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Cristina’s travels TAC 2015 Team Pushkin

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Serpent
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 Message 273 of 297
01 September 2015 at 6:29am | IP Logged 
Nevermind, seems like it's сто in both cases :) ста is the genitive, but it's used in negative sentences sometimes. Due to Finnish influence I tend to overuse it, and it was in Via Diva's example too :D
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Solfrid Cristin
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 Message 274 of 297
01 September 2015 at 6:44am | IP Logged 
THE TAIGA AND SWIMMING IN THE LAKE BAIKAL

Monday

The next day was in fact a lot better. During breakfast I got acquainted with Veronica and Natalia from
Smolensk, and Ekaterina who worked as an ecologist. Veronica turned out to be a colleague, since she
worked for the Russian Railways, RZD, so already there we had something in common. The breakfast was
unlike any other breakfast I have ever had. Semolina porridge (very salty) which was eaten with butter and
lots of sugar, and a kind of donut served with jam. I am used to either some kind of musli or bread with
cheese and ham, so this was a bit out of the ordinary for me, but hey, that's why you go to a foreign country!
If you only want to eat what you are used to, you stay at home :-)

After breakfast we had an excursion, and although I had specifically asked the guide to make sure that I got
all key information, she had neglected to tell me that we would need our swim wear today. Fortunately one of
the others understood that I had not brought anything, and asked me whether I was not going to bring any
bathing suit. I ran back to the hotel room, to pick up everything I needed. When I came back 5 minutes later
everybody had left the meeting place, and I though 'Not again!'

This time I could however not imagine that they would leave without me, so I ran out of the hotel, and found
them in the cars all ready to go, and Irina the receptionist shouting 'Where is Cristina?' They put me in the
front seat, which was great, because then I could take pictures. Not that there was all that much to take
pictures of, but still. I think the most puzzling feature of the island to me are all the cows who seem to roam
free and unattended. I am sure they belong to someone, but I have only seen cows walking the streets in
films from India. Yesterday I saw a little boy chasing a cow on his bike. The cow run as fast as it could to
avoid him, and he was shouting and harassing the poor animal. I looked angrily at him and shook my finger
and he stopped immediately. Probably more out of surprise that anyone cared about the cow than for any
other reason. And today I learned that God means for me to pass away quietly in my bed with my loved ones
around me, because if I survived the trip today, I am not meant to die while traveling. I have never seen cars
in worse condition. My seat was not even fastened - it danced around under me, seat belts were obviously
not an option, and I do not know how the car even worked. Frequently they probably don't, and at one point
one of the other cars stopped completely Our driver got out of the car to repair it, and after 20 minutes
everyone was ordered out of the car to push it - backwards. I have never seen a car be pushed backwards in
order to start before, but the engine started again, so I guess they knew what they were doing.   The cars in
Cuba looked new in comparison, and the roads reminded me again of Mongolia. And the driver might have
been Ukrainian, with his total defiance of the laws of physics. He was really sweet though, of Buryat origin, he
slowed down every time I wanted to take a picture, and he opened and closed the door for me every time. Of
course in this particular car that was a necessity, since I could not manage to do it myself - the door was
partly broken. I told him that my Russian was not very good. "Fine", he said, "So is mine", which presumably
meant that neither was his. :-)

The first half day of our trip was an hour walk down to the lake Baykal through the forest. I had wanted to take
a walk on the taiga, me of course thinking that the taiga was something really exotic, and not thinking of the
fact that Norway and Russia is fairly similar in flora, so it felt just like walking through a regular Norwegian
forest. I managed to take a picture of a few flowers and a couple of butterflies, which was just as good, since
what would otherwise have been spectacular pictures at the shore of the Lake Baykal was totally hidden in
smoke. It was nice to see a green part of the island too. Olkhon means dry in the Buryat language, and large
parts of the island is the driest, most barren area I have ever seen. Just trampled down earth as long as they
eye can see.   I would therefore have liked to spend some more time there - there were some absolutely
amazing butterflies there. Everything was otherwise still grey. A few of the people started talking to me, and I
offered to take some pictures so that couples could have pictures together, and not just of each other. On the
way back I had a long talk with Lena from Samara who was divorced, because of her husband's alcoholism.
We discussed at length physical and psychological abuse, which one was worse, and the delirious joy of no
longer being subjected to neither of them.

