Thursday, September 28, 2006

Leaving Minsk Behind

The days had flown by I woke up early a little hung over from last night, but the worst feeling was the trip being nearly over. I went down to breakfast many thoughts whirling around my head.

I met Maia early so I could grab some presents for the folks back home, I felt a little hung over from the night before and worried about leaving.

We went to the market and I bought some Matryoshka (Russian Dolls) for my parents Phil Bruce and everyone. We went for a final coffee in London (a nice little coffee bar) and walked back to the hotel I found it hard to speak there was so much I wanted to say but it all ended up unsaid. I checked out and we rode into a taxi she joined me till the edge of the city where her home is.

I hugged her goodby a tear in my eye, she got out and I watched her walk away as the taxi sped off. Another couple of hours I was flying out of Belarus back to warsaw a five hour wait for a plain to the UK. I ended up having to throw away the $6 Vodka I bought but managed to bring Ian some cheap fags (only $16).

On the plain home the first song that came on my i-pod was one of Paul's "Until Your Home" one lyric stood out to me "it aint a lonely life if you find somebody right" I couldn't help feeling maybe I had but I was leaving her behind.

I'll never forget my holiday to a country where people earn $100 a month, worry about going hungry not about what car they drive.
The cleanest country I have ever seen with its huge streets, imposing structures, military on the streets, strange laws with friendly people, but no English.

Minsk - Day Seven

Last full day in Belarus tomorrow I would be heading back home, I felt pretty sad to be soon leaving time had seemingly flown by since my arrival last Tuesday.
Maia had a lecture in the morning so I went to look around the Great Patritic war monument near to my hotel. I met her at noon and we decided to try and head to the village again as the weather was good, buying some break cheese and ham from the supermarket to have as a picnic we hoped in a taxi and 25 minutes later arrived at the village.

Only one small issue it was closed, Monday is the day when lots of things like the market and the village were closed, oh well third time unlucky. As we already had the food we got back into the taxi headed back to the city and into a different park for a picnic lunch. We even fed the ducks with the crumbs, there werent any Swans though.

Emotions were high and we chatted for hour Maia told me so much about herself and her life I felt so close to her in these moment I just wanted to reach out to her but then part of what she was telling me was the love for her boyfriend so I just sat listened and told some of my stories.

In the evening we went out to the same bar from the first night, I ate caviar for the first time, it was pretty tasty thought a little salty. Guila and Andre met us for a couple of drinks even though they were both feeling ill, very good of them. A Croation friend of Maia's also joined us for a drink.
In the taxi home I hekd her hand and wondered how I could leave this person to whom I had become so close to behind.

Dacha - Day 6

I slept pretty well must have been the vodka, though Maia did keep me awake a while constantly texting her Italian man.
Breakfast was a salami and cheese toasty, very tasty, Maia and I were up hours before Andre and Guila slept in a bit. Maia and I cleared up the Datcha and chatted a little. It was a day to move slow, enjoy the sun pack up and head out for the bus.

We managed to catch an auto taxi on the way back it was actually slightly cheaper though it dropped us off on the outskirts of town. Maia and I said goodbye to Andre and Guila and walked off in search of the city proper.

Walking for miles past though city kind of lost but having a snese of purpose we finally came to a place Maia recognised (it had a McDonalds of all things!). We then headed to the library passing the Childrens railway station on the way; a mini railway run by children. Finally we reached the library again I was itching to take some photos, last time my camera had run out of juice.

Maia was dead tired so I grabbed a taxi and went back to the hotel, going to the Datcha and meeting her friends had been a real treat. The Datcha was one of the most peaceful places I have ever been to out in the country surrounded by forest and fields. This was definatly a high point of the trip.

I used this evening to finally finish war and peace! Hurrah I dont think I have ever had to work so hard to finish a book, the characters are so well done but some of the descriptions and Tolstoys historical pespectives can be so dry and difficult bits were a real challenge.

