Saturday, May 17, 2008

Stuff I forgot

I spent my last day in Gomel "out on the town." This was a pretty fun adventure for a guy with close to zero Russian language skills. My favorite thing was a private tour of the city's main library. The front desk staff managed to find me a semi-English-speaking guide from the foreign books department, and she showed me pretty nearly everything. As far as I can tell, all she held back were the book stacks, which are closed to the public.

During my explorations of Gomel I also noted a number of cultural differences largely attributable to the low price of labor here. One way it shows up is in home-made or custom-made equipment, such as the floor mop I saw in the restaurant where I ate lunch. The octagonal handle looked like it had been made from a board by pushing it several times lengthwise through a table saw. The cross piece at the end was a flat stick of wood about eighteen inches wide. The cleaning lady draped a rag over the cross piece and dragged it over the already-clean-looking floor.

Almost everything is clean around here. There are street sweepers, bathroom attendants and all manner of other wiper-uppers. I'm amazed, in this culture of cleanliness, that people still litter. Alla thinks it's because the cleanup campaign is only a few years old and it's hard to break old habits. Still, the cleanup staff is well able to keep things looking great almost everywhere.

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