I met Kathryn a couple of months ago, (29-7-96), here in Korsakov. I had been drinking Vodka with couple of local men, ( they were trying to steal my translator. Which they finally did succeed in doing). They had involved Kathryn in order to distract me. I’m sure she was not involved with their plot but, when I discovered that they had taken my translator I accused them all, including Kathryn. She was very much saddened and came back to my ship to try and explain the fact that she was not involved in stealing the translator. I had already gone to bed and the watch refused to wake me. She returned later that afternoon, and we went on a mission to find the man who stole my translator. We walked all over Korsakov. I also went to her flat where I met her mother. Her mother fixed lunch and grilled me about my marital status and then proposed that I marry her daughter. We laughed and tried to speak to each other but it took way too long to convey the simplest of sentences to be able to carry any kind of conversation. Kathryn and I spent a few hours in her room translating Russian and English words. I tried to kiss her but to no avail. We walked around town some more and by evening we ended up kissing in the park. I tried to get her to come back to the ship with me and at first she said she would, but later she said no. After some heavy pressure on my part we finally departed company. I walked back to the ship alone and she walked back to her flat alone.
Kathryn was a studying Korean and English at a university in Vladivostok. We agreed to meet each other in Vladivostok when possible.
About a month and a half later, (15-9-96), the ship made a stop in Vladivostok. I was to fly out of Vladivostok to Seattle and had arranged to stay in Russia for up to a week, (a poorly planned VISA made this impossible). When the agent picked me up to take me to the Hotel, Kathryn was waiting in the car. I was amazed to see her and very much excited. The agent drove us to the hotel. He had already arranged for a room. It was a seventy dollar a day room but in actuality was the equivalent of a twenty dollar a day room in the USA. It had only a single wide bed which was some what broken down and no view. It was on the fourth floor of an eight floor building. Several hotels occupied the building, so that one floor may be run by one hotel company and another floor run by another hotel company. The agent left me and Kathryn there. I hung out in the room for awhile then went up stairs to the top floor to see if a room was available in better facilities. I had stayed in a seventy dollar a day room on the top floor before and the accommodations were excellent. A big queen size bed and a wonderful room with a great view. There was a room available on the top floor so I booked it. Then, much to the disappointment of the proprietor of the hotel I was staying in, I moved out of the shabby room and into the nice one.
Kathryn and I took the bus to her flat in town and I met the old woman she rented from. Her flat consisted of an entry way about eight feet long and three feet wide. At the end of the entry was the living room/bedroom where Kathryn and the old lady slept. The room was about 14 feet long and ten feet wide. There was a small balcony that stood out about two feet from the face of the complex. It was maybe four feet wide. It looked out over a dirt road and other buildings that we in the USA would consider slums. There was a small kitchen about the size of an American bathroom, and a bathroom about the size of a closet. I’d say that the overall size of the flat was less than 200 square feet. A young man was there and after the three of us had eaten a lunch of jam and toast he drove Kathryn and I out to the country to visit her mother and sister, at the dacha her mother stayed in during the summer. It was not a long drive maybe forty-five minutes. I had met her mother in Korsakov and she greeted me here with a big smile and open arms. Kathryn’s sister, (Natasha), was very pregnant. She could also speak pretty good English. We all sat around and talked and took walks around the country side.
