When we arrived at the parking area next to host, Oleg looked concerned and kept silent. “What happened?” I asked. “I can’t reach the host,” he said, “I even don’t know whether she is home or not.”
There was an old clock abandoned on the street. It tolled two. The two young men who were waiting for the host felt as if the waiting would never end. Driven by my impatience and exhaustion, I asked Oleg to drive me to any hostels in the neighborhood. When he was about to turn the engine, his mobile phone rang and he learned that the host was back to home.
My host was called Sima, a young lady who was currently living on her own. Her English was not perfect but we communicated with the help of Google Translate. “Tell me something about yourself.” She typed on Google Translate. I showed her the pictures I took during my sojourn in Western Europe and Asia. “Sometimes we are envious about those people who are free to travel every part of the world.” She typed on the translator.
Before my stay in Russia, I did read a bit about its history. Since the end of Second World War, the Iron Curtain was formed, and that served as the ideological and military barrier that isolated the USSR from the rest of the world (source). Given the political instability and the totalitarian state, most Russians in those days could only flee to achieve their freedom. Strangely, such sense of isolation and lack of freedom somehow is still shared by some inhabitants of the contemporary Russia.
Sima told me, her grandfather was the White Army and her mum’s family fled to far eastern part of Russia, and Sima came back to the South West and studied. “My mum is anticipating her reunion to the region after my graduation.”
We fell asleep after our long but uneasy talk with an electronic translator. In the next morning, I went to the migration office to report my arrival. There were many cracks in the old door, eaten up by age, and each of them seems to tell a story about the old Russia.
When I entered the migration office during the office hours, the receptionist told my local buddy that the chief officer might or might not come back today.
I started to see the wisdom packed in the quote of my Russian friend: “When in Russia, do expect the unexpected.” Unpredictability became part of the everyday life in Russia, from its past to present, and more importantly, the mentality of its people.