richard g morrison, kyrgyzstan, st.petersburg


Travel Writing > Travelogues > St.Petersburg/Kyrgyzstan

ST.PETERSBURG/KYRGYZSTAN - Richard G Morrison (1998-2000)

My first trip, was to visit friends in St.Petersburg, Russian Federation. I returned home, stayed a week, then proceeded to Kyrgyzstan. This item is a log of those two consecutive trips, taken September 1998.

Hi everyone,

I'm back home. I brought a strange bug from Kyrgyzstan with me, hence my delay in writing. It was nothing serious; not bedridden, just ennervated for a few days. I had an absolutely wonderful time!

Friday, 29 October 1998

Got to Russia the day the ruble floated. For three days I could get no currency at all, couldn't spend my dollars or travelers checks, and couldn't use my credit cards. Luckily my sweet Russian friend Zinaida took care of me. The ruble went from 6.2 to anywhere between 7.0 and 11.5, depending on which street corner you were dealing from. We went to the currency exchange, where I plunked down five one hundred dollar bills for exchange at 7.5. Zina grabbed three of them out of my hand (without explanation: she speaks very little English) and ran out into the street. I exchanged the remaining two and went out to look for her. She was across the street, in a huddle with an old babushka. It looked like she was scoring drugs with my money. Actually, she was picking up black market rubles at 10.5!

The people are in terrible straits. If your salary was 500 rubles at 6.2, it is still the same at 15 or 20. At the same time, most processed or packaged goods are imported, from western Europe or North America, at now inflated prices. So American tourists are riding high in St.Pete, while the natives suffer as a consequence. Aside from my host, the people appear depressed and angry, and rudeness abounds. I could count the number of smiles I saw in two weeks on the fingers of one hand. Because of the camera hanging from my neck, and my tendency to smiIe at strangers, I was easily recognized as a crazy westerner. I don't know if my demeanor would be any better under similar circumstances, and I feel for them.

Except for the Metro, which is clean and efficient, the infrastructure is dilapidated and messy. It's difficult to find a square meter of sidewalk or roadway that isn't broken. Public facilities are filthy and in disrepair, especially toilets (for which you pay 2 rubles admission). It's difficult to avoid the conclusion that the Russians, after decades of being told what, when, and how to do everything, are not yet prepared to run a democracy, in which the community only gets the bare minimum of what they are willing to accept.

But...The monuments, museums, cathedrals, and palaces are breathtaking! I spent the two weeks constantly amazed at the beauty and opulence, all the more so in contrast to what I'm used to in Carnival California. And my host and her daughter could not have been more giving and charming, from the moment they got me from the airport. This penpal turned out to be a better friend than I hoped for. The little girl in the photo is Zina's 11 year old daughter, Polina. We are standing in front of the Peterhof, the summer palace of Peter the Great. By the way, you almost miss the fabulous hanging art in these places, because of your preoccupation with the exquisite inlayed floors and ceilings. They give you felt overshoes when you enter, to protect the finish.

Then, back home for a week, and on to Kyrgyzstan.

I landed at Sheremetyevo #2 in Moscow, on a Brit Air flight from London. My flight to Bishkek was to be with Aeroflot from Sheremetyevo #1, about 10km away. Sher2 has facilities for English speakers, but Sher1 has none, because only a very few crazy westerners fly from there to "weird" places like Tashkent, Almaty, and Bishkek. I arrived at Sher1 about 8:30 PM. I was supposed to phone a friend in Moscow, but my phone card refused to work, I had no Russian currency, and the currency exchange was in the throes of one of their "Roubles Nyet" episodes. Also, I had a roaring need to pee, and didn't have two rubles toilet admission, and couldn't appeal to the charity of the cashier babushka because of the language barrier. I crept into an obscure corner of the waiting area, and in great fear of discovery, peed on the floor. I was mindful of my inability to explain myself in the event I was apprehended, but sweet fortune smiled.

