Thursday, August 4, 2016

Good Morning, Barnaul

Liz McCheyne, South Seneca Central School District

The sun rises about 5 here in Barnaul and the cool nights make morning the perfect time for running.
Memorial statue of Victor Tsoi. (1962-1990)
At the front door of the Profilaktory (our dormitory), I take off my tapochki and put on my sneakers then turn in my key and the dezhurnaya unlocks the door.  I head down our small street past other apartment buildings, past a colorful fruit and vegetable stand and turn left at the corner checking to see if anyone has left a tribute of flowers at the statute of Victor Tsoi, the Soviet song writer and pioneer of Russian rock who wrote songs that promoted social and political change.

On the next block you pass Maria Ra, the small grocery store where we go for treats and the ATM. Past Noveks, the five-and-dime that carries everything from flip flops to bug spray.  Past the kvass stand on the sidewalk where you can buy a cup for 15 rubles (about 25 cents).

Few people are out this early, but you can recognize some the same people and their dogs each morning.  The people here don't say good morning or smile when you pass on the street.  Even the dogs have picked up on this cultural phenomenon of ignoring strangers.  They don't bark or even look at you which is odd since dogs are typically curious and friendly.

Despite being a city of 635,000 people, Barnaul has a very small town feel.  The main street of the city is named Lenin Prospect.  It has a broad walkway between the north south traffic and it is a beautiful and interesting place to run. There are always several people along the way dressed in rubber boots, gloves and safety vests preparing the city for the coming day.  They weed the beautiful flower beds and sweep the sidewalks and edges of the street.  They pick up loose trash every day.

Shopkeepers sweep dirt, leaves, puddles and the occasional cigarette butt off the walks in front of their stores. The city is clean. Most of the morning traffic on the street consists of busses. People wait all looking in one direction for their bus.  Most of the women at the bus stops wear pants early in the morning.  Later in the day most of the women wear dresses and heels.  Not all, but most. Walking down the street is like being at a fashion show seeing all the different dress and shoe styles. It makes me want to dress up too.

Continuing down Lenin Prospect, the flowers turn into young birch and cedar trees, each nested in a perfectly round depression in the soil to catch rain.  Nearing the older part of town, the trees are taller and more mature.

The "Open Book" monument, featuring the Armenian and Cyrillic
There are many historical statutes and monuments on Lenin Prospect. You pass beautiful St Nicholas Church. Altai State University, and the Open Book Monument, even The Kilometer Zero of Altai Krai road network. The buildings are a mixture of stores, businesses, churches and offices.

The signs and advertisements are all in Russian.  When we first arrived in Barnaul, looking at the signs and ads i could only identify letters. Now I can read words and phrases as I run back along the same route I came.  The lights at each intersection have countdown timers so you know if you need to pick up the pace.  The Ferris wheel, a local landmark you can see from a distance seems larger as you get closer to the turn back to the dorm.  You can smell the kasha cooking as you pass the kitchen windows coming to the front door. There's just enough time to shower and eat before heading to class. And so each lovely day here begins.

1 comment:

  1. Wow! Didn't know that you were doing this! What a fabulous experience. I can see that you are enjoying every moment. Linda S