... with stories on an 24 hour platzcart.
19.12.14 - 18.1.15
From Yekaterinburg to Novosibirsk,
December 30 - 31st 2014
The journey to Novosibirsk for my second time is about to begin. Here's Yekaterinburg Train Station. By the time I arrive in Novosibirsk, I will have completed my Trans Mongolian Railway journey Moscow - Beijing. I'm going to celebrate that with one standing post alone. Later :D
I took a platzcart, but opted for lower berth since this is going to be a 24 hour journey. Although someone said that my journeys are agony -- instead of saying adventurous! -- I have to admit that I am not that tough being able to endure curling under the ceiling on an upper berth. Furthermore, I am small, but not that, small.
While stretching my legs lazily on my bed, I watched life go by in front of my eyes. That's one of the things I love about train travels. People tend to be more who they are on trains than on planes where everyone looks straight to the same direction. On long distance train journeys, passengers use to change from time to time too. Then that will be like a new screen being revealed, a new story.
My neighbors across me were a granny and her grandson (seemed to be). The granny looked very Chinese but her grandson looked Eurasian. She looked even more Chinese to me when she started munching sunflower seeds. What a Chinese thing to do on train trips. Her grandson, though, was more interested on his smartphone than on the seeds. Playing games, maybe. Then, apparently his battery ran down. So he rolled half down from his upper berth and stretched a charger plug to an electric power socket near my bed. The grandma got up instantly, looked up to her grandson, telling him (in Russian) which seemed to me like he should excuse himself first. The grandson obediently held back, but looked at me like: "How should I say it?"
"It's alright. Go ahead. Here, let me plug it for you." I pointed at the electric power socket and then stretched out my hand to him. It didn't seem they understood English, but they understood what I meant. Just like I understood them. The boy smiled in relief. The grandma still gave him a look of "Be more polite next time!"
That's the electric power socket above my bed.
Grandma and grandson got off. Next story: Mr. Gentle Perfectionist.
Judging from the passport he showed during ticket checking, I assume he is of a neighboring country nationality, although he might be Russian.
"Houskvousk rousk vousk," he said to me. It seemed like he was asking me where I was heading to as trying to be kind to me.
"I'm sorry. I don't speak Russian. Do you speak English?"
"Houskvousk rousk vousk," he replied.
Meanwhile the train was getting super hot. I wanted to go to the restroom to take off my vestS and stocking. But the thought of having to put them on again before getting off he train for it would be surely freezing outside, made me reluctant to do so. It's Jakarta, I told myself.
As if reading my mind and trying to defend for me, that guy across me called the train attendant. "Houskvousk rousk vousk! Houskvousk rousk vousk!" He pointed to the ceiling and then to the carriage door. Did he touch his T-Shirt? I don't remember exactly. Whatsoever, I didn't need to understand Russian to understand his: "It's damn hot here!" You know when you watch a movie without subtitles, sometimes you know what the story is about just by watching the actors' act.
"Houskvousk rousk vousk," replied the lady attendant.
"Houskvousk rousk vousk!!" Mr. Perfectionist was close to screaming.
The lady attendant walked away. Oh, she is just going to let him scream the hell out of him and take it easy, I thought to myself.
No, I was wrong. In a few minutes she returned with a chamois cloth like this:
"Spasibo!" Mr. Gentle Perfectionist muttered.
Is he going to wipe his sweat with this cloth which in my home country we call lap kanebo?? Even the wealthy don't do that back home! It would be a disrespect to "kanebo".
I was wrong again. He used "kanebo" to wipe our window which was covered with dew (how do you call it?) due to the extreme temperature difference between inside and outside. Condensation, that's it. He wiped half part of the window clean till the edges of the window rubber seal. Maybe he regarded it impolite to stretch his hand further to the window glass near my side. So he handed the cloth to me while pointing at the window, "Houskvousk rousk vousk." His tone was definitely opposite to how he spoke to the train attendant. He was like, "Hey, we have got a 'kanebo'! Let's wipe our window and enjoy the view!"
Actually I was reluctant to do it, because I thought that would be a useless thing to do. The window glass would turn blurry back in no time. Besides, hey, it's winter, you know! You just cannot help it like you cannot help snow from falling to the ground. However, on a second thought: I don't mind, but he does! Thus, I wiped the other half of our window glass to his satisfaction.
