On June 20, Inguz returned from a three-week business trip which actually lasted for two months. All this time I was at construction site of Amur Gas Processing Plant somewhere on the border with China. Alas, according to the terms of the contract, there is very little that can be told about the plant and companies engaged in its construction, but I can say a lot about people and situations.
To say that I did not want to go to Amur is an understatement. I hated the very idea of going there. Living near my beloved Domik, on April 23, I had to cross the whole Moscow to reach huge unknown Sharik (Domodedovo and Sheremetyevo airports respectively). Having sat down by the farthest gate, I soon noticed a company of young Serbs. “Must be going to Amur as well," I thought and continued talking on the phone, seeking support from my mother, then from my father. Incertainty and six hours of flight - that was my destiny. I was lucky to be sitting alone in three seats, so I safely hit the sack and was sleeping for almost all 6 hours. During that long flight, attendants entertained us as best as they could: "Apple, orange, tomato juice, bitterly cold water, what do you want, what does your soul crave for?" Then it turned out that we flew to airport Koltsovo (Yekaterinburg) - one cabin crew member talked nonsense. We landed, as planned, in Ignatyevo airport in Blagoveshchensk, where we were all loaded into bus to the city itself and then to camp. We did not yet know that this bus (veliki bus - in Serbian) will become our everyday companion. In one shopping center, we bought food and SIM-cards, and, at the roadside café, I personally bought birch sap that I had not drunk for quite a while.
After that, we were unloaded from the bus in the camp, but were not said what to do next. Maybe, it was my extremely overwhelmed face, so Russian people jumped aside from me, and so I began to seek help from some Serbs. Together we found housekeeping department, dormitory supervisor, and then - our rooms. Here I was lucky again - as a business traveler from the central office, I was settled alone in the room from where some married couple went on vacation. Dormitories are residential containers; one container is one room with a bathroom. All amenities included: shower, kettle, washing machine, toilet, ironing board, TV, cabinets and bedside tables. All but the Internet, only on your own expenses. The speed is normal, but traffic is limited and expensive. And yes - in Moscow, almost everything is cheaper than in Amur region.
When the morning came, all newly arrived campers went to different businesses. First we had to eat. Hmmm! The canteen was only at construction site, but we did not have our passes yet. Well, let’s go to the field canteen! And it is necessary to imagine that there were two huge sand dumps the size of a house and, between them, there were two trailers with tables inside. Around us, there was only sand, since all fertile soil shall be removed from construction sites. After slurping some semolina with eggs, me and the same young Serbs from the airport got out of the trailer in the middle of this desert in complete silence. From the trailer came some Russian music for slow dances. Someone from the guys offered his hand first and introduced himself in pure Russian. Then others did the same. One of them showed as if dancing a slow dance but I replied: “Ehm, and shall we not, please”. We all laughed, chilling up. It turned out that someone lived in Moscow for many years, others learned Russian at school, and with the rest I had to speak English, but when was this a problem?
After passing through paperwork, we stopped for a chat. Everything was unfamiliar, complicated and in Russian, which was quite a problem for these two. And after a couple of weeks they had to take a compulsory examination in Russian, history, and legislation for a work permit. So they asked us to help with the answers for that exam. There was me and another Russian guy - a typical “he-man”. I usually have no complaints to men and even man’s men, but to some people I do have plenty. One question from Serbs was: "What do you usually do in the evening?" I answered something like "I cook and rest with my family". He-man went like "Come on, what kind of man will be cooking. This is a purely female answer. Have your pizza ordered - and that's it. Not a single normal man will cook”. I was like, “Men are not created equal”. And one Serb replied, "She's right. Olga, but how to say - I put children to sleep in the evening?"
Yes, the pronunciation of names was hard. Only a few of them managed to pronounce my name right, with soft L, the others persistently called me in the Serbian manner Olga, and only the one who lived in Moscow sometimes allowed himself to call me Olya. Thanks, at least it was not Olga Nikolaevna, since patronymics are alien to Serbs. By the way, he speaks without accent, and, I dare say, might know slang better than me. That’s what it means to study at a Russian school in Moscow. But I also was not perfect: during the conversation one of the Serbs named Zheljko was sitting with a sour face: "You call me a girl’s name”. (Sorry for spoiling your beautiful name, Željko, I had to show the pronunciation). Serbs do not have reduction (weakening) of vowels - the name will be correctly pronounced Zheljko with strong e and o. And in Russian it is said something like Zheljka. Problem: Zheljka is an ordinary Serbian female name. Well, I also had to learn. After all, we had to not only dine together, but also work, and there were also Marko, Vlado, and Đorđe (the correct pronunciation of this name is impossible to be written with ordinary keyboard – something like Georgie), and many others, whose names should be better pronounced correctly.
As it turned out later, the Russians were not afraid of me, but simply did not know that I was Russian: first I spoke with Serbs in English, and by the end of the trip - in Serbian. It was a slow and funny speech with mistakes, but it was in Serbian. We laughed together: "It's easier for me to speak Serbian than to teach you Russian”. Then one brave Russian girl (hello, Anya!) asked if I speak Russian. And then the rest of Serbs began to ask: “Da li si ti ruskinja, srpkinja?"
At some point, the third translator left, and, "for operational reasons", I stayed there for another 39 days. Of which I will tell you later, so that you did not get bored, dear readers.
Wish you all warm days, cozy evenings, and - yep! - stay tuned!