Well, 3.5 hours later we took off for Bishkek without incident, and landed 4 hours later, 7:00 AM local time. Aeroflot, contrary to my expectations, was completely satisfactory and comparable in service and comfort to any western airline, if you discount the filthy, undersupplied toilets.

My other internet penpal friend, Svetlana, was to have met me at the airport. By 7:30 she had not appeared, so I took a cab into the city. Bishkek sits in the shadow of the Tian Shan mountains to the south (up to 25000 ft., 7600 m.). They are snowcapped all year long. The view from the cab approaching from the north was spectacular. The cab driver was friendly and accomodating (typical of the people here) and took me around the city and environs until I found a reasonably priced hotel. I phoned Svetlana and they told me she was at Manas Airport looking for me. Finally, she showed up at the hotel. She lives with her family, where there is no room for me, so she rented an apartment for my stay. We went there, and there our problem began. Svetlana is a beautiful woman, but dull as dust, and, in my perception, a world class pill. Also, it quickly became obvious that she had even less interest in me than I had in her. On the second morning she was to have picked me up at 9:00. At 9:45 I phoned and she said she would come in 20 minutes. At 11:30 I packed my bag, left a note, and took a cab back to the hotel.

Here I am, knowing no one, ignorant of the language, completely alone, bored, disappointed, and more than a little depressed. The next flight I could take home was a week later on Thursday. There was nothing to read in English, and TV was all Russian or Kirghiz. I twiddled my thumbs for a few hours, then decided to make the best of it, and had the desk call me a cab. It was a 20 minute drive into the city. Ahmed (Och-med) the cab driver picked me up, and in that 20 minutes we became buddies (They're like that). He and his Russian wife Sveta entertained me at there home, introduced me to their friends and family, hugged, kissed, and nurtured me, and importantly, introduced me to a very beautiful and loving Kirghiz woman, Asel, who spent the week with me. The photo is of Ahmed, Sveta, "Reeechard", and Asel. Ah, Allah, you move in strange ways! This was a hall of fame week.

I missed the opportunity to hike the mountains, but we did spend two days hiking the canyons around Issyk-Kul lake (105 X 43 miles). Asel took me to visit her family out in the sticks (sheep herders, yurt and all). Also her two little daughters, who are confined in a government run pediatric tubercular hospital. We ate in Kirghiz cafes, never a tourist restaurant, and I was almost never allowed to pay. We danced at night to Kirghiz country music. How they move! I didn't know what I was doing, but a little Kumys (fermented horse milk, ugh!) and I didn't care. They gave me a cassette of the music to take home.

Bishkek is a city of about 650,000 remarkable in its contrast to St.Pete. This country also suffers great economic distress. In the city maybe "80%" of the trade is done from sidewalk tables, small kiosks, and bazaars. The country is rich in wool and cotton production, and has large resources in hydroelectric power, and large unexploited mineral resources, especially rare earths. But investment capital has been slow coming, so most of this is only potential. The rural people barely get by with subsistence farming. The greatest difference from Russia is, I think, in the demeanor of the people. These are the friendliest, most hospitable and smiling people I have ever known. You've got to love them!

All this in spite of the terrifying experience of a Kirghiz taxi ride. The city streets are wide, but any lane marking stripes have long since been largely obliterated by intervening potholes. So the taxis run at breakneck speed, side by side with inches of separation, and swerving to and fro to avoid the potholes, in a kind of crazy mechanized ballet. Also, they cut each other off sharply, suddenly, with impunity. Strangely, one never sees the slightest hint of road rage, and all this seems to be done with good humor (and without seat belts). But what an opportunity this place would be for a MIDAS muffler, brake, and shock absorber franchise!

I am going back to Bishkek, as soon as I can.

Friday, 28 May 1999

The email office here in Bishkek provides one terminal, so you wait in line and rush through your turn so the next guy gets his. And I have to take a taxi (shudder) to get here. So I'm sorry for the delay and for what will be less frequent communication than I had originally contemplated. That is to say, if I continue to survive (barely) the culture shock and don't bolt for home, hot water, and toilet paper.

