|2004-07-22 - The Arctic Institute, Magadan
We had our first Russian lesson today. It went better than we had thought in advance. We can now greet these nice people without insulting them, but we still behave as deaf and dumb when they continue with their pleasantries. But there’s still room for a joke. Yesterday we let an old academic lady here at the institute, continue for about 5 minutes with a spontaneous and joyful monologue, before we cut her short and said in English: ”We don’t speak Russian”.
These people have humor, she smiles happily every time we see her.
We’re still suffering from jetlag, so we’re still moving around Magadan as zombies. Magadan is a big surprise in many ways. First of all, we did hear the worst of rumors how run down it was, a town of a 100 000 people on the verge of collapsing, when meeting with the Russian press at a press conference at the Adventure Club of Russia before leaving on Monday. None of them could understand why we wanted to go to Magadan. When speaking about our trip up the Kolyma, they thought we were downright stupid. So far we haven’t met anyone who believes we will survive the winter, even though we’re shown lots of respect and admiration.
Magadan is rundown. There’s no hot water, the town streets are heavily potholed and there is a total lack of color. It’s all a grey slab of Soviet grey. Extremely dull. But, you don’t see any rubbish on the streets, very few beggars or alcoholics, which litter Moscow a lot. Once you get inside a building, which on the front looks badly rundown, living quarters are comfy and neat. When planning we had problems getting accurate information about Magadan and figured we would have hassles finding food and other needed commodities for the first part in canoe. First thing we found was a very modern supermarket which had everything one could imagine. Teflon pans, imported coffee, lots of fresh fish and, believe it or not, a packet of expensive imported Swedish crayfish! Prices are like back home, it is expensive, due to the geographic location and isolation, most shoppers are well to do, but it is at least here! When continuing we found all electronic shops one could imagine, perfume, modern clothes, even a store which had the same unique angling gear as us!
Russian lessons continue for another 12 days. Important things do get lost in translation. When arriving yesterday, Titti told the headmaster of the Institute the story of the first train travel a famous Indian Chief took. When he reached the end station, he got off the train, sat down outside the station and spent the upcoming four days there. People who saw this couldn’t understand this, so finally they asked him why and he answered:
”I am waiting for my soul to arrive.”
Titti did a variety on this, meaning we needed time to handle all new impressions, it got translated to the headmaster, who after some thought, asked Titti:
”When is Mister Soul arriving? Tomorrow?”