Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Getting around in Novo 4/15/09

Getting around in Novo 

Temp 35F
Wind 20-25 mph westerly
Feels like 22-25F
Light rain

First, a big thank you to you folks who leave comments. Melinda, your help on the blog was priceless. Shan & Trish, I can always depend on you for a positive comment. Much appreciated. Bob & Doretta, Belva, Marilyn, Karen, Emily, all of you, thank you all for your positive and supportive comments, I really need that feedback. If you have any suggestions generally and not about a particular posting, just email. We all, here in the mission, salute you.

Transportation in this city depends a great deal on the accumulation of various forms of such over the many years since the wheel was invented. The weather, the workmanship, the repair parts all contribute to a patchwork of fixed routes, ad lib routes, fill-ins, and freelancers. It includes trains, planes, motor buses, streetcars, electric buses, vans, taxis, bicycles, cars, a very few motorcycles, foot, and the Metro.

Between all of them, most people can get anywhere they want to go within the city without a personal car. However, the personal car is becoming the door to personal freedom for Siberians. Streets that were built for horses and carts are now crowded with the various forms of moto-vation (is that a word?) and make for some interesting people-watching.

For those driving the various form of automobile seen here; (right-hand drive, left-hand drive, earth-car, suburban, ex-military); there is an interesting law that requires the parties to a collision to keep their vehicles in place and wait for a policeman to arrive to make a report.

Whenever we are privileged to get a ride somewhere, like last Monday when we did apartment checks (inspections), we see at least one and sometimes many more groups of cars standing in the road in their post-collision positions with the drivers standing around talking, yelling, ignoring, or even punching one another, forming an interesting collage of Siberian life. When the police arrive, they take the report, and some tea money, and the drivers are free to go on their way. President Gushchin says that it can take hours for the police to arrive and the report can be influenced by certain circumstances.

Of the public transportation incarnations, the streetcar (tramvie) is the oldest still working and some of them look like originals. They both have their own roadbeds and traverse the main roads with equal alacrity. From the dents in most of them, it is clear that the automobile drivers consider themselves to have the same right of way as the pedestrians.

A little more flexible is the electric bus, free to drive around other traffic, but tethered to that wire above that powers them. One of the side benefits of these electrical forms of transportation is the artistic way that wires are strung along the streets. Here we enjoy the avantguard, the abstract, the piccassoesk (Is that a word, too?) draping of occasionally insulated copper wire above the streets. As we stand at the bus stop, we can see all of these conveyances stop for passengers who can choose to pay anywhere from 8 roubles on the electric bus or tramvie to 16 rubles for the newest motor coaches plying the streets of Novo.

At these bus stops one can purchase a stunning array of libations (adult and fizzy), munchies, books, DVD's, and even city maps. This is the equivalent of the 7-11 and mini-mart at American gas stations. They do a brisk business as testified by the variety of trash adorning the location.

Contributing to the traffic are various post-cold war trucks that provide moving services for anything from household goods to large items bought at one of the new furniture or appliance stores. We hire these from time-to-time to move mission goods and furniture to new apartments.

A supplement to the motor and electrical buses is the marshrutka, taxi-van, which is a cargo van with wooden bench seats to accommodate between 9-11 passengers. Sometimes you can see many more squeezed into one during rush hours. I have seen as many as 4 trying to sit on a portion of the front seat and people cheek-to-jowl in the back. The interesting thing here is the choice the rider can make. The buses come to a stop, unload, load, and move on to the next stop. The marshrutkas arrive at a bus stop, wait until the driver is convinced that no more riders are present (2-15+ minutes) and then speeds to the next bus stop to do the same. It is truly the tortoise and the hare.

The most modern form of transportation in Novo is the Metro. This is an underground rail system that connects the extremities of the city and takes many off the streets at peak times. We ride it to the east 3 stops to the church on Sundays and three stops to the Millers, another senior couple who live on the left (west) bank of the Ob River. It is fast, comfortable, cheap, and efficient. Going through these turnstiles are the cream of Novosibirsk. They have the fare and they ride in silent admiration of the engineering and production of such a transportation system.

One rarely talked-about form of transportation is ice skates. This is not real practical for general mobility around the city for moms with babes-in-arms or businessmen in suites, but it can serve missionaries well. The only problem is that most of the time ice skaters go around in circles instead of making real progress to somewhere. This missionary is an exception. He skated himself right into a medical clinic for a few stitches in his eyebrow after a collision with the ice in a not-to-graceful fall during a P-day adventure. Only a missionary would ask a fellow missionary to take his picture BEFORE going to the clinic for care. Elder Wilson, you are one, tough young man.

Getting around can be a challenge here in winter or summer, but getting around is accomplished for anyone with a few rubles and the will to do it.

What a country.

1 comment:

Shannon Simmons said...

hahhhahahhahahah!!! I am laughing at the last picture. yes, that is such a missionary thing to do. Take the picture as proof of the event. It serves us well for glory days! I loved the saluting elders too in their "military hats." Good times! I must say, i have a particular fondness for the electric cable car -- I remember sitting in the hotel bay window in Russia looking out at the streets at night. The spark of those cable cars fascinated me!