The Best, the Worst, the Wackiest... and the End
This is it -- the last entry for the Russian Chronicles! By the time this is posted online, David and I will be on a plane somewhere over Europe, winging our way home. It's been quite a journey, these last 2 1/2 months. Some of the more memorable moments:
Biggest panic: Now it can be told: David's laptop broke in Chita. It got knocked off a chair and wouldn't boot up after that. We thought the hard drive was dead -- and Chita is not the kind of place where you can easily replace a fully loaded Apple laptop. But David opened the thing up with a screwdriver, fiddled around inside, and somehow got it working again. Miraculous.
Wackiest encounter: Definitely Alexei in Vladivostok, a random sunbather we met who swore he'd also met me by chance back in 1995. He burst into tears, saying, "I can't believe it's you! I can't believe it!" This was on day three of the trip -- quite a way to start off a "ten years later" project.
Best life-threatening meal: "Don't eat the omul!" was a warning we heard repeatedly as we approached Lake Baikal. "People have died!" one Russian man told us. "It's not worth the risk!" Normally, I wouldn't risk my life for a smoked fish -- even if it's a Baikal delicacy. But I did, with the crew of the G. Titov, and we all survived. For the record, it was delicious.
Biggest surprise: Yes, she told me at age 15 that she wanted to marry a Spanish man and leave Russia. But when I learned that 25-year-old Katya had, in fact, married a Spanish man and moved to France, I couldn't believe it. C'mon, did you keep all those promises you made at 15?
Best moment(s): Watching people's faces at the instant they remembered who I was. We just dropped in on about half the people from the 1995 trip, with no advance notice, and there was always a nerve-wracking lull before they recognized me. Fortunately, the moment of recognition was almost always accompanied by a smile. Which brings me to:
Best hospitality. Just as in 1995, people here have been overwhelmingly generous -- feeding us, housing us, and generally taking care of us. We'd blow into town, tie up people's phone lines, take over half their apartments, and then race away again after five or six days. Not your ideal house guests -- yet people really went out of their way to help us in any way they could, for nothing in return.
We owe a great debt of gratitude to all our hosts in Russia, and to all the people who opened up their lives for us to write about. Unlike in 1995, when almost no one here was online, many of them have been following the blog this time around. So, to everyone reading this who helped us out on the trip: Thank you! And please keep in touch!
Thanks also to washingtonpost.com for hosting the site, to our sponsors who made the trip possible, and to the many readers who posted comments -- you added whole new dimensions to the blog. Even though we won't be posting to the site anymore, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, we're hoping to turn this into a book, so keep an eye out at your local quality bookstore.
Okay, now I've gotta pack. Thanks for tuning in, and be sure to check back in 2015 for The Russian Chronicles - 20 Years Later!
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