Monday, September 15, 2008


I'm done.

After being left outside in the cold for three hours, it started to rain. Immediately afterwards, I began to think I'd have been better off planning this portion of my trip on my own and by "better off" I mean warm, dry, full, and with a room of my own.

Once I began to think that, I had the necessary resolve to navigate my way back to the train station and begin the horrifyingly daunting task of finding the rail station I needed to get out of the country. Grateful that my sense of direction has no language barriers, I found my way back to the metro with relative ease, but that still didn't solve my problem of actually getting on the metro.

I had just enough rubles to buy a single rail pass so I knew I needed to make this trip count. Standing in front of the metro map, I tried to match the Anglicized names in my guidebook with the Cyrillic names on the station map. Once I unlocked one name, it became easier to find a few others. A teenage boy who knew some English was invaluable in helping me the rest of the way.

Going through the gates and passing yet another gaggle of police, I boarded the train and promptly missed my stop. I was able to get on a train going the opposite direction, and got it right the second time but there was still the matter of how exactly to get out of the country. I had no contacts. No Russian language skills. And no rubles.

I wandered towards the first thing that looked like a ticket station, asking in feeble Russian, "Please, a ticket to St. Petersburg?" The woman shook her head no, said something in Russian, and pointed in the direction from which I'd just come. Wandering back that way, I asked at the metro ticket counter, "St. Petersburg?" only for her to shake her head no and point back in the opposite direction.

Frustrated, I sat down on the ground and pulled out my map again then instantly realized something I hadn't noticed when walking with my Russian friend...she provided a buffer to me. Without her around, I was suddenly aware of everything. The most personally invasive incident happened when a group of young women surrounded me and started shouting. At first I thought they were demanding that I get up and move, then they started poking and prodding me and waving their hands directly in front of my face, and finally they all pulled out cameras and began taking my picture. When I tried to move out of the circle, they pushed me back in. Though I haven't had any incidents with Russian men, many of them shouted things to me as I walked by, waggling their eyebrows and making kissy faces.

I felt stupid for even coming to Russia, or at least stupid for relying on only one person. That will never happen again.

I'm almost surprised I didn't start crying while I was walking around desperately, but perhaps my subconscious knew better. Tears would surely have only made things worse.

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