11 August, 2005

Commuter activity in a small Siberian town.

A provodnitsa watches over the entrance to her carriage.

The landscape is every bit as big as it looks and probably a whole lot bigger.

The sign on the side of a train heading to Moscow.

People think nothing of cutting over tracks and walking alongside and in front of moving trains.

11 August, 2005

Day 26. I have to admit I was pretty surprised with how well the connection held out during "Off The Hook." We started out using a GSM phone which lasted far longer than I ever thought possible. I mean, being on the Trans Siberian Express, I think most people wouldn't be surprised if their cell phone coverage dropped out. Instead I got better coverage here than I do in many parts of Long Island! Of course, it didn't last forever and we switched over to the satellite phone a bit later in the show. Even that fared better than my anticipations. I fully expected to only be on for a few minutes if that long but wound up being able to catch most of the show. Of course we wound up with a good amount of the "Ted Koppel effect" (confusion caused by satellite delay that first became widely known in the early days of "Nightline"). But it was really good to hear voices from home.

By the time the show ended, it was daylight on the train. I managed to catch some sleep and woke up sometime in the afternoon. Time is becoming very strange as I try to stay aware of New York time, the train is on Moscow time, and the actual time zones we're passing through are somewhat open to interpretation.

The scenery has been changing. More open fields and a general sense of wilderness stretching out forever. I learned that we had actually entered Siberia early in the morning. What an absolutely huge expanse! If we stayed on this train until its destination (Vladivostok), we would be traveling across Siberia for days to come.

I used to wonder what it must have been like to grow up in a small town. Like a *really* small town somewhere in the middle of Kansas or Iowa or someplace. What about my friends? Would they have become anything resembling the people they are today in an isolated environment? Is there a spark that somehow ignites and propels you past whatever limited locale you happen to find yourself in? I've met so many cool people from small towns who really have a sense of the world beyond their own tiny community and it's those people I have a great deal of respect for since it must take an awful lot of determination to simply *get* to that stage. I guess I still ponder these things. Only now, seeing such a foreign environment that truly *is* in the middle of nowhere, I have to wonder if it would even be possible to transcend this environment and move on to something else. I know that's not necessarily what people want to do in the first place but I think there should always be some sort of ability to realize and achieve your goals. Do people here have any choice at all as to how their lives will go? I suppose there's no way of really knowing this short of hopping off the train at the next small station and living here for a while.

We stopped in a few more little towns but there seem to have been less and less merchants selling things to the train people. We decided to check out the restaurant car later in the evening.

We stopped at Novosibirsk which happens to be the biggest city in Siberia. I really wish I could have spent some time here since it looked fairly modern and non-crumbling. As we're in car 14 which is the next to last car on the train, anytime we stop anywhere it takes a very long time to walk all the way up to the front of the train where the action tends to be. So by the time I made it all the way to the main station building which had all kinds of food and stuff inside, they were calling us back onto the train. Shit. I wasn't about to go running all the way back so I got onto an earlier car despite the admonitions of that car's provodnitsa. If she truly believed I didn't belong on the train I'm sure she wouldn't have let me on at all. So I walked all the way back to our car on the inside of the train, which took more than five minutes.

So once we actually left the station, we decided to get some food on the train which entailed walking through about ten carriages to get to the restaurant car. Which of course was closed by the time we got to it. Fucking great. This apparently is the only part of the train that is *not* on Moscow time. It was like they were taunting us with visions of food and then not allowing us to actually gain access to any of it. I'm not used to the feeling of realizing that there wouldn't be any food tonight, something I guess most of the world is all too familiar with. Of course, even that is an exaggeration since we had tea and potato mix and cookies. But more would have been nice.

Oh well, tomorrow is another day. Probably one exactly like today.