I have been talking a lot in Spanish the past few days. And by a lot, I mean I actually have been talking in Spanish all the time, intercepted here and there with the 5 words of Russian I am currently acquainted with; and a tiny bit of English once in a while.
More interesting, however, is how I have come to speak so much Spanish on a journey through Russia. Rewind one week – I am being waved off by my parents and granny in Brussels. On the bus, I am among Russians, the TV is (permanently) on in Russian, and all communication from the driver to the passengers happens in… Russian. You could say I was thrown in the game right away. I’d settled in my seat (2 seats actually), was tired enough to sleep a lot, and the day/night flew by. The next morning, I was just writing in my travel diary about how I was going to cross the first “real border” to Belarus, when we were called off the bus to have our luggage checked and passports stamped. Except mine. I had no transit visa. So I could not pass Belarus. Wrong info. Nothing to do about it. Bus continues without me. Shit.
Strangely enough, I did not panic! Two ladies translated for me in broken German and even more broken English, and half an hour later I was in a car on its way to Biala Podlaska, a Polish border town that lives from the presence of the Belarussian consulate. And there I met Pawel (who was a gift from heaven with perfect knowledge of English. He even had a British accent! What more could I have wished for?!), his family and friends, who all took care of me in the most magnificent way, got me a transit visa, and put me (+ a bag of food) on a train straight to Moscow Monday evening, arriving well in time for the Trans-Sib that would leave on Tuesday night.
I retreated happily into my very own train cabin, watched the Belarussian landscape slide by (and an absolutely gorgeous night sky full of stars) and arrived in Moscow the next day at noon. Whilst I tried to figure out where the hell I was supposed to go, I noticed another tourist from my train bum around the station without any sense of direction. We discussed this briefly and it turned out he had also gotten stuck in Biala Podlaska, so he also lost his time to visit Moscow, as he was also taking the Trans-Sib to Irkutsk that same night. We then obviously decided to try and make the best of the day (you know; Red Square, pictures, food, dabble around and try to figure out what is up with that Russian visa registration – which I still don’t have figured out, fyi). Eventually, we headed back to the train station only to find out that our train beds for the next 4.5 consecutive days were right next to each other in the same cabin!
So even if I would have tried really hard, I could not have gotten away from Jorge, the Argentinian-but-in-Germany-residing-with-German-wife-and-kids fellow traveller and the main cause for me having spoken Spanish non-stop in the past few days.
Also did I find out that it’s flippin’ difficult to then try to explain to nosey Russians how you relate to each other, especially when your vocabularium is limited to those 5 words. Add to that a wodka and beer consumption (the Russians, I mean!) from dawn till dusk, and you maybe begin t-
Actually don’t try to imagine that. Just – don’t.