Archive | 3:43 pm

What we have been doing

20 Jul

OK. So we have gotten feedback that people are curious about more than just the towns we are visiting. You have been asking us questions surrounding where we are staying, how we are getting around, how we are meeting people, and where we are on a daily basis. All that stuff. So, we are going to start divulging that information as frequently as possible. As our final month here is rapidly and rudely invading our personal space of comfort and throwing us down a rapid slope towards our departure, we are keeping very busy but will try our best to be frequent.

 

I am now sitting on the floor of a friend’s flat in Kazan. We arrived in this city for the second time yesterday afternoon on a train from Yekaterinburg. Our plan was to catch up on the boring office-work side of our project, and head to Kamskiye Polyany this weekend with our friend Maria, whose flat we are staying at. However, she just learned today that the architecture firm where she is employed has entered some new competitions and they will be working overtime for a while. This means she will be unable to join us and we need to find some new adventure partners. But, finding someone who is willing to abandon their life for up to a week to travel and translate on short notice and for no pay is not always easy…

 

This is a perfect time to explain how we have been doing this all along. As neither Christine nor I speak fluent enough Russian to be able to engage in heavy conversations about life history, fluctuating economies, and a persons dreams, we have been finding volunteer adventures who speak fluent Russian and English. We offer to cover travel expenses and a chance at some adventure in return for the help. But how do we find people?

 

There is a wonderful web-network of traveling adventurers and intellects called Couch Surfing. For those who have not heard of it, Couch Surfing is, in its simplest form, a network of people who allow people like us to travel cheaply by offering their couches as a place to sleep. More correctly though, it is a powerful network of open-minded people who have made their lives open and available by offering friendship to fellow couch-surfers.

To get involved, a person simply needs to sign up and go through a verification of identity and location process (to ensure safety).  You then have the chance to offer any spare bed, couch, floor space, or even simply time to those passing through your area. In return, you have access to millions of people all over the world offering the same to you should you end up traveling yourself. Many people can’t offer a place to stay, but offer to meet up for coffee and a stroll around town. Instant friends, all over the world. It is also a much better way to connect with a culture than staying in a hotel.

Not only has couch-surfing been invaluable to us in finding a place to unload our heavy, camera filled backpacks and sleep for a night, but it has provided a strong starting point for meeting people to join us in our investigation of life. We search for couch-surfers with strong language skills in cities nearby the smaller ones we wish to visit and tell them what we are up to. Many are busy with jobs or university and so can’t travel, but they all have friends and acquaintances. Eventually, we find ourselves an improvised travel partner willing to head off into the unknown for a few days.

All of our couch-surfer friends are representations of the best that humanity has to office in completely unique and memorable personalities, and this project would never have left the big cities without them. Many of those we have met grew up themselves in precisely the types of small single-industry cities we are trying to reach. They understand the struggles and joys of small city life, and therefore understand the goal of the project.

And so today, we are reaching out to the adventurous souls of Kazan, hoping to find someone who is interested and able to spend 4 hours in a hot, bouncing bus to Kamskiye Polyany to walk around and talk to strangers for a few days. Wish us luck!