Monday, May 24, 2004

The Ways Of Russian Life

Well, we've been here for two days. I would have blogged before now but haven't been able to access either or my MSN e-mail from Tom and Masha's apartment. I'm at an Internet cafe now. It's about 10:45 a.m.

It costs only 30 rubles an hour at this Internet cafe. That's about 33 cents -- amazing how cheap everything is here. It's much cheaper in Nizhny than in Moscow, where we paid 20 rubles for 15 minutes at the Internet cafe near the train station, but even Moscow is cheap when compared with the United States. It only cost 30 rubles to take a cab several miles in Moscow, and the Metro train is even cheaper. By way of comparison, a cab across town in D.C. is anywhere from $7 to $10, and an equivalent Metro ride would have been at least $3.50.

The D.C. Metro system is much cleaner, however, and people don't drink booze on the trains and buses like they do here. We were on a bus last night where four rowdy teenagers with a bottle of beer about the size of two liters of soda boarded and started wreaking havoc. You also don't see raunchy magazines at every other street corner in America (at least not yet, Jeff says). America certainly has her problems, but I'd just as leave not have to face that kind of open decadence on a daily basis.

Some other observations about Russia:

-- Stray dogs occupy the streets ... including the "dog church" (Tom's description) that meets near the museum where the Christians in Nizhny conduct worship services.

-- Most, if not all, of the the trees in the urban areas are whitewashed three to four feet up the base. Tom says it's to protect the trees from insects. I think it looks kind of tacky, yet it reminds me of my summer days in the country in West Virginia when I whitewashed the trees on my uncle's property.

-- In Russia, shoving appears to be something of a norm. If you're moving too slow, or you're trying to go somewhere that someone else doesn't want you to go, you may just get pushed out of the way. I saw it happen to three slow-moving people going through customs at the Moscow airport and to a woman trying to board a bus that had no vacant seats.

-- Smoking is rampant in this country. Reminds me of my youth, when I was subjected to secondhand smoke almost everywhere I went. I didn't think much about it then because that's just how Americans lived, but I've become accustomed to a society where smokers are cast onto porches and sidewalks or relegated to non-smoking areas. I like to breathe clean air!!!


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