Sep 20, 2011

"This is Russia"

A funny thing happened on Sunday. During my first week in Russia, I didn’t dare travel on a marshrutka, preferring instead to travel on the more dependable (and less intimate) trolleybuses. Marshrutkas look like converted Ford transit vans, but with a lower ceiling and an assortment of seats fixed in peculiar positions in the back. As such, you feel every bump (and there are a lot of them…) and you certainly don’t get the sort of personal space we Brits love so dearly. A further deterrent for the nervous foreigner is the need to shout out when you want the driver to stop. This task is made harder by the fact that you can’t really see out of the windows, which are caked in what appears to be years of dust and mud, so you don’t know where you are! Anyway, eventually I overcame my fears and at first, it seemed that I had been making a fuss about nothing. But then on Sunday, as I came back from church with some friends there was a shriek from the front and I looked up to see a heavily pregnant woman so desperate to get out of the bus that she was climbing head first over the seat she had been sitting on in order to get to the back door. I was confused at first, but then I saw that the front of the bus had filled with smoke! We quickly followed the pregnant girl out of the door. I assumed it must have been something serious, and that the driver would call up the Russian AA or something, but, as I was reminded at the time “this is Russia”. The driver seemed utterly unperturbed by what had happened. He got out, fiddled under the bonnet, and 2 minutes later asked us to get back in. Perhaps foolishly, we obliged, and the rest of the journey passed without incident, as the driver continued to pick up new passengers blissfully unaware of what they might be letting themselves into. We even paid him the full fare!   
A Marshrutka. I presume this is the only way they get cleaned!

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