Surprise on the train, same compartment: Tania and Shawn, the young couple from the Krasnoiarsk-Irkutsk train. I missed them in Olkhon having forgotten my jacket in the canteen where we stopped for lunch, their phone number was in the pocket and I only recuperated it on the way back. Jaime, the Mexican has left for Vladivostok, then Japan, Korea and China. We might meet in Beijing or Shangaii if we happen to be there at the same time.
The train stopped for 5 hours at the border. It’s the third time I’m asked for my passport. The third time, the woman took it, asked me to take off my glasses, looked at me, looked at the picture, shook her head looking perplexed and disappeared with it. Not sure what we are waiting for, for the two remaining wagons of the Transsiberian to be attached to the Transmongolian I guess.
We went through the station and into the little border town of Naushki, it must be 35 degrees and there is no shade, nor even in the park strewn with garbage. I know, I know, it looks on the picture as if there were shade, but I swear there wasn’t or it was just as hot in the shade.
The statue of a naked Russian maiden looks at the same time beautifully ethereal and pathetic. She is crouching and was once doing something with her arms, but they are both broken with ends of its metal structure sticking out.
Not far, the statue of a female reindeer fares better, but not her companion who has mostly disappeared and remains unidentifiable. Shawn fantasizes about getting the schoolchildren to clean up that mess and then reward them with ice cream. That should be feasible if anybody cared. We buy ice cream and quickly eat it before it melts.
It’s even hotter in the wagons, I had taken a fan with me as an afterthought, but it’s been very useful. Our two wagons are still standing alone, even though we were told we’d leave in 20 minutes. That was a while ago. My passport is still missing. Then three searches: two by customs agents, one by a dog. I liked the dog better. I got my passport back. And we haven’t even passed the Mongolian border yet. I just read that the border between Mongolia and China was no better.
Going through the peaceful Buryat, but still Russian, countryside, one feels disconnected from the rest of the world and it’s not a bad thing at all.
I had a rude awakening last night when, for the first time in three weeks, I turned on the TV. The station in English was RT, Russia Today, a station sponsored by the Russian government and analysing the news on a sanctimonious and accusatory tone. The Malaysian plane shot over Ukraine and the worsening situation in Israël were too much to take in one single session. I turned it off. I’ll never go to sleep if I keep on worrying not only about Lenin’s cross-eyes but about Ukraine and Gaza as well, and I don’t mean to be flippant.