I’m typing this while eating boiled potatoes out of a plastic bag, so please forgive me if the prose is uneven and discombobulated. My life currently revolves around animals, be it good or bad, and usually they just add an element of spice to my usual routine. However, during the past week I’ve had a few experiences in which the animals played defining roles.
On Tuesday night, I escaped out of Russian class early at five pm, so I rushed home and changed clothes quickly in order to catch the sunset from the mountains behind my house. I really wanted to take pictures from them, and just spend some time up there during one of our last ‘Indian Summer’ sunsets before the Siberian winter hit.
The idea to go up in the mountains to relax and take pictures on formed itself in my brain on Sunday evening when I spent an hour or so thinking, smoking Pall Mall’s, and laying on a tilted bed of concrete behind my house watching the sun dip behind the mountains, lighting up the clouds and the hills with brilliant hues of pink, violet, and blue. So nice, romantic, and contemplative that thinking about it again makes me want to barf.
So anyway, my idea awas to grab my music player and camera and run up the hills to take pictures of Esik (my village) during the sunset. But as I came downstairs I was stopped by babushka, who, hands on hips, told me “You shall not pass! … At least until you have eaten some soup.” There was nothing I could do, so I sat impatiently twitching as the babushka slowly heated up the soup, watching through the window as the sun began its final descent.
Don’t get me wrong, I was enormously grateful for the soup, and all of the wonderful things that I am treated to on a daily basis, but once that soup was in front of me, I sloshed the scalding liquid down my throat and flew out the door.
I sprinted as fast as I could, but halfway up the foothill, I realized that it was a lost cause and dejectedly turned around back towards the house. After a few minutes of depressedly walking down, I came upon a group of goats standing in the middle of the trail. I was bumming out and listening to music, so I just walked around them and carried on my way. After a couple of minutes however, I heard something behind me, so I turned around to see a bunch of confused looking goats running at me.
To be honest, I thought that the leaders were trying to attack me, which in retrospect is completely absurd. But because of this strange thought process, I picked up a large stick and swung it aggressively toward the leader. They all froze. So I swung the stick again, and they all took a couple steps back. At this point I figured that I had established myself as being higher up on the food chain, so I turned my music back on and kept walking. You might imagine what I saw when I turned around, so again I put the stick out in front of me, and again they all froze. This happened three or four more times as I continued on my way, but by this time I had dropped the stick, finding out that my hand was just as effective (or ineffective, depending how you look at it.) By the time I had reached the road at the bottom of the hill, I had given up trying to shoo the sheep away, and was walking surrounded by my herd of ten or so goats.
Now I must admit that I was a bit unsure what to do at this time, because although the imagined danger had long since passed, I was still in possession of a bunch of sheep who all seemed willing to follow me home. I must have looked completely ridiculous, a twenty something American guy standing around in jeans and a t-shirt looking confused and worried, surrounded by about ten equally confused goats. Fortunately, when I looked back up at the mountains, I saw a female shepherd flying out of the brush looking panicked and screaming for her herd, which she presently saw in my possession. There was a moment or two of awkward confusion as I tried to explain to this woman in broken Russian that I wasn’t trying to steal her goats, and that they followed me of their own accord. She seemed dubious at first, but when she heard how terribly I spoke, I think she just figured that I was too stupid to steal goats anyways, and we parted in good spirits.