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Goodbye New Jersey. Hello World! A record of my journey as I give up my job, my possessions, and life as I know it to go off and see the world!

My Travel Writing Scholarship 2011 entry - Journey in an Unknown Culture

RUSSIAN FEDERATION | Monday, 14 March 2011 | Views [2812] | Scholarship Entry

It’s day three on the Trans-Siberian train and I’ve decided to wash my hair. So, how does one go about washing their hair in a simple train toilet? Step one, obtain some hot water, which thankfully is in abundance. Two, develop the right combination of the hot and cold water from the tap so you don’t completely scald yourself. Three, take off your clothes in the bathroom, make sure the door is locked and hang your stuff as high as possible. Reflect on how your body has changed during traveling (unfortunately not for the better in my case). Four, pour water on your head. Lather up. Pour water on your head to rinse. Repeat.

Life on the train has been going well. Our short stops have been an experience. Sometimes it’s a five minute stop while others can be up to twenty. We always make sure to check with the attendant in our carriage so that the train doesn’t leave without us. She speaks very little English and thus uses her fingers to indicate the countdown of time as we try to get our shopping done. Each stop has some kiosks where you can buy cigarettes, beer, chips, noodles, bread, juice, and other food for the train. The longest line is usually for the cigarettes. Some stops have the babushka ladies swarming around you with smoked fish dangling from hooks and prepackaged lunches for sale. Trying these concoctions that the ladies have made are all great part of the fun.

Our attendant is a plump, brunette Russian woman who is never out of her uniform, right down to the hat. She has a stern look and when she speaks she sounds always like she is reprimanding you. I have learned that she is actually quite nice. The language barrier just leads to confusion. I enjoy having to lift my feet up as she vacuums our carriage. It gives me fond memories of my childhood and my mom cleaning up after me.

I wish I could say the same for the waitresses at the restaurant car. They sigh heavily when you attempt to communicate what you want but can’t quite get your order across. They do know the English word for beer and are constantly asking us if we want it. Some of the waitresses are quite insistent that we buy them a beer as well! The restaurant car is a good place to meet people. Some are Russian but many are from all over Europe. You feel a bit comforted when you look over and see them struggling with the menu as you had just done twenty minutes ago. We all have the same look of wonder in our faces as we watch the country side fly by.

Tomorrow evening I will be getting off the train and while I will be happy for a break I am pleased with the amazing experiences I have obtained. I look forward to getting back on again in a few days.

Tags: #2011writing, travel writing scholarship 2011

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