Monday, June 24, 2013
June 16, 2013
Sun was up at 5:30 and Willoughby was once again up before me. She’d brought a pair of man’s PJs and didn’t mind partially disrobing in front of strangers to change into it. I just slept in my clothes.
Elvira hadn’t come back to pick up the dishes from my lagman and thus hadn’t confirmed that we wanted breakfast again. I waited until 7:20 before making my way again through all six cars to reach the dining car. Everyone was still asleep. I tapped on Elvira’s shoulder and just said we wanted the same egg and fried salami breakfast.
On the way back, observed a train cleaning woman sweep all the trash the smokers were leaving behind right onto the tracks. We went through a fairly large city in Kazakhstan before crossing into Russian territory late in the afternoon.
Again, all border patrol officers wore fatigues and had menacing looks on their faces. We were given immigration forms to complete and the young Uzbek guys above us seemed very nervous. One of them asked Willoughby to hide the purse-like bag he was wearing across his chest.
The officer asked me to remove my reading glasses while he inspected the photo in my passport. We weren’t asked to provide an invitation letter at all. The others performed the same tasks as the Kazaks looking with a mirror behind every bag and having dogs sniffing everything.
After a few minutes, what looked like a policeman in civilian clothes came into the compartment carrying a badge and asking to see our documents again. He spoke a few words of English and left us alone rather quickly.
The Russian landscape offered a bit more greenery to look at and then we started seeing some dilapidated houses with huge vegetable gardens just sprouting. We had changed time zones and it was now two hours earlier than in Bishkek. The sun was fiery and I had to sit next to Willoughby to avoid the heat on my side of the compartment.
Elvira came by to inquire about dinner and since our supplies were running out, we inquired about the options with “fried meat with other kinds of vegetables” sounding like the best one. We got a mess of potato slices covered with oil on top of which a few pieces of fatty sinewy beef had landed adorned by slices of white onions and green onions. A plate of tomato and cucumber slices rounded out the meal.
The food was barely palatable and I didn’t finish it. We each had a piece of chocolate for dessert and returned to our reading as I was determined to finish my book and unload it on Irina once I got to Moscow.
I had just gotten into my deep sleep cycle when the attendant rudely shook my shoulders to ask if I had a Nokia charger he could borrow. I don’t know how he figured I might have one since I hadn’t used it at all the whole time. I had to get up and search for it in my backpack. He promised to bring it back at some point.
I went back to sleep only to be awaken again by the group of Uzbek men who were leaving the train and wanted to say goodbye. They had certainly provided us with some distraction during the dull trip even though we could never figure out why they were going to Russia in the first place as no one spoke English in our car.