Saturday, June 7, 2014

Landing in Siberia

I half-sleeping there, in the gray forsaken banks of Khabarovsk-Novy airport. Anyone who saw me there never thought that there was a day I was a hard-working student full of intellectual worries, seeing the weight of the world in such abstracts things as double derivatives and wave equations.
It is commonly known that appearances may be deceiving; well my appearance is very deceiving of my past.

In the morning, the owner of that shopping outlet still doesn't like that I am there, scaring customers. I think I like her attitude more than if she saw me on television anyway.

I remember having sometimes dreamed about my first flight back in a quite glorious way. But life is an independent mind; it cares little for short-sighted fantasies of us humans.

The fact of life is that as I am writing this text, I can't remember the people who I was sitting next to as the plane took off from Khabarovsk. I didn't exchange a word with them until touchdown. I imagine the landscape under us, it must be as monochromatic for thousands and thousands of kilometers of birch and pine trees. At some point, we will fly over the mighty Baikal lake. I will visit it some other time.
I just remember after we touched down in Novosibirsk, a place which was a huge neglected place filled with rubble.
Roads are wide and messy. People are busy and bored. From time to time, from the rubble emerge magnificent Orthodox cathedrals. The Siberian weather is fast-changing. It either too hot or too cold. I keep switching clothes.
As I look for a means of transportation that could get me to Tomsk, I go to about every corner of the city before I manage to orientate myself. I am calling Janela but I'm clueless and she's helpless.

I wouldn't be so harsh to judge it but I must admit that I expected a bit more civilization out of the capital of Siberia. Or is it that maybe I always imagined myself return to civilization but fate made me return to Janela. And let's be honest, when you are with a girl like Janela, you don't really care to meet her in a warzone.
At this point, we are both running low on money. We made the choice of her not meeting me at the airport. Novosibirsk, though not so far, is a half-day ride from Tomsk because of the state of the roads. And since I hitchhiked all this way, I can manage to get there myself.

Since I paid for that airplane, I suddenly don't feel like hitchhiking. As if breaking the rule about free transportation, I took a bite out of the apple and got transported from Eden to Novosibirsk. In that sense, I did two trips in one, one spatial and one spiritual.
No wonder I feel lost.

I try to find a bus to Tomsk but nothing is going. I change my mind between hitchhiking and usual transport a thousand times. My mind is not serene, as it was as I entered every previous city, it was agitated, close to panic. An exaggerated emotional response to a mere few thousand kilometer leap but a more understandable given a trip across dimensions.

Everytime I want to buy a ticket, they expect money for me, it feels so unnatural, so absurd... why am I paying to move when I know thousands of people going there, will take me for free? But I am not a traveler now, I am a computer engineer on holiday; why would I hitchhike?

I run in between train stations, bus stations and I spend most of my time getting lost. The weather oscillates between too hot and too cold faster as evening approaches. And I am jet-laged. In the evening, after missing the last bus, I negotiate a ride for 1500 RUB (about 35 USD) in a group taxi. It's something between a taxi and a bus. There was another Russian guy and a Chinese lady who also spoke Russian; with an accent though.

But at least, I was going to Tomsk. From there, I have a stable place to stay because Janela will be there. No obligations or mental debt for being hosted by a good soul, I will be home.
As we drive and the sun sets on the lonely road between Novosibirsk and Tomsk, I wonder about all the cars that would take me there faster and free of charge.

Night falls and the taxi greets me farewell in something that looks like a nice and empty train station. I leave my bag and wait.
My phone is dying. I hope Jan had gotten my last messages. Maybe she is sleeping. I can wait until morning.

She comes by taxi. She's as excited, worried, bubbly and beautiful as ever. She is wearing a short elegant dress, way too sexy to be safe alone in random Russian taxi.
Way too sexy to be worn in the middle of the night in Tomsk. In this region of the world (Tomsk is far from being an example but is included), rape is common and so widely accepted that many men don't even grasp the difference between rape and consensual sex. Looking back, wearing a short dress was a risk incredibly disproportionate to look good.

Our reunion is as passionate as lighting.
Couples in the world can be lucky to have a hollywood-style spasmodic embrace, the two heroes running in the rain with the whole world blowing up around them and falling onto each other.
For us, it is the only way we meet.

The taxi driver, who was visibly more than happy to take in such a cute young lady, couldn't hide his disappointment when I entered the vehicle and he was completely ignored by our reunion.
He was so cast-aside that I actually felt for him. Janela is a contradictory gal, I thought. She can be so sensitive to feelings of her Kyrgyz acquaintances from the village, especially family to the point that she desperately hides her relationship and fears criticism as it were stabbings of a knife. Yet, she discards any feelings of attention, frustration of that taxi driver, hell she even discards any form of common decency in the back of that car that you can't help but wonder if she is the same person.
Why is that? Is it because he isn't central-asian? Or, most likely because all people are different and she has very complex personality which grew through the elements, constantly searching for light.

We drive to Zalivnaya street, in some part of Tomsk, not too far but not too close to the center. It's a wonder I can actually remember part of the address.
The apartment is close to a mysterious wooden mansion. There are some stairs leading to it and even a working elevator.

It is a cute place, exactly what I need to put to rest my failing strengths. There is a clean bed, there is a shower, a bathtub even, there is a fridge full of good stuff. And we are here together.

It would be unfair to make from us a flawless couple. We have passion but we have grown apart from each other, our lives have drifted in different directions. We'll have to work to reconnect.
But now, we are both happy. The rain is falling and I am somewhere safe. We don't have to worry about my being attacked during the night or Janela getting kidnapped again. We don't have to worry about having anything to eat or about time differences.

There is so few things to worry about. And I just realize that I am so tired, socially and physically. I couldn't last a day more.

I could imagine a worse ending for my trip
I don't know if you, reader, imagine the unlikelihood of how all this ends. I am returning home but throughout this year, home has become a girl from some country called Kyrgyzstan who looks Chinese, who is Muslim, who is in a village where they home-cook bread and have a room with chicken in it, who lives in Siberia, who speaks English and Russian and who I didn't even know when this trip started.
And she is the person who is the closest to me which makes sense because she is my girlfriend but which also makes no sense because she is a Kyrgyz girl living in siberia from a village who looks Chinese.

"I think you can throw out your shoes," she says. It is true thay they look awful and I have the right to buy new shoes now that I have given up my travelling principles.
I wouldn't throw away things, all full of memories but my bag only has a finite capacity. And since Janela bought me a bunch of great clothes (she has very good taste), I decide to part of my korean jeans which are at least 5 sizes too big for me.

New clothes, I throw the old
Clean clothes now, hey, I'm almost an engineer again tomorrow!