Thursday, February 7, 2013

A View From the Bus Towards Irbit

Aeroflot's one bag rule was my introduction to Russia's general hatred of luggage. The next time I found it was getting on the bus in Yekaterinburg that was heading downtown from the airport. Stern-looking and solidly built as she was, I was in no position to argue with the conductress whether my bags were really the size of another two passengers so I  paid the $1.00 fare difference. 

Tall, with dark, tousled hair, horn-rimmed glasses and a geek's good looks, Oleg is a friend of Zaya's friend Elena. At 22, in addition to being a millennial, Oleg is part of the first post-communist generation. He says he still remembers communism, but, I asked him, will your children? Everything around us, from the McDonald's to the Citroen dealerships tells me Soviet style communism will simply fade as quickly as the generations will forget. Oleg was kind enough to let us stay the night in his tiny student apartment where he and Zaya and a couple of friends partied as I slept off my jet lag.

My next anti-baggage encounter was boarding the bus to Irbit the next day. The ticket inspector swore up and down that the bags of any kind were a violation of bus ordinances and that we should be summarily shot for suggesting there was room in the empty luggage compartment to stow them. Oleg entered into a shouting match with the inspector and eventually won the day. The bus started to fill up so we said our goodbyes and I made my way to the very back where I took a seat next to the window. 

Honestly, I'm not really sure where the border of Siberia is, but it seems to start east of the Ural Mountains and ends in the Pacific Ocean. The air is clear and bright as the countryside rolls by. Stands of silver birch with their black and white trunks are the only thing breaking up the wide, flat plains of snow. 

Now, I am in the Midwest. It's Wisconsin out there. From the farms to the fields it's very familiar and harkens back to my boyhood in Illinois. At 5:15PM the sun is still bright with a late afternoon's feel. Snow is a palette on which light plays. Right now it's alternately watery blue in the shadows and yellowy pink in the sunny spots, perhaps with a hint of abutilon, anything but white. Long shadows at a 45-degree angle indicate our easterly direction, which is as it should be. 

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