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  2. The Diary (22 June 1994 - 13 July 1994)
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8 July 1994 and 9 July 1994

Today was spent mostly on trying to get back to Pushkin. Larisa gave us a ride into St Pete. From there we took the metro (subway), first coming up in the wrong station, going back down and coming up again.

Riding the metro is a lot like riding the bus, except it's darker and you're underground. The people have that same glazed expression: some reading a newspaper, some staring off into space, all seeming utterly bored.

We took the metro to the bus station where we got on the vehicle that would finall take us to Pushkin. We walked to Yala's house, where Melanie stayed during the birthday party. Olga was exhausted. She had stayed up till 7:00 in the morning. I only lasted until midnight, but I woke up early because someone kept trying to call the former inhabitant of the room I was staying in (Sasha, I think, but it could have been another one). We both slept at Yala's house for a couple of hours and ate lunch and dinner there. Then we hitchhiked home. I have no idea why. I guess Olga needed a car to get where she was going, because while Melanie and I went home, she went off on some errand (Yala's apartment is walking distance from Olga's)23.

Today I spent the day in the Alexander Park. For a while, I looked for Melanie and Mom-mom. They were hidden somewhere in the chest-high grass, sunning themselves. I never found them, so I gave up looking and did my own thing.

I spent an hour in the shade of a tree reading a book whose hilarious contents I had forgotten.

I wandered up and down the paths in the park, enjoying the foresty scenery and a general feeling of aimlessness.

A lot of people came to the local "beach," a big pond in the park. An extraordinarily large amount of people were out sunbathing. This is something I've noticed during my travels throughout the area. Wherever there is a shore, that is to say, a flat piece of land between water and more land, or any large public area open to the sun and free of traffic, any appropriate place on a sunny day is covered in sunbathers. People of all ages and types, from naked little babies to old ladies in granny swimsuits love to bare their skin to the sun. Coming from the beatches of California, one might think I would hardly consider this, but it seems to me more people were getting a tan in the Alexander Park in Pushkin, Russia, than on my local state beach!

The park was a very popular place today, probably because it was a perfect day. Sunny and cloudless, the sky was blue and there was a breeze that kept the weather from getting too hot, even though I'd say it was around 80°F (which, strangely to me, is too hot for some people).

While I was at the park, Olga was nearby at the Catherine Palace leading a millionaire acquaintance and his friend on a tour. For the two hour excursion, she earned $50! That's big money in Russia. Heck! It's big in the US!

We went to the market after we had all arrived back at Olga's apartment, which I am beginning to think of more and more as home.

The stores in Russia (and restaurants also) are different from America. You pay first, then get your food. It's weird, you have to look up the prices, go over to the cash register and pay (the receipt is vitally important), and then you get whatever it is that you bought.

Among other things, we bought "Lemon Soda," that has a flavor almost, but not quite, entirely unlike lemon.24 As long as you don't expect it to taste like lemon when you drink it, it tastes pretty good.

23 No offense to Olga, but sometimes I wonder about some of the wierd mysterious things she did. Post-iron-curtain Russia wasn't exactly a land overflowing with honest business dealings. I remember one afternoon we got to the bottom of a bag of potatoes, and found a nice hefty metal weight in the bag. Hrm.

24 Yes, I was already way into Douglas Adams by sixteen. Told you I was a big huge geek!

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