back roads during another fall. I would have liked to gotten more use out of my winter clothes - the fox sharka (hat), the down coat, the mittens. Maybe another time.

Here I can ride with lots of other bicyclists, racing bicyclists. There are plenty of them in their 40's and 50's, and probably more than a few older. I'm not the only old Joe riding my road bike here.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Back in the US of A.

I have one more post for this journal, after this one. I am going to recap my experience and thoughts. I believe I have a more cohesive view now.

For now I am back, working, in the U.S. California, as a matter of fact. Interesting contrast.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Cycling in Moscow

I rode again today, for the first time in DAYS. It has been rainy, windy, and cold. Not fit for riding without fenders. And on the windy days, it was terrifying to think of riding with that wind. If you were riding into it, you'd be going backward!

It rained this morning, too. But I actually saw the sun about midday. Then it even began to warm up. Positively a miracle! And, on top of that, I even began to think of riding, when my mind has been preoccupied with finding work and determining forward paths from this point. So, when I got home, I was looking at the clouds to see if I could get any idea of whether it was going to rain on me if I rode - or not. There was very black thundercloud coming rapidly over my part of the city, obviously pouring rain on the way. But, it was moving very rapidly, and within a couple tens of minutes it obviously was not going to vent on my section of the city and my roads. And, the skies looked calmer behind it.

When I did get out and ride, it was fine. No rain. But then I had to find new city streets to ride, new paths to get from one point to another. My objective today was to find a path to a set of bicycle and walking paths along the Moscow River that are between 5 and 8 miles from my apartment.

Remember, Russian cities are golden for the numerous back ways available. But on the other hand all the back ways merge into these huge major streets, like little streams and major rivers. You can follow the streams easily, but they often intersect the major river, and then you have to cross this dangerous and huge expanse of hostile territory. Except, if you know a little about the flow and ebb of the large expanse of hostile territory, it is not so hostile. At least not overtly. It is more like a force of nature, that one must recognize and deal with, but it is predictable, at the least.

My explorations today go awry soon enough. The maps do not quite match the reality of the streets. At one intersection, where I plan on going straight, I cannot. Then I cannot find street signs to indicate a name when I need one. And then I run into a section of town that is dominated by one-way streets. Once again I am forced into unwilling, and unwitting detours.

I do not make it to my destination, but I do learn more about the streets I must travel. I begin thinking it may be easier to go ahead and travel the major routes across town. There is more traffic, but these roads must be crossed if not used, and crossing is, if possible, more dangerous than traveling along them.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Russian cleanliness

The Russians are not as obsessed with cleanliness as Americans are. We wash the bejeezuz out of our dishes. They don't. Some of them just rinse their dishes off in water, and consider that clean. Yuch. I've never seen one use really hot water to wash the dishes. And, their sinks and kitchens are small, lending themselves to a quick soap and rinse cycle. Now, I have to recognize that this is almost certainly adequate except in extreme circumstances.

On the other hand, they have more of a culture of bathing than, say, Latin Americans do. They are generally as well bathed as Americans are. The Roman heritage of bathing lives on here. Oops, I say Roman, but this may reflect historical ignorance. Today we know the sauna as an invention of the northern Germanic (Scandinavian) peoples. And, the bathes in Russia are as much a heritage of Scandinavian culture as Roman. You go do the research, and come back and tell the rest of us which is which, eh? Thanks so much. By the way, up until WW2, the Russians were probably better at bathing than Americans in general. Up until WW2, we were still using the bathtub as the primary means of personal cleanliness. Sometime after WW2 the shower became predominant. And that is only for people who had such facilities. Russians, on the other hand, have almost universal access to some way to clean themselves. The villages may be even better in this regard than the cities of the 20th century. The villagers, as far as I can tell, always have access to a banya. At the lightest heat, the banya is the equivalent of a good shower or a bit better. City folk don't have access to banyas, but do have bathrooms with baths. I couldn't say how long they've been on the scene, but the baths have shower heads with hoses, so that one can wash, and rinse, the whole body. This is better than a bath, where one merely washes the body, but soaks in the dirty water.