The lunch was served as a sort of a picnic, though I had only the cabbage salad and a cookie for desert. The
main course was a fish soup where they had left the heads of the fish as well in there, and I am not big on
eating food that's looking at me. When they asked me if I had liked the soup I lied, and said it was lovely. I did
not want to hurt their feelings by admitting to not eating it. To drink we were given a plastic cup and told to go
find water in the stream. Now had this been a stream with a significant amount of water, I would not even
have hesitated, I have drunk water from Norwegian streams dozens of times, but here, at the place where
there was the most water it was a depth of perhaps 4-5 cm, and it was running very slowly over mud and
grass, and there was little black particles in it. I could not help thinking that they might have taken the trouble
to fill a few bottles of clean water from the hotel for us. 'Will we not get sick?', I asked one of the other
women, pointing towards the water. 'Who knows' she said and shrugged. The drivers assured me that they
always drank it, and never got ill. The fact that you have different flora of bacteria in different countries, and
that I could get very ill from something which did not affect them at all, was obviously beyond their
imagination. I crossed my fingers. After a two hours brisk walk with no water, not drinking was however not a
possibility. I was lucky though, I did not suffer the consequences of that water until a couple of hours after I
came home to Norway. I will spare you the sordid details, but it made me lose 2 kg in 48 hours. I was just
grateful that I had not gotten it on the Olkhon Island. Having an upset tummy either on the island or on the
way back to Irkutsk would have been beyond the 7th realm of Hell.

At the end of the lunch I got acquainted with a young couple, Natalia from Novosibirsk and Alexei from St.
Petersburg who were both working in Novosibirsk, and who turned out to speak English very well. (Alexei
was by the way the guy who had looked at me so sternly the evening before - the next day I was to find out
why). I asked if Novosibirsk was a beautiful city and Alexei answered that it was an extremely ugly city, with
just one beautiful building: The Opera. I answered that if Novosibirsk had one beautiful building then they had
an advantage over Oslo, because we had absolutely none:-) Natalia and Alexei loved Italy and France, and
Alexei was a huge fan of the Norwegian pop group A-Ha, and had been to four of their concerts. Not exactly
what you would have expected to come across in Siberia :-) They were both pretty mad at their tour agent
whom they had called last week, inquiring about the huge clouds of smoke around the Lake Baykal. She
assured them that it was sunny and clear, and that they must not believe what they saw on Russian TV.
Since they live in Novosibirsk and could have come at any time, you can imagine their anger when they got
here and saw the whole area be engulfed in grey smoke. I was pretty mad at mine as well, because I had
trusted them to let me know if there would be any problems, and when you go somewhere for the fresh air
and the magnificent views, then you don't expect the whole area to me covered in smoke.

After lunch we went to a small lake (so a lake on an island in a lake - talk about a topographical Matrioshka
doll!) were we were supposed to bathe, since it was generally a few grades warmer than in the Lake Baykal.
The weather, however had turned significantly cooler in just an hour, and although we were supposed to
bathe, not many were inclined to do so, as we were all wearing four layers of clothes against the cold. I was
hesitating as well, but when I saw one of the others going in, I stripped down to my bikini, and went for a long
swim. I was not going to be outdone by a Russian. I am not a Viking descendant for nothing. :-) The water
actually was not that cold, probably 17-18 degrees, so staying in the water for a while was a piece of cake,
but the cold wind when I came out was killing. I made sure I got out of the wet bikini and into warm and dry
clothes really quickly. At least now everyone knows who I am :-), and they cheered and applauded and took
pictures when I came up of the water. In the end we were three who bathed: Svetlana, me, and Rosa who is
76 years old, recites poems and songs for us, and who has more chutzpah than any other woman I have ever
met. If I have half the vitality she has when I am 76, I will not complain. She is a native Buryat who became
an orphan under WW2, and was raised in Tadjikistan by ethnic Russians. She showed me the cross around
her neck and said that she was an Orthodox Cristian, and did not believe in shamanism. She said " I have
this face that I have, but my soul is Russian". I could probably have written a book on her life alone.

As mentioned, in the afternoon, I had ordered a banya along the shore of the lake, because I intended to
waste no time before fulfilling the dream I have had for years. I had specifically ordered veniki, (new big fan
here:-) and found a place which was at the very end of the beach, and got the instructions. I was a bit
disappointed though, because the veniki were not of birch, but pine, which hurt when beating myself, even if I
tried to beat really softly, and which left me looking like a porcupine, with pine needles absolutely everywhere.
Also they were using the same water to soak the veniki in as the water which I was supposed to wash myself
in, and it was boiling hot, which meant that the veniki were not only sharp, they were also scorching, so I
soon abandoned that project. Still no masochistic tendencies here :-) Washing in dirty water was not really
my thing either, so I just used the banya to get properly heated up before diving into the waves of the lake.
And the water was ice cold - there was no doubt about that - but here was the Siberian lake I had been
looking for after the banya in Ivanovo - and the worst part of bathing in really, really cold water is going in to
the water, and here I did not feel it because I was so hot from the banya. The banya had its feet in the lake,
so it was just a matter of opening the door and go straight into the lake. After having checked that there was
no one close who could see me, I went in a total of three times. I first sat in the banya for about 20 minutes
and then swam for 10. When my teeth started shaking I went back to the banya for another 10 minutes and
swam for another 5 , and had a third round of 5 minutes in the banya, 5 minutes in the water and 5 minutes to
warm up again. My skin looked like it had polka dots - I was all pink and white - not quite sure whether that
was from the heat, the cold or both. But I do not think I have ever felt so alive. Or so happy.

