Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Still in Gomel

I'm finally managing to find a few ways to entertain myself while Alla deals with her mom's stuff. A couple of days ago I set out for Vetka, a village not far from Gomel. Alla was very reluctant to let me go alone, and finally decided that since it was so important to me she'd take me there. It was easy to do, and I now have permission to take buses to other villages if I want to while she's tied up.

The trip to Vetka was interesting because it was listed as a yellow zone after Chernobyl and folks have the option of relocation from there if they are worried. I was cautious and kept my geiger counter on my lap all the way there. Amazingly enough, I got the lowest readings I've ever gotten, lower than at home, during much of the ride. Background radiation in Vetka was about what I'd experience in Boston. So far I haven't really found anything at all troubling with my geiger counter. The soil in the park near Alla's mom's place registered a tad higher than the air, but well below what folks in Denver experience all the time.

The main attraction in Vetka is a museum of handcraft, though I found the ride there sufficiently beautiful that I wouldn't have minded even if the museum were closed. We worried for a moment when we approached the museum because the biggest doors were locked, but once we found the public entrance we were in for a huge treat. They have icon art, wood carving, beautiful linen weavings in traditional patterns that have distinct meanings, beadwork, tools, all manner of samovars, a wonderful staff, and a useful bookstore. I loved it.

Today I got in a workout at a local gym. A one-entry membership cost just under $4.00. I was pleased to find a well equipped gym, and enjoyed the company of an aerobics class with nine very attractive women nearby. (For the statistically inclined, that was nine out of nine.) I hadn't brought a towel and the gym doesn't normally provide them. After I got really sweaty they took pity on me and gave me a clean sheet that must have been intended for their massage table and I used that to dry off after my shower.

I am always noticed around here. I don't look Russian, I wear the wrong clothes, and I speak the wrong language. Occasionally people make a point of telling me that they don't consider me an enemy, but at times "methinks thou dost protest too much." While I was waiting in line here at the Internet place I got another of those threatening protestations that I'm not an enemy. Fortunately, the guy's English was pretty good so I shook his hand and started a conversation. After half an hour of waiting together, he told me that he really does think I'm an OK guy and he's glad he met me.

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