Their habits are so different from ours when it comes to household cleanliness, tho. They take off their shoes when entering an abode, and wear house shoes. Shoes are dirty, so they don't wear them inside. They probably sweep more often than we do, but they don't mop as much. The stuff on the outside of the house can pretty much go hang, except if you have money, you paint and mend once a year. And you may mow your hay (notice I don't say lawn) once or twice during the summer - or not. However, some folks in the rural communities take very good care of their lawns - except if they do, it is because it is not a lawn they are taking care of, it is a garden. It may be producing food, flowers, or whatever you can get out of gardens.

They keep their clothes just as clean as we do, perhaps a bit cleaner. The washing machines are, in the city, European style. Which really isn't a matter of cleanliness, at all, but rather one of cleaning frequency and style. They usually air-dry their wash. In the country, by the by, the washing machines may be European style, or they may be a single washing machine and another spin-dry machine, or maybe some other combination that I did not experience.

On occasion they smell worse than Americans. But so do Europeans in general. Americans seem to be obsessed with body odor, as much as the Japanese. This wasn't true before WW1, and perhaps not true before WW2, since the Japanese made such an issue of how much we smelled, but it is true now. Again, you go research the history, and give the rest of us the benefit of your sagacious knowledge, please and thank you.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

The train past goodbye

I see a beautiful landscape, great stretches of things that bring joy to my eye, and I think to myself that perhaps I should try again to capture this using photography. But I quickly remember how much time it takes to turn any part of what my eye perceives as beautiful into an image that others can perceive as well as I. I think that it is actually faster to write about it than it would be to try and photograph it. And, I seem to achieve more success with writing it.

Right now, my eye was caught by the clouds and the play of the mid-morning light amongst them. Patches of bright light and color amongst the thick woolly clouds, the shadings are striking. We pass a station where people are standing and waiting. One girl is walking rapidly along the platform, looking like she has somewhere to be. A couple is hugging, a young man and woman, not youths, but somewhere in the prime of young adulthood. She leans into the man and raises a foot behind her, standing on one leg now, as they embrace.

Another time, we are passing a small town, and the portion by the tracks has been an apple orchard, now looking unkept, and somewhat unruly. But my mouth literally waters at the sight of all the apples. The trees are full of them, green apples or red apples still partly greenish. It is a beautiful vision, and my hunger arises as I see it, my mouth anticipating the taste.

Contract up, goodbye, end of Journal?

Thursday, July 27, 2006
And, now, I must say goodbye. It is sad for me. My contract has not been renewed, and I am leaving. As I leave, da spadanya rises to my throat, wanting to be spoken. Da spadanya, Chumlyak, da spadanya Shumika that I just met and wanted to know better, da spadanya Shchuch'ye, da spadanya fields and forests of the Siberian side of the Urals. I do get to say da spadanya to the driver, and I ask him to pass this to the other drivers, as well. I don't think I said da spadanya to Chelyabinsk. I have no love for that place. This is not a happy time, but leaving the camp is a bit like a release. We often say that things will always eventually turn out for the better. I hope that this is so. When I post this to the blog, I think this will be an end to the Russian Journal, because it is certainly an end. I'm not sure of what, but I know that it is. I may start a new blog, and post more Russian experiences there, or I may not. I may not stay in Russia at all. At this time, we just don't know.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006


Wildflowers, version 2.

July 5
Wildflowers, there are clouds of them in yellow, purple, and white. Two weeks ago, even last week, I was wondering why there were so few of them out here. There are huge stretches of fields and woods, it would seem that there should be wildflowers aplenty. And there were very few. But now, oh now, we have hazy clouds of color floating over the green fields.
There is a sweet light lavender~pink, in spires, with long green leaves, looking every bit lilke western fireweed. Another set of spired blooms, this time a proper purple. The yellow clouds, perhaps a legume, give me a light and sweet fragrance. I see some purple clover, some white, and a few daisies as well.

July 25
The wildflowers have even grown more numerous. Now the daisies form big swatches to paint more white on the landscapes. The purples have changed, some have faded away a little, replaced by others. There is a blue flower, too, that I think may be chicory. It certainly looks to me like chicory, but unfortunately, this is not a plant I know very well. Now the thistles add intense droplets in deep crimson and purple shades. The grasses are maturing, and they bring silver highlights to the palette of color. The fields of grain are also coming into fruition. The visual texture is rich, and beautiful.