Saturday, July 3, 2010
Дача visit: A study in Fermented Bread, Physics, and Russian Field Medicine
The weather held up this weekend so I got my first chance to visit the дача (summer house). After a successful day at school (my tutor finally got in touch with me) a дача visit seemed like a perfect way to end the week. And it was. I met Aleksander Ivanovich (my host dad) at the електричка (a train as far as I could tell) station, and spent a lovely half-hour riding out into the Russian countryside. Once there, we met up with Aleksander Vassil'ich (my host grandfather I guess you could stay) and after buying fish from a none too sanitary looking styrofoam box on the side of the road, we set out to the дача. The evening was really quite wonderful. After having cleaned and gutted our recent fish purchase (I am pleased to announce that I am apparently a natural at fish-gutting) we had a delicious dinner of fish stew, sauteed hotdogs and the obligatory tomato/cucumber/dill salad. As I have discovered is typical of all gatherings of Russian men, alcoholic beverages were a necessity, and I had my choice of vodka, beer or квас, an oddly sweet drink made from fermented bread. After more than a few toasts to the victorious Dutch national team (congratulations Joost, if you even read this...) and a discussion about physics and religion with Aleksander Vassil'ich, I was quite exhausted and ended up falling asleep rather early.
I was up and at 'em early today though, and while I passed on trying to learn how to weld, I did do some yard work and helped pull out some weeds that had grown to block the door to the outhouse open. After, I decided to take a walk on the roads around the dacha. They all ran through some really beautiful birch forests, and I wanted to take some pictures.
This is the point however, where my story takes a turn for the decidedly comical. As I was walking home, after having arranged a gathering spot to celebrate the 4th of July tomorrow, and still musing about the rather funny looking milk truck (it was like an American oil truck, except it was full of milk) when all of a sudden I hear a dog barking from the woods. I think nothing of it and continue walking. All of a sudden out of nowhere I see this grayish-black blur burst out from the grass, I keep walking until I feel a sharp pain in my calf. I look down and this nasty little dog had latched its mouth until my leg. Needless to say I was none to pleased, and in a fit of annoyance, punted the little bastard back into the woods where he came from. For all you animal lovers out there I think the dog was ok, it yelped and ran back into the woods. I personally think it got what it deserved, as did the two babushkas behind me, who nodded rather approvingly after my display of long unused soccer skills.
The dog managed to put five little holes in my leg, which bled a surprising amount. Anyway, back at the dacha I was subjected to more home Russian medicine. Which in this case consisted of dumping near boiling water on my leg. As I writhed in pain, the logic of this rather sadistic treatment was explained to me. Fevers are meant to cook germs and kill them, the prevailing logic is that boiling water can be used to induce a similar affect. If enough boiling hot water is applied, ones blood will get so hot to the point that the germs will boil and die.
After my boiling treatment, and the application of a brown looking liquid to my leg, I was sent off home to (one can assume) receive more treatment in a place with clean, running water. Apparently my situation wasn't bad enough that we couldn't scope out the beach that we're going to tomorrow first, so Alexander Ivanovich and I spent an hour or so sitting in the sun.
Now I'm home, after another round of brown gel I'm sitting and relaxing. Soon I'm going to take a much needed shower (I still smell like fish guts) and try and get some homework done. I'm posting some pictures of the dacha, as well as some from my university, including one of the university's cat, who I've fondly named Evgenni Stalin.