We went on a field trip today, out to Ethno Mir; a theme park showcasing different societies from around the world. The long, narrow main building, flags lining the center of its ceiling, boasted stalls on either side of every country and region with a distinct culture. I listened to our tour guide, who looked to be descended from the region, perform some Central Asian throat singing inside a replica yurt while wearing a decorative nomad cap. We examined peasant huts from Belarus and Ukraine heated traditional русские печи (Russian ovens), watched from the corners by shaggy cats who seemed indifferent to the lavish attention they received from our group. I walked arm-in-arm with Anna past great snowy fields next to a dense forest of birch and pine, through which panting Huskies pulled dogsleds of laughing children. One scolded me for trying to pet one of the dogs; apparently they’re off limits while on the job.
They had an exhibit on America, or США as they call it, though it was rather lacking. Swinging saloon doors opened on a few plain plastic tables, with a bar off to the right and a Hollywood sign easy to overlook in one of the corners. They had a license plate collection on one wall; with California and Arizona, they were two states down, forty-eight to go; on the one opposite was colorful and abstract graffiti with a ‘Yes!’ overlaid. Apparently the park hasn’t quite finished construction, and isn’t set to until 2020. I’d expect more then, but honestly I doubt I’ll be returning to check.
It’s outside Moscow, a ways south into Kaluga Oblast. We shoved into a bus off of the Slavyansky Bulvar metro station for a ninety-minute drive that was moody and beautiful in shakes of grey and dirty white. We passed an astroturf field cleared of snow for some soccer players, the closest I’ve gotten to natural green in almost a month. After having to wake up (painfully) at 7:15 on a Sunday for this excursion, I’d hoped to do some reading and listen to mild music, maybe nap if the road wasn’t too rough (it was, of course). But Anna wouldn’t let me. I hadn’t planned on her coming on the trip, and of course we sat together and talked the whole time. It wasn’t unpleasant, but I lamented the missed opportunity for a quiet moment surrounded by beautiful scenery. Beautiful in a very Soviet way, at least. Almost everyone else slept. She was nice, though. I do like spending time with her. At her request we played a game I haven’t played in at least a decade; the one where you stare at each other until one person, the loser, laughs or looks away. Blinking is allowed. I hate that game.