So this weekend i went to Yekaterinburg to tool around and meet up with a new friend.
That's pretty much the gist of it. If you think i'm long winded, you've now read pretty much all the important stuff. If you like to excercise your eyes, by all means continue reading :-D
--Trams and Trains--
So this was my first major trip since i got here, and i was a teensy bit nervous about it on the way to the station. I had purchased 3rd class tickets and was a little nervous about what it entailed. Irina had instructed me on how to get to the station - either tram 1 or tram 9, but i was obviously still a little unsure. The last time i thought i knew what i was doing on a subway train/tram i ended up *walking* into JFK airport. ... that's a different story, though.
So i took my backpack full of spare clothes and food and headed off. The tram took about 20 minutes, 15 of which were pretty nervewracking because i had been under the impression that the station was much closer. I had also thought that Irina said something about "before the tram stop", and one of the stops that i went through was call "tram depot." So obviously i was not under the impression that this was some new store where you could buy trams, and i was worried.
All for naught, though, i got to the train station about 10 minutes (felt like hours) after that, hopped off, braved traffic (which is what you do EVERY time you cross the street without a crosswalk/light here ... well anywhere really) and walked into the train station.
The clock said something like 16:25, which was plenty of time because my train doesn't leave until 18:15, right? Wrong. You see, all the train schedules here run on Moscow time, which means that my train actually would be leaving at 17:15 by the train station's clock. (for those of you who need help on this one, let's just say that i didn't have as much time as i thought)
So suffice it to say that i was pleasantly surprised when i heard a voice saying over the intercom that my train was going to be leaving at 18:15. Awesome, right? That means i have more time!
So i go into the station, and instead of cutting in front like i was apparently supposed to (since i had already bought tickets) i waited in line. After all, i was in no hurry. When i got to the front of the line, the woman pointed at my tickets, and pointed at my passport, and said, in effect "They spelled your name wrong on the tickets. I can't accept these."
Once i'd blathered a few incoherent words in what i thought was Russian, she took pity on me and re-issued the tickets with the correct name. While i was waiting, i heard someone to my left a few lines down speaking what i thought was English. Once i'd confirmed that it was not just English, but ::gasp:: *NATIVE* English, i immediately piped up.
The following is an exact transcript:
Me: (loud voice, which means everyone within two blocks heard it)
"So where are you guys headed?"
Not only had he just encountered another American, possibly the first one of his journey, but said encounter had occured in Izhevsk.
This would be like meeting a man from Taiwan in Alaska. Maybe not the best of odds.
After i'd concluded the business with the tickets, I headed over to get acquainted with my fellow foreigner. After all ... i had plenty of time! So the above mentioned man's name was Scott and he is a resident of Savannah, GA, or thereabouts.
He was here in Russia visiting his wife/girfriend/friend (not sure) and was just passing through Izhevsk. (i believe)
He was heading to St Petersburg, which is where he'd flown into. Apparently he'd heard many nasty stories about Moscow and decided to skip it entirely. I seem to have had a little more Russian vocabulary than him (or so i thought i heard him say) so i can only imagine what *HIS* trip in must have been like!
Apparently his Visa would be expiring a few days before his flight, so he had to change his travel plans to skeedaddle before the fuzz decided to keep him around for a few more weeks. Not in jail, mind you, but he wouldn't be re-imbursed or anything.
Scott and i traded a few anecdotes about our experiences, and he related to me that one should never cross one's legs on the bus or subway. I have yet to discover why, because it was at this point that a nice young lady interrupted the conversation and said to Scott's female companion what turned out to be a very helpful suggestion.
To paraphrase: "Tell this young man that his train will be leaving in a few minutes, and he might want to go get on it."
Saying a hurried goodbye and rushing out the door, i realized (too late!) what had happened: The announcement was for Izhevsk time, not Moscow time. So even though the clocks in the train station said 17:10 (five minutes!!) it was actually 18:10. The announcement wasn't saying that the train was late - it was saying that it had arrived and was boarding!!
I ran past car 11 (my car) about 3 times before finally spotting the number in the window. I hurried on and started hunting for my seat.
This might have been an easier task to accomplish had i any idea where the berth number was on the ticket.
I walked back and forth through the car, focused intently on finding a number (ANY number) on the ticket that looked like it matched the berth format.
