I thought that the blatant homosexuality of last week’s Speedo’s incident couldn’t be topped. I was wrong.
Last weekend we were kindly invited to a Dacha, a country house for you non-Russophiles, by a girl we met from University. Sadly Iona wasn’t able to come as she had to teach, thus it was just us three guys, and Alexandra of course. We were meant to meet at midday, fresh and ready to board the train, however we naturally went out the night before… We decided to have a couple of pints and relax, as is always the case, the easy night out rapidly spiralled out of control. We found an Irish bar (in Siberia?!) and the rest is history. Rob and I arrived over an hour late, yet Charlie, in a feat greater than climbing Mount Elbrus, woke up 4 hours earlier than necessary to meet with an acquaintance.
We all managed to board the train and the journey to Piorniskii passed without incident, apart from Charlie dying mid-journey (see picture below).
After the two-and-a-half hour journey to the town, we then took a taxi to Pionirskii, a village 110 kilometres from Tyumen. Before this trip I genuinely thought that Tyumen was the middle of nowhere, a dot on the map of civilisation, however after seeing this place I can safely say that Tyumen is a beacon of the Western world in terms of modernisation. The village was also pretty damn scary. We arrived on the night when everyone was celebrating Halloween in Tyumen (not in the village of course- far too American) and it was a full moon. Likening the village to a cross between something out of The Chernobyl Diaries and The Hills Have Eyes is quite fair.
Saturday evening we went to the communal village Banya. A Banya is probably best described as a Sauna and a communal washing area combined; it is a big tradition here. The following guest passage is Rob’s account of out trip to the Banya:
‘We left the dacha and set out for an evening bathe down at the local bathhouse, or for all you Russophiles, the banya. It was a full moon, and thanks to the absence of street lights, the stars were out in force. We walked through the village and a few mud roads later and there it was: the sacred banya. Not much to look at if I’m honest; a simple wooden hut, much in line with the rest of the village. As usual in Russia, there was no sign, or indication that this building was indeed a banya. There was only a poster, stuck to the side of the hut, reading “Beer Festival 2008”. Perhaps it was some cryptic message? Beer festival; beer; banya? 2008? Who knows? “See you in two and a half hours!”, our friend Sasha said, as she pushed us through the doorway. Two and a half hours? Just what did this wash entail exactly?
We found ourselves in a relatively empty room, painted a nice shade of lifeless green. On the right side of the room sat a babushka, behind a desk. She was busy sifting through some spreadsheets and didn’t notice us come in. Apparently business at the banya was doing well enough to warrant spreadsheets. On the left of the room there were two doors, one for men, the other for women. We turned our attention to the babushka, who was still yet to acknowledge us, when suddenly a loud guffaw erupted from the behind the male door, followed by shouting and general loud conversation. The room filled with sounds, all coming from behind the male door. We stood, staring blankly at the male door: the roar of Russian voices punching their way through its thick metal construction. A double tap of her pen, and we all turned around to be greeted by the stern stare of the babushka. Her spreadsheets all in order, she was now ready to receive us.
Looking up from her desk, the babushka eyed each one of us up in turn. I ventured a smile, her face didn’t even twitch. She met my eyes with a cold stare, and grumbled out the price. We paid the woman; she handed us each a bouquet of tightly wrapped reeds. A complimentary selection of herbs, perhaps?
Bouquet in hand, we shuffled over to the bellowing male door. I caught sight of Tom, his face was pale, his eyes shone with bewilderment. Were we really going to go in here? Was this really happening? I grasped the handle, the door shook with the noise from inside. I pushed and the door creaked open. Silence. Pairs of eyes lay firmly fixed on us. A moment of hesitation, and we stepped further into the room and proceeded to undress.
