Outside the Bubble

Living and working on a science station can be a bit like living and working in a bubble. Sure, each time you look out the window you’re reminded of the incredible beauty of Siberia but it’s easy to forget that Russia is more than just amazing views. Yesterday we had an opportunity to change this when we (Emily, Melissa, Joanne, Elliot, and Andrew) took a trip into Cherskiy with Bill and Sudeep.
The forty five minute walk to town provides plenty of interesting sites, both natural and manmade. The river is lined with the wrecks of ships and there is even the remnant of an old Aeroflot plane that’s been stripped of everything valuable. It looks a lot like the one we flew in on actually and we can’t help but wonder what might have been the fate of its passengers! The other side of the river offers a contrast to this bulldozed, abandoned cityscape with lakes and forest stretching all the way to the Kolyma.
The outskirts of town are a reminder that Cherskiy was once a much bigger town with a number of fire scarred, decrepit buildings. Signs of life return though as we get closer to the city center with a cheery looking Soviet era poster covered in smiling faces alongside more recent ones for May’s Victory Day celebrations and Putin’s Party of Russia.
Although the disparity of the buildings continued, the further into town we travelled the more signs of life and comforting similarities we saw. After a quick stop at a local market for some goodies purchased by our handy, embarrassment saving translator, Andrew (a Russian language major), we stopped to eat our 260 ruble (or 8 dollars in the US!) little bucket of popcorn while we watched a group of little boys playing a familiar game of hide and seek. Some of their rules confused us but hide and seek is still hide and seek where ever you go in the world!
We continued on to tour another market store to see what other goodies could be had and learned of some other interesting differences here in this small town. Unlike in the U.S., to keep people interested here at the market, the store changed their available inventory every day to keep people coming back. We were told it then becomes a part of daily life to go to the market to see what could be had that day. Yesterday a part of our group came back with some authentic Wasabi paste! For us, we grabbed everything from ice cream to chocolate to a bag of some interesting pretzels that tasted more like home made then the pretzels we could normally get in America.
Our final stop in town before we had to head back (it had started to rain and it was still a long walk) was at the local bakery. Already loaded down with treats we gave in to temptation and went in for sweet bread, wafer cookies, and a delicious mini cake thing that looked similar to a tart but had a fruit jelly in the middle and was covered in a thick layer of icing in a beautiful flower design.

All in all it was amazing to leave our bubble and truly see life in Cherskiy. The town and the culture of the people are surprisingly different form ourselves. While in the stores we were obviously noticed not only for our overwhelming American-ness, but for our sloppy field dress. As part of the culture it seems that all Russian people make that special effort to dress up and look nice every day, everything from designer jeans to dresses and heels to suits. We were honored to get the opportunity to travel into Cherskiy and experience life there. It’s a memory all of us will treasure and we can’t wait to get back and hit the town for another exciting night in Cherskiy!

One Response to “Outside the Bubble”

  1. July 17, 2010 at 5:27 am, Larry Robbins said:

    great story line