Rikki is busy.
There’s a lot to touch on but I’ll focus now on my past day. This all begins with the British girl that I got so excited about meeting. Turns out this wonderful British woman is a photographer. The Russian photographers did a great job of stalking her and thus I’ve found out that she has had a few pictures published by the Times and a full article in a British magazine. (www.chloedewemathews.com) So, Chloe is in Astrakhan to shoot some pictures (a whole different story that will further be elaborated on within the next few weeks). She got super involved really quickly with all these different groups, including some local photographers, one in particular that has taken quite the keen liking to her. Yevgenii, which after asking for a name the Russians like to say “it’s Eugene, Eugene in English!” after which I laugh because Eugene is such a funny name, after which they look at me really oddly while I am demanding that they just stick with the Russian name, BUT Yevgenii loves nature and gets an offer to go on a fishing trip.
Now, Chloe doesn’t really understand Russian. She knows some basics and can get some ideas across in really broken Russian, but if you’re talking technical details she can’t tell a fishing trip from a university costume festival, and so she believes she is truly supposed to go on some underwater fishing trip. Chloe invites me along.
As were in the car, Yevgenii is telling me our true motive: to photograph eagles. Poor Chloe; poor Rikki; happy happy Yevgenii. Yevgenii’s friend owns a farm about an hour outside of Astrakhan. As part of this farm he dug man-made lakes, filled them with fish, and created a sort of preservation for eagles. And were off in Yevgenii’s Path-Finder through these fields, just looking for great eagles to photograph. We would stop every so often and Yevgenii and Chloe would jump out of the car to photograph something. I would remain in my cozy seat, sitting on my feet trying to keep them warm after my previous venture into the snow.
Next thing we know there’s a “fishing trip” going on, which is essentially them catching bulk amounts of fish. The “underwater” part consists of the workers wearing waders and wading in water above his waste as he tosses fish into a net. One guy is throwing fish into the net bare handed; he’s the one who offers us vodka and tells us it’s “Russian Tradition”, as always. Yevgenii throws some fish in his car; they’re flopping around.
Next thing you know we meet Yevgenii’s friend Vasili, and get invited to his friend, Nikolai’s Basa Otdixha, or spa/hotel for dinner. Turns out this guy is maybe some deputy for the Astrakhan region. We have a truly Russian table and I ate goose, pelmini, chicken, potatoes, and of course cabbage. They kept pouring us more and more shots of vodka and even though Chloe and I would sip ours, they would continuously top off our shot glasses. Before we left we ate three times. How do they maintain figures?
We attempt to cover our return path in the same twenty minutes it took us to get to the Basa. It hasn’t stopped snowing all day. On the way back we get stuck in the newly fallen foot of snow. A big blue 80’s volkswagen (“jeep”) comes to rescue us. Yevgenii is flying through the snow and bottoming out his car; we get stuck again. I “athletically” sprint back from our last spot of dig out, trying to hail down the blue jeep. Fail. But success on the eventual self dig out. We get stuck again; another Path-Finder of sorts flys past us to the left, blowing snow back under our car and not stopping to help us. Assholes. Chloe and I are swearing up a storm. We eventually dig ourselves out. I’ve lost practically all my toes and a few of my fingers. Yevgenii gives each of us girls a fish and tells Chloe how much he loves her.
And now this fish is pissed off and flopping around my floor because I am suffocating him with a plastic bag. Poor thing.