Meandering around the banya were around eight or nine old men: washing themselves, talking with each other and occasionally looking our way – all of them completely naked. Me, Charlie and Tom undressed down to our boxers. We exchanged glances, it was time. No words were spoken, but we knew what had to be done. We knew. We slid them off and there we stood. Naked. Our peripherals were full of other men’s penises, our minds were cloudy from the heat of the room, and yet one unceasing thought lay at the forefront of each of our minds, one perpetual anguish, a constant worry which flickered in each of our eyes. Do not get a hard-on.
Into the washroom we went. Now naked we seemed to have formed some sort of special pact with the Russian men, who now came across as friendly and helpful. One old man took an extra special liking to Charlie, and took him into the steam room directly. After some slight hesitation, me and Tom followed suit.
The sight that met our eyes was truly something to behold. Poor Charlie stood bent over before an old man, being whipped mercilessly with a bouquet of reeds. The old man’s enthusiasm was surprising. I mean he was really going for it. Gobsmacked, I took a front row seat next to Tom to watch the action. A look of concentration was spread over the old man’s face, drool spilling out of his mouth, he fervently whipped Charlie’s back. Charlie stood dead still, paralysed by the sheer abnormality of the situation. Well at least he was finally getting some action. Another old man, parked himself next to me and began whipping himself. Me still sitting down, he towered above me. His body was covered in black hair, and his penis was firmly at my eye level, only inches away. He began thrashing himself with reeds, groaning as he did so, his shrivelled genitals swaying menacingly.
A few thrashings later and the two hours were already up. We got dressed and retired back to the dacha for a debriefing and pancakes (блинки). I myself felt strangely satisfied: a feeling I can only liken to the one experienced just after having sex. Sitting there on the sofa, listening to “Тёмная сторона луны” (Dark Side of the Moon) on vinyl (who’d of thought it?!), an aura of accomplishment hung over us. It had been an evening of bonding (read: bondage), both with each other, and with ourselves. As the last crackling sounds of the record faded out, we softly fell into a deep sleep. At ease with the world, and safe in the knowledge that the emotional scarring we had endured that evening would be with us for the rest of our lives.’
Robert Phillips (Intern at TyumenandbackagainCorp.)
The weekend in all was great fun; we tried lots of Russian food, experienced the beautiful countryside and felt recuperated for the week ahead.
This last week has been a combination of meeting up with Russians in various bars, lessons and James Bond. Oh yes, I have so far watched Skyfall (or Skiifauuill as it is pronounced here) twice, in Russian of course. I would definitely like to see it in English when I return just to be sure that I did actually understand it…Whatever the case may be, I know that Daniel Craig can rock the hell out of a suit. Check out the Russian trailer here:
Turning to the romantic side of things, or not so romantic as is so often the case. I have still not yet fully comprehended the carpet cleaning incident of last week; maybe it was a genuine mistake? Maybe she really did forget what time it was whilst she cleaned that damn carpet? Everyone knows how easy it is to do so… Not.
Nevertheless, over the last week I continued to chat via text and everything seemed to be back on track. I invited her out to the club on Friday- her answer? No can do I’m afraid, I have bought a kitten. We went out anyway without her, and tried to meet some new girls. The best response from a girl was to Rob; instead of even speaking to Rob, she simply held up her arms in a cross. I haven’t seen such a brutal put down for a long time.
The start of November we all agreed that this month was going to be a good one- back on track with the fluency drive, and back on track with the Russian girlfriend. I wasn’t going to let a carpet-cleaning, kitten-buying girl get in my way. This week we were invited to come and chat with some students of a different University- the University of Culture and Music, aka dancers (winky face). We went there with high expectations, and intending to come away with a plethora of girl’s numbers. The quality was distinctly average yet both Charlie and I spotted two girls who we liked. Charlie sidled up to his girl and started chatting about the accordion (she was an accordion player), all went well except he claimed he also played the accordion and then simply didn’t ask for her number.
I went for a more a direct approach, ‘Hi, Can I have your number?’. And her quick-as-a-flash retort? ‘Nyet.’
Short, sweet and crushing, my favourite type of rejection.