here, there, everywhere

Train, Part I

In Mongolia, Mystery Trip, Russia on September 24, 2012 at 4:19 pm

We are on the Transsiberian train from Ulaanbaatar to Irkutsk, Siberia.  When we boarded the train last night there was a group of Mongolians who looked like they were moving house – they each had about ten bags and formed a bucket brigade to haul everything in.  Luckily we had a 4-person berth to ourselves the first night and spent it quietly and uneventfully.  The next morning around 6:30 we pulled up to the Mongolian border and the engine and all other cars detached and left our Russian car alone on the track.  The bathrooms were locked off so we disembarked and used the facilities on the platform before getting back on for customs and border inspection.  For the record, the female Mongolian guard was hot, she was wearing knee-high leather boots and a beautifully tailored suit.  She makes Canadian guards look dumpy.

As we waited for inspection, the Mongolians picked up yet more bags from the platform and moved into everyone’s cabin.  They took over ours, hanging up jackets and shoving spangled boots into spare cracks.  It turns out that they get goods for cheap from Mongolia, haul them into Russia where partners wait to grab the bags and then sell them on the platforms while the Mongolians travel back home to pick up the next batch.  We’re all supposed to declare the number of bags in our possession but of course they don’t want to declare theirs as they’ll have to pay border taxes.  Obviously the border inspection is a joke as the guards searched our cabin and no one was charged for anything.  Everyone knows how this works and they turn a blind eye to all of it.

In the meantime, two Russian ladies also joined our cabin and the Mongolian lady set up shop.  As I write this they are haggling over thick socks.  The Russians said no to the ugly sweaters and even to the black leg warmer boots covered in sparkles.  I do believe this next part of the journey will be far livelier than the last which means I have to decide between being annoyed or putting on my curiosity cap and being amused.  If the border officials would give me back my passport I could get off the train and run to the bathroom which I am dying to use.  Until I can relieve myself of this pressing burden I shall be annoyed, but am confident that visiting the toilet will allow me to put my happy pants back on and maybe buy a pair of socks.

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