Sunday, May 07, 2006

Village life, another peek

Well, I'm getting a different outlook on the Russian village today. Got myself in a bit of a wicket here. Went to catch the electrichki, and the ticket counter said to get out to the platform, one was leaving for Kurgan in 3 minutes. So, I rushed out to the platforms, and had to take a little bit of a gamble, as there were 4 platforms with electrichki's.
I picked one and asked a passerby. She replied by pointing out one that went to Kaissan. Now, I'm used to going into Kaissan and changing trains now, so I figured I couldn't lose. I also figured that had to be the train the ticket office was referring to. They don't have two trains leaving at the same time.

That may be where I went wrong. This electrichki was definitely going somewhere, and soon. I could tell this, 'coz there were people getting on, and it had quite a few on board. But it didn't leave in 3 minutes. So I asked a neighbor about it, and figured out that it was due out in about 10 or 15 minutes. Close, but not quite 3 minutes, and not quite Kurgan. It did go to Kaissan though.

In Kaissan, there was no train to change to. Oops. And, no one else was waiting for a train to change to. Oops, again. I think I'm going to sit here a while. I ask a station person, she tells me it will be 180 minutes till the next train to Shchuch'ye! Three hours! Aagh! I think I must have boarded the wrong train. There must have been an express and a local leaving close together.

I hike in to town to find a magazine to get water, beer, and something to eat. Now I'm getting a first hand view of life in a larger village out here.
The roads are all dirt. The toilets are outhouses. The air is clean, though, and it is quiet. The sounds I hear are dogs barking, the occasional motor vehicle, children playing, neighbors talking, birds singing. People are riding bicycles for transportation.
It is a bit grimmer than I have felt before. I've found that refrigeration is rare. The magazines generally don't have or don't use refrigerators out here. They do have and do use freezers.
So, I suppose I have to stick by my previous sentiment that life out here is not so bad as most Americans would think. Most Americans today would choke over not having running water, heated water, etc. But the folks out here are generally well fed, well clothed, and more or less satisfied with their lives. They are clean, and not running around half-clothed and dirty. Generally, anyway.
And, it does amaze me a bit that the Russians, Soviets or otherwise, never worked harder to pave the streets and bring a little more of the industrialized comforts of life to these places. Russia may be a first-world economy, but it is hard to tell from these villages. From information I can get, I think these small towns and villages were better off during Soviet times. Then they had running factories and schools were open. Now schools have closed, businesses have closed, etc. Today, the fact that the businesses are closed tells me that it is obvious that the businesses could not have been competitive in an open market. But they did provide employment to the locals.

When the train to Shchuch'ye finally comes, it is dark. I get to Shchuch'ye about 11 PM. I think it was the last train, but who knows. I'm tired, and glad I made it.


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