We’re turning our new apartment into something of a hostel. The apartment sections off really well for guests, so that Ben and I can still have a sort of living room in the writing room, the couch surfers can have the futon room, and then the kitchen, bathroom and dining room are shared spaces.
We’ve had a couch surfer from New Jersey (my girl Jess) and then from Chicago (my girl Diana) and then from DC (Ben’s brother and his girlfriend) and now we’ve got two hitchhikers from Siberia who neither Ben nor I knew until Tuesday night when we picked them up at a gas station.
Well, actually Ben picked them up at a gas station, 11 pm at night, in the rain. I was fast asleep, and didn’t meet them until late the next evening when they returned from the city.
The Siberian Sleepers stayed three nights, and no one died. They are spiritualists, and have been hitchhiking across the world for years with only a chopstick for protection. Their names are Alyona and Maksim, and they subsist on a diet of dried bulgur wheat they brought from Russia, as well as our eggs and pretzels. Maybe a late night can of red beans roasted on our cast iron.
There were strange noises in my kitchen when I fell asleep last night, as well as when I woke up this morning. I don’t know what they’re doing. I don’t know if they’ve washed their hands, or how they are washing my dishes. I don’t know if they are burning plastic over the stove, or poisoning our water source (the first logical thoughts that comes to my mind in the morning).
And that is all good. I realize there is nothing I can do about it. And I realize I’m still going to drink my water, and eat my food in the fridge. And that is called letting go, and letting live. Learning to live a less paranoid life, and vibe people out. And chill myself out.
I get a Russian lesson from Maksim this morning while eating yogurt and drinking coffee.
How do you say Hello? “Pre-vi-yet”
Are you hungry? “Dieei- gola-tin
How are you? “Do you want a BIG STORY? Russians don’t ask this casually. You are asking to listen to me complain.”
My name is? “Mi-ya-za-vut”
And how do you say Russia? “Ru-sia. Russians don’t like the way Americans say ‘Russia’. It doesn’t sound Russian. In Germany they say ‘Ruslent.’ We like this better.”
I don’t know? “Yaniz-ni-yu”
I love you? “Ya lublue tibiya”
I don’t speak Russian/English? “Ya nye gavaru por Rus-kia/Angelski.”
Alyona and Maksim have had cartoonish arguments since we met them, suddenly switching to speaking Russian, and going back and forth with,
Rolling their eyes, and deep sighs. Everyone’s laughing, especially Ben and I who have no idea what’s going on.
They are heading for Denver today. This morning we all ate eggs together at our kitchen table for brunch. They had theirs over easy, and Ben and I had scrambled eggs.
Bens asks them to paint a picture of an American stereotype over mouthfuls of eggs.
“Casual. Not dressed up at all. Just like you.”
We talk about greetings, and smiling at strangers.
“I feel uncomfortable when people smile at me in America,” Alyona says. “It does happen in Russia every once in awhile, but when it happens it will be something to make the news.”
“In Russia it’s okay for strangers to stare at one another in the streets. We don’t talk, and we don’t smile. But we stare,” Maksim adds.
“We do like that communication is so easy in America. This we really like. You can talk to someone you’re sitting next to on a park bench, or waiting in a line at a store, or walking down the street.”
Alyona takes everyone’s plates and washes the dishes for us, then they begin to pack up their things for the road.
Before leaving, Alyona asks to borrow a book I have on “Putin’s Russia.” In return, they give us a Russian ruble with their city of Krasnoyarsk pictured on it. They tell us that we are welcome in Siberia anytime, and they will host us, help us with VISAs, expenses, etc.
“But really, we’ll see you in Russia!”
Ben and I drop them off on an entrance ramp to I-70 West in Kansas City, Kansas. It’s my first time dropping hitchhikers off, and I’m not sure if this is a good place to be picked up or not. But they say it’s fine, and are grateful for the ride. Ben and I drive back to Kansas City, Missouri and head to work.
Wednesday is the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur, the traditional greeting of which is “G’mar Chatimah Tovah,” meaning “May you be inscribed in the book of life.”