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1 Jul

The view from the highest point in Polevskoy, looking over factories and homes in the town of about 67,000 people. Photo by Tree Gore.


As the last post was full of words, I decided to give your eyes and heads a bit of a break so not to be too overwhelming.  So instead of another long post about Polevskoy, I will just post a good handful of pictures and explanations, just to change things up a bit.

Last week, we went to Polevskoy home of the entertaining and wonderful Aleksey.  Meeting us at the bus station and taking us on a whirlwind tour of Polevskoy, Aleksey took us to a cafe, museum, viewing points, and to a karate lesson.  Kind of the perfect crash course in any town.  The industry is copper processing, more specifically into making pipes, which are boasted to be the best in the country.  There used to be more industries, but over time they have closed and people have moved to nearby Yekaterinburg.  However, I will be done talking now, and explain the rest with the pictures.



Monument in the center of town. Photo by Tree Gore





Aleksey in his home during an interview about what life is like in Polevskoy where he currently lives with his wife and two children.



Tanya and Sasha, sitting off to the side during Aleksey's interview. Occasionally they would throw in interesting commentary or act as the peanut gallery. However, they decided off to the side would be the best place during the interview, as they did not want to be in front of the camera.



Eventually Sasha got tired of the interview and retreated to his room to lie down an entertain himself during the interview. Perhaps here I should have had a second camera filming Aleksey, but sometimes I feel as if I need a camera in each hand for moments like this.



Sasha is taking a karate class and we got the opportunity to go in and watch the kids from the town practice. From some towns we have been to, it is expressed that if there were a sports center that would help with crime and the moral of the town. Polevskoy has one. I am no judge as to if it is the reason behind a town being full of crime or not, nor do I believe that it can completely free a place of crime. But, at least it gives kids something to do besides drink and get into trouble.



Aleksey took us to a cafe to talk to the manager. While we waited, we got to witness a wedding. Having never been to a Russian wedding, I am not exactly sure what is custom and what is absurd so I have no foundation to speak about this event on. All I know is there was money being thrown and shoved down this man's back (the groom I am going to assume). I will say I am a fan of that. The cow, on the other hand, I am not so sure I would want him at my wedding. But that is just personal taste.



Margarita, a worker in the cafe called Glav Obshepeet Глав Общепит





Artum, manager of two of Polevskoy's higher end cafes and bars. He got the job by hearing about mis-management through his wife who worked at one and then going in and telling owner he could do it better. He discussed issues with keeping employees because of proximity to Yekaterinburg and the better wages there. His previous career was as a lawyer, but he enjoys the creativity in his new work and doesn't regret the change in career.



Improv interview with the kind curator of the little Polevskoy museum. With her entire lifetime having been spent there, she was able to tell us of the major industrial changes that have come and gone. At various times there had been a major seamstress center, tank and heavy machinery production, and railroad components manufacturing. Unfortunately, we only got ten minutes of her time though we could have spent an entire afternoon listening to her insights.


Unlike any museum I have ever been in, this one was the most fantastic in the sense that there were no rules. If there was an metal iron from early settlements, you were encouraged to try it out. If there was an ancient rock, the curator told you to see if you could lift it. No security guards constantly watching you, no ropes and sensors, just two old women who thought museums should be more interactive.


Sasha and I on top on the highest point in Polevskoy.


A second view of the town, this time looking over the country side as opposed to the factories. Photo by Tree Gore.


And thus it really begins

13 Jun

If a woman is pregnant in Russia, you are not supposed to ask when the baby is due. If asked, you will get an answer like “in the spring” or “soon.” It is superstition. Just the same, you do not celebrate a birthday before the actual day, but only after. It is the superstition that you cannot predict the future. If the universe wills, you will have that baby or that birthday, but until it actually happens there is no guarantee.

For that reason, I will not reveal the details of the next leg in our journey. Rather, I’ll just let you know that everything is starting to come into place quite nicely. After some setbacks, we will be heading to our first town today. We have had a hard time getting started, which makes me understand this superstition just a little bit more. As it would be said in America, “Don’t count your chickens before they hatch.”

