Our longest ride of the week–40 hours–came next: Chita to Khabarovsk on the Irkutsk-Vladivostok train. Most of our wagon-mates were on ’til the end of the line. More notably, nearly a third of the car consisted of a band of Uzbek migrant workers.
They were spread out through the car, but it seemed that the “main” guy was one of the two sitting across from us, since the others came to him for tea, bread, etc., for which it seemed they had pooled their money together.
Most of them had made the early spring journey from Central Asia to the Far East coast to work during the warm, shipping season before. The main guy/our neighbor told us that he owned a grocery shop back home with several employees, but still needed the extra money from summer work–a fate to which he seemed to measuredly resigned.
Ryan got suckered in to giving a fairly long English lesson (i.e. translating words from Russian to English) for a really eager guy who was planning on eventually taking English lessons, but neither of us was brave enough to try Uzbek (or Kazakh, Tajik, or any of the others they spoke) –getting their names was difficult enough.
Otherwise, “poyezd yest’ poyezd” (“the train’s the train”): sleep, eat, read, repeat.
But. There’s usually one lady that pushes the beer/juice/ramen/fresh pirozhki cart back and forth the entire journey. This one, the job was divided up between two awesome women.
There was a buxom, slightly made-up, kind woman who strode into the cart every 30 minutes carrying a tray of fresh pirozhki and pigs-in-a-blanket. With a flick of the wrist she unveiled the tray’s contents, usually with a fairly creative salesman line. For instance: “Mmm. Hot, fresh pirozhki –just like me!” or “Oooh! What pirooozheshki I have!”
The duty involving slightly more manual labor (namely, pulling the waist-high beverage cart) was carried out by a short, headscarf-clad, Buryat lady. She, too, employed an equally entertaining dose of attitude in her work: when asked if she had a pad of paper, or even a piece, she stopped, cast an evil eye at the asker, and mumbled as she walked on, “What do you think I’m pullin’ a concillary shop here?”
Ohh, Russian Railways.