Below is a letter from my friend Stacy who currently is in Russia. Just think when you have it bad, you still have it better than this...
A washed out and pale blue sky looks down on the Land of Oz today and the heat has moved everything to a slow crawl. I’ve been travelling around the mountains of the country a lot more lately conducting surveys on refugee tracks and have discovered what many of you may have known for ages, I am distinctly lacking in common sense.
Why exactly I thought that thick rubber wellies would be a good idea to use for scrambling up and down mountain sides with loose rock and shale I am not sure, but in the end, sliding a fun few meters into the mountain river below, their ability to keep me feet dry also failed as they filled in with the cool refreshing water.
Whilst I sat in the river, Esmet, who only has one arm, asked if I needed help up the mountain.
Later in the day we encountered a young man acting as some sort of sentry for a logging operation. If you’ve met someone wearing bed room slippers, his father’s too large trousers and carrying an AK-47, you will know that it is not polite to smile or laugh while he looks menacingly at you. If you haven’t yet had the pleasure of meeting some like this, I recommend you remember not to smile.
The timber industry here makes about 140 dollars per cubic meter for some type of timber. In cost cutting efforts they jam as much wood into aging Soviet era GAZ trucks and then barrel on down the road with the engine out of gear and the doors propped open in case they need to dive out of the truck if things go bad. Esmet get’s nervous in the mountains when I put on my seat belt, fearing I won’t be able to jump.
Around six o’clock that evening we were in an abandoned power station trying to find a road. I realize how absurd that sentence may read, but it all makes perfect sense in context which I won’t get into here. Regardless, six o’clock also seems to be about the time our hero in the bed room slippers daily shoots into the abandoned power station to ensure he maintains his warrior like bearing. After three shots took some of the plaster off the ceiling and several yelled curses, our hero apologized and claimed he had no idea we were there.
This also allowed for Esmet to explain to me some of the beauty and intricacy of both the Abkhaz and Russian languages. He remarked that in America we really only had one adjective for strong language, and though it’s a versatile word he agrees, the Russians have roughly 100 ways of saying f**k, and the Abkhaz a few more. Kind of like how the Eskimos have something like a 100 words for snow, the above may be further indicative of Russian society, but I’m no expert.
We also saw the old burial site of St. John the Baptist, met a monk who invited me to join up because I looked the type, which is a nice change as in Angola, I had a customs officer tell me I looked the type of a drug dealer, bathed in holy and healing waters, visited the monkey reserve (separate from the monks), but sadly found no monkeys, and slept under the stars for two nights in a most idyllic setting.
The idyll was generally ruined if I took out my ear plugs by loud Russian pop music blaring from the cars speakers, but as long as I kept them in I started to give real thought to the possibility that perhaps the Garden of Eden was somewhere in Trans-Kavkaz.
Other than a ride across the ceasefire line on a horse cart and the continued Georgian / Abkhaz hospitality liver treatment, that’s all for now.
Remember, regardless of bed room slippers, if has an assault rifle, don’t smile.