Dacha - Day 5

Today was the earliest meeting for myself and Maia, though she had a problem and was a little late we had to grab a taxi to get to the bus station on time.
The bus station was my first opportunity to meet Maia's friend Gulia's and her boyfriend Andre. We then had a very crowded bus journey out into the wild of Belarus during which I gave up my seat to an old chap and then was shouted at in Russian by some old women. Guila and Maia were laughing becuase they shouted in Russian but I knew that they wanted me to go take a seat.
The auto bus took about 45 minutes to get to our stop we then had a three kilometer walk to the Dacha itself.

On arrival Maia went into cleaning mode whilst I attempted to help Andre chop some wood,. I am afriad I wasnt a very good lumberman. Luckly Andre was excellent splitting the logs seemingly effortlessly.

Maia and her family have tended to leave all there old clothes at the Dacha. So she had me try on some of her dads old clothes including his tank ommander coat.

Lunch consisted of Maia tasty home made Ravioli and vegitables. It was really nice and afterwards we sat out chatting in the garden for a while, cut a bit more wood, then I helped Maia do dinner by pealing loads of potatoes.

Andre cooked the meat on the bbq whilst Maia made the potatoes and salad, I got to light the Camin (fire) and stop the cabin burning down as it spat out sparks!
Dinner was lovely hot pork nice potatoes and even some home grown tomatoes. After dinner Andre adn Guila entertained us by singing songs (unfortunatly all in Russian or French but they sounded good he played very well).

Whilst he played we drank first beer then vodka, apparently the way to drink vodka is to have a small glass of vodka neat and a glass of juice (or beer if your hardcore). Drink the vodka in one then sip the juice (and pour another vodka).

Minsk - Day Four

Friday already the week was flying by, after a good night sleep I was feeling better but still not back to full health (In truth now back in the UK I still cant shake this nasty virus). The plan today was to try and visit the traditional village we were origonally meant to goto yesterday. However I was Running short of cash and needed to change some travellers cheuqes. Our first mistake was to jump onto the first passing auto taxi (kind of like a private bus) which dropped us off on futher out of the city.

There was only one back here a large Belarus Bank, which turned out to be well a little bit of a problem. First thing this largest bank was busy and operated a rather confusing ticket system thought this wasnt in any way clear even to Maia. WHen we finally got our number called the cashere seemed very confused she had never seen either travellers cheques or a european style passport, It took over an hour to explain, wait and finally recieve my cash (minus 1% unlike Minsk Transit Bank which took nothing). All told finding a bank and waiting for the cash took so long we decied to leave the village trip as Maias friend Anton a DJ on radio BA wanted me to record some English jingles for him.

Radio BA is located above a club Anton gave me a guided tour of the place he seemed like a really fun guy I could see why Maia likes him so much. noticed he was running Mac OSX on a beige box pc ;) After the tour I got ushered into a little sound booth and had to read off a list of phrases for the show punctuated by Anton asking for more emotion or extra emphasis on words. I still hd a cold so I am not sure whether they eventual sounds will be good enough to use but it was fun anyway. It was a pretty strange feeling to stand in a room reading into a microphone.

Maia had booked tickets to see a film (in English fortunatly). At first I thought it was a pretty ordinatry thing to do however Russian cinemas are a bit different, firstly it was the cleanest cinema I have ever been into but some considrerable margin. Secondly there were no popcorn not drinks vending just a screen and a chair.
The film itself Tideland was about Jeliza-Rose the daughter of a drug addicted father who moves to the country after an overdose leads death of her mother. It was incredibly dark but told through her childlike observations to take some of the egde off. Maia squirmed her way through several sections of the film.

After the film we grabbed some dinner and then did some late night shopping for our weekend at the Dacha. Shopping was a real eye opener the supermarker was very different to a English one. You had to pay for meat at the meat counter they wouldnt slice anything for us. We bought vodka, beer, tomatoes, meat, bread and some other bits and pieces.

Another early night in preperation for the Dacha tomorrow.