Wednesday, September 9, 2009

More Stories From the Train

So, more about my 3 1/2 day train journey. My bunk-mate was a manager of a 'magazine', or grocery store. He didn't speak a word of English, but kept talking and talking and talking to me. Up to about the 3rd day I didn't say much in English because I knew he didn't understand. But by the 3rd day I was a little exasperated at never understanding what he was saying so I started talking in long sentences in English to him. I would say 'You have no idea what I'm saying do you? No, because you don't understand me and I don't understand you'. He would get quite and then we would both laugh.

It's absolutely amazing to me how it's possible to become friends with someone and communicate without more than a dozen or two words understood between you. He had a chess board and book and would point at it and say 'Bobby Fischer'. Earlier I had told him I lived in Seattle (my 'doma') and explained it by drawing the US, marking New York and then marking Seattle all the way on the other side. Then I marked Alaska and showed it was closer to Seattle. He said 'Dah! Alaska. Alaska is Russki!' I said 'Niet. Alaska Russki, skolko (or sold) America!' He would scrunch up his face like he was upset that Russia had sold Alaska.

Later, when I told him I would like to play a game of chess with him he said, 'Alaska'. And after a bit I understood he wanted us to bet Russia reclaiming Alaska if he won. He was quite funny. Thank goodness we tied the game or Alaskans would be in trouble. :)

There was an American guy that would come around and visit and he was so rude and obnoxious. I think it's because he was drunk 24/7 but he would come in and eat our food without asking and would try to take pictures of people even when they indicated they did not want to be photographed. Then the last straw for me was when he came in and asked to read my guidebook but was telling my bunk-mate and others that women were stupid and they could ignore us and slap us. I asked him shy he needed to use my book, if he was traveling for 2 years (as he had told me earlier) why didn't he have one? He told me books were for losers. So I looked at him and said then I guess you don't need to use mine, that would make you a loser. He said no, no please I need your help. I looked at him and told him I thought he was a rude asshole and I was embarrassed for America because of his actions. Then I told him to get the F out of my sleeping cabin.

When he finally left, I typed into my translator 'arrogant', 'conceited', and 'asshole' and showed my new friends. They all nodded and said 'da' 'da'. I tried to say I apologize for Americans that act like that and that I hope they do not think all Americans are that way. That same guy found me in the train station when we arrived and asked if I was 'still mad at him'. I told him yes, I still think you're a dick and an embarrassment to America. What a prick!

There was another man I made friends with. He was obviously retired and I asked what his job was. He typed into my iPhone 'colonel' and 'air force'. That seemed pretty cool to me. As we talked more and became more friendly, I got the feeling he kind of liked me. He always wanted me to eat with him and would always kiss my hand and head. But the dude was 72 so I wasn't too worried, just wanted to be polite. When I went back to my cabin my roomie (Anatoli) typed the word 'honey' into my iPhone and then said 'Viktor' (the colonel's name). He pointed and me and said 'Viktor' 'honey'. He was totally making fun of me for Viktor having a crush on me. It was quite hilarious.

Once, he went to throw an empty beer bottle out the window and I yelled "NIET!" He looked at me like I had two heads. I said 'neit' and pointed to the trash bag I had been collecting. He looked like he didn't understand. I told him it was 'garbage'. I explained how in America if you throw things out the window you get a fine - a ticket - to pay money. His eyes widened and he said 'dah??' This was totally foreign to him. So for the rest of the trip when he would pick up trash I would say 'garbage' and he would put it in the bag. If he didn't learn anything else from our time together, trust me, he learned the word 'garbage'. LOL

Then there was Bato. He said he was in the military - Army I think. I think he drank beer 20 hours a day - but he was only 26. (In Russia, you indicate drinks by flicking your neck. I will have to show you because it really can't be explained. lol) Bato was very nice and we taught each other our respective alphabets. My train arrived in Irkutsk at 3:30am and he was awake and dressed to help me carry my bags out, as was the colonel and Anatoli. So nice!!

The train attendants were also very nice. There was only one outlet that had the right currency to charge my iPhone and it was near the bathroom. I plugged it in and then the attendants came to me and indicated that I should not leave it because it might get stolen. (Very nice of them to be watching out for me.) So I sat on the trash bin lid, just outside the toilet for THREE HOURS while it charged. During this time an extremely intoxicated Russian woman decided to try and talk to me. Imagine - I don't understand Russian and she's so drunk she's slurring her Russian words. When I would say 'I don't understand' she would either talk louder or slower, or often both. Very annoying.

Oh, and then there was the Russian-American language exchange lessons. Anatoli, Bato, Viktor and I were all sitting around having some smoked fish and beer (very tasty together!) and started translating cuss words. I have this app that is not a dictionary, but rather a phrase translator. It has all kinds of very bad Russian words! So we both learned 'fuck/nah-whee', 'shit/dare-mo' and 'dickhead/zal-oopa'. Amazingly, zaloopa is way worse in Russian than nahwhee. I would say zaloopa and Viktor the Colonel would shake his finger at me and mime spanking me. Then, I got the best video of Anatoli and Viktor saying 'fucks, shits, fuckk, fucks, fuckk, deek-had'. I was literally crying I laughed so hard. I tried to upload it to the blog but there's an issue with the html. Trust me, you will pee yourself when you see it.

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