July 22. Arrival in Irkutsk.

Irkutsk. It’s pitch black when the train arrives. A little confusion because the station clocks use Moscow time. I lie down a couple of hours next to a Belgian group of four that is traveling in the other (more usual) direction towards Vladivostok and by bus to Harping, China. I am surprised my French does its job on demand and we converse a bit about random topics such as ticket prices, language acquisition, loneliness and hitchhiking. Then we sleep. But the sandman doesn’t visit me, probably because I’m thinking about my charity travel plans. Naturally, all that thinking fills the bladder (why? has anybody written a phd about this?) and I get up to empty it and write in the 24-hour Russian fastfood restaurant next to the station. I write and write and feel alright. They serve borscht and Russian beer and there is a night discount. I reflect about travelers. How many young travelers seem to travel only to collect stamps of the countries they have visited? It doesn’t really matter. Some of those stamps look very nice, but they are no match for the toothless smile of some Peruvian old ladies, for the bearded Mecican mechanic, for the respectfully bowing Korean gentlemen, for the chanting Ukrainian board restaurant waiter and the Finnish beerdrinker who looked like John Lennon.
I walk around Irkutsk for a while and find a dry café to catch up with my writing and have a nice lunch. I walk around and sit in different cafés until I find the internet somewhere. A hyperactive Irish girl is loud on the phone and I condone. There is no couch here, but I want to see the Baikal. At the bus station they ask me where I want to go “krasivi Baikal” I stutter but the woman doesn’t understand. I look up the name of the town and buy a bus ticket for about 100 rubles. The bus bumps over hilltops and after an hour drops its passengers at a tourist spot at the lake. I lay in the sun listening to some audiobooks which has become a new hobby. Overlooking the wonderful lake Baikal is great, but in the company of somebody else, I would have been able to enjoy it more. I guess that’s why I decide to go down and take the bus right back to Irkutsk, go to the train station and buy myself a ticket to Novosibirsk, go to the 24 hour café again, see things repeating themselves. At least I have a bed for the night. Baikal, I will visit you again. Please stay healthy.

Here is a nice linguistic joke. The word “stroit” means “to build” in Russian; English does also use the “stroy”-stem, but only in “destroy”. Inferences are left to the reader.

Say the word. The word is pimozide. Enter the room. Try to identify a chair. Come on, concentrate rate what is my hourly rate wait, for the love of humanity we can solve this we can solve everything we are only sedating your soul we are not sedating you. Your fist tries to hit something but nothing is there. Can you identify a chair? Calm, lean backwards. No, not like that, don’t fall on the floor what is wrong with you? We can send in a person do you want us to send in a person to distract you? We have the number here, they offer services they do. It is quick and safe. No? What is it you want then? We hear you gasping but you will never be out of air. We hear you panting but you have no reason for it. The walls are just walls my friend. Can you identify a chair yet? No, don’t sit on the floor, o, don’t bite on your fist we will have to sedate your soul. We are here, no you are no dog, don’t do that. Don’t do that either. O lord. Stephen, can you prepare a large diphenylbutyl piperidine? Do you see the chair now? Why can’t you just? Yes I feel the absurdity of being too but do you see me pissing in the corner? No! What? No I am not angry with you. Are you telling me the Absurd is controlling ME and not YOU? I despise you, filthy hound. Don’t turn things around. What? That proves it? Stephen, belladonna please, belladonna.