Very neatly, he folded the cloth evenly into four and placed it in the middle of the table as if to keep it reachable for me as well. Mr. Perfectionist, I named him.
Maybe with a view as clear as glass, he decided it was time for a little something. Like I have mentioned in previous post, this time also Mr. Perfectionist impressed me by spreading two sheets of newspaper before setting his table for meal. Then he opened his plastic box, placed the lid next to box in perfect alignment. He had bread, cucumber, and a tin of ham. The cucumber, he sliced into accurate precise even size, as if Asimo had done it.
"Houskvousk rousk vousk," once again he said while pointing at his food. That was obviously, "Please have some."
"No, thank you..." I energized the best of smile I had as not to offend his kindness. First, I don't like cucumber. But more than that, eating with a perfectionist makes me feel nervous. What if my eating manner disgusts him? What if I make him throw up instead? No, no, thank you.
For him, it was the perfect meal ever. Seemingly so. Slice after slice disappeared, tidily, into his throat. Slurp, slurp. He rubbed his nose with the back of his hand, and then rubbed the back of his hand on Kanebo the Cloth. Fiesta!! He packed the rest of his food stock back into the plastic box, and then cleared off the remaining ham from his knife by sliding it on Kanebo the Cloth twice on each side of knife. One, two, one two.
Of course I didn't expect him to do the next. Up down, up down... he smooched Kanebo with the window glass. In a hurriedly I squeezed myself deeper into the corner of my bed, grabbed my notebook, and pretended to be busy taking notes. No, no! Don't you ask me to wipe the window. I don't want to touch your cloth that's already smeared with that ham that has been into only you know and that... that... from your nose... Net, net!
Mr. Perfectionist was a gentleman, though. He said nothing to me, neither did he stretch his hand further to the window near my side. The window was left half blurry. I kind felt bad about my intolerance with him. I know myself how annoying it is to have a blurred window view, regardless of taking pictures or not. However, even if I could speak Russian, I would not have the guts to say to him, "I don't mind you stretching your hand further and wiping the whole window yourself. I really don't mind at all. I just don't want to touch that cloth." Ah...
I rolled on my side facing towards the backseat, then fell asleep. The train stopped. I woke up. Mr. Perfectionist was now busy with a laptop on his lap. He lifted his head up and saw me getting up. "Uhm... Houskvousk rousk vousk?"
"Houskvousk rousk vousk."
"I'm sorry. I don't understand," while trying to reach for my smartphone. I thought I would let him type on my e-Translator, so I could understand what he wanted.
"Houskvousk rousk vousk." he pointed at the electric power socket next to me.
"Oh! Sure, sure!" I moved aside a bit meaning to give him way to plug in his laptop. But, instead of pushing his shoulders forward, "Houskvousk rousk vousk," he handed me his laptop's plug. Oh. Okay. I took the plug from his hand and inserted it into the socket. "Spasibo," he replied.
Then he made an odd look on his laptop. He lifted it on one side, looked at it, glanced at the plug next to me, looked at the side of his laptop again. I know, it wasn't charging.
"Houskvousk rousk vousk," he said to me while pointing at the plug.
I pushed the plug harder. He looked at his laptop again. Obviously it wasn't working.
"I think they have turned off the electricity power. Just now I tried to charge my cellphone, but it didn't work either," I tried to explain to him but undoubtedly he understood not a word of mine.
"Houskvousk rousk vousk," he kept on saying while pointing at the electric socket.
Hence, I stood up. "Just go ahead check it for yourself." That gesture he understood. Now he bent over and pushed the plug himself. I wondered and wondered. Had he been waiting for me to wake up? How extremely polite! I would not mind a bit if he had just plugged his laptop while I was sleeping. The power socket is on the wall at my side, but not exactly above my bed anyway. Besides, I assume that this one socket is meant for all four passengers in this open compartment. So it's nothing rude at all to bend over to my side and plug a gadget into the power socket. Oh, Mr. Gentle Perfectionist.
Still, his laptop wasn't charging.
I took out my smartphone and my charger. "This," I raised my smartphone, and then "This," I plugged in my charger, "Net!" ('Net' means 'no' in Russian.) "This, this, net net" I repeated.
The train attendant who brought him Kanebo the Cloth happened to pass by.