And I can now strike from the list of things I want to do before I die, the activity which for a long time has been
at the very top of my list: Swimming naked in the Lake Baykal. Which I have now done not once, not twice but
three glorious times :-)

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Serpent
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 Message 275 of 297
01 September 2015 at 7:25am | IP Logged 
See that's why I love Finland :D Never swam naked though.
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Serpent
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serpent-849.livejour
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 Message 276 of 297
01 September 2015 at 8:04pm | IP Logged 
BTW as for kissing, I'd say the main thing here is that kissing twice used to be considered bad luck or something (whereas thrice probably refers to the trinity). But nowadays few care about that anymore. The way I see it, breaking this into separate 2-3 kisses kinda removes the romantic connotation.* And it's simply more comfortable. So if someone is sufficiently close I just kiss them for as long as we want and normally alternate the cheeks at least once. I'd say the principles are the same regardless of gender, but the acceptable/comfortable timing can of course vary, and I'm sure many men don't kiss as easily as women do. Also, if someone is in a hurry (whether you or the other person), kissing too many times feels strange, and one long kiss feels more suitable imo.

To me there's nothing archaic about kissing three times unless it's emphasized excessively. It's kinda like drinking a shot in one go - we don't really notice/care about that. If someone considered the three kisses a big deal, I'd think they're superstitious, religious or quirky though.

Also I'd say hugging is always fine. You can just let the other person "lead" and see if it feels natural to kiss as well or not, and how many times.

*Even for women. A French exchange student actually thought all girls she saw kissing on the cheek in Moscow were lesbians :O And if I found myself having a slightly too long greeting kiss with a woman, I'd feel obliged to make a stupid joke along the lines of "I feel like a lesbian".
(depending on what they're comfortable with, girls may well kiss on the lips in a friendly way too, I like this tbh)
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Марк
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 Message 277 of 297
06 September 2015 at 12:07am | IP Logged 
Cristin, I've never met a Russian who would hate Americans. It's the policy of the USA which many people dislike.
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Solfrid Cristin
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Winner TAC 2011 & 2012
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4143 posts - 8863 votes 
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 Message 278 of 297
06 September 2015 at 1:50am | IP Logged 
@Serpent: Well you should try! It is a sensation unlike anything else :-)

I am surprised to hear about the French exchange student, since when I was in France, I had to kiss the girls
in my class on the cheek 16 times a day, each. Otherwise I am fine with most types of kissing and hugging,
but I would have been way out of my comfort zone if anyone of either gender kissed me on the lips as a way
of greeting. I have seen that with children in both Spain and the US, but even with children that will bring
horror to the eyes of a Norwegian, and I fear that if anyone had tried it on me now, as an adult, my gut
reaction would have been to smack them. That is intimate enough to be used only by people within the same
cultural framework, who are familiar and comfortable with that. My mom used to say that the Inuits used to
greet each other by rubbing noses, which is another one which is perfectly fine if you are used to it. Not one I
would go for with a foreigner I did not know very well, though :-)

@Mark: How lovely to see you :-) I thought you had completely abandoned us. Not quite sure that I know
exactly which statement you are referring to, but sadly I have heard a few people say that. And they are not
only referring to the political aspects, I am afraid.
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Serpent
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serpent-849.livejour
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 Message 279 of 297
06 September 2015 at 10:34am | IP Logged 
Hm I did get close enough to swimming naked when I went to the sauna but had no bikini/swimsuit. I just used my towel instead, lol.

And that's of course counting only natural water. We did swim naked together at the banya I think :D
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Solfrid Cristin
Heptaglot
Winner TAC 2011 & 2012
Senior Member
Norway
Joined 3702 days ago

4143 posts - 8863 votes 
Speaks: Norwegian*, Spanish, Swedish, French, English, German, Italian
Studies: Russian

 
 Message 280 of 297
06 September 2015 at 12:53pm | IP Logged 
@Serpent: Yes we did :-) I am trying to picture swimming with a towel. That must take some serious skills :-)


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