Saturday, 25 July 2015

The mundane is extraordinary

As we continue to eat, drink and coincidentally drive across Russia, we are faced with a paradox. To us, travelling in the two ancient cars (with the Landcruiser as "minder") has become mundane, it is simply what we do. But the overwhelming and positive attention the cars receive and the strong interest and almost disbelief by enquirers when they learn the extent of the journey reminds us that this is indeed actually an extraordinary trip. From bystanders to motorists and truck drivers to the police (about 80-90% stoppage rate at manned checkpoints and intersections), the intense interest is exacerbated when we respond to the reason for the expedition as being "for fun" - a commonly expressed view is that of envy.

An initial perception of the Russian "personality" if there can be such a thing is that the people are reserved and to some extent forbidding, for example there is no eye contact with passers-by. But this is misleading and, when engaged, the people are friendly, helpful (and honest) and increasingly warm as the interaction develops. Language difficulties cause some complications, but are largely overcome because of the general goodwill no doubt in part catalysed by intrigue about our cars.

An example of the sort of interaction and luck we seem to generate is our visit to the Yuri Gagarin museum in Saratov. This is a well displayed museum dedicated to Gagarin next to the technological institute he attended. With the persuasive powers of our adopted hitchhiker Sergei, Inna (both pictured) was talked into opening the museum to us and she also gave us an animated presentation with Sergei translating. For this she was awarded a golden kangaroo pin (nearly up there with "Hero of the Soviet Union"), a personal viewing of the cars which left her "unable to speak" (literal translation!) and, most importantly, I got a hug.

So contrary to my prior subconscious views, Russia is not populated by two-headed people with tails who eat their babies. They are ordinary people, fat and thin, good looking and ugly, with a more directly appropriate claim to being Caucasian, going about their lives and business (including producing lots of babies which they quite seem to like). Language and alphabet aside, you could be anywhere. Whilst parts of the industrial cities and many rural settlements are rundown, decaying or derelict (just like Detroit), there is not a general sense of impoverishment and little evidence of the effects of sanctions on the general populace.

Michael Leggo

2 comments:

  1. Приятно осознавать, что еще несколько иностранцев теперь знают, что русские люди не едят своих детей )))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))

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  2. English translation of Tasha's comment: "Nice to know that a few foreigners now know that the Russian people do not eat their children".

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Thanks for your comment. It's nice to see you sharing our adventures.