Well, the adventure began, after a smooth and comfortable Aeroflot flight from L.A. upon my arrival in Moscow 3:30 PM on 13 May. Guess what - My Kyrghz visa, which gave me 3 days in-transit privilege, was not effective until 14 May, so I was a wetback for 8.5 hours. My connecting flight to Bishkek was 5 hours away, but Russian Passport Control wouldn't think of letting me go without appropriate punishment. I cooled my heels for a couple of hours while they tried to decide what to do to me. Finally, a beautiful, ice cold, miniskirt uniformed (complete with an enormous parade cap) girl cop, with legs like an olympic runner, raced me across the huge Sheremetyevo air terminal to some official who demanded an $18 fine for my crime. I paid and the girlcop raced me back to my original place of confinement. If I thought that was it, I was mistaken. After another hour, with questions as to my status unanswered, I was hauled before the Russian consular agent in residence, who thankfully spoke English. He demanded $55 for an in-transit visa to cover my remaining 2 hours in Russia at the airport. Resigned to the prospect of a hitch in the gulag, I exploded. Calmly, he replied that his hands were tied, the law is the law, and he hadn't the authority to make any exception. I forked over the 55 bucks and then, as a casual aside, said "I will make my objection to the American consul!" The effect was electric. After a hasty conference with his tovarich's in Russian I didn't catch, he handed me back my 55, and ordered up a driver to take me across the airport runways to the terminal from which my flight departed. His parting shot was, "If you must talk to your consul, please ask why they charge $40 to a Russian citizen for a visa application". It was a good question, and I told him so, but that it was unproductive for him to punish American travelers for actions of their government that they might not agree with. Oh, by the way, with his kind intervention I skipped Customs and Declarations entirely.

BTW, some of you again ask where is Kyrgyzstan (or Kyrghyz Republic). Look on the western border of mainland China, south of Kazakstan. The city of Bishkek (formerly Frunze) is in the northern part of the country. Uzbekistan is to the west, Tajikistan to the south.

On to Bishkek.

Monday, 31 May 1999

The flight to Bishkek was OK but landed 0.5 hour late, at 3:25 AM. My friend Ahmed came to pick me up on time, but there's no flight info in this airport at 3 AM, so when I didn't land he made the erroneous assumption that the flight ETA was Moscow time (2 hrs. earlier). This would make my arrival 4:55 AM Bishkek time, and that's when he returned to the airport. By that time I was long gone, taking a cab into the city and getting a hotel room. I phoned his father later that morning. Ahmed had moved to Sokuluk, a suburb about 25 km away, and had no phone as yet. Finally that evening Ahmed and wife Sveta picked me up and took me to the flat they had rented for me.

Well, as I suspected, it was inadequate. I learned my first new Russian word, "Tarakan" - in other words La Cucaracha (not to mention El Cucaracho and all their little Cucarachitos. One bedroom, kitchen w/out fridge, bathroom with no sink, toilet with no seat, and all my little friends - for $45/month.

My friend Asel has a 3 room flat shared with her two little girls. I moved there on the 20th. There are no Tarakan here, but I have other problems. First is the adjustment to sharing my space and time. Second, although healthy food is available here, she cooks and eats like a sheep herder, everything in pools of fat, and I can see my hard earned 161 cholesterol rising out of sight. For the life of me, I can't figure how she keeps that cute figure. Third, I'm uncomfortable with how strict and stern she is with the kids (only 4 and 6). I suppose it's a cultural thing, but I don't like it and I even find myself compensating for her with them. We're working on these issues, but who knows, I may find myself unattached here in the near future (you Children's Hospital nurses who've been fantasizing about me, take note!).