We are currently getting ready for our first town and our first interviews: gathering up equipment and making sure batteries are fully charged. We have had some difficulty at first getting some interviews set in stone. There have been people we were hoping to talk to that have fallen through and connections that did not pan out, including the powerful lead that brought us here much sooner than planned. But, we carry on. This is the nature of what we do. As we are asking one favor after another in order to make this project happen, we have to learn how to be flexible along the way. However, Ekaterinburg has treated us quite well in the meantime. It has given us plenty of experiences and good stories, and we have met all sorts of old and new friends. Currently, we are staying with Dasha, a girl with many connections in these small towns we are trying to get to. To boot, she is studying to become a translator. Two quite wonderful things that she has been sharing with us as she helps us to keep going forward.

Thanks to her, we have a few day trips planned out for the next week. We will be working with family members of those who we have met, in their home towns. So far we have a busy and exciting week coming up. And perhaps even some posts will be coming soon with stories of interviews and photos from them.


Alexander and his mother, sitting outside of their home further out from Ekaterinburg's center.

A sunrise and a fisherman (two separate but complete thoughts on Kazan)

10 Jun

2:45am in Kazan

The sun rises in the east towards a new day as we walk from Cuba Libre towards our temporary flat in the east. We spent the evening in the west of Kazan with recently made friends at a Cuban themed bar. They naturally served Mexican food and mojitos by the liter. Welcome to Cuba. Walking towards the sun, the sun which is now rising at 2:30am, you can see a noticeable difference in the light between one side of the sky and the other. We continue further east and even south, wondering what it would be like up in the Arctic Circle as we had originally mapped out. Two more weeks till summer solstice and the nights are quickly shortening. Originally clocking in at six-hour nights when I first arrived a month ago, to the four short hours now. I wonder if one day soon I will see a simultaneous sunset and sunrise by the time the earth decides to retreat back away from the sun until mid-December when it will change its mind once more.


Two days ago we met a man by the name of Fernice. He is a retired accordion professor, now fisherman, with half a mouth full of gold teeth and a friendly smile. He let us talk to him while he casted for fish in the wide river near Kazan’s Kremlin. He has a daughter about my age, a ballerina in St. Petersburg. My father has a restless photographer currently traversing across Russia, talking to strangers in a language she does not really know. Now retired, Fernice spends his days fishing. My father’s dream. While talking, he flagged down a runner on the road up from the river. It was his neighbor whose name I cannot seem to either find nor remember. He used to be a smoker and a drinker, now running two marathons a week. No one was helping him with his problems, and so, he decided to do something for himself. He claims that there are sports that are wonderful and good, but you have to put in 200% in order to succeed. This comes from not only having to work for yourself, but relying on others as well. Running is just you. You do not have to depend on anyone else, it is your decision as to how well or poorly you do. I think that is why I like traveling. As dependent as you become on others, it is still up to you whether you sink or swim. Making the most out of your time or counting down the days until your return to familiar faces and a secure bed is solely your choice. We wish we could have spent more time with Fernice, hearing more stories of his life as he throws some crumbs into the fiver near his pole. Unfortunately, we move on.

Once a heavy drinker and smoker, now a bi-weekly marathon runner

Fernice, once an accordion professor, now a full time fisher


Fernice fishing on a river dividing the two sides of Kazan.


We are quickly moving further east onto Ekaterinburg, currently on a train Asia bound. Yes, Asia. It still shocks me sometimes to realize that I will be on a different continent for the next month or so. I had realized that Russia is part of Asia, but I never really knew what to make of it. There are information websites that list countries by continent, Russia being its own separate category as no one knows whether to list it with Europe or with Asia. It seems as if no one is exactly sure as to what to make of it. Perhaps it will be completely different on the other side of the Urals, or maybe it will be just like birthdays, where one day you wake up 23 and feel as if you were still 22. Except this time you are waking up in Asia, thinking you are still in Europe.



