Friday, August 15, 2008

Arrival in Irkutsk

Resourcefulness and tricks

The two French get off too and a man comes to pick them up. Dad takes some information about lodgings and after, we say goodbye to Cyril and Annabelle. We go towards the tickets sales office that is upstairs. Dad tells me to wait downstairs with the luggage and goes up to see. Fifteen minutes later he comes back telling me that with the trains we can get, we’ll arrive on August 22nd in Astrakhan and it will be impossible to return on time. So he goes back upstairs and asks about doing the route by plane. We find one that will take us to a city where we’ll take the train until Astrakhan. With this route, we’ll save two days. We buy the tickets and wait to find a house. We look in the guidebook and call the hotels which are all full. Yes, Lake Baikal seems to be a touristy place. In one of the hotels, a woman tells us that she can try to find us a place to stay at someone’s house. I’m not sure if sleeping at someone’s house is really my thing. Fifteen minutes later dad, while going to get food, comes back with an old blonde woman wearing glasses, who laughs and squints all the time. I wonder what possessed him to bring back a poor old woman instead of food. Did he mistake her for a free-range chicken? Actually, she’s the one who will accommodate us for the night. I am relieved. We go with her to the station’s exit to take a taxi. Irkutsk seems to be a lovely little city. We arrive in front Irina’s house, and the taxi is asking for 500 rubles which is too expensive. Dad tries to negotiate but since he doesn’t speak Russian, it’s useless. We learn later that at the station, the taxi asked Irina for 300 rubles and she didn’t understand why in front of her house he asked for 500 rubles. It’s a little annoying to have the impression of being ripped off. We go up to her place and we end up in a nicely decorated two room apartment with a small kitchen, toilets, a bath, a living room with a television and two bedrooms. We take one and settle in. We call one of dad’s contacts, a woman from a travel agency, to have information on the good places to see. We head towards a restaurant that was recommended to us. Meanwhile, I see how pretty and well-formed Russian girls are when they’re young. We take the city’s large street that’s called Karl Marx and we find the restaurant. We eat typical Russian dishes and we go look for a cyber café. We ask everywhere until we arrive in front of a café where an American, who seems to have lived there a while, is sitting on the terrace. When we ask him where we might find a cyber café, he tells us “good luck if you find one.” Finally, we find one but it’s closed. We go back towards the house when we come across the entrance of a nightclub. For it’s publicity, barely dressed young women are dancing. I can tell you they didn’t choose the ugliest ones! We continue towards our home in Irkutsk. Dad buys a few things at the Leader Price store. When we finally get home, we see that Irina is worried and in her heavy Russian accent tells us in English that there are a lot of bad people in the city and we mustn’t stay out late. What makes me laugh the most is her very pronounced H from TH, something that would make my English teacher Mrs. Roiff scream. I also tell myself that if my French teacher Mrs. Russeil were here, we wouldn’t have to speak English since she speaks Russian. After this reflection, I get ready to go to sleep and put some cream for mosquito bites since there are a lot in this region and they’re voracious. And then I sleep.

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