Posing with the train at one of the stops.
Seeing Siberia from the train.
A dog hanging out on the tracks.
September 21-23, 2006
Leg#2: Trans-Siberian route
Length of journey: 50 hours
Waiting for the train to depart…
It is so weird – our train leaves at 1:40am yet it actually leaves at ’11:40pm’. How is this possible, you ask? Well, the trains are all
on Moscow time. It does not matter which stop you pick up the train in. For example, Yekaterinaburg is two time zones away. But
all of the times at the train station are all in Moscow time, regardless. I have set back my watch so that I don’t screw anything up
along the way. This could get confusing…
Catherine and I are now roomies with Sam and Dave for the next fifty hours. It’s really late right now (after 2am Yekaterinaburg
time) so I think I am going to call it a night.
I have just awoken in Siberia. It doesn’t look too much different from the Ural route. But it is just so much fun to say that ‘I am in
We just had a stop on the platform where I bought some stuffed blinis. It turns out they have ‘curds’ in them which turn out to be
very similar to ricotta cheese. So it is almost like I am eating blintzes. This is a good thing as I love blintzes.
On my way back into the car, I asked our provodnista her name. It is Vera.
Stuart is setting up his mini-speakers and is getting ready to hold a music party in our cabin. We are all to pick our top five songs
and what makes them our top five songs. This is beyond cool that he has come up with this as my friend in San Francisco has hosted
a party like this in the past and it has always sounded like a great idea.
I already know what my first pick is going to be – Where’s the Love by the Black-Eyed Peas – as I think the words to the song have
such an impact, especially when traveling around the world (which we are all essentially doing).
Music party was a success. People picked great songs and now I have more than several to download next time I have access to
I have to say that we have such a great group of people on this trip. There are twelve of us – and there is not one person who is
inflicting any pain (of the annoying sort) onto the rest of the people. Well, this is all assuming that I am not that ‘one’ person. But I
don’t think I am. Gosh darn it, I think all of these people here like me.
Claustrophobia has caught up to me a bit and ten people in my room was getting to be a little crammed. I have now moved next
door to chat with Jeanne and Nick.
Simon has now come into the room as well. The three of them (all English) are attempting to give me a proper English lesson. I have
requested this as I have had handfuls of people along the way tell me that they can tell that I am American from the ‘tone’ in my
voice. They are teaching me to cut my words off and not to drag them out (which we Americans don’t even realize we do). This is
much more difficult than it sounds.
I hope, for the future of English schooling, that Simon does not go into teaching. He was scaring me. He was getting very frustrated
with the way I was pronouncing words like ‘book’, ‘American’ and ‘process’. We could not stop laughing at the frustration I was able
to bring out in him…especially for such a mild-mannered guy!
In the meantime, I am going to attempt to pronounce ‘t’s and not made them sound like ‘d’s. I just need to take baby steps.
I am tired now. Learning can be draining. Time for bed.
Is it 5am? Or is it 10am? Or is it something in between? This is getting difficult to figure out. After all, the sun is beaming right into
our cabin right now. I am awake and am about to read more of my book. I have changed my watch ahead five hours to Irkutsk time
since we arrive there at 7am tomorrow. If I kept my watch on Moscow time, I would have to wake up at 2am and then I would tell
myself that I might as well pull an all-nighter. And now being the 30-year old that I am, I feel like I need to be wise about when I
pull all-nighters. I am having a hard time bouncing back like I used to.
I have just finished ‘The World is Flat’. I learned a good amount but I am tired of learning for the time being. I now get to start the
non-fiction novel ‘Shantaram’ which I am looking forward to.
In the meantime, are there really only fifteen hours left??? I am not ready for this train ride to be over. It feels like we just got on.
I am having a severe chocolate craving. Have to tend to that…
Ohhhh….the chocolate was good! I have to report that the Russians make some tasty chocolate. Some addictions will never die.
I just did a side-trip to the dining car. This actually took quite a bit of time as we are in Car 13 and the dining car is Car 5. I also saw
that Car 7 is living far larger than we are in Car 13. They have 2-person cabins with a television. They get some luxury at the
expense of missing out on some of the experience. A part of me says this out of envy; a bigger part of me truly feels this way.
I am now thinking about trains. We had a train set growing up. Actually my dad had a train set…my sister and I would watch it. We
always saw it as a treat when he would turn it on for us. I can still hear the noise it would make along the tracks and the little ‘choo
choo’ sound it would make. My dad must have loved trains. I know that the train set was one of his much-beloved ‘toys’. But I
never knew him to have ever stepped foot on a train. Hmmm… Maybe he did? I don’t know. Kind of sad thinking about things that
you will never get the answers to. I have noticed that a lot in the past five months…so many things remind me of my parents and I
want to ask them questions about things. Whether it’s the little things about certain hobbies or interests they had or more
important things like where they were during huge events in world history and how they remember feeling at that very moment.
Just a bit over a week before my mom passed away, I pulled out a case that had all of the charms that my mom collected from
every European city she went to on a trip she did after graduating from college. I asked her to tell me a little something about each
place that she remembered. We laughed when I would come across places that not only did she have no recollection of, but that it
was as if she was hearing the city’s name for the first time. She came to the conclusion that those must have been places that they
just drove right through. Though I don’t remember many of the details she told me that day, I am so happy we had that chat. While
I knew we shared a love of baking, a love of chocolate and sweets, a love of entertaining and a love of dorky things like
scrapbooking…it was then that I realized that we both shared a love of traveling.
There have been so many things I have wanted to tell my mom about over the past months about things I have seen…but as my
sister pointed out to me when I shared this thought with her, I would not be on this trip if my mom was still alive. This is when the
thought of ‘life’ comes into play. Would I rather have my mom alive than be on this trip? Of course. But have the past five months
been the best five months of my life? Without a doubt. Life is many times about making the most out of what we have been given. It
seems as if I have actually been able to get much more out of the negative stuff I have ‘been given’ versus the positive. I think I
tended to take the positive for granted. It’s the negative that made me really sit and think.
I have been given the experience with what it is like to deal with death. Not just with my parents but also with friends. All of these
people were in my mind when I decided to do this trip. It was actually thinking about the loss of friends who died at the ages of 25
and 27 of natural causes that really made me decide to go ahead with this trip. As cliché as it sounds, you truly need to live your life
to the fullest. Too many people wait around for retirement. I have seen (more than I would like) that many people don’t make it to
that point in life. I even just found out weeks ago about a good girlfriend of mine who got jumped at gunpoint and robbed while
walking on a street that she had no reason to feel anything but comfortable on. Thank God she made it out okay…but I can’t even
begin to think of the trauma that she is going through.
Geez…my mind sure is in a different state right now than it was in Hour 36. I actually like when my mind goes off on these tangents.
It gives me time to think about memories of my times with my friends that have passed away. It sounds weird but we can all only
be that lucky to leave a part of ourselves in the hearts and minds of people that survive us. While these friends and family members
may have died, the stories and memories of them have not.
I have been looking out at Siberia for the past hour or so. I wish I had a song on my ipod geared towards traveling through this area.
That would be cool. But I don’t.
I am going to play some rummy with Sam and Dave. It is so sad to think that I am going to be going to bed right afterwards and
when I wake up the train ride is going to be over. It flew by so quickly. Too quickly.
Oh, am I tired. We stop in a half-hour and I am barely awake. Why do they close the toilets so early? Why is it necessary to lock
them thirty minutes before we get to a stop? Now I am up with nothing to do but be really tired. I just hope that in this tiredness, I’
m not going to forget anything on-board.