Posts Tagged ‘english’

Wells Fargo really does exist!!

31st October 2010 by Helen

It’s been a fairly uneventful few days.  We’ve learned a bit more about Alaska, where to go, what to see.  The road system is fairly straightforward: three key roads form a triangle joining Anchorage, Fairbanks and Glenallen, with about another five roads linking these to other key places.  There’s only a couple of train lines that run down the west coast and they don’t seem to run out of season (ie, now) and the buses out of town run ‘as and when’.  Our packs are too heavy and cars too few and far between to make hitch-hiking an attractive option (at our age).  So we have concluded driving is the only way to go.

I said I’d give an update when I knew what we were doing.  So here it is.  We have been told that Landy is due to land in Seattle earlier than we expected, late November, which we are pleased about.  In the meantime we have been in discussion with a lady in Florida to drive her car from Anchorage to Florida before taking an internal flight back to Seattle.  Yes, we know that’s not what you expected!!  Neither did we, but we’re looking forward to the new opportunity to see some of the other States we had not otherwise planned to visit.  The family obviously want their car delivered but, within reason, we will have the opportunity to take in some of the sights we had not otherwise expected to see.  And we still need to be back in Seattle in plenty of time to meet Landy off the ship.

In the meantime we have been enjoying a relaxing time at the hostel.  Out of season things are pretty relaxed.  There are four other people living here: apart from the owner who is in residence for the winter there are three men who are all around our age, mostly employed in the fishing industry in some way.

Temperatures outside are mostly below freezing.  We’ve walked around this part of the city a couple of times, finding the shops and getting any supplies we need.  At one point we asked a cyclist and asked directions.  It turned out our destination was probably some distance away.  The man himself was amazed at the fact we were ‘walking’, which he kept repeating while shaking his head.  When I said ‘brilliant’ in thanks at the end of our conversation, he said no-one had ever said brilliant to him before!!  And rode off still shaking his head!  We still get thrown by some of the words and phrases but American English is a lot easier to follow than Russian or Mongolian was.

Loads of shops have had Halloween decorations.  Pumpkins have been on sale everywhere.  The front garden of the small wooden house next to the hostel has been full of pumpkin and other Halloween decorations.  On Sunday (31st), lots of older children, teenagers and young adults were out and about in Halloween costumes during the day.  However, there were no ‘trick or treat’ calls during the evening – don’t think I’d want to out in fancy dress costumes when it’s below freezing outside either.

Wandering around one supermarket we were surprised to see hanging above us a canoe for sale.  As our eyes lowered we were even more bemused to see racks of shooting rifles and then right in front of us glass cabinets full of handguns.  You don’t get those in Tesco’s in England!!  We were less surprised to see the latest issue of ‘Mushing’ on sale, and of course there are plenty of books in the supermarkets reflecting local scenery and stories.  We’ve seen for real the stores that are just ‘names’ in England, such as JCPenny and Sears.  And Wells Fargo really does exist as a bank here – to me it’s always been a bit like Timbucto and Outer Mongolia, a myth shrouded in the mysteries of cartoons and Westerns, fables and time.

Who’d believe it?

19th September 2010 by Helen

Sunday 19th September

Although Landy was fit and ready to go we’d decided to sit tight another day to catch up on writing blogs, editing videos, etc, before hitting the next big city, Ulan-Ude.  Kinda had enough of cities for now after our elongated stay in Ulaanbaatar and we’ve really liked our stay in Gusinoozersk.  Our decision led to one of those bizarre coincidences that can only happen in real life.  A knock on the door at about 9.30 pm told us to go down to reception for a phone call.  Who could be phoning us? And on the hotel phone rather than on the mobile?  We thought it must’ve taken quite a bit of detective work to find us at the hotel.  However, with hindsight, the home team knew the name of the town we were in and there is only one hotel there and it seems that everyone in the town knows they had European visitors. 

Down in reception I was handed the phone.  A clear cut English accent greeted me.  The speaker initially just as confused as I was.  It transpired that Ben had arrived in the town just three hours previously, having hitch-hiked from Ulan-Ude.  He was heading for the border with Mongolia first thing in the morning as his Russian visa ran out the next day.  He was standing in a bar on the other side of town as we spoke.  As word had obviously got around that we were already in town, and Ben was clearly English, they were keen and excited that we should be aware of each other’s presence and meet up.  As Ben quipped, it’s what they would want and expect if they were in a foreign country and realised someone else from their own nationality was also there.