The little country house was in very bad condition. But Kathryn’s mother had been working in the garden and it, at least, was beginning to shape up. She had no running water and no indoor toilet, ( the out door toilet was a shallow privy that I thought was suitable only for urine). Her mother wanted me to fix her refrigerator, so me and the young man that drove us out took a look at it, but it was shot. These were poor people. They were very friendly and good hosts. We ate a light dinner and drank tea. Then just before it got dark the young man drove Kathryn, her sister and I back to the city. The girls wanted to go to a dance bar so our driver dropped us off at dance place/Pub, and departed our company. I danced a couple of time with Kathryn and carried a pretty good conversation with Natasha. As in most cases with Russians, the conversation turned to money, which is only normal for the Russian people are bombarded with western style advertisements and they are eager to buy and consume. Natasha wanted to make money, and asked me my opinion on several ideas; selling herbs for Health Rite, and cosmetics for Mary Kay. Both of these selling schemes were of the Amway type. I told her that I thought they were a rip off. I suggested selling good wine, as I had not seen any decent wine for sale in the city. She was enthusiastic about this, so I told that I would bring back a case of different bottles for her to try out. A young man sitting across from us over heard the conversation and when Kathryn and Natasha went to the bathroom he sat down across from me and began proposing business deals. I told him that I would come and talk to him the next day at his office. He gave me his address and hung around us the rest of the night. We departed the pub not much later and took a bus into the city center. Natasha and the man we acquired at the pub took off and Kathryn and I walked to my hotel. We went to my room and talked. Kathryn was very uncertain as to what to do. It was getting late and I began to try to kiss her. She got very angry and stormed out of the hotel. It was about 2 am. I followed her out into the street and told her that I would walk her home. We argued for some time. And in the end I told I would sleep on the floor and she could sleep on the bed in my hotel room. Reluctantly she came back to the room with me. I spread the blanket on the floor and began to get in, but she insisted on sleeping on the floor. So, I slept on the bed and froze my ass off while she slept warmly on the floor.
The next morning Kathryn got up fairly early and went off to school. I needed to get my VISA extended and had planned to do it that day. Kathryn and I agreed to meet on Tuesday afternoon and go back out to her mothers dacha for the a peaceful afternoon. The agent and I were to spend the day arranging my VISA extension and I had planned on trying to get a cheaper hotel room. I called the agent after Kathryn left, he told me that the immigration office was closed on Mondays and he postponed our business until Tuesday afternoon. That kind of fucked up Monday and Tuesday. After the I got done with the agent the man I had met in the pub the night before called me and invited me to his office to discuss importing stuff. I had nothing else to do so I said I’d meet him.
I met him near the bus station down town and we walked back to his office, where I met his fellow workers, and we talked about importing wine and generators, and other stuff. They were ready to start moving stuff immediately but I told them I had no connections to do that. In the end I found that they were really interested in smuggling things over aboard the Socol 2 with my personal gear. I told them that this was impossible for me to do. The only thing good that came out of it was that they had access to very cheep CD-ROM’s full of software. I looked through some of the stuff they had there but was not interested in it. They told me that the man who sells them could come by tomorrow if I also wanted to come by. I told them that I would be by tomorrow morning to look at CD-ROM’s.
I left the office and walked around Vladivostok. It was beautiful day. The sun was out. It was warm. Girls were walking around in sort dresses, and lying on the beach. I spent the whole day just wandering around. That night I went to a couple of bars and drank a few beers, then went to the hotel early and slept.
Tuesday morning at 10:00 am I met the agent and we drove over to the immigration office. When we got there the office was closed and the front door was crowed with people waiting for it to open. The sign said that it would only be open from 10:00 am to Noon and then from 2:00 PM to 4:00 PM. I did not have much hope that we would be successful, and of course we were not. I was told that “Today” was the last day my VISA was valid, then I had to pay a fine because my passport had not been stamped when I got off the ship in Vladivostok. Then they told me that I had to have a plane ticket out of the country before they would extend my VISA. The Agent and I drove to the Aeroflot office and after much pain in the ass bullshit I ended up getting a ticket for Thursday morning at 11:00 am. I would have liked to have gotten a later flight but Aeroflot did not have another one till Monday and the immigration office would only extend my VISA three days. Alaska Air had a flight but the agent did not know the location of their office and if I did not get my extension today the immigration office was going to be closed on Wednesday... I just wanted to get the hell out of there. We finally got my ticket by about 1:00 PM. The agent dropped me off at the hotel and told me that we would continue the adventure at 2:00 PM. I told him that I had made plans to do something with Kathryn that afternoon. He assured me that we would be done in a very short amount of time. I quickly walked over to the office I had been to the day before and bought two CD-ROM’s. Then I hurried back to the hotel to clean up a little bit before I met the Agent and Kathryn at 2:00 PM. Kathryn was waiting for me in the lobby when I came down at a little bit before 2:00 PM. I explained to her that I was not able to get anything done on Monday and that I had been to the immigration office already this morning but was not finished. I thought that we were almost finished so I asked her if she would wait with me while we finished business, and that afterwards we would do something fun. The Agent finally showed up and after introductions we all got into his car and drove over to the immigration office. It took the rest of the day, (till 4:00 PM), and cost me sixty dollars. Kathryn waited for we without a bit of anxiety. After it was all done the agent left and Kathryn and I walked around town. I asked her if it would be all right if we went out to her mothers dacha again on Wednesday. She told me that she would love it. At about 7:00 PM I took her to dinner at a Korean restaurant , bought a bottle of wine and entertained her as well as I could. After dinner we walked along the beach and looked at the small collection of private boats in the harbor. We made out a little bit while standing in the dark. It was a wonderful end to a terrible day. At about 11:00 PM I walked her to her bus stop. I saw onto her bus then I walked to a pub, had a couple of beers and went back to my hotel room alone.
