Wandering the World
The Ground Beneath my Feet
Over a year ago I went on a fascinating journey. This week I finally put my photographs together with the writing I did on that journey so I can share it with you.
Well, because I broke my leg in Japan just 6 weeks before leaving Japan for Istanbul, I had to take the traditional land route instead of the more modern air route. Nika and Kerem on the other hand are already safely ensconced at Babaanne and Dede’s house in Istanbul as I write this.
Yesterday I took the airplane from Tokyo to Vladivostok. I know, I know I was not supposed to fly but the ferry boats were all full for the entire month of April and I figured that a three hour flight was better than an 11 hour flight. I was nervous almost the entire time since my doctor had put the fear of embolism in me. I kept fidgeting especially my injured leg which is totally not like me and I took 2 trips to the bathroom. The second one was thwarted as the guy in the front seat of the plane jumped up right before I got to his row and sprinted to the bathroom and then the captain came on to say that we were to go back to our seats for landing. I wasn’t too upset though because the main purpose of going to the bathroom was so I would have an excuse to get up and move around. I had also prepared myself with aspirin to thin my blood and compression socks to keep the swelling down.
So, I landed without embolism and proceeded to find my taxi driver. He was waiting outside with his two adorable daughters Angelina and Sasha who had made a sign with my name on it. He was a bit hard to find as he had been arranged by my Airbandb host and apparently couldn’t come in to the airport. Either that or he was late, I am not sure. He strapped his kids in and we were off. We got about half way to Vladivostok (it is about an hour outside away from the airport) when he pulled the car over ran around to the back and reprimanded the kids for something. It reminded me of the ever popular parental warning, "Don’t make me pull this car over!"
When we arrived my host popped out of the old high school where she was attending an art exhibition and gave me a big hug. Then we entered and her friends were all there offering me champaign. They seemed delighted that I would drink with them. I wasn’t actually supposed to have alcohol because it might make me dehydrated and give me an embolism but I figured, what the hell, I was on the ground again at that point. Conversation topics included “What do you think of our president?” This seemed a possibly dangerous topic so I side stepped it by saying that I did not like president Trump. One gentleman shared that he loved Arizona because of it’s open gun laws. According to him people kill people, not guns. I said that if people kill people, they should probably be kept away from guns. He didn’t agree. I think he was disappointed that I didn’t like Arizona gun laws as much as he did.
After the art exhibition there was a play rehearsal that involved my host’s son so we stuck around for another couple of hours and then caught a taxi. The driver was pretty good at speaking English and he was about my age so we had a great talk about working on boats and living in Vladivostok.
I was then escorted into a tiny but charming house with three extremely friendly cats. I gave my host and her son omiage from Japan and was so happy to see that the son who is twelve years old very carefully and meticulously opened the wrapping so as to not damage the paper. That is exactly what I would have done, so I appreciated that. After dinner, he dove into the individually wrapped cakes and decided that the sakura was the best.
I was then introduced to the toilet and I went to bed.
Then next morning Ray went off to school and Katya and I chatted over tea using Google translate. She is a fascinating person who loves art, cats, dogs and her freedom. She chooses to live in a small, very unique house rather than an apartment because she thinks it is healthier even though it means that her son is sometimes made fun of. She then decided to take me for a walk up the mountain in her back yard. This involved climbing up steep slopes with the aid of ropes and climbing through a hole in the fence. I doubted the wisdom of this as my leg is still pretty sore but I had already started so I didn’t want to be a wimp. I made it up all of the ropes only to get bloodied by a barbed wire fence I didn’t see while getting through the hole in the fence. I hope I don’t get tetanus. I think my last shot was about 5 years ago so I should be OK. Katya put a blue antibiotic on it, that stung. Now my hairline is blue. Then we went all over Vladivostok on foot. Happily she had an errand to run and sent me to the yacht club for an hour where I ordered a really cool chocolate ball and tea. They poured caramel over the chocolate melting it and revealing ice cream in the middle. It was warm and quiet and beautiful and I got to read my book for an hour.
Katya then retrieved me and we proceeded to walk to the train station so I could book my trip to Moscow for the next day. I couldn’t understand the exchange but the ticket woman kept shaking her head so it didn’t look good. Katya said that the next available seat was a week from now and I could feel my heart sinking. I had only booked Katya’s place for one more night and she was booked after that so I would have to find another place to stay. I really want to be on my way also because my leg is killing me at this point and I am really looking forward to 7 days of not walking all over hell’s half acre.
Being with someone who knows the system is a bit like being with Dumbledore however. She simply marched me out the door, across the tracks, through a gate and into another office, empty aside from one very friendly lady who proceeded to issue me a ticket for tomorrow. I am not sure why no in one place was not no in another place but I will take it! Actually I will be leaving the day after tomorrow at about one in the morning but it is calculated on Moscow time and in Moscow it will be tomorrow.
Then I thought we were going to go back home but we didn’t. Instead we climbed another mountain to get a spectacular view of the city. It was wonderful and I would have been excited to see it if my leg wasn’t hurting so much. I suggested taking a taxi home but we couldn’t get one because Katya’s phone had run out of batteries. That meant I had to walk all the way back down the mountain to find a cafe so she could plug the phone in. Walking into the cafe was like finding a mountain lodge after being lost in the snow, I sat down and put my foot up and enjoyed a hot lemonade.
The only thing I wanted more than to be in that cafe was to be laying down in bed so after a brief respite Katya loaded me into a taxi while she went off to hang some art at the exhibition. Luckily the driver found the right street. I wasn’t sure at first because it is a dirt road that you can only find after several turns but the young driver found it. He couldn’t fine the exact gate but luckily Katya had made me look at the gate before we left this morning so I could identify it and make it safely to my bed where I am writing this. Tomorrow I don’t get on the train until really late and I don’t want to walk very much so I think I am going to suggest that the big activity be trying to take a shower which according to the description on the airbandb site should be just down the street at the public pool.
So far I am finding the Russians to be standoffish with strangers but extremely friendly with me as soon as we are introduced. They generally don’t waste their smiles on people they don’t know.
OK, so because I overdid it yesterday walking from 9 am till about 7 pm my leg feels like it is on fire! I can’t wait to get on the train. I spent a good portion of the day sitting in bed reading and doing my physical therapy. I had 1 goal today and that was to take a shower, it didn’t happen. After stocking up on supplies for the train trip (I now have enough food for a small family) we headed off to find a public bath house. Unfortunately it was mens only day at the local one so Katya assured me that we would head off in the evening to one in town that she likes. We got there and it was closed. Apparently there is some kind of Easter bathing ritual that will take place the next day and they were closed getting ready for it. She assured me that I would be able to bathe on the train for 2 dollars and it would in fact save me money. This morning I got all of my bathing stuff together and was told that the shower is mythical. Wow am I going to stink by the time I get to Moscow!!