But this time, I won't step into the unknown that much. I know the language of the country I am stepping in and this is the first time such a thing happens on this trip... ever.
Russia will be the last foreign country I step into in this hitchhiking trip and today feels like a beginning of the conclusion.
|Sakhalin time, left, Japanese time, right|
As I am resting while the ferry is slowly advancing through the water, I feel a huge relief. Right until now, everything worked. It doesn't really stress me out that I will still technically be on an island.
I don't really think about the future so much, I just enjoy the view. And it is stunning. Islands are scattered across the seascape like proud breadcrumbs.
On board there are several people, almost all Japanese. There is the CEO who everyone tries to get a hold of him, especially the russian camera crew also onboard, and the poor man doesn't know where to go and he ends up talking to me, maybe because I am the only guy who doesn't try to catch him with a net. He is a polite Japanese man, a little bit shy given his position. We don't speak much though, my Japanese is not that good and my mind is slowly switching to russian.
After a long ride, land appears, wide and far away from the right side. It is the tip of one arm of the large Sakhalin bay.
|The tip of the west arm of Sakhalin bay appears on the right|
|Approaching Korsakov harbour|
After the russian officials exchanged confidential information on agent which were probably intercepted by anonymous, we were escorted to a big recycled bus which arrives into the docks. The way between the ship and the bus is supervised by other bored to death officers. The bored to death driver drives us to a semi-destroyed backyard. We enter the house by a backdoor and inside are the customs. Unreal, russia does not disappoint with stereotype.
On Sakhalin, women are stunning beyond description, they are redefining my vision of how a girl could even look like. Girls don't even look like that in my fantasies and I can assure you that my imagination wanders a long way from reality. They are tall, shortly dressed with makeup and high heels walking through the rubble. Men look like super-ripped human tanks who are bored with life and I wouldn't want to get into a fight with one of these guys... except maybe if I was fighting for a Sakhalinian girl.
I start a conversation with one of the russian girls on the ship, she is one of the reporters, she is from Moscow but one day she decided to work on Sakhalin which was a choice misunderstood by everyone. Because Sakhalin is a very different type of civilisation. But russians have guts.
|Average Sakhalinian supermodel crossing train tracks on red light, Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk|
There is another upside to giving an interview. I need one more boat hitchhike and I need fast. Maybe if I am on Sakhalin TV in may play in my favour when I ask for a free ticket.
As we drive forward, I can't help smiling how everything looks familiar. I talk with Nina and I understand all she's saying. I can read the road signs. They might be in a slightly different language and in a slightly different dialect but overall, I feel like driving through my home town of Prague after thermonuclear explosion went off there. I feel home.
|This military base did not fight and bravely resist. It kind of always was like this.|
Nina and Ekaterina organized the transfer from the television car to her apartment and I was soon comfortable with a place to stay in yet another city.
Ekaterina was my russian guardian angel, she even gave me a beeline sim card with internet access. And I certainly felt more safe that way, the first days in a foreign country are the most intimidating. And while Sakhalin feels a bit like home, it also feels like a warzone and I don't really know which one should I choose.
Ekaterina dances, she pole dances as a hobby. She is a Russian pole dancer on an island after a nuclear apocalypse. Try to beat that. To be fair, she is actually an accountant.
|Couchsurfing in Sakhalin|
|Don't bother nuking Sakhalin|
Usually there are two questions that russian people ask me:
- What's your position on the Ukrainian crisis?
- What's your position on gay marriage?
|Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk from the top of the ski trail|