Meanwhile, on the third try (I think I told you before, you can't make appointments here) I found a Kyrghyz official to validate my visa. Then I went to where the American embassy used to be, in a handsome mansion in central Bishkek, and found it deserted. The embassy, consulate, and USIA offices have moved to a specially constructed building, in a isolated area off the highway out of town. You should see this place! ALL stainless steel, with thick thick window glass, surrounded by acres of flat vegetation free perimeter space, all enclosed with a razor wire topped fence, I suppose electrified and appearing to be about 14 feet high. The only entry is through the guard shack (looks like a gun turret) equipped with airport type metal detection and X-ray apparatus. And if you get through that you go through its duplicate again in the front lobby. The consul says that Americans aren't particularly vulnerable here, but that this is a part of the world "not entirely at peace with itself". Nevertheless, I feel comfortable walking the streets here, at times and in places I wouldn't think of in Los Angeles or any other large American city.

The Kyrghyz economy is in shambles. The standard unit of currency, the som, was at 21 to the dollar when I was here last September. Yesterday I traded at 44.5. Poverty is desperate and widespread, and the banks are closing one by one. Since this is a cash economy (no credit cards, checks) except in one or two high priced tourist hotels, I've had to open a bank account. This so that I can have my pension funds wire transferred from my bank back home. The only alternative is Western Union, and the nearest agent is in Almaty, Kazakstan, a 4 hour motor trip over bad roads infested with road cops with their hands out. I found an international bank here, capitalized by Europeans (Dutch, Turks, and a subsidiary operation of the IMF) and so likely to stay in operation.

Monday, 07 June 1999

I failed to mention the weather before. I packed warm things, which so far have just wasted space. Surprised to find 65F temperature upon my landing here in the early morning hours. Days have been between high 70's and low 80's, excepting two rainy days. Sunny days are somewhat humid, but nights have been cool so far. On most days I can look out my window at the beautiful snow-capped Tian Shans, looming over the city to the south at 17,000 feet. These are substantially higher than the highest European Alps, but by no means exceptional for this area. I haven't yet investigated the skiing, but I'm told that the lifts are closed for the summer months, although the runs are open for those hardy individuals who can tolerate the exertion of climbing at 13-16000 feet. Not for me; I'll wait for October and the lifts.

I found a Kirghiz woman who has taught Russian at Harvard, and wanted an American English teacher to swap lessons with. Her English is fine, but she needed help with colloquial conversation, and some advice on style. Anyway, we've had several lessons, but she just crapped out on me, with the excuse that she has become too busy with paying students. So I'll find another teacher. The embassy secretary recommended hers, and I'll follow up on that this week. Meanwhile, I pick up a bit here and there. And I've taught Gulnazik (Asel's 6 year old) how to do "This Little Piggy". It goes something like this:

"Ah douche littor biggy go ah mock it,
Ah douch littor biggy ah stay humm,
Ah douche littor biggy a-hah rrrus biff,
Ah....douche littor biggy...."

Well, you know the rest.

I found "The Pub". Misnamed, it's really a hangout for Americans & Canadians. I can get an occasional conversation fix there, along with a passable Spanish Omelet or an excellent Chicken Burrito. Also, they have a stack of English language periodicals there, some only a few days old.

I'm really hungry for world news. My next purchase will be a good receiver for VOA and BBC broadcasts. Meanwhile, the local English language newspaper is hopelessly provincial, so all I read about are the local gas, oil, coal, and water disputes with neighboring states.

Tuesday, 22 June 1999

On the subject of gas, oil, coal, and water disputes: Uzbekistan has the natural gas, Kazakstan the oil & coal, and Kyrgyzstan almost all of the water and hydroelectric power. They trade these resources with each other, but not without bickering. Starting last winter Bishkek has been without Uzbek gas, cut off for non-payment of a $2 million debt. That meant no heat last winter, and up to now and for the foreseeable future, no hot water (unless you have the rare electric water heater). Coal from the Kazaks would have helped, but for some reason unexplained to me, they have reneged on commitments to deliver. Meanwhile, Kyrgyz water and power, badly needed by the rest of central Asia, flows freely and without interruption from here. Go figure.

