Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Long walks

We’re in Ust'e, in the Braslav Lakes region of Belarus. We’ve had a mix of rain and sun, but the weather hasn’t limited our fun in any way. I’ve been catching up on reading and taking walks when I can’t go swimming. Day before yesterday I took only a short walk because I knew it would rain some more. I wandered over to a neighboring cottage and made friends with the family who owns it. I ended up spending upwards of an hour in their living room, talking life and politics beside a pleasant fire, while another storm passed overhead.

Yesterday I made an excursion to Slabodka, a small town about 4 km from here. On the way, I caught up with a group of Belgians also looking for groceries. None of them speaks Russian, so I helped them with some of their shopping before I went off to another store to buy some soap. The second shopkeeper asked if I were Belgian. She hadn't seen the Belgians yet, but I don’t think there are a lot of secrets around here. Shopping in Slabodka is like shopping at Ralph’s Pretty Good Grocery in Lake Wobegon: “If we don’t have it, you can probably get by without it anyway.” I came home with most of what I wanted and called it enough.

We did better at shopping today. We walked 4 km in another direction, to pick up some homemade farmer cheese. (Cottage cheese, sort of.) We took a cross-country route to our destination and a different cross-country route back. Along the way, we enjoyed a riot of wildflowers, green vistas, a few cows and horses, and a few very nice people. We decided along the way that we needed some eggs, so Alla started paying attention to see who has chickens.

As we approached the cheese lady’s place, we passed a home with two chickens in the yard. Alla asked if they could sell us a couple tens of eggs. (Dozens are apparently an English affectation. Ten is the number here.) The householder readily agreed, though she only had 16 to sell. That’s OK, because we made good use of the empty sockets in our second egg carton later on.

Leaving the village by a back road, we passed a family I’d met last year when I needed water, and then bumped into a guy named Joseph, who said he could sell us tomatoes, cheese and butter. We didn’t need any more cheese, but we’re sure glad about the tomatoes. They’re amazing. Then, along the path to our village, I noticed something spherical and white on the ground. Alla explained that it’s a rain mushroom, and they’re edible when fresh. They look like the spherical mushrooms everybody raves about in New England, but which I’ve never tried. They taste delicious. I ate a couple of them and we heaped the rest into the empty space in our second egg carton.

I’m enjoying the little challenges of getting by without a car and without any big stores nearby.

For more pictures, please see 2016-08 Belarus.

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