7.10.1997

From Belaurus, with Love

The last week is turning out to be better than I expected. The trainees are fairly in control of the equipment, and I spend my time walking around the base taking photographs. Other times, I am in the control house, where I tend to give advice in order to maintain the image of my usefulness. Sometimes I type such as now. Else I listen to their banter through the interpreter.

Anatoly gave Franz some money to buy cigarettes. Franz came back without any cigarettes. Anatoly asked him: Where is the money? Franz said: Inside the bags. Anatoly asked: What bag? Franz said: the bags under my eyes.

While we were all laughing, Franz said: I have a head-ache, the money is gone. Vodka is shit (Vodka kaka). It is unfortunate how much people drink here. Most people drink since morning, vodka is cheaper than chewing gum, and apparently the situation is much worse in Russia. It is a nation with a terrible drinking problem, which I fail to understand given that the male/female ratio is 1:5.

I am sitting eating wild strawberries and blueberries that Vladimyr picked in the forest ten minutes ago. This is the right time of the year, and the blueberries are delicious. Also, at this time of the year, Russians look for mushrooms with which they make great soup. (Supa gribi). When Russians go for a walk in the forest, nobody looks at the sky, but all eyes are on the ground, searching for mushrooms.

So our training is a success. First, the site visit by conference attendees was a huge hit, although the system ran on borrowed power and jerry-rigged starters. Then, the trainees learnt to use and operate the unit, albeit with minor hiccups. It is my belief that they may even trouble-shoot soon. As to their future after we leave, no one knows. I have bought 30,000 liters of diesel and will leave it for them to use. I doubt if any more will be purchased later, in a country where pilots join and retire from the army without flying a plane because of lack of fuel. I have tried to advise these guys on how to convert this technology into an asphalt plant maybe that will provide them with some stable income.

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