Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Time We Almost Went to Russia

I am currently at a forestry museum about 30 miles southeast of Savonlinna, and I am not happy. I hate museums. Why are we at a forestry museum when instead we could be out in the forest? Insead of walking around the museum I have found this computer with free internet where I can do some low-level blogging. I also found Andrey, one of the Russian guys in the program, sitting in the entryway with his computer doing some work so I have been talking to him, too.

Yesterday Bo and I tried to go to Russia. We failed. We made it to the border, could see a tiny Russian flag in the distance, but didn't get to the actual actual border. We took a 50 minute train to Parikkala and then walked about 10 kilometers in the heat before a green van with bear insignia on the side of it pulled up to us and asked us what we were doing. We said we were walking in the countryside. They asked us if we were aware we were so close to the Russian border and we said yes and asked if we could see it. They said we couldn't go within 200 meters of it or they would have to give us a hefty fine. Then they took Bo's information from his ID and drove off.

After more walking we finally made it to the actual border patrol office. There a guy let us fill up our water bottles and then said he would just take us in his van to the border. He was very nice and didn't speak much English. When I told him in Finnish that we were studying Finnish his face lit up and he said "You speak Finnish! Let's speak Finnish then!" But he soon found out that our Finnish was very limited.

He drove us to the no-man's land near the border and let us get out and take photos. He said last year they caught about 6 people trying to sneak in from Russia illegally. When someone tries to sneak in illegally from Russia, they are questioned and then sent back to Russia, free of charge. When someone tries to sneak into Russia from Finland, they are held in Russian prision and then eventually sent home. He told us that a while back a German guy rode tried to ride his bike across the border. The Finns didn't see him and before it was too late he was in the custody of the Russians, who kept him in Russia for a month before sending him back to Germany. So it was probably a good thing we didn't get too close to the border on our own.

Russia's mystique continues to grow for me and my visa should be in the mail any day now. I would like to study Russian in St. Petersburg for a week or two and then head east towards Mongolia but we'll see what happens. Mabye I will be lonely amidst all the Russians and maybe I will have to celebrate my 28th birthday relatively alone. Or maybe I will be in a Russian wheat field drinking vodka and singing Russian folk music! It's always 50-50.

1 comment:

  1. It sounds like you are really livin' it up! I hope your visa comes soon! Can you somehow let me know if you are checking your email? Thanks!