Welcome to the third in the series about my trips to Russia.
If you did not read the prior essays, please do so before reading this essay. I urge you to read the priors in this series.
NONE OF THE PHOTOS OR TRIVIA FROM ONE ESSAY OF THIS SERIES WILL BE REPEATED IN THE LATER ESSAYS. ALL OF THE NEEDED BACKGROUND ON MY TRIPS AND IMPORTANT INFORMATION WILL ONLY BE IN THE FIRST ESSAY OF THE SERIES.
Here is the link to number one, so you can start at the beginning. Numbe one is a little long but I have been told it is worth it. If nothing else you can read the beginning with the setup and checkout the photos. 2-4 are all shorter than number one.
Each of the diaries ends with a link to the next diary in the series.
Let’s start with some photos. My “quarters” in Saint Petersburg. One looking up at fiance on balcony of apartment I had in Saint Petersbug. Two from balcony. One inside apt. Amazing location. Right on main street and all lively 24/7. Beautiful hardwood floors. All new inside. Great place. I think it was $700 for two weeks. Imagine in a tourist city of 5 million in US for an apartment like this in this kind of location. As usual though, washer but no dryer. No thermostat for heat. No A/C. Nasty ally around the back of the building for entry. Dirt ally so when it rained it was all mud.
Sorry, gotta tell a story here. One night I was on the balcony about three am and saw a drunken man crossing the street not more than 75 ft from my balcony. A normal crazy Russian driver came around the corner and hit him. He flew about 50ft in the air and landed in a heap in the middle of the road almost directly under my balcony. It looked like both arms and both legs were twisted around his torso so badly that they must be broken. I thought he might be dead. About the time the driver got out, the man setup, I couldn’t believe it. He quickly fell back over and sat back up and fell over and set back up. Then he tried to stand and it was from then on that it became comical. He stumbled, he mumbled, he fell, he got up, he walked (staggered) a few feet to fall again. He finally got to the curb and sat on the curb just looking like a drunk. The driver decided he was ok and left. The man laid down in the gutter. About the time I was going to wake up my girlfriend to call someone an ambulance arrived. The scene was nothing like I have ever seen for triage of a victim of such an event. They prodded him. Helped him get up. Nobody used a pen light on his eyes. Nobody looked at his skull for fractures. He didn’t want to get in the ambulance. They finally got him to go and they were off. Unbelievable. Only in Russia!
– The distribution/transportation of goods is terrible in Russia. This just happens to be the industry I spent 20 years in management. America is awesome at moving products around our country.
– Almost nobody wears a seatbelt in Russia. If a Russian wore a seatbelt when with friends they would probably be ridiculed by them.
– There is a Russian saying that I heard frequently. This is said jokingly. When someone states some facts or information a Russian will say “you know too much, it is time to kill you”. It is interesting that I heard this most often when I was talking about things I had learned about Russia or Russians. Maybe this comes from the infamous KGB.
– Teenagers can’t buy cigarettes but can get served alcohol almost anywhere.
– Many Russians lack hope of anything changing. In many ways they lack hope of almost any kind. They might have gotten a little with perestroika but now after 16 years after it and many of their lives are worse, so they have returned to hopelessness. They truly believe democracy and capitalism does not help the average person.
-Some of our ingrained beliefs can not be grasped. Live free or die. If something is not right/good/best then take action to correct it. I disagree with you but will defend your right to have your opinion. If you are not happy with a service or product you paid for then speak up. These and more are concepts that are contrary to keeping ones sanity in Russia. They call these “luxuries” Americanski princeeepaal. I don’t think that is Russian, that is how they refered to it when I did something like speak up about poor service or something I paid for not being right.
– There are stray dogs everywhere in Russia. It is pitiful. No one pets them or even speaks to them. I do, my wife scolds me.
– Nobody spays or neuters. Most cant afford it and many think it is cruel.
– If you tell them you had your cat de-clawed you will have to explain to most what it is as they don’t even know about it. You will be considered a mean, mean person for this.
– There are few veterinarians as few have money for such luxuries.
– Almost nobody feeds pet’s actual pet food but rather table scraps.
– Many Russians have cats. They are indulged with fresh fish regularly
PHOTO BREAK. All 4 are in Saint Pertersbug.
Guy in next one didn’t even flinch when I goosed him.
– The mental health system is like “One flew over the cuckoos nest”.
– Most Russians don’t know anyone who has been to a therapist.
– Anti depressants and the like are almost unheard of.
– It seems like there is a drug store every hundred yards.
– Many things we must have a prescription for can be gotten over the counter. I mean many things. Some type of narcotic type meds., syringes, the morning after pill and much more. They don’t seem to have anything like our FDA.
– Many Russians put great stock in herbal remedies and many as preventative. These can vary from region to region. Usefulness of some are supported by western studies.
– It is dwindling but there are still Russians that believe their soup called borsch must be eaten everyday to maintain health. Great stock is put in the health benefits of garlic by some. Particularly in the SE where the caucus mountains. There are more “old Russia” cities is this area. It is horrendous when you get in a bus or train that is packed and you are face to face with someone who has an amazing garlic smell.
– Russians believe an even number of flowers as a gift is bad luck. They always give 11 instead of a dozen.
– The medical system in Russia is a socialist type setup. It costs very little by our standards for most things except voluntary procedures. Their waiting time at a hospital makes ours look short.
– Surprisingly to me the dental work in Russia is reasonably good but proportional in cost it is even higher than ours considering incomes.
– Before 1995 abortion was definitely the number one form of birth control in Russia. Most women under forty had an abortion. Most had several. The clinics are brutal, cruel, unfeeling and assembly lines with doctors performing five or six procedures at one time. There is dispute about the numbers of abortions now. Because of some forms not being reported as abortion. The is an increase in birth control but it is expensive by their standards. The USSR never kept records until 1988 and breaking into 15 nations makes it difficult to know if the number is really dropping or not.
– Aids is rampant in Russia.
PHOTO BREAK. All 4 are in Saint Petersburg
Don’t ask me who any of the guys are in these statues, maybe Pico knows.
– In general Russian men feel it is a woman’s problem to avoid pregnancy.
– Traditions and holidays are very important to Russians. Drinking seems to be the central focus of all holiday celebrtions.
– Disposable diapers, tampons and pads (they actually used rags) have only been common since the early 1990’s (paper again).
– Although their need is as great or greater in Russia as any country in the world, there are as many meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous in an American city of 50,000 as there are in ALL of Russia.
– Alcohol and drug treatment programs are virtually nonexistent. The opinion of many scholarly people is that alcohol is undoubtedly the single biggest problem of any kind in Russia. Alcoholism rates are unbelievable. The effects on every area of Russian life are clear to outsiders. Even the average Russian woman you meet will probably never have been out socially for any reason without drinking. In Russia this does not mean she has a problem. The problem is nothing amongst the women compared to the men. Alcohol is a big part of everything in Russian life.
-The average Russian mans life span is about thirteen years less than an American man. This is mostly because of early deaths from alcohol abuse.
– The average lifespan for Russian women is the same as American women.
– Primary school is 11 grades and in most cases followed by an institute (college) or technical training.
– Russian primary schools are far more strict than American schools. Many go Monday to Saturday. In some schools, when it is time for a holiday, the children are tasked with cleaning the school. Yes, I mean mopping, washing and general cleaning up.
– It is possible for a child to be made to stand in the doorway for forty five minutes because they arrived to school late.