March 18, 2015
Yes, okay…I was just a tad tardy for our appointed time and location to meet Sasha, who has so graciously provided EVERY kind of support a non-Russian speaking visitor could ask for, for a ride to the St. Petersburg train station.
But I’m completely innocent. Anybody who knows me will know the truth of that. So of course you know this lateness was not my fault.
Dear Tanya — your able and knowledgable guide to all St. Pete has to offer, insisted that we tour the Italian Renaissance masters at the Hermitage just a little longer. And she also insisted that we visit the Russian antiquities. And she wanted to see the Dutch masters, and the Greeks. I tried to argue, I tried to
reason with her, I appealed to her sense of time, of humanity, even her sense of Metro scheduling. She would not be dissuaded from one more glance at the mummified remains of her Russian forebears.
As a result, Sasha lost most of his hair in a mad rush to the train station, and it’s all Tanya’s fault. She is unrepentant, which is an affront to the Italian masters and their dedication to depictions of the Madonna, and various naked lady masterpieces.
Me? As an innocent, I told jokes – most of them bad- during our breakneck race to the station. Hayne, take note: Sasha was not laughing either. Instead, he was working the manual shift on that Lada like some kind of ghostly reiteration of Mario Andretti.
In the end, we made it to the station on time. No problem. Five minutes to spare. I bid farewell to two amazing people dedicated to those around them. They gifted me the milk of human kindness, and will continue to make this world a better place.
The train ride to Petrozavodsk was great. We pulled out of St.Pete’s train station as the sun painted the white birches a golden yellow.
The guy in the seat in front of me, Nickolay, heard me struggling to speak with the conductor, turned around and translated. A sales rep for financial hardware for banks, he speaks five languages. We talked about everything from business to books to love and betrayal and back again.
As we approached Svir, Nicholay’s business associate encouraged me to step off the train to buy the best smoked trout this side of the North Pole, which of course, I did.
“Six minutes,” he said. “Plenty of time for a smoke and to buy a fish. No problem.”
The train left, and I am now somewhere near Svir without a coat, luggage, phone, anything – except the trout.
No, wait, go back.
Okay, I got back on the train under the watchful eye of an understanding train conductor, and am now the proud owner of a entire eyeballs-to-tailfin two-pound smoked trout.
All I need now is a hunk of brown bread, a beer, and if possible – anyone? anyone? Bueller? — a head of baked garlic.
But as it turned out, the no-phone part is true. I dropped that infernal device in Sasha’s car in our mad dash to the train station. Nicholay called Sasha, confirmed the finding of the phone, and arranged for it to be brought to me by another fellow in a day or two.
So, in total, a great train ride through the Russian dusk to Petrozavodsk on the banks of Lake Onega, full of interesting conversation and smoked fish, the odor of which, a half-hour later, began to seep from my tripod bag to permeate the car.
So here I am now in Petrozavodsk, a city of about 250,000, an old factory town in the Republic of Karelia , on the northwestern edge of this immense country.
More about Petrozavodsk this week, but first I must take you back to St. Pete to introduce you to the World of Math, Technology and Enterprenuership, the students of the “Don’t Speak” English School, the incredible warmth and talent of the Moss at the Rescue School, and my introduction to the students in a video production class at St. Petersburg University of Economics.
Yes, I must go backward before I go forward. I see something new everyday, meet yet another person, see yet another program dedicated to making the world and our next generation better than ours. These efforts must not be passed without notice.
That’s my job: to introduce them to you so that you may know that our Russian friends are us: they work hard to raise their kids, to put food on the table, laugh at themselves and the world, and care, and care, and keep on caring.
Philip K. Ireland
eMotion Web Video