Hot water! Oiy! The water flows down to Bishkek directly from the Ala Archa river, only a few kilometers from its glacial source in the surrounding mountains. It's so cold that I honestly believe a 5 minute shower will land you in the hospital for hypothermia. So, you don't shower. You brace yourself, sponge off the dirtiest parts, and rush back under the covers to thaw out.

Breaking news! We just moved into an immaculate little flat with foyer, living room, kitchen, bath, and two bedrooms. It's completely furnished, including TV and telephone. As I write this, the landlord is installing an 80 liter electric HOT WATER heater, for this crazy demanding American. All for the princely sum of $300/month, including utilities and telephone bill. Address: Kyrgyz Republic, Bishkek 720021, Toktogula 77, Apt. 68. Telephone: 280606. But don't send snail mail. This info is only for the purpose of claiming my remains.

Last Sunday I hiked several kilometers up the beautiful Ala Archa canyon. This is a spectacular gorge formed by the rushing Ala Archa river, white water all the way from glacial melt at its source down to the low Bishkek plateau. I carried some of Larry's ashes in my backpack, found a fine, windy place up the canyon to strew them, and did so. Sat down and blubbered for a while, snapped some photos, and went back down to rejoin my friends. Ahmed and I are planning a trek up to the glacier, or as far in that direction as our energy permits.

Those of you who have internet access can search on Kyrgyzstan, or Kyrghyz/ Kyrghiz Republic, and can find more photos on the web of this beautiful country. The country has its own web site, and travel sites like "Lonely Planet" have photo galleries.

Thursday, 01 July 1999

Let's talk about toilets for a minute. In rural Kyrgyzstan they are holes in the ground, usually surrounded by 4 boards, and sometimes enclosed in an outhouse. In the city we have a porcelain bowl, usually flushable, but rarely equipped with a seat. Instead, you plant your feet on either side, and...squat. Some of these have steel treads on either side to prevent a disastrous misstep. You learn early on to carry a wad of toilet paper in your pocket when going out - Kyrghyz public toilets have none, nor soap. Btw, the toilet paper you buy is narrow (about 3") crinkled up stuff, with the approximate absorbency of tinfoil, and the texture of sandpaper. In a few locations in Bishkek you can find a pay toilet. You pay 2 som (about 4.5 cents) and get toilet paper, soap & water, and a babushka who, with complete indifference, comes in while you're doing your business to hose the place down. Well, enough said. I thought you would need to know about this. I hope it's enough for you. I probably won't mention it again.

We have a nanny! Lyuba is a mid-forties spinster with hyperactivity disorder. She comes for 9 hours/day, supposedly to take care of the kids, but that seems to include Asel and me. Also scrubbing floors, washing clothes, and cooking for all of us. Her mantra is "Pashaluista (Please)".... "Cooshay (Eat)"..cooshay...cooshay...cooshay". Now Asel and I can get away for grown-up fun. Also, if I flip her 2 or 3 extra bucks, she'll stay overnight to cover our occasional excursion out in the countryside, or late visiting friends. For the 54 hours/week we pay her $35/month.

The other night we took the kids to the circus. Because of the decades of Soviet dominance, and before that czarist Russia, Russian culture is prominent here. The Russian circus is part of that. It's housed in its own building (hippodrome), sponsored and maintained by the federal government, in Russian style. It's a one ring affair, very small by Ringling Bros. standards, so no seat is more than 50 yards or so from the performers. The clowns are hilarious, working entirely in pantomime, with humor you would consider "earthy" by American standards. The aerialists work without safety nets, which scares you for them, and if you're in the first row or so, for yourself as well (they sometimes fly directly overhead). Add in the trained animals: bears, chickens, dogs, pigs, goats, geese, and even a couple of clever llamas. The spectacle makes for excitement second only to a Bishkek taxi ride. I'll tell you about that later.

