The makers of steel… And matches.

I’ve been in Cherepovets since Friday. I’d like to make some witty comments and have a very witty post. I’ll try to do so, but I have to admit that coming here after Astrakhan was a very poorly thought out idea.

It was a lot harder to leave Astrakhan then I thought it would be. I had a wonderful last night. And despite the mosquitos, I some how ended up getting all of my friends and good acquaintances in one place.

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I then flew, absolutely exhausted, to St Petersburg. With an enormous amount of help from my friends, I got rid if my luggage and was fed and beveraged. After wandering around Piter and catching up, my friend and I then raced to the train station and accidentally got lost in the parking ramp. As I was emptying my things from her car, she tells me I have ten minutes until my train leaves. Neither of us had been to this station before and had no idea where to go. I start shoving things into my carry on, completely forgetting some necessary items and we start running.. Shes got my purse and I have my heavy carry on in one hand and my jenga in the other. Obvious necessity. I almost didn’t make my train, as when we got there the stewardess yelled at me saying I had to go register my online tickets, naturally what one would think to do with an online-purchased ticket. However, the gracious lady in the next cart, the one I was supposed to be in, let me in without questions. Thank you kind lady.

I arrived the next morning in Cherepovets, greeted by a very enthusiastic and nice Anna, who is a professor at the local university and director of the camp at the local youth center. Within an hour I was on a bus to some little village-museum between Cherepovets and Vologda. Here we toured original wooden homes that had been imported from different parts of Russia. It was quite reflective of the wooden village Kizhi, located north of St. Petersburg. The most interesting part was the master classes they held. I learned the original, Russian painting technique that is on a lot of the dishes and other souvenirs; some of the students made birch ornaments; others carved little animals out of wood.

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So, Cherepovets eh?
Yeah. I thought the same thing.
It’s located here:

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Or what I like to call, the middle of nowhere. They like to call it provincial. I wont argue.
So yeah, what’s here? Well at first I was all excited about matches (which I still haven’t seen here, actually). However, what I didn’t know was that they have a massive steel plant. Essentially, the plant is the same size as the city and employes somewhere around 150,000 people; the city has about 315,000. Supposedly the steel company, Severstal’ bought out a Detroit plant not to long ago. Everyone and their mother works there.

What else? Oh, the general region is famous for their dairy products. And there’s a natural spring nearby.. Somewhere. But the city itself is so provincial in so may ways. The people look so much more Russian than I’m used to. The cars are much different, even than Astrakhan. The shops are sparse and less famous. There are so many more drunks and drug addicts than what I saw on the streets of Astrakhan, or even St. Petersburg. In their free time, people park their cars in the street and just stand there, maybe drinking, but definitely smoking and talking, and smoking, and talking and smoking.. Oh, there’s also a strip, on the river embankment; yeah you know like the one in Grand Haven where you drive you car back and forth, playing your loud music, revving your engine, showing off for the ladies. They have one here, except it’s no longer than my driveway.

On a positive note, the city is really clean, despite it’s lack of trash cans. There’s a lot of greenery and some really luscious parks. Also the roads are significantly better than in Astrakhan.. So for example there is only one big pot hole per kilometer, rather than say, 10. And they have some cool bridges here, unique to only three cities in Russia. A few pictures:

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What have I done here? Or, what the hell am I doing here?
Well, so far I’ve done a lot of sight seeing. This included riding a Soviet ferris wheel that scared the shit out of me, followed by one of those amusement rides that my stomach really hates, followed by a really shitty stolovaya, or canteen, followed by ice skating, which I really suck at. My guide did a really good job of not listing to my “no”s.. I suppose I should be used to this by now. But in all honesty it turned out fine and I enjoyed it all more than I expected… except for that stupid carnival ride.

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June 1st was the holiday Day of the Protection of Kids. Yes, official holiday. So there were lots of weird costumes all around town, some competitions, games, and a creepy clown in the stolovaya approaching kids while the “…what the fuck” song was playing in the background. Did I mention my love for Russian paradoxes?

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There’s also been the camp. Really it’s been quite an easy week. The camp starts at 10 and ends at 2pm. I don’t even need to participate in all of it, but just give some lectures, play some games, and help provide ideas. Tomorrow I don’t even have to go in until 12. The kids are great, as always. They’re probably 14-15. Some of them speak pretty well, or at least are not afraid. Others don’t speak a word, and many are really scared to talk, or play games, or really do anything. Today they created these really great skits based on some fairy tails. Tomorrow were having an American potluck and I successfully baked forty cookies while listening to a killer Russian folksong on repeat and having an amazing conversation with two locals, my age.

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That says welcome.. Rikki Brown. I just noticed it today.

All in all I have to admit that it’s really hard being here, and that my heart is really not into it. I don’t do well in limbo-land; I left Astrakhan with a really heavy heart and I’m eagerly awaiting both Piter and Turkey. Being here I’ve really felt homesick and would prefer to just stay in my apartment, rather than do anything at all. I miss all my friends, a lot; everyone of them, wherever they may be in the world. I think part of me just wants to seclude myself in this little cyber world with them so as to avoid meeting anymore wonderful people whom I must then, once again, leave behind. Unfortunately, I think it’s too late for that already.

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