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.
– Because many women have been alone with their only child for most of the child’s life and most have shared a room with them, an odd relationship can develop. They can become more like friends and/or partners. Not my wife, she is still on her 21 year old sons ass on the phone all the time.
– One woman I dated, often consulted her 10 year old daughter before making what I believed were adult decisions. Her opinion carried equal weight of an adults.
PHOTO BREAK. All 4 in Saint Petersburg.
Taken from a boat on an evening ride on one of the many rivers in Saint Petersburg.
– It is common while walking down the street for a Russian to bump into you rather firmly and not say a word or bat an eye. I have come to believe it is not intentional or with malice.
– Many Russians will cut in a line. They do it everywhere. I WANNA YELL, NO CUTSIES!! At a store, a bank, a government office, wherever. I think this is done if someone is in a big hurry and others seem to just accept it. I saw cutting in line done many times and never saw anyone say a word to the “offender”.
– One day in Tomsk (my wife’s city), I had enough. I was at a kiosk to get a pack of cigarettes & a man of about 30 stepped directly in front of me as I approached the window and he ordered a pack of smokes. I couldn’t help myself and I said “excuse the f— outta me”. He turned and looked at me and immediately knew I was American and also that I was pissed off. I received a direct look in the eye and a sincere and well spoken in English, “I’m sorry”. I am really glad that is what transpired because he was a large and fit looking man and much younger than me. I think I would have got my ass kicked.
– Air conditioning is nonexistent in Russian apartments. Not even in the best tourist apartments that I rented through a real estate agent.
– This one got me hot under the collar (pun)!! Heat is controlled by the city. No apartment has a thermostat. Even the top notch apartments I stayed in. Talk about no control of anything in your life.
– In the winter it can be 76 degrees in many apartments. Some Russians walk around inside in shorts and a tank top when it is five below zero outside.
– I was in Tomsk (Siberia) the last two weeks of April. There were several days in the mid 70’s outside. Yes, 75 degrees in Siberia in April! Who’d a thunk. The heat was cranking to beat the band. – The opposite can also happen. If they have an unusual cold spell in fall or spring it can be only 60 degrees in the apartment. Heat is regulated and turned on and off based on the time of the year and not outside temperature.
– The output of heat must be sufficient enough to keep the apartments at “the end of the line” warm. If you are at the beginning of the line you might live in a sauna (exaggeration).
– There is nobody to call or complain to. My outrage at this practice was not understood. They didn’t seem to have ever heard of a thermostat. They didn’t even seem to know it wasn’t like this in the other modern countries. I think Russia is considered a modern country.
– They still have cities they call secret cities where nuclear facilities are. Nobody is allowed in there expect people who live there. Not even a friend of someone who lives there. My sister in-law dates a man that lives in a “secret” city next to Tomsk and she can not go in the city to his apartment.
– When my fiance and her daughter arrived here they wanted the house kept at 76 degrees, in Maine, in December!!
– I never saw a “stationary” shower head in any Russian shower. They have the movable hose type shower heads. Many don’t even have a holder for this but it is rather just laid on the side of the tub or on the faucet. These are often used like a bidet. Now you know what I meant when I said Russian women “clean up” several times a day and before going to bed.
– I had a great connection with the family members of my fiance (do with in-laws also). The mutual effect on each of us was unique with each individual. It is difficult to explain how people can connect and communicate without a common language. They were not the only ones I couldn’t speak to that I was able to communicate with. It happened in brief dealings with others in many places. In some ways the bonding is more deep and primal because of the lack of words. Once those outside family were sure I was an American they clearly made efforts to communicate with me even if it was hand gestures, facial expressions or simply a smile. I will never forget any of them and the unconditional way they accepted me into their world.
– I met a Russian Psychiatrist who was on the sidewalk with a group protesting the Russian mental health system and circulating a petition. His English was excellent, He took the time to teach me about the mental health problems in Russia. He was very interested in the effects of the brain surgery that I had after my auto accident. Lobotomies are still performed in Russia. He saw my scar and asked if I had one. We talked for an hour or so and I hope he didn’t still question this when we were done speaking. Mental institutions are literally like “One flew over the cuckoo’s nest”. I signed his petition.
– If a menu says something is steak, don’t be surprised if you get a hamburger steak. To most Russians, all beef is steak.
– Many Russians will eat candy or cake or drink soda in the morning. My mom would never let me do that, bitch.
– Salads to a Russian is usually a potato salad or a pasta salad. These salads are staples of most meals in many areas. They make these in many different combinations of ingredients.
– It is not always easy to find a garden salad. They don’t use dressing. They don’t even know what dressing means. They use mayonnaise on a garden salad. In fact, they use mayonnaise on many things.
– In the restaurants I was in they had many different sauces used on many different things.
– Service in any commercial venture will not be service like Americans know service. This used to frustrate me. They think they know capitalism but have a long, long way to go. The days of the USSR still carry over in many ways more than 15 years after its breakup.
– Russians are pleasantly surprised when anyone who is a receptionist, or the like, is nice and helpful. This is true whether in person or on the phone. It is not the norm. They might even be suspicious of them.
– In Russia, it seems like I am almost never treated like my business is appreciated. More often I am treated like I am an inconvenience. This happens often when I am buying something.
– It is not because I am American. Russians are treated the same. Actually Americans are more apt to get better treatment because they are known to have money. The better treatment is more common in places that specialize in tourist items.
– In Russian cities, there are a great number of people begging on the streets. What is unique is they are primarily children and old women. The old women will be in subways, outside churches and also on the main sidewalks. They usually have religious symbols and will be very grateful for the smallest aid. They will bow their head and bless you if you give them 5 rubles ($.20). The children appear to be homeless or from the most extremely poor families.
WILL END WITH 4 MORE PHOTOS. FIRST THREE IN SAINT PETERSBURG. LAST ONE IS OF MY FATHER IN LAW AFTER A FEW “RUSSIAN” BEVERAGES OF CHOICE. DO NOT TELL MY WIFE I SHOWED THIS ONE.
FOR FIVE RUBLES WHICH IS ABOUT $.20 YOU TOO COULD USE THESE WONDERFUL “FACILITIES”
MY FATHER IN-LAW IS A TRUE RUSSIAN AND LIKES A DRINK OR TWO EACH EVENING. ONE EARLY IN EVENING AND OTHER NEAR THE END OF THE EVENING. CAN YOU GUESS WHICH IS WHICH?
Numer four in the series tomorrow. Same time (moon EST), same place. Hope to see you there. We will have many photos of beautiful Petergof.