August 5 - Saturday

Arrived at the airport at about 6:00 AM - all Russians got their bags but none of our's were there. It turns out that they were brought to the international building. Irina and our Irkutsk guide, Victor, finally got us and the luggage together and realized that there was no way we were all going in the one van that was there for us. Nate and I were taken to our family first. Svetlana and Vasily (our host family) were still sleeping. They have a nice apartment and a dacha on the lake (made by the dam of a hydroelectric plant). Both Svetlana and Vasily are doctors. They have a daughter Ilana and a very cute 2 1/2 year old granddaughter named Nastia. After greetings, Nate and I took showers while Svetlana prepared a HUGE breakfast with the most delicious blinis (a cross between a pancake and a crepe) we have ever tasted. They are served with fresh compote of rasberries and strawberries. Vasily speaks a little English and Svetlana speaks none - so my Russian language skills come in handy. Between Vasily and I and our dictionaries we have a great conversation about all sorts of things. We ate and talked for a while but at this point, Nate and I were in need of sleep. After breakfast, we go to sleep for about an hour before it is time to meet our guide Victor for a city tour of Irkutsk. After the tour, we all head to the dacha of Svetlana and Vasily on the "artificial lake". The three host families know each other. With the 6 of us and 6 of them, and a few more, we make quite a group! We think about swimming but mud is a deterrent. Irina, Pam and Victor find a spot to swim on the other side of the lake. Anyway, Svetlana, Ilana, and others prepare a great meal - soup, fresh vegetables, stuffed peppers, meats, and salads (coleslaw, carrots and much more). After food, Anatoli (Vasily's nephew who is also a physician) plays the guitar and everyone sings. The performance is amazing! The "competition" between Americans and Russians for singing is clearly Americans 0, Russians 100! A great evening with lots of vodka toasts. Then home to our houses. We give Nastia the dress I brought from a sidewalk sale at home in America - it fits perfectly. Nastia is already in love with Nate. I guess young Russian girls are just like young American girls! Finally, it is time for bed!

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©entire contents copyrighted by Nathan Lipsen, 1995