Eventually i gave up and hunkered down in a likely (ie empty) spot and decided to wait until a good time to ask, or a good time to pretend this was my spot. A man came by dropping off sheets and asked if i wanted one ... or something. I'm not really sure. (it was loud and he talked fast) I stammered out something like: "I .. uh .. ya ni znayo gdia ... uh .." At which point the nice man took my ticket, found my berth, and took me there. (long story short .... too late!)
The people that i was on the train with were very nice. After we got through the initial "uh, um, ni panymayoo" stage, they started talking to me in small words that i could understand, and we talked a little about what i was doing here, where i was staying, where i lived in the US, etc. I showed them some pictures and explained who all everyone was, etc etc etc.
I spent a bit of time reading and then tried to vault up into my berth. Vault is quite accurate, i think, because the unathletic and/or uncoordinated might find getting into their assigned sleeping space a bit ... ehm ... challenging.
As did i.
There was another man in our area, and he had the same problems as i did. I got the impression like even though he spoke fluent Russian (from what i could tell) he may not ever have been on one of these trains before.
So in all there were four of us. Vlad, Ludmilla, and the unnamed third, with whom i really didn't speak, but we shared a pretty hilarious secret between us.
How do two people who don't speak share a secret? Let me explain.
It was hot on the train. Very. Hot. I don't know if there were just too many people on there (there were quite a few) or if the heater was working overtime, but it was most definitely too hot.
I woke up in the middle of the night and wasn't able to go back to sleep. Vlad and the unnamed stranger shared my fate. (Ludmilla was fast asleep WITH A BLANKET!)
So Vlad heads out to go have a smoke, and the unnamed stranger and i exchange several "ochin jharka"s as if those were the only words in the dictionary. Then, as if connected by some kind of mental mooring which has arisen out of dire necessity, we both turn to the window, and stare intently at what looks like a handle.
After giving a silent nod to each other, he grasps the handle and pulls. ... to no avail. Me being the crafty sort, i start looking for a mechanism which might need to be activated to budge the handle. I put my hands over EVERY INCH of that thing and found nothing.
We took turns shoving, pulling, pushing, prodding, jamming, wiggling, and even twisting every part of the window that we could find and succeeded not a wit.
Frustrated, i gave up and hopped down from my bunk. Burying my head in my hands on the not-so-soft comforter on my berth, i noticed an odd thing.
This sign had a picture and three words on it. The second word was "window". The picture was of a man. The last word was "exit". I don't think i need to clarify at this point that the man in the picture was running in the direction of an arrow which was pointing to our window.
I stifled my laughing fit long enough to point this out to the unnamed stranger, and we both burst out fit to split. I'm amazed that Ludmilla didn't wake up, though anyone whose dreams can survive the inferno that was the inside of our train can probably survive a few uncontrolled guffaws.
I never mentioned the window to Vlad or Ludmilla, and as far as i could tell, neither did he, but every time we looked at the window and caught each other's eye it was pretty hard not to get laughing again!
I'll skip some of the more trivial parts of this part of my journey, but i want to make sure that i point out how friendly all three of the people i sat with were, and how i didn't feel at all threatened or frightened on the train in 3rd class as i thought i might.
Dang. I can't believe i've written so much and i haven't even gotten to Yekaterinburg yet. If you're still reading this, you either read very quickly, or you should go give your eyes a break. :-)
--Arrival in Yekaterinburg--
Once the train arrived i was faced with another situation where i knew nothing of where i was or what to do next. Since following the crowd and then following my instinct has served me pretty well thus far, i figured i'd stick with that model and get going. Sometimes it's easier to get where you need to go (even if you don't know where it is) if you just act like you know what you're doing.
So i pop out of the station and head out into the cold and dark morning. My train had arrived after 8am E-burg (pron: yo-burg) time, but the sun had yet to make any real impact on the night sky. Turning to the left, i walked determinedly toward some neon signs. It was a quick decision, and not the best of ones. You typically don't want neon signs to guide you unless you know where you're going anyway. I continued walking in that direction until i was past the taxi drivers so i didn't look (as) lost and confused, then doubled back and decided to head towards the area opposite the Vokzal (train station) entrance.
The weather was not warm. It certainly wasn't as cold as it could be, but what with the lack of sun and all, it was a bit nippy - mostly from the wind. I ducked down into an underground passageway behind another group of people. I passed a few obvious tourists, but decided to stay my tongue. Even if they were American (or English-speaking in any case) they were heading toward the train station, which meant they probably wouldn't have time for idle banter.
