Friday, October 26 – On the Train, Russia

I have no idea where I am. Russia, somewhere.  Still in Asia. I still have three more days on the train.
Last night my crazy Russian friend came back and gave me her daughter’s number in Moscow. She was a much more pleasant woman when she had her own berth and a bellyful of vodka.
I know I’m in Russia because we went through immigration last night. Twice, of course, The Mongolian side was no problem. I even made a friend. The Mongolian customs officer is going to email me to practice his English. We moved on for about an hour and then hit Russian customs. Whoo-boy.  Nice enough, but very thorough. No chitchat either. They are all business.
Side note: It is snowing!
Speaking of business… when the train stops, you aren’t allowed to go to the toilet. We were stopped for more than six hours. At the station, you could use a toilet outside for 6 roubles. I had 0 roubles. Eventually, when I couldn’t stand it anymore, I peed in the floor drain of the shower compartment of my kupe andthen washed the floor drain with a couple of carafes of boiling water. I’m sure I’m not the first to do this, and I’m not sorry that I did. I wrapped up in all my blankies after that and slept. We still hadn’t left by the time I nodded off.
I don’t really know what time it is – my watch is set to Beijing time but I think we’ve crossed time zones. According to me, it is 10:20. I woke up stopped at a station. It is very cold and they aren’t heating the train very well. There is a light dusting of snow everywhere. In Mongolia, there were patches of snow, but not like this. Some even lightly fell while we were stopped. The chime for the station was the first six notes of "We Wish You a Merry Christmas", so now that’s caught in my head. Also, I caught a glimpse of some younger, male railway workers this morning. This sighting, coupled with the two younger border security officers last night, is drawing me to the foregone conclusion that all Russian guys may be extremely hot. I’ll keep my eyes open in Moscow and let everyone know.
So far I have only nice things to say about Russia (yes, immigration was tedious and I had to pee, but they were just being thorough), but if I did have something nasty to say, I’d be a bit paranoid to write it down. Partly reputation, but partly truth, I think one needs to be very careful here about what is said and, more pointedly, what one takes pictures of.
I’m trying to keep an eye out for Lake Baikal, the world’s deepest lake, but I think we passed it while I was asleep in the dark. Oh well. Off to pee (again – I’m drinking far too much tea) and get more hot water (to make more tea).
Side note on the hot water:  On the trains each kupe has a samovar (hot water tank) where you can get hot water. I saw last night how they keep it hot – with a coal fire. I wasn’t expecting that!
I don’t think I’ve mentioned why one must not use the toilet when we are stopped. When you flush, the goods drop right onto the tracks. No wonder they don’t want us to do it at the station. It would stink the place up. Just now, when I went, when I "flushed", the air outside is cold enough that it caused a cloud, just like when you are breathing outside on a cold day.
I didn’t miss the lake. It is on our right. It is huge. It looks like an ocean, complete with tides.

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