Good news! Today you have heat and hot water!

Those who have been to Russia know two things: 1) it’s damn hot inside in the Winter and 2) hot water is a maybe 50/50… no maybe 70/30. Today I get both! Lucky me.

I survived the flight from Beijing to Khabarovsk. Once off the flight we were herded onto the meat locker bus to drive the 50 yards to the terminal. Having been to Khabarovsk before, I knew how the routine of passport control worked and filled out my immigration form, got into yet another queue and waited my turn. I was the very last person to exit passport control. Why? Because they had never seen a multi-entry visa here before. It took 5 duty officers to sort it out with one of them taking my passport and walking away. Then he brings it back, sets it on the counter and smiles and says, “No problem.” 10 minutes later. For a moment there I thought they were going to tell me they had good news and that there was a flight to take me back to China waiting for me.

I exited passport control and found my dear friend Galina. I was so happy to see her. It has been since April 2006 since I saw her last. This woman is very important to the work of Sweet Hope.

We made our way to the hotel, which is right down the street from the train station. It is in a part of town I’ve not been to before, but I know where I am. The hotel is nice and there is a little cafe here. We found my room and it is certainly cozy. Cozy meaning… well, just plain tiny. We walked in the door and Galina said, “Oh, it’s tiny.” It doesn’t matter to me. I have a bed a toilet and a shower. It’s quiet and the bed isn’t too uncomfortable.

I took a short nap to ward off too terrible of a case of jet lag and got up and went for a brisk walk. By brisk I mean it’s cold here. And windy. Galina had told me there was a grocery on the first floor of the train station. I made my way there to find a building with the word “Supermarket” on it (in Russian of course). I say, the best thing I ever did was learn the Russian alphabet. I went into this “Supermarket” and it was not what I was looking for. Finally, I found a store that said, “Produce.” Ah-Ha!

If you’ll recall two years ago I changed my eating habits when we came to the conclusion that I likely have celiac disease. This is my first trip abroad since that time. Most of the food I know in Russia is some form of wheat based thing. I know there are non-wheat foods out there, but the language barrier is one that is difficult to get over when I’m alone, don’t really speak the language and while I know the alphabet, I can’t read everything. Therefore I’m throwing caution to the wind and my diet out the window. Luckily Derek found me a pill form of an enzyme that seems to be helping.

At the grocery I picked up a round of bread, a noodle bowl, some butter, a bar of chocolate, apple juice and water. I also grabbed a bar of soap since the hotel provided soap is tiny (just like my room). All of it came to 237 RUB (about $7.25). While I was at the market I also priced out bottles of vodka. The price has gone up a bit. Roughly $6 for a bottle a little smaller than a 5th.

Tomorrow we are going out to Khor Village. Galina tells me that Tatiana (the director) is on holiday, but Irina (the vice-director) will meet us there to show us around and talk to us. She says it’s about an hour and a half drive to the village. I’m terribly nervous, but excited too. I do hope she will take the time to show us around. Galina tells me this a good place.

Now if you’ll pardon me, I’m going to do what I can to force myself to stay awake until at least 8:00. It’s 5:30 at the moment.

Oh hey! Before I forget. Did you buy candy yet. Nope you didn’t. How do I know? Because we’ve only gotten 2 orders all week long. You can do better than that.

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