August 20, 1996
Met Dr. Tkalin (henceforth known as Alex) this morning at the Hotel Primore. After
comical attempts at getting breakfast. Sakura (the underground place I had the
voucher for) was full of Japanese at 8:00AM. Not a table to be had. And not
a waitress or hostess in sight. I hung around looking lost for awhile but it
had no effect. Finally walked over to the Primore and ran into Hiroshi who had a
voucher for breakfast at Primore's restaurant. I tried to order only tea but despite
many phrasebook references we got two full breakfasts with coffee - no tea. I finally
got the tea for an extra 2000 rubles. I ate the eggs and bread and cheese but passed
on the skeevy tomatoes. The coffee was not drinkable. The Korean man who waited
on us brought his Korean/Japanese/Russian phrasebook to the table and tried to
talk to Hiroshi in Japanese. th e waitress brought us a bill for 66,000 rubles.
Hiroshi had already given his voucher to a guy who came to the table and asked for it.
We both tried to explain. Finally, I paid for my share (including 4,000 for the coffee
I didn't drink) and walked over to the hotel lobby where Ward and Maurice were
talking to Alex. I arranged to meet Alex at 2:30 at the Hotel Vladivostok and
move to the Primore.
The view from my room at the Vladivostok is even more spectacular today with
less haze. I can see across the bay to the mountains and islands. The bay is
dotted with sailboats today.
Fieldwork starts Friday because Margery does not arrive until lThursday. Meanwhile
I have plenty of time to watch the monkey guy compete with the stuffed tiger
guy for the tacky tourist photo rubles.
My room is small and overlooks the street but is cozier and cheaper than
the Hotel Vladivostok.
The stuffed tiger guy now has a monkey too! Another monkey guy set up nearby.
He only has one monkey - but it's wearing a skirt! The tiger guy's monkey is wearing a striped shirt.
The floor lady just knocked on my door to bring me the hot water I asked for
half an hour ago - in a thermos she called a "keep it hot".
Now that I've had a chance to get out my Birds of Russia book,
I've identified the gulls that hang out near the Hotel Vladivostok as black-tailed gull, Larus crassitoras. They have a wide black tail band and a really deep call.
I walked to the train station, bought an ice cream, and walked back. By the time I got
back here I was dripping huge tidal waves of sweat. I did manage to buy one postcard
of kittens to send to the shelter. I used my Russian phrasebook to say "I want
to buy a postcard" and the the woman understood me.
Last night I fell asleep to the sounds of drunken men singing in Russian. I expect
tonight it will be to the sounds of construction and traffic.
I'd love to do more sightseeing after dinner but I am just about exhausted. I've walked
for hours around the streets taking in the strangeness of being here:
- the vegetable
kiosks that also sell tooth brushes,
- the kiosk that prominently displays women's underwear and falsies hanging from clothespins,
- the music and video kiosks,
- the ancient trucks,
- the construction soudns,
- the sailors in their white hats,
- the old style
buildings on Svetlanskaya,
- the block-like Soviet era apartment buildings,
little girls in dresses with bright pink or red bows in their hair - not one little girl did I see in shorts or those leggings the kids at home wear ,
- the old women in
black skirts and beige blouses or black/beige patterned dresses,
- Cross Jeans - Quality Security Fit Since 1937 - security???
Vladivostok is busy at all hours with construction but the market stalls seem to start
late in the morning - well after 9. In fact the whole city seems most alive in the
late afternoon and evening.
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