Guessing at every step where i should put my foot next, i ended up on the main street, aptly named after the city: Свердловск. This threw me at first, because i'd forgotten that Sverdlovsk was Yekaterinburg's name, originally.
Finding myself on what was obviously a well-lit main street, i shifted my focus slightly away from looking like i knew where i was going. I spared quite a few glances at quite a few shops without stopping at any. Most seemed to be closed anyway, opening only at 9am. I tried in vain to find a place that would likely have maps of the city AND speak English. I'm sure they were there, or nearby, but i didn't see them.
I walked for about 5 minutes and ran into the beautiful Church of All Saints which even in the muddled gloom of the dark, cloudy morning, looked almost as good as the pictures had promised.
I took a few photos and walked up to a map in an information kiosk. I found the cathedral pretty quickly, then found a building close to it and figured out what direction i was facing, and then found the "You are here" marker. Except that the marker was IN THE WRONG PLACE! I figured i'd just keep walking along the same route, since a straight line is easier to follow back. It would be pretty easy to get back to the train station to meet my new friend Vera.
Vera's train would not be coming in until some time around 11:30, so i had some time to putz around by myself still. As far as i could tell before my phone quit on me, it was only around 9 am.
I continued walking and walked through a large intersection. Without really knowing or caring which way i went (i was starting to think of heading back) i ended up on a less-well-lit more residential road. Think "brownstones" in NYC. I figured i'd turn back and walk back to the train station to check on Vera's train.
Once i got back, i also stopped by a public toilet. I will leave out my experience - suffice it to say that it was quite ... um ... different. Not so different from France, mind you, but this was in a kind of store/port-a-potty. Imagine if you went to a QT and the bathroom stalls were off to the side in the main area. (not within a bathroom) That's about what it was.
Now don't go getting the idea that this is everywhere, cause it's not. I just thought i'd relate this one since it was so ... unique.
OK, so, off to the station. No news on the train, and my phone was on the fritz because of the cold, so i had no way to communicate more than bits and pieces with Vera. I bought an orange Fanta (which tasted different, btw ... more bitter maybe) and figured i'd wait a bit and warm up.
Once i'd warmed up sufficiently, i put my phone in my glove and put on my glove. I figured that this was the best way to restore the battery and phone to working order. (and, btw, it worked)
It had gotten light out while i was walking back and waiting in the station, so i decided to try my luck on the road which ran perpendicular to the main street that i'd walked along.
When i don't know where to go, i like to play a game i call "Let the green man tell you where to go." This game involves walking up to an intersection and going wherever the green man is. You might know the green man by his nickname Walk, but it's the same guy. So i turned, walked across the street, and kept going. I was now parrallel to the main street i'd been on earlier.
This was NOT a main street. It was NOT full of shops. It was NOT the kind of road you go for a stroll on late at night. (well, maybe if you know the city ... and you have mace)
I walked along, treading on a strip of my jeans which had been bound up and then come loose. (I eventually cut it off and now have it in a baggie. It is long and brown does NOT look like a strip of dirty denim... gross)
After passing a few run down buildings, a few apartment buildings, and what i think was a go-kart track, i arrived at an overpass which led onto a freeway. The sidewalk to my right led back into the downtown area, and would eventually hit the main street i'd been on, so i took it.
I was stopped by a young man and woman and asked something - in my paranoia i replied that i didn't understand and hurried along. After thinking about the words and question some more, i realized that they'd been looking for building number 20 on the street we were on and wanted to know if i knew where it was. I noticed the building numbers and turned around to tell them, but they'd walked away and were heading in the other direction.
I decided to play the green man game at the next intersection and ended up on another main street parrallel to the one from before. I passed a restaurant called the "CCCP Restaurant" which was in a large building opposite a war memorial. The war memorial was for the soldiers lost in Afghanistan. (i have pics of most of these things on my picasa site)
I started walking toward the main street i'd previously been on and passed an Irish pub and a hospital-looking-kinda-thing. Instead of taking pictures of either of these, i took a picture of a large archway which led into an uninteresting courtyard. Because that's how i roll.
I ended up on the main street again and figured i'd head back to the train station, as it was getting close to Vera's arrival time. I took several more pics of the Church of All Saints on the way back and got a shot or two with the stark contrast of the beautiful church and surroundings over the backdrop of large commercial and residential buildings along with a few smokestacks bringing up the rear.
