I just arrived in Tomsk, a university town just off the Trans-Siberian railway line. After a one wet, cold night in Yekaterinburg (aka Sverdlovsk) between trains, Tomsk is sunny but markedly colder than the other side of the Urals.
The train has been interesting so far. I’ve spent days in silent reading, with all my compartment-mates ignoring each other. I’ve had raucous, communal compartments where my phrasebook gets hard use and where it’s impossible to refuse offers of food and drink. And then, on yesterday’s train, I’ve had a remarkably unfriendly babushka, who deliberately placed her luggage on the bench where she had slept (bottom bunk) but which we were supposed to share as seats during the day (I had top bunk). When I offered to move her luggage to the storage bins so I could sit down, she growled at me and pointed to my cramped bunk. Feh.
Anyway, afterward on the train I met about 10 students on linguistics heading to Tomsk for a conference on “inter-cultural communication.” They’re all women, about 22 years old I’d say. They *all* want to practice their English with me, so I’ve agreed to meet them for coffee today.
Also here in Tomsk, I will be well taken care of by a Olga, a director of some sort at the Polytechnic University, who I was introduced to by a man I met through Esther in Moscow. (Confused yet?) Anyway, she sent her employee, Natalia, to pick me up at the train and has instructed her to show me all the sights.
In short, I’m glad to be here. I hope it lives up to my expectations.
Now I’m going to run and get my first real, non-cup-o-soup meal for three days.