However, he came over to our hotel and we had a long chat about where we’d both been.  And Ben did us a favour by letting us have copies of photos from his recent visit to Lake Baikal.  This meant that our commitment to our contact in Western Russian can be fulfilled, although we are sad we haven’t really got time to go to Lake Baikal ourselves after the many delays we have experienced so far.

A day in town – and more!!

17th September 2010 by Helen

Friday 17th September

This morning I am completely intrigued by the fridge magnets they have on sale at the hotel reception.  This is a small industrial town where everyone seems somewhat bemused by the European visitors in their midst.  It’s not exactly a holiday resort.  Rather like Margate without the seaside attractions.  The hotel receptionist told us they don’t see many Europeans round this way.  Hardly anyone speaks any English and my Russian phrase book was being tested to the limit.  Yet still they have their own fridge magnets showing faded but proud pictures of the power station.  We have bought hardly any souvenirs so far but this was one I just have to have.  Not least because the picture is the same welcome sight as our first view of the town as we came over the hill last night.

The hotel does not have internet access – what should we expect when it doesn’t have hot water.  As far as we can tell there isn’t an internet café in town but we find some internet access in the post office and make contact with the home team to let them know where we are and why, and send some urgent emails to get some advice on what to do next to diagnose Landy’s problems.  In the meantime we debate endlessly it seems on the pros and cons of staying here or moving on to Ulan Ude.  We really don’t want to move because that will put more wear and strain on Landy but we don’t think we can get parts delivered this far out of the city.  We theorise on all the variations!!  All the while though I want to stay here.  I have a gut feeling this is the right place to be.

Once again we are caught up in the black hole of a looming weekend and the time differences between here and the UK.  We have just an hour and a half between UK waking up time and the post office closing time here in Russia and although we have sent our emails we are not hopeful of getting any answers until Monday.  But we are delighted when both Simon from X-Eng and Dave from Ashcroft Engineering come back in record time with advice regarding their particular specialisms.  Paul is now itching to get into work mode on Landy although with the evening drawing in he will have to wait until the next day. 

The really bad news in the advice from England suggests there is a complete log jam of 250,000 unchecked parcels in Russian customs and suppliers have stopped shipping to Russia until it clears.  So the chances of us getting any parts delivered within the next couple of months are next to zero.  Our ‘shall we stay here or move debate’ moves up a notch.  We consider flying to Moscow to get another visa for Mongolia and then going back to Ulaanbaatar by plane or train to collect a parcel before coming back here: at least UPS have worked a way round the Russian customs problem by shipping via China and we already know that route is working.  The cost will be hideous.  It looks like being a long haul to get out of this fine mess we’ve got into.

We get some things from the car to take back to the hotel room, buy some sweet bread and fruit for supper and head back to settle despondently in our room for the evening.  But things are about to take an unexpected turn.

Dima at work - Gusinoozersk

Dima at work - Gusinoozersk

Down at the secure car park Paul had already begun to meet the locals.  One, a man named German who used to teach English many years ago but says he is a bit out of practice now, is a builder working at the car park (where they are building an underground car park and workshop for use in the winter when temperatures can drop to minus 40 degrees here).  Earlier he mentioned there is a good mechanic who has a workshop next to the car park and tomorrow he will introduce him to us.  Except now, at 8.00 pm, he is knocking on our hotel room door.  The mechanic would like to have a look at Landy now.  Paul goes off to meet Dima, the mechanic, returning at 3.00 in the morning, delighted if exhausted, to declare that the problem was quickly diagnosed by Dima as a shattered rear half shaft and that Landy is all but fixed with just a bit of work to do tomorrow after the shops open and he can buy some gear oil.  The half shafts were replaced before we left, and thankfully Paul had brought the pair of old rear ones as a back up so that we could always at least establish drive to the rear wheels.

Paul was also ecstatic at having been working with Dima, a man he describes as a true artist, a man who truly is a ‘proper’ mechanic who absolutely loves his work.  See Paul’s separate blog – Apprenticed to an artist – for more of his and Dima’s work together.