Haven't resumed formal Russian lessons yet, so I'll probably wait until I come back in September. Yep, I return to California in mid-August for about a month, and then back to Bishkek. Looks like I found a home here, at least for some time to come. One problem is the very complicated procedure for getting a visa here for more than 3 months. The alternative is legal residency, green card style. The embassy tells me that this is unheard of except in a case where the applicant is married to a Kyrghyz citizen. So, an interesting alternative suggests itself. Asel and I are doing well, and I love the kids.

Saturday, 30 October 1999

Well, I've finally come up for air. Have some big changes going, but first... the Elcat mail server had a problem, because of which I was unable to receive your October mail until this morning! If you wrote to me in October, that's why I didn't answer.

Notice my new address ( I am now on the internet at home. The service costs me $42.70/month, and limits me to 10:00 PM - 8:00 AM, but I've been averaging $50 at Elcat for email alone, and had to go to their office, and stand in line at the terminal. Also, It was costing me 15 cents/kb for both sent & received messages. You couldn't send attachments because of the expense. One friend sent me a couple of jokes with attached graphics. That cost me 82 bucks (They weren't THAT funny, Bobby). Anyway, all that is done with, and you can send anything you want to this address. As of Monday, 1 November, will be closed for business. A vast improvement.

Why so busy here? I don't think I mentioned it before, but I had dozens (truly) of separate requests to teach English. One language school even tried to hire me. They are crazy here for anything American, and if you know the language, especially with an American accent, you can keep as busy as you want to. I decided to take some students, at $2/hour (big money here). I put a 2 line classified ad in the local gazette, for one issue. That was a month ago. The phone is still ringing. As of now I have classes on four levels, and it's become so disruptive in this apartment that I'm going to take another one bedroom place which I'll dedicate to school. I'm only teaching Mondays, Wednesdays, & Fridays; and I'm limiting classes to 4 students each. Still, it's 8 hours/day of teaching and all of the preparation that goes with that. Well, it keeps me off the street and out of trouble. And the pin money doesn't hurt.

Speaking of language lessons, I haven't yet gotten back into Russian class. I've been too busy, and MY lessons cost $5/hour (Americans pay more for everything). But I am getting by pretty well with the language, and pick up a little more every day or so. I've even learned some naughty words in Kirghiz, thanks to Asel's dad.

Now I'll go back a couple of months to catch you up. Prior to returning here I worried over a decision about locating here, which involved my disposing of almost all of my belongings in America, most of which were in storage. Finally, I just decided to take a position (those of you who know me best know that I'm not the most planful or provident person). So I called my kids and arranged for them to get the stuff. I kept a few things I consider "essential": some clothes, tools, music, a very few books, and some software. I disassembled my computer, and packed the pieces in my luggage. I had a 140 lb. baggage allowance, and I used it.

The trip was uneventful, for a change. The day after I arrived in Bishkek, I bought a case for $30 and reassembled the computer, then got a friend in the business to sell me a monitor and keyboard. That put me back in business, but getting back on line involved obtaining some additional telephone hardware and that took until recently.

The only other important current event was upsetting. I had to fire Lyuba, the nanny. We discovered that she had abused the kids. It was a big disappointment, because when she had her temper under control she was gentle and loving with them, and she was a hard worker. But of course the abuse was unacceptable. So, we are without a nanny. Asel has a cousin, an 18 year old boy going to school here. He loves the kids, and comes here to help out. We give him $10/month.

That's about all that's current. I plan to return to the states late in February, probably the 23rd, for maybe 3 weeks. I'll bring Asel with me. No other plans regarding her, as yet. But she really takes good care of me, and I LOVE those little girls (and they love me).

Friday, 28 July 2000

Well, if you're still with me, this is another travelog, which I'm induced to write because, coincidentally, I want to tell you that our Voronsovka Fund is now set up to receive donations. But more of that later.