I made it to the train station a little late, but the board still didn't list a time for the train. It listed a platform, though, so i couldn't figure out what to do. I headed out to the platform and there was no train.
My glove trick had stopped working on my phone - it was again rendered useless by its faltering battery. I was able to text back and forth with Vera enough to find out that they'd arrived and were buying tickets. I walked into the ticket area and found no one. Further communication revealed that they were in the building next door. I guessed at which direction to go, found the right building, went in, and found no one I returned to the main station, thinking she might come to find me. At this point i remembered that she'd said "2nd floor"
Getting there, i walked up to the second floor, but again found no one. As i was starting to walk back, I heard someone shout my name and found Vera and her friends coming to meet me. They were 4 in total - Vera, Misha, Genya, and Vana. (Misha and Vana are boys - short for Michael and Ivan respectively)
After introductions, we all headed off to the Metro (everyone wondering at least once whether i'd noticed that i had a strip of jeans flying around) and Vera and i planned to go off on our own and meet back up with Misha, Genya, and Vana for dinner.
Vera and i started off by going to the Yekaterinburg duma and a large statue of Lenin. We talked about lots of things, including my insistance that we speak English. Maybe i should explain how i met Vera...
There's a website called SharedTalk which i was tipped off to by a friend (Mary) from the Russian Expat club in Phoenix.
The whole idea of this site is that there are people all over the world who want to learn a new language or practice an old one. So you sign up, fill in what languages you currently know and which ones you want to know, and VOILA!
In order to prepare for my trip, i started writing back and forth with several people in Russia. I can't remember whether i found Vera or she found me, but either way we started talking. Vera spent three months in the USA last year, and she has retained an impressive amount of her linguistic ability, though she's had limited practice since she got back.
Once i got here, we set about trying to figure out how we could meet up. She lives in Tyumen, which we discovered is not really very convenient to go to from Izhevsk. The train schedule deposits you in Tyumen around 7 at night, and the train the next day leaves at 2 or 3 pm. Not exactly a lot of good "talk and tour the city" time.
I looked at several schedules and pretty much the only one that made sense was Yekaterinburg, which i found out about quite by coincidence. Another person i'd been talking to online, Katya, (who lives in Izhevsk but i've yet to meet) had suggested E-burg as an option for something that i could do one weekend. As it turns out, E-burg is 4 hours closer than Tyumen, on the same train line!
So, end result, Vera agreed to meet me in E-burg to tour the city with me and practice her English :-)
This brings us back to our time in E-burg together, and why i insisted that we speak English. I figure I get practice speaking Russian every day, so it wouldn't make sense to speak Russian. I admit, though, that hearing her say and pronounce things in Russian was really quite nice. Maybe she has a slightly different accent or something than what i'm used to hearing?
So we walked around and tried to find the "QWERTY Monument" (i kid you not) and took in quite a bit of the city.
One of the many interesting conversations we had was one revolving around the holiday season in Russia. As you may know, the predominant religion in Russia is the aptly named "Russian Orthodox" branch of Christianity. I'll skip some of the more mundane details in favor of one that most of you will find quite interesting:
Christmas is on January 7th.
And that's not the most surprising thing, actually. What i found most surprising was the tradition of the Christmas tree. In Russia, the yolka (fir) tree is decorated and done up just as it would be in the US, but it's not for Christmas - it's for New Year's!
Take all the tree related things about the US Christmas tree (including the giving of presents) and you have the Russian New Year's Yolka.
Christmas is still a holiday, but it's more of a family get-together day, i think.
We talked about many things (ie Vera is a Marketing specialist, but she currently works as a recruiter) and walked more than i have done in a long time. We passed by a circus with a few rides set up outside and had a go at the bumper cars, which was super fun! I was surprised that we didn't have whiplash the rest of the day because i kept slamming the cars together at full tilt! :-D
We stopped for lunch in an Italian restaurant, though Vera and i both agree that though there is a distinction in Russian between a restaurant and a cafe, there is no such distinction in the US. For example: Would you call MacDonald's a restaurant? Maybe so, maybe not, but the word for it is "Fast Food Restaurant".
In Russia, a restaurant is a place where you put on some good duds and expect a bit of fine dining. A cafe is a place where you can go and eat a quick lunch or dinner. But the food isn't restricted to just baked goods and coffee. For example, we ate at a place that in the US i would definitely call an Italian restaurant, but here it's considered to be a cafe.
