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Thoughts on life by Teri McCarthy

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Part V – Back in the US, Back in the US, Back in the USSR!

Posted by admin in June 29th, 2009
Published in faith, missions

Trans-Siberian. Trans-Siberian. Trans-Siberian. I’ve never been diagnosed “officially” but I’m pretty certain I’m a bit OCD! Once I get my mind stuck on something, I really have a tough time changing focus. Even with that crazy dangerous Chernobyl nuclear stuff, I still wanted to go across the USSR by train. News was usually hard to come by in China, the media was strictly controlled by the communist government, but when it came to finding fault in other countries, well…hey…that was a whole ‘nother matter! They just couldn’t get enough. China was critical of Moscow’s slow response in letting the world know about its nuclear disaster. China monitored the radiation levels in parts of their country and reported almost every night something about Russia’s situation (thrilled that the world’s eyes were off of China’s own human rights violations)! All that was good for me because I was obsessed with going back to the USSR and I needed to know when the air was clear enough to go. Seriously. Russia wasn’t letting us foreigners in until the radiation levels dropped—not because they were eager to protect us, but they didn’t want outsiders monitoring them that closely.

Finally, the news came in mid July. Woo hoo! Travel restrictions had been lifted. Of course the Goodwill Games were scheduled to be held there that summer and I have a strong suspicion that had a lot to do with the lifting of the ban. But still…

The ticket for the Trans-Siberian Railroad had to be bought in Beijing. I headed down to the capital to buy my ticket. I had earned more than enough renminbi in the past three months teaching English to pay for my TSR ticket. Armed with a sack load of cash, I wandered around the city for about three hours trying to locate the TSR ticket office.

“You go down there…Turn. It in big building on left.”

Okay. I did that. Not there. I ask another Chineser, “Oh, no! You go up there…turn. It small building on right.” Okay. I did that. Not there.

I knew it was somewhere in the general vicinity, but I could NOT find the stinkin’ thing. Finally I stopped a taxi driver, made him park his car, and paid him $10 US dollars (a fortune at that time) to walk me to the building. It was a tiny little office under a highway bridge. I couldn’t have found it on my own, well, I guess that’s obvious. But I got my ticket. It was a beautiful thing. Not literally, but I had waited months to hold that sucker in my hands and now, it had happened. Halleluiah!

The gal at the ticket office told me to be sure and get all of my visas for the train. I needed a special kind of visa just to ride the Trans-Siberian Railroad. “Where do I get that?” I asked her. “Russian Embassy,” she smiled. “Uh, well, ummmm, can you tell me where that is?”

She hesitated, “You go down there. ..Turn. It big building with fence.” Oh. Okay.

I went out and found another taxi driver to walk me to the building. Literally, the taxi drivers were costing me more than the total cost of the rail ticket! Ugh-a-rama!

The Embassy of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was a circus! Crowds were waiting in long jumbled lines outside the embassy. I jumped the line in a very non-Christlike manner because I looked very Russian and no one questioned me moving to the head of the line. I know. I’m despicable. But if you have EVER waited in line with a group of Chinese folks, you’d know why I cheated just this once. Honestly, they don’t know how to queue up!

Oh, and the scene inside the embassy was just as chaotic. With its borders closed for over three months, lots of Chinese businessmen, Mongolian businessmen, Chinese/Russian families and even some tourists were eager to get across the border and do whatever it was they were going to do. I was the only non-Asian waiting in the packed out visa office. Oh, and surprise! They didn’t have the “take-a-number” system so no one knew who was next. As a result, fights kept breaking out. It was so much fun.

The lay of the land was like this: three desks were in the back corner of the room. There was a small fence and spring-loaded gate, about three feet high, all around those three desks, kind of like what we see in US courtrooms. No one was allowed into the holy of holies desk area without a head nod from one of the three clerks sitting at the three desks. The waiting area, which was more like a holding area for cattle, had only a few chairs lined up against the walls. Those chairs were taken. Those not sitting in the chairs were sitting on the floor and then there were a few people like me that were standing. It was wall-to-wall people. Babies were crying. People were complaining—loudly. There was shouting. (Oh the humanity!) But those three desk jockeys were unfazed. They’d motion for someone to come and sit in the chair next to their desk, talk to that person. Stamp some papers and then it was done. Next.

