PART 1 of 4: AT THE CAMP
We drove the 6+ hours in two cars. The highway was noticeably better than 2 years ago, though still full of construction. I was with Vitaly and Elena, and Olga who gave me a Russian lesson on the way. The countryside was beautiful, with huge unfenced fields of low grass and hills rising beyond them, and every once in a while a smallish meandering river. The air was not clear due to wildfires. We stopped at a roadside cafe for tea. I generally don’t like mentioning prices because our economies don’t match, but this was too surprising: 4 large mugs of tea with milk, two fried eggs, two large blini with a big puddle of sweetened condensed milk for dipping was 170 rubles, or about $2.80.
We drove straight to the Children’s Center’s camp where we stayed until the next morning. It was hot. Hot! Damn hot! After settling in (the male visitors in the infirmary cabin–all the cabins were very cool because of log cabin construction) we went to the river and were soon joined by the kids. The Khilok River might be shallow enough to walk across except for its very fast current. Ivan, the counselor in charge of sports, led us in games after a presentation by Zeus and Hera, two staff members wearing curtains!, where they authorized the Olympic Games to begin.
After dinner I was invited to draw pictures with one of the groups of kids. Despite my poor Russian we managed and even spoke a little English. An older boy sat separately and churned out good drawings while I and the younger ones did a group picture–one girl made the sun, another made the clouds. I made the grass, some flowers and some birds. This went on until the late dusk and counselors came and rounded up the small ones for bed. Then older kids came and talked with us, including Vova, Olya, Victor, Elena and Elena. Tanya Kolodeznikova (featured in the Fall 2014 newsletter), now a graduate moving on to College (ie vocational training institute) and an impressive young woman, asked if I would sing, but I chickened out, asking if she would, and so she did, with several songs, some of which the others joined until near pitch dark–which is just about all you get here in midsummer. There was an impressive contingent of bugs from swarming gnats to many sizes of biting flies, though I didn’t notice mosquitoes. They seem to respect bug ointment. With the dry climate the setting of the sun dropped the temperature dramatically, and my weather app said that by the next morning the the temperature had dropped by 49 degrees to 49 from 98!