It’s probably as well I’m heading home soon as I’ve all but run out of socks. A slight oversight on my part when I packed (sock gremlins probably made off with a few pairs) and the whole situation is compounded by the lack of laundry service in the hotel. Despite this the hotel has in fact been a real blessing. I wasn’t expecting a great deal but the room is clean and well furnished, I have internet access and a mini-bar and the meals have all be fine. On my last trip here I was staying in a western run camp which, although it was a little more like home, was certainly lacking in Russian spirit.
Of course I’m not home yet, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned over the last week and a bit it’s that Russia, and Siberia in particular, is frighteningly and predictably unpredictable. Anything could, and probably will, happen between now and my allotted departure time. To be honest, the very thought of a 3 hour taxi ride in these conditions has got me shifting uncomfortably in my seat. We’ve been taking taxis ever since we arrived in Kogalym and they’ve all been pretty entertaining. Without exception all the drivers have been multi-tasking to some degree throughout the journey, and with a surprisingly varied selection of tasks. We’ve had the standard phone conversations obviously; some text messaging and yesterday one enterprising young chap was actually playing poker. He had his PDA screen up in front of him and managed to get through three or four hands between the office and the hotel. It’s probably worth mentioning that most taxi drivers have also perfected the art of the handbrake turn. Good fun in Sainsbury’s car-park, but a little less enjoyable on an ice-covered road facing oncoming traffic.
So then, just another couple of days left in the office. We’re all at that comfortable tidying up, report writing, ‘i’ dotting and ‘t’ crossing stage that follows every project like this. Today, that involved taking out our flash drivers and swapping MP3 files between the various members of the team. Forty five gigabytes of music changed hands in absolutely no time at all and for a very brief moment, all language barriers simply vanished as the sound of Bob Marley and the Wailers reverberated around the office. Tomorrow it may well be family pictures and over lunch I'm sure I caught just a whiff of a rumour that vodka drinking will be compulsory on the last day. Like I said, anything could happen yet so stay tuned.