So we ate at an Italian cafe and Vera gave me a great travel book all about the Tyumen region. I'm not sure what to call it, because even though in the US every state is a "state", in Russia, they might be a "Republic" or an "Oblast", etc. In either case, the book is all in Russian, but i'm excited to try my hand at reading it, especially since i wasn't able to visit Tyumen.
We split a (small in the US) pizza with salmon and several dollops of a very yummy and very creamy cheese. I would guess that it was goat cheese? Not sure. I ordered cream of mushroom soup (soup of the day) and a coffee with Irish cream and Vera had a chai. I really should point out that when i say "I ordered" it really means that i told Vera what i wanted in advance and she had to do the work :-D
We chatted, warmed up from the cool street, rested our feet a bit, and looked at the pictures i'd brought with me of my family and friends. After we were good and ready, we struck off into the street again.
After a while, we decided to stop by a liquor store and pick up a "Jaguar" (energy drink) for her, and a Bud for me. Yes. A Bud. There was no Bud Light or I guarantee i would have gotten that instead :-) It's not that i wanted American beer - i've already tried several Russian ones and liked them quite a bit. It was that i wanted to know what American beer tasted like here in Russia.
I think i already related how different Guiness was, and if i didn't then i just did. :-) Bud was definitely a little different but not much. Though admittedly i mostly drink Bud Light, so i'm not too familiar with how Budweiser usually tastes.
We stopped for a while and chatted and listened to music as we drank on a bench on the street. (no paper bag, and Vera opened my bottle on a post for me) Vera and i share an unhealthy obsession with Sting, so she shared a version of "Shape of my Heart" which i'd never heard, as well as a few songs in Russian.
As we abandoned our bench and started looking for the restaurant where we would eventually meet Vera's friends for dinner, our conversation flipped from topic to topic (as all good conversations do) including the differences between American and Russian humor, my trip thus far, jobs, world economy, etc.
We failed to find the place we were looking for, so we stopped by a movie theater and sat on the bench outside. A woman approached us and asked if we'd be interested in doing some marketing research. Vera told her that we were just visiting, but the woman persisted. The woman said that if we had a phone number we could participate - to which Vera replied that we only had American phones. The woman seemed to doubt the veracity of this claim as Vera is obviously a native Russian speaker, so i chirped in: "Yeah - sorry, i don't really speak Russian..."
The woman nodded wisely and said "Ahhh..." then walked off. Vera and i congratulated each other on our brilliant performance, and eventually went off in search of the restaurant again.
Vera and i stopped by a mall with a fake wrecking ball sticking out of it (check the pictures) and glanced around a bit. It was my first Russian mall, but i won't go into detail because a mall's a mall'a a mall.
We walked into the Sushi place (Planet Sushi) and had a seat at a booth. (interesting, btw, is that Planet Sushi is owned by the same company as TGI Friday's according to the previously linked website) It didn't take too long for Misha and Genya to come along with their shopping bags, and Vana showed up soon after.
Everyone ordered Mojitos (Misha's was a double) and ordered Sushi, except Vana, who doesn't like Sushi. I think that anyone who knows me States-side would be amazed at how little i talk over here. Usually a complete chatterbox, i've really started learning how to listen more than talk. Of course it's anyone's guess how long it'll last once i get back to the US, but i hope that i'll retain some (if not all) of my newfound ability to use my ears more than my mouth.
As an aside, i think it's funny that i just talked about how little i'm speaking and how much i'm listening ... look at how much i'm *typing*!! :-D
I really had a good time hanging out at the Sushi place. Everyone at the table spoke and understood a little English, though some of them would never admit it. :-) I was able to understand what was being talked about most of the time, even if i couldn't figure out what was being said. Vera accepted the role of translator gracefully and generously, though she'd had to put up with my talking all day long already :-D
The sushi was good, though i only had an unagi roll (eel) which is rarely any kind of indicator of a sushi place, i think. I mean, it's cooked, so you really don't know about the freshness, y'know? I should have tried the salmon, but i guess i had a hard time thinking about all the cream in the roll in the picture ... i wanted little or no cream cheese. (and i wasn't thinking straight enough to just get sushi with no cream cheese or to take the cheese out after i got it ... sigh)
--The Road Home--
Train time eventually rolled around and our waitress eventually brought the bill. To say that the service was a bit slow at this particular eatery might be an understatement. It wasn't that crowded, either, so i'm not sure what took so long. Interesting FYI: tipping isn't done off a percent, but as a flat "good job, here's 50 rubles" thing. I'm not sure about all the rules, but from what i understand that's about all there is to it. Good job, 50 rubles. Bad job, no tip. I think it's about the same for the taxi, but i think it's pretty rare to leave a tip for the taxi at all.