I watched fretting like a nervous Nellie because I knew I was going to be there all day. And what if I didn’t get the visa and had to come back the next day and the next and the next. See? I do have a bit of an OCD condition.

I had been standing among the masses about ten to fifteen minutes when I heard one of the jockey ladies shouting—in Russian. Everyone in the room got kinda quiet and was looking at me. I looked over at the lady and she was pointing to me, “Prihodi suda! Devaesjka! Prihodi suda!” I had no idea was she was saying.

I made my way through the disgruntled crowd and walked up to the little springy gate thing. “Are you talking to me?” I asked her.

She answered in English, “Kom tooo me!” I heard a collective groan from the masses. I know it wasn’t fair, but hey! I was more than happy to take it.

“Whare rrr u frum?” she asked me.

“The US” I smiled. She didn’t.

I gave her my passport and my ticket for the Trans-Siberian Railroad. I handled it very carefully. Lovingly.

She quietly filled out my paperwork. She didn’t say much. I sat there not sure what exactly was happening but afraid if I asked a question I’d break the spell and she’d kick me out on my bum. After what seemed like a long time, she handed me the paperwork stamped, signed, and without any charges. “Haff a nise trrrip,” she looked at me.

“Am I done?” I asked.

“Yes.” She answered.

But just dying to know, I asked her, “Why me?” (The curiosity was killing me).

She explained, “Because I’m sick of these Mongolian herdsmen who can’t wait in line, who won’t listen to what I tell them and they are very rude. I wanted to show them who is really in charge here!”

She said something in Russian to the two other visa issuers. They all laughed and put signs on their desks. “No More Visas.”

Mine was the last visa of the week. And it was only Tuesday. The crowd moaned and groaned. And one-by-one they starting clearing out the office. I stayed seated waiting for the room to clear. Visa lady patted my hand, “You are a lucky girl!”

As the last of the Mongolian herdsmen left I headed out the door. My train was scheduled to leave on Friday. I had a lot to do before then. But with my visa in hand, my beautiful ticket finally purchased I almost couldn’t contain myself. I felt a little happy dance coming on but refrained for obvious reasons. Chinese don’t like big white woman dancing on their streets. No, really. They don’t.

Now, if you’re getting tired of the ramblings of an old missionary woman, please stop me! Stop me now! But if you want to know about the crossing and what happened on that trip, I have three more stories to go to complete it. I just don’t want to put people into a coma or lose all six of my huge readership. You six mean a lot to me! So, just let me know! Peace.

6 users Responded In This Post

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142. margaret said,
June 29th, 2009 at 9:55 am

I love your stories(your life!)!! walking with God is an adventure! thank you for the reminder today that he sees us and picks us from the crowd, calls us by name, stamps us with his Holy Spirit and sends us forward onto the next adventure!
hugs,
margaret

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143. Rick Hinze said,
June 29th, 2009 at 10:40 am

This one sixth (of your readership)can hardly wait for the ‘rest of the story’! No comas here!
Rick

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144. ltcmdr62 said,
June 29th, 2009 at 10:50 am

Hit me again, I can still hear her!

Just kidding. These are wonderful! I am addicted!

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145. Deb said,
June 29th, 2009 at 11:45 am

I love everything you write.

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146. Laura Savage-Rains said,
June 30th, 2009 at 10:47 am

If you could just get a little humor worked in to your stories, I think you might have something! HA!!! These are FAB, Teri! And I have the benefit of hearing your voice in my head when I read what you write! Blessings . . . can’t wait for chapter 2 . . .

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147. grannieannie said,
July 1st, 2009 at 6:18 am

OK, I already know you are OCD….but your hair looks GREAT, Teri! haha!!!

Seriously, I’m enjoying this travelogue a bunch..thanks for sharing your wonderful stories with us!

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