Wednesday I met Kathryn at about 2:00 PM and we walked around town till about 4:00 PM then we got on a train and rode out into the country for about an hour. The train was crowded and dirty. Venders walked up and down hawking the wares; ice cream bars wrapped in insulating paper, pastries, breads, magazines and newspapers. The warm sun shone in through the windows and I dozed to the sound of steel wheels clacking over the rails.
We departed the train at an isolated stop and walked at a fast clip for another half hour through the green country side of rural Russia. The number of small country homes were amazing to me. They were of many different sizes; from 2 acres or more, to the size of a small city lot. The cottages on them were also varied; from large colonial brick or concrete buildings, to one room tar paper shacks. The road was unimproved dirt. We stopped at an intersection where a water well, (drinking water), and many houses were located. Kathryn talked to a woman in the yard that was tending a garden. The woman brought out a ladle. I dropped the well bucket into the shallow well and drew out a bucket full of cool water. As I drank, I thought about the hundreds of houses around with their shallow privies, but I was too thirsty to let it stop me from swallowing.
It was only another 5 minute walk to Kathryn’s mother’s house and we were soon there. Kathryn’s mother was not in a happy mood at all. It seems that Natasha had gone into labor early and gave birth the night before. Mrs. Alexsako was worried for the premature child and could think of nothing else. I told Kathryn that we should immediately return to Vladivostok and go see her sister in the hospital. Kathryn did not want to leave right away. I had brought a melon with us, so we sat down and ate it along with some bread and fried fat. I was getting restless. I went out to use the privy but it was so disgusting that I instead took a walk down the road and found a bush to water. When I got back to the shack I started cleaning up the messy yard but Mrs. Alexsako would have none of that. We walked around the garden a bit I admired her flowers and vegetables. Soon Kathryn and I left to catch the train back to Vladivostok. It was cooler now. I was fed and rested so the going was better for me. When we got back to the station we passed a shepherd grazing his sheep on the grass growing about the dike that the railway was on. It was a nice bucolic touch to the day. The return trip was less crowded and I had a seat that faced forward so, I was able see the country side better. Kathryn sat beside me and thumbed through my Russian/English dictionary, as I craned my neck to see all the passing sights. Soon we were back in the city. Kathryn and I walked around a bit, had a beer in a pub, went to the beach, and finally ended up back in my hotel room. We sat at the windows sill and looked out onto the lights of the waterfront below. We shared a bottle of beer then we shared our selves.
In the morning we lazily got up and I prepared to depart for the United States. Kathryn decided to go to the airport with me. We quietly waited for the agent, smiling at each other frequently and occasionally searching the dictionary to find an expressive word to share. The agent drove us out to the airport. They waited until the gate opened then they took off leaving me to my own thoughts. The flight to Seattle was uneventful but long. I was saddened to leave Vladivostok but also relieved to be home.