We walked back to the train station pretty quickly and i had my last minutes with my new friend(s) on the streets of Yekaterinburg. I couldn't help but get distracted by my thoughts as we walked along, wondering at all the different paths and opportunities that we all have throughout our lives. If you believe in parallel universes (as i am inclined to do) you might believe that for every moment, and every decision, there are infinite realities where the decision was made differently. For every moment, (not second, but moment) in time, there's potentially a place where everything is completely different - maybe even opposite.
I sometimes wonder about how a river forms. If everything is completely equal, then that river could have developed in an infinite number of places, shapes, and sizes. But all things aren't equal - the river took a certain path, and it wasn't all random. A pebble here, an incline there, a slight breeze along the way. It's not predetermination, but a string of optimal circumstances which form a path of least resistance. So the river wasn't destined to form a certain way, but it was more likely to form in one way than any other. (even if it's only more likely by a tiny margin)
Think of all those infinite realities and countless potentialities that i mentioned before as a boundless landscape, and every moment of your life as a drop of water. We don't have to live our lives a certain way, but there is a path of least resistance. This doesn't mean it's easy by any means. Ease of living doesn't play into it. It's more about living the right life than it is about living the easiest one. (Though something i do tend to believe is that the further you get from your optimal path, the harder life can be to live.)
Anyways, the reason i brought this up was that i was considering how different life would be if i was living in Russia. What life would be like if i'd been there for a while, or would be like if i were to stay after my trip was over. I wondered what it would be like to take the train with Vera and her friends to Tyumen instead of back to Izhevsk. I wondered about living in other countries. I wondered about what i'd be doing if I'd never gone on this trip.
I think that life is about having dreams, but also being able to see them for what they are, and choose only the right ones to follow.
And so i followed my path to the train station, laughing and talking with Vera and her mates along the way. I was getting to be late for my train, so i said a hurried goodbye to Misha, Genya, and Vana, then Vera and i rushed to the train depot. We found my train on the board, had a heartfelt embrace, and said our farewells as i backed away down the tunnel - the desire to go back for even just a few more minutes lingering in my mind until i was practically on the train.
I had an easier time of finding the right car and berth this time around, and was situated within a minute or two. I was sitting across from a mother and her sick child, and couldn't help bad for the kid. She was old enough to talk, but still very young - 3 maybe? 4 at the most. I offered some chocolate that i had in my backpack, but she was too sick even for that.
I decided to let the mother and her child alone. They were obviously not going to be entertained by any mundane attempts at conversation with my faltering vocabulary and difficult accent. For my part, i was still lost in the miasma of my thoughts. I took my iPod out, stowed my backpack under the seat, and hit play when i'd found what i was searching for: "Shape of my Heart".
I know the spades are the swords of the soldier. I know that the clubs are weapons of war. I know that diamonds mean money for this art, but that's not the shape of my heart.
I plunged myself into the music and only came up occasionally to swim over to a new song. I listened to most of my favorites by Sting including Fragile, Ghost Story, and Why Should I Cry for You, then anchored my thoughts to the opening verse of Brought to my Senses.
Alone with my thoughts this evening, i wandered the banks of Tyne. I wondered how i could win you or if i could make you mine.
The wind it was so insistent, with tales of a stormy South. When i spied to birds in a sycamore tree came a dryness in my mouth. For when without rhyme or reason, the two bird they rised into flight, and where the two birds flying i swear i saw you and I.
For those not in the know (ask Dr. Know, there's nothing he doesn't!) that was the song i sang for LuAnne on our wedding day. It used to just be a pretty song, but now it also reminds me some of the best things in my life. (which all begin with "LuAnne's", ie LuAnne's smile)
Thus we reach the end of the story. Nothing terribly exciting happened between when i woke up and when i arrived in Izhevsk. I got home safe and sound, crawled onto the couch, and had a nap for a few hours before starting to write this blog.
I think that this trip will be with me for a long time... maybe forever. I have Vera to thank for that, and for the fact that every time i look back on my trip to Yekaterinburg it will be fondly, and with great longing.