Thursday, June 01, 2006

Conversations with Nadia

I continue to ride my bikes often. Sometimes I ride my road bike to work, sometimes I ride my off-road bike to Sovietskaya. I plan on playing with the soccer players on occasion. This is good.
The weather has been a tremendous adventure. It was hot, then it rained, and it was still hot, and it rained again, and it rained again, and it rained again, and . . . now it is cool. Almost cold! Only 11'!
Emily, the boss translator, and I rode to Sovietskoye this evening to talk to Nadia. Nadia, if you will remember, is the neighbor lady whom I have volunteered to do work for. It rather mystifies Nadia that I will work for her, I think, and I think she is a bit uncomfortable with me working for her for free. She tells us she is not an "exploiter" to use my labor as a slave. I was so glad I finally got Emily to go to Sovietskoye with me. We talked with Nadia for a nearly two hours, and we had a marvelous time. There were many, many conversations we had had that we reviewed and updated, now that we had a way to know the other understood. We completed so many conversations, and opened new ones where we were curious. This is the first chance we have had to share the more complicated communication we are used to, and we all enjoy this.
Nadia jokes that she talks to me in German. I tell Emily of when Nadia was talking to me in Tartar, French, and Armenian. Nadia laughs, and says yes, she counted from 1 to 3 in Tartar for me. We talk of her farming. She tells us she tried to put raw manure on her gooseberries the first year and they died. I replied that yes, raw manure would burn them. I told Emily how Nadia had told me she now lets the manure and straw ripen for a year or three. And Nadia illuminates us on some details of how she now does this, but it turns out I had understood her correctly.
She is industrious and hard-working, and loves to farm a bit, I think. She actually bought the house and land she is in on purpose. She was living in Chelyabinsk, I think, and she wanted something for her old age. She is exceptionally strong, and almost never ceases to work as far as I can see. Oh, she takes many breaks, but soon enough she is being productive again.
On her little plot of land she has squash, pumpkins, onions, garlic, gooseberries, rasberries, strawberries, blackberries and more. Flowers for instance. She had wonderful tulips, and soon she will have other flowers. She has given me and my friends most of her tulip crop, and that made me a lot of points with the ladies at work! Later in the year I know I will be taking as much of her berry crop as she will spare.
Nadia says at one point that if I leave in August, she will not have time to make me the mittens and socks she has promised. Later she tells me that when I leave she wants to buy my bicycle. I tell her of course I will sell it to her.

Monday, May 29, 2006

The retirement home

It rains again today, thundershowers. They are plains thundershowers, with the clouds forming, and visible, miles and miles away. The lightning occasionally startles the sky, and thunder is heard. You can see the rain then. It is under the clouds, a grey living veil. Slowly it creeps towards us, a living thing, and slow, so slow. But when it gets near, the wind blows gale force, a priarie hurricane!

I am riding my bike in front of it, and it brings dust from the road a half mile away now. The wind is so strong I feel as though I could fly without pedaling! Soon, soon, the rain will follow. If I were in the American plains, the rain would be already here, but on these plains, the distance between the wind and the rain seems to be stretched a bit. It finally comes down, a nice little wetting. The air cools slightly. The mosquitoes seem to multiply by magic. Now the heat hangs heavily, and the air is humid, although not yet the turgid humidity of the American south. Again it rains, bringing refreshing coolness for a spell, and then that cloud passes as the day passes. It is a little later, a little cooler, but it is still hot, and unpleasantly so.
I sit outside and eat dinner while I drink a beer. Some fellow residents are there, and we joke, but there is a tension. They are tired of the confinements of the camp. One likens it to a retirement home, telling jokes about old men, and his jokes ring true. We swat mosquitoes and they bet on what color of car will pass on the street next. It doesn't take long for them to tire of this amusement they have dreamed up, and they move inside, to the bar, where there is a larger variety of our expat community to share the jokes and stilted communing.
I swat mosquitoes for a few more minutes, alone, and then head indoors myself.