Friday, April 26, 2013

Train from Moscow to Vologda

Things sometimes take a bit more effort to work out when you don't speak the Russian... or little effort at all as you're rendered useless by your incapacity to express yourself beyond "electronic billet."

My host had graciously bought me a ticket online to Vologda – but she forgot to print it out. I had asked her to print it out but she's been impressively super crazy busy and forgot to print it out. She called them and they told her that I would be fine with just showing my passport.

While you can explain that when you speak Russian, I had no way of communicating that. I had really wanted to have a ticket because I knew something would probably go wrong if I didn't have it. And... well... my instincts were right. I definitely needed that ticket.

My train was set to leave at 10:05 AM. I arrived an hour early to catch my train. When you don't speak the language, you need to always set asside an extra hour of time to allow for miscommunication and complications due to the fact that I can't speak Russian (notice the problem is that I don't speak Russian, not that they speak English – they don't need to speak English and I understand that, which is why I am learning Russian).

I found the board that told us what track my train would be departing from and when “1” showed up, I headed over to the “1” train. They asked for my ticket – I just had a passport. Eventually a group gathered and talked about me in Russian. It went like most conversations where they asked if I understood and then talked about me. I understand bits – I just don't know how to talk back, yet.

Eventually, a nice young man (he looked around 25 years old) was the one who was “assigned” to take care of me. I followed him into the station (running at his side) where he tried to get me a ticket at the machine. He asked for my confirmation number and, luckily I had written it down. My host had said I didn't need it but I wanted it just in case.

I guess I hadn't written it down correctly, though, because no matter how many times we tried, it didn't work. We did every combination of numbers and passport numbers yet it didn't work. Time went on and we couldn't communicate at all. I tried to call my host but she was not reachable – she had the number and the email with my ticket. I didn't know anything.

Eventually I called another host I had had who was fluent in English and she talked to the man to ask if I couldn't just use my passport. He said I couldn't.

At 9:50 AM (remember, I'm leaving at 10:05 AM), I got a hold of the current host. She talked to the man but, by that time, I think he was already sorting things out at the ticket counter. I'm not sure how, but magically I got my ticket (she probably looked up my name).

He signaled for me to follow him, again, and we quickly skittered to the train. Coach 10. Seat 28.

As we approached my train, he said, “Rochka?” and signaled “to write.” I handed him a pen and he wrote his name and number on the back of my ticket. I'm not sure what I'm supposed to do with it. Am I supposed to call him later on? Are we supposed to hang out? I'm tempted to call him once I'm back in Moscow and see what happens – after I can speak a few words. I'm confused because I thought he was pretty pissed off at me. But, I guess we're supposed to keep.. in.. touch.

He talked to the train lady. The conversation went like this.

“La la la la la la.”
“She doesn't speak Russian.”
“Doesn't speak Russian?”
“Do you speak Russian?”
*I look kind of blank*
*I say that “I don't know” in Russian*
"No, I guess she doesn't speak Russian."
"No Russian?"

At that point, she became my friend and smiled at me and made sure I was taken care of. She made sure I put my passport in a safe place and showed me my seat. Each time she went by me, she gave me sweet smiles and made sure I was ok. Russia - you rock.

I was sat with two men, a father and a son, and women who I thought was the mother but she turned out to be just like me, traveling alone.

I sat in silence as they chatted about. I started to study my Russian but after around 10 minutes, got very sleepy because I had only slept for 4 hours the night before. I rested my head on my bag and then they gestured up. Above our heads were bunk beds. I climbed up onto my bunk and ended up conking out for a solid three hours. Three hours of sleeping bliss. Much better.

When I got up, we were all feeling more social and started to talk a bit. Well, attempt to talk. The woman offered me tea and a caramel, which I enjoyed. For the rest of the trip (4 hours) she provided me with tea. I got out my phrase book and started to work on phrases and she tried to figure out as much as she could about me through my broken Russian.

I really enjoyed connecting with her. Her name is Leuba. Another woman, Sventsa, boarded the train and all of us chatted together. Once again, chatting is my doing little words and them being super patient. By the end, though, I had learned quite a bit of Russian.

This is how I'll learn Russian – when other people stop speaking English with me. I don't think people realize that I don't mind not understanding. I don't mind if they speak only Russian.

A young man came over, age 25, and just sort of sat across. He said, “Hi,” which was the signal that he wanted to practice English with me. Or he wanted to help me. I don't know. I didn't know how to say that I would rather just keep speaking Russian. His English was decent, but, in this situation, I was happy with just Russian. I actually found it more tiring to try to decipher the English than try to figure out Russian.

My favourite part o fthis picture is either Leuba's low-cut shirt above us or how incredibly uncomfortable Ivan and I look.
The old ladies wanted us to sit next to each other.
And they wanted us to take a picture with each other.
And they wanted him to give me chocolate.
Oh you babushkas!
Stop it.

I went back to studying Russian but he kept asking me about things in English. Honestly, it started to become exhausting. I'm ok with speaking English a lot of times, but this was a situation in which I wasn't quite in the mood for it. I hopped back onto the bed, fell asleep, and, voila, we were in Vologda.

I'm going to miss my train-lady-friends and the man. They were all a continued example at how rad the Russians are.


  1. you know what? I've been looking through your notes and photos and found a photo from the train where you sit with Ivan. he is my classmate! the world is sooo small! :)

    1. Whaa? Seriously? That's incredible!


Your words make me grin.

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