Before I discuss my Christmas day on a bus/train, let me preface this post with a short description of my Christmas Eve.
Friday, or Christmas Eve, was the party for all faculty members of Kalmyk State University and it was a very fun/odd evening. First off, unlike office parties in the US, everyone here got really drunk and that's the norm, in fact it's expected. There were gifts handed out and contests going on and it was really fun! It was a little weird though too because I felt like it was a combination of Hansel & Gretel and night club in the geriatric district of Miami. I was force fed more food and types of meat than I could count and groped by more women over the age of 50 than I care to think about it. But really I had a great time! Oh and it was at the same club where I saw that guy get shot (I was told he's out of the hospital and fine now) and I was happy to see the club now has signs posted saying you can't bring in guns...
Anyways, onto CHRISTMAS DAY! Yay! Well...kinda. I got up at around 5 am on Christmas to make sure everything in my dorm room was in order, since my bus was leaving for Volgograd at 6:30. Everything was good and I made it to the bus stop at around 6:10, found my bus and sat down. We didn't leave Elista until 7 since the driver was waiting for people who didn't show up, but that was okay too since my train wasn't leaving until 3 and it's only a 4 hour drive or so. The bus ride passed uneventfully as I slept virtually the whole way, waking up only when we stopped in random villages to pick up other passengers. I was lucky that there was a woman on the bus who spoke English very well and was very helpful in helping me to get to the train station and finding my train.
Anyways, we arrived at the train station at about 1 and I sat and waited for my train. When it finally arrived I bid my English-speaking friend adieu and boarded the train, taking special care to make sure I was in the right место or bed, unlike the last time I had ridden a train alone.
I was the first of four to arrive in my cabin, but the others slowly started coming in. The first was a woman, I'd say in the late-30s, who was nice enough, but maybe trying to act a bit young for her age and not quite pulling it off. The next was a younger woman with her very young daughter (maybe a year and a half?) who provided all of us in the cabin with entertainment during the waking hours and annoyance as she cried during the night. The last to enter was a bald man, whom I did not realize was a serious alcoholic.
Anyways, our train starts to move and not 20 minutes later, this guy, figuring me to be a Russian guy, asks if I want to join him in the restaurant. Of course I say sure and we make our way to the restaurant car a few cars down. We sit down, he takes the menu from me, says I don't need and that, if I'm not opposed, we'll have some beer and vodka. I reluctantly agreed. Well, our vodka arrived (I don't remember which brand it was, but it wasn't good) along with our beer. Before we even started drinking, this guy was having trouble getting the beer in the glasses, which I initially attributed to the rocking of the train.
4 large beers and 6 or 7 or 8 shots of vodka later, I was sufficiently buzzed and this dude was hammered. I had trouble understanding him at first, but now the words were like kasha coming out of his mouth: pure mush. At this point, he started getting angry that I wasn't understanding most of what he was saying. I told him I had to go to the bathroom and he got fairly upset and pushed me back in my seat. I talked him down and eventually he let me go. When I returned, the waitress said my friend had gone off in the opposite direction of our car and I told her I didn't care; he was drunk and not my friend. So I went back to my car, found the bathroom and due to an awesome combination of vodka, beer and perpetual rocking motion of the train, vomited it all back up (but I felt good in the morning!).
Speaking of morning, the darling little girl in our cabin wakes us up at around 7:20 or so in the morning and my alcoholic friend disappears for a bit as we pull into this station a few hours outside of Moscow. He shows up with, for me and him, 4 liters of Russian beer. "Great!" I think to myself. Lots of vodka last night and now, I get to really life the alcoholic life at 7:30 in the am with 4 liters of beer.
Of course, as you must have guessed, I did in fact drink. I had maybe a liter of all that and this guy must have had 3 by himself. It was a display to say the least. I was also able to finally try dried fish or whatever it's called (I don't know the Russian word or the English one) and it wasn't bad, just very salty and fishy tasting.
At this point, we're about 25 km outside of the station in Moscow when our train stops for no apparent reason. Here we sat, with only 15 minutes to go to reach our destination, for a 4 hours! Ugh! 4 hours and I still have no idea why. To top it off, my alcoholic friend had discovered that before boarding yesterday, he had purchased a liter of beer, which he 'graciously' offered to me and which despite my gentle 'нет спасибо' (no thank you) I ended up drinking even more or this deliciously above-room temperature beer.
Finally, our train started to move again and we pulled in the station...4 hours late, where I, severely buzzed at this point, left as soon as humanly possible and went to my hotel for a nap and a shower.
So, Dear Readers, Christmas was spent drunk and on a train. It was my first Christmas away from home and weird if only because it didn't feel like Christmas at all. It was simply another day traveling and an interesting one at that.