"Houskvousk rousk vousk!" Mr. Gentle Perfectionist hailed at her, not so gentle though. She stopped. "Houskvousk rousk vousk! Houskvousk rousk vousk!" He pointed at the electric power socket.
"Houskvousk rousk vousk," replied she.
"Houskvousk rousk vousk!"
She walked away. I thought she would be coming back with something in her hand, maybe a generator... No, she didn't. Nothing.
It was dark. No idea where. We got more passengers on board. A young lady sat next to Mr. Gentle Perfectionist and a young man sat next to me. While Mr. Gentle Perfectionist kept busy with his still alive laptop, I felt rather bothered. Is this guy going to sit here the whole night? Please don't. I want to stretch my legs and enjoy every space I have paid for. Moreover! In this darn hot train, I don't expect any extra warmth. Wait! I mean, the closer you get with each other regardless touching or not, the stronger body warmth you are sharing. Only a corpse that doesn't carry heat. Even Asimo does.
My worries were short lived. At the next next station, a passenger from two seats in front of us got off and no new passenger got on. The guy sitting next to me immediately moved there and became busy doing crossword puzzles. Phew. At last.
I stretched my short legs as far as I could making sure no one else would sit on my bed. Actually it's rather complicated. That crossword puzzle guy's place was actually on top of my bed, on the upper berth. However, that lady sitting next to Mr. Gentle Perfectionist had placed her belongings on that berth above mine. She seemed Russian, too. Nevertheless, this crossword puzzle guy said nothing to her. He just found himself an alternate place. He didn't even look discontented. Amazing. How polite! If it were me, I would be blunt: "Excuse me. Can you please pick up your things, because this is my place."
Into the dark we rolled through. The lady sitting across the aisle waved her arm towards the young lady still sitting next to Mr. Gentle Perfectionist. "Houskvousk rousk vousk," she said while pointing at the empty seat across her. The young lady merely shook her head. The lady across the aisle repeated while pointing at Mr. Gentle Perfectionist. Mr. Gentle Perfectionist turned to her and said something while pointing at his laptop. A few minutes later, that lady across the aisle repeated, but in vain. I am 99.5% sure that the lady across the aisle was inviting the young lady to sit on the empty seat across her, because maybe Mr. Gentle Perfectionist wants to take a rest and needs to stretch his legs. After all, if you are going to sit straight anyway, you can sit on an empty seat without bothering anyone, can't you? No, no, that last one was my own extended edition. But then Mr. Gentle Perfectionist replied that he was still busy with his laptop and wasn't about to go to bed yet. That's why the young lady remained attached on his berth.
I really don't understand why this young lady refused to move to an empty seat. However, she seemed tensed. Sitting up straight, no checking a smartphone, playing games, listening to music, reading, or dozing, not even leaning on the backseat. Hands folded on her lap, head straight forward. In the middle of the night, around 1:00 AM, she got off. I felt sorry for her. Maybe she was stressed traveling alone. Maybe she was worried no one would pick her up at the station. Maybe she just got an emergency call...
In winter, as you know, the night is particularly long. I went back to sleep, really fast asleep. I sleep three times deeper on a train than on a plane, you know. And yet, when I woke up, it was still pitch dark. Lights were still out. I rolled aside, facing towards Mr. Gentle Perfectionist.
What's that light brownish thing?? I widen my sleepy slanting eyes. Oh no! "Ouchweeee.......!!" I was about to scream. About to.
Mr. Gentle Perfectionist was... was... topless...
That night, I wished, I were a man.
My breakfast of delish biscuits bought at a supermarket near my hostel in Yekaterinburg.
This, I bought in Perm and never found it again elsewhere in Russia. It's super duper nice. Simple in making, elegant in appearance (look at the white and brown stripes), rich in taste.
Ah ya, that's Mr. Gentle Perfectionist's sheet of newspaper. By now he is already wearing a T-Shirt again. Either is it the temperature outside that had fallen lower or that the train staffs decided they had been wasting energy by heating the indoors to a Jakarta temperature. Aha.
Indeed, it was my hottest train ride ever. However, I would never exchange it for a plane flight. Never.
A toddler boy wobbling down the aisle stopped in front of me. He laid his petite hand on my lap, and looked at me, "Houskvousk rousk vousk."
How I wish I could greet him back. How I wish I could tell him, what a country of wonderful people he is sharing with.