Points on a map

23 May

Sometimes I feel like everything bad happens to you right before something good does, or on the other side, that it is quietest right before the storm.  That’s just how balance exists.  I’m going to use that as an excuse as to why the blog has been slow lately during this lull right before the project quickly picks up.

Image taken at a dacha while setting up a shot for the series Christine's currently working on.


What really has been happening is I have been working on a series of short documentary films in Moscow, while Tree is traversing across the US. Come that first day of June, however, it’s going to be madness until August and then longer for post-production.  So I guess my theory still holds true.


Right before we left, we underwent the insane process of finding every town we had heard of, writing them in on maps, and then pinning out the 450+ towns we could find.  There are over 1,500 in existence.  Just looking at the map is overwhelming, and it’s only 1/3 of what’s out there.  I can’t imagine what it would look like with the rest of the towns on there.

Only a small part of Russia, filled with pins of monogorods.


Tree mapping out towns and marking them on our giant map of Russia for upcoming promotional video.


We picked our top seventeen and now are starting the daunting task of figuring out how to get from one to the next as many do not have highways or trains connecting.  In the meantime, because one project is never enough, we’re also putting together a short promotional video for the project.  So be looking forward to that in the near future.



Featured on


On a different note, we got our first little piece of publicity on an Eastern European blog “Why So Red?“.  Taylor Merkley talks about this project and talks about research she did in Lütte, Germany and how the two stories parallel.  Interesting stories like this can be found throughout the world, of communities who have seen hard times and are now figuring out what can now be done.  So while you’re waiting for us to hit the ground running, go check it out and read the nice little article on our project.



What Stays and What Goes

3 May

Today we leave Provo for nearly four months.  Beginning in Provo, down to San Antonio where we will split, Tree working from Seattle to New York and I straight to Moscow where I will find him at an airport at the end of the month.

Just a few days ago, I was informed that due to a lack of business, the leaser of my new house was not getting a paycheck.  Therefore upcoming rent would have to be paid through acquiring debt and if the next paycheck didn’t come either, she would have to move.  In the meantime I would have to move out just incase she couldn’t make it while I was gone.  In the meantime as in the five days before I left, three of which I would be in Seattle.  Just the story we set off to document, now quickly crashing into my own life as I took one car load to the dumpster, another to a donation center, and the last bit into boxes to store until I return to Utah to deal with them.  My life dream of being able to fit everything I own in my car becoming a reality as I take what I can grab and run.

I have lived 2 ½ months out of a backpack and about to stretch that personal record to 4.  Why cannot I just make that bag my only bag of belongings?  I came out to Utah with three suitcases.  It baffles me to see that those three suitcases has turned into three car loads full of materials I can’t seem to throw away.

It’s interesting how when you get to a point where you have to walk away what becomes important and what gets left by the wayside. Those trinkets and necklaces that have been saved since I was a child are now too heavy or compiled together just take up one more box full of stuff that cannot fit in my allotted car space.  A new meaning has been realized for the term “economy car”.  Years of safekeeping things and they end up in the donation pile.  A single earring from a set that once was my grandmothers, a necklace purchased in Croatia, the last slip of paper a best friend wrote on before we stopped talking nearly two years ago.  Sometimes I think of those things and wonder if there really wasn’t enough space or if I could have squeezed one more small ring into a box.  Do you pack the things you absolutely cannot live without first and throw away the rest without looking?  Or do you painfully sort through everything and pick out the bad parts and try to take the rest?  It’s the choice to make between if there is a fire or if you were moving back home after college.  But what about when you are walking away from your home?  There was never an assembly about that in school.  We never had eviction drills.

I sit here in self-pity then realize, this is exactly what I am going to document.  Apparently it is not enough for me to just read about it, but I get to experience it first hand.  Naturally, not as bad as those we will be talking to as I’ve only been out of the house for five years and haven’t acquired that much.  Nor do I have a family.  Nor has my career been shattered.  I have simply had some plans fall through a few days before I take off and now get to move into a friend’s garage, in hopes that something will turn up in the next four months so I am not a permanent fixture in that garage.  At least I have that as an option, and that’s better than nothing.