It's been half a year or so since I've written to you at length, and much has happened.

First and foremost, my illness, which you've heard about, and now, my recovery. I lost over 20 pounds in the process, and have still to gain it all back. But they tell me here that I'm looking more than half alive, and I definitely have more energy, and my digestion is back to normal (BTW, thanks to the skill and diligence of S.Rakower,M.D., and the care of brother Larry). I've been mostly sedentary the past 3 months, but I'm starting to feel the urge again for some hiking in the mountains. So this will happen, and you'll see some photos when it does.

As some of you already know, before returning to California and my medical adventure, Asel and I were married. Well, maybe not really. We went out into the sticks and had a shaman mumble some stuff at us while waving his hands appropriately, and presto, we were man & wife, sans benefit of paperwork, registration, or any of the other official niceties. As a result of my sickness I've acquired a new sense of my mortality, and of the passage of my remaining time. So on 31 May we did it officially. We are now, recognizably, man & wife. My next step is to petition for legal resident status (ala green card) so that I may come and go without the bother of visas. My case for this petition is greatly strengthened by my status as the spouse of a "Kyrgyzka". If this is successful, I'll then apply to officially adopt the two children. All of this is pending issuance of a birth certificate for Asel. Her birth was to rural, rather nomadic people, who again attached no importance to the official instruments of government, hence no official record of her birth, or for that matter her Kyrgyz citizenship.

I think it would be hard for you to imagine how difficult it is to deal with the government here even on the simplest issues. Why? As a guest of this country I'm obliged to respect their "institutions". Therefore I would think it disrespectful to air my criticisms here. Anyone interested in my observations should feel free to email me, and I would be glad to explain them privately.

The issue of Asel's birth certificate is complicated, and over 2-3 months time we have made literally dozens of trips to multiple offices trying to find one commissar or another who would own some responsibility to help us. It appears that we finally get a hearing on the problem in 2 more weeks. Wish us luck!

So why do I live in this "terrible" place? Well, it's beautiful. I've attached a photo of the mountains between Bishkek and Issyk-Kul. It's a bad scan and rather blocky, for which I apologize, but you get some idea.

Also, I love the people, they're very good to me, and I have great friends. Lastly, it's cheap! Today I went to bazaar and bought wonderfully sweet apricots at 3 som per kilogram. That's less than 3 cents a pound. Ditto apples, watermelon (best I ever ate), cherries, and grapes. Other foodstuffs are comparably priced, as long as they are locally produced and not packaged.

In some of my former travelogs I've told to you about small local cultural phenomena. In keeping with that I'm going to talk, briefly, about spitting. Right, I mean expectorating, on the street. It's puzzling to me. Maybe one or the other of you with medical or psychological training can explain it. First, it's widespread, it's ubiquitous, it's pervasive. I'm being redundant to stress the fact. Second, only men (males) do it, and it seems that they ALL do it. Women (girls) do not ever do it. Third, the activity is greatly intensified in male social groups. Fourth, boys commence the activity at the age of 11 or 12, and not before. Fifth, in social groups of teenaged boys the activity is pursued with the greatest passion and bravado. Given the previous, can some one tell me, is this a hormone thing? Would you conclude that given the absence of this activity in the west that the western man, generally speaking, suffers from testosterone deficiency? Your comments are, as always, welcome.

Hopefully you've stuck with me up to now. Voronsovka Fund is ready to accept donations. Please see my web page at If you haven't visited the site for a while, I've added several photos and some additional commentary. Also see instructions for contributing. And please, send this notice and my URL address to your own mailing lists. My page isn't listed on the search engines, so the only way people will visit my site is by your referral. My Voronsovka kids are hungry! Thanks in advance.


Copyright 2000 Richard G. Morrison. All rights reserved.

Please visit Richard's site and support the Voronsovka fund or contact him


Copyright © 2005 Funky Traveller. All rights reserved.
Please note any views displayed on this site are not necessarily the views of Funky Traveller