KAMCHATKA, RUSSIA IV

1/1/2022   

Stopping in Petropavlovsk, VP checked into a Russian version of a Motel 6. Vicktor and Nina were dropped off while Andrei departed to go home to his family for the night. Getting separate rooms, plans were made for the 3 of them to reunite in the lobby at 9AM. As Vicktor stumbled his way through a cafeteria style dinner and breakfast, the trick for a foreigner in a strange land is to sit way in the back and watch what the local people do. After 20 minutes of intense observations, VP walked up to the rack with the trays and grabbed 1. Moving down the line and placing recognized food on his tray, he avoided anything he wasn’t familiar with. At the cashier, he removed a note of a large ruble’s number and handed it to her. With quick head nods and no eye contact, conversations were avoided. The Cold War memories were still in everyone’s head. When the fake mute finished, he met with Nina in the morning. Being in the 60’s and in the middle of summer, they waited outside for the Rusty Twinkie to appear. Just before 9, Andrei pulled up and the trio left for a 5-day round trip ride into the north, and then return here for Vicktor’s departure. As the big city (170,000 people) disappeared in the rear-view mirror, those ominous volcanos were looming in the distance. A few were 5 figure heights in feet and showed the immense size of an earthen pimple. Like life, they would erupt just before an important date to bring an uneasiness into a stressful situation. As they made their way down the antiquated 2 lane highways, it becomes obvious that a country that is 1.7 times bigger in area, but only 40% of the population of the US, has a very limited infrastructure. What also becomes evident is that they are 30 years behind the times. As a boy, Vicktor remembered driving up north in Wisconsin on gravel roads with unreliable heaps, called cars. Here in Kamchatka, he was reliving his youth. As the mountainous, treed scenery moved on, Vicktor’s eyes were galvanized. 

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