Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Drago and the Donkey Noodles

The first night in the hostel I slept poorly and woke up early. I wanted to get to the Russian consulate as early as possible. That was the reason for my trip, after all. Everything else was second. I was unsettled by the help I received in finding the consulate. A woman at the front desk and two taxi drivers did not know where the street was. My friend Chen called me at just the right time and helped me find it.

The consulate is a nondescript place with a long, high concrete wall. It’s the kind of wall that’s just tall enough not to climb and it’s guarded by a Chinese soldier that makes you want to climb it. You wonder what’s on the other side of places like this. I idle a few minutes along with a French woman who’s done the opposite of what I’ve done. Like me, she wants a visa. Unlike me, she hasn’t prepared anything. She’s just showing up cold looking for information. We chat a few minutes and talk about the train ride from Beijing to Moscow, that we’ve both heard it’s a unique journey. The guard, who can’t be older than 22, eyes me up and reaches out a hand for my passport. He speaks no English. In fact, he doesn’t speak at all. I show him my credentials and he opens the gate for me, behind which lies a fenced-off walkway concluded by a short set of steps and a black door.

A buzz emits from the door just before I reach for it and enter. The air-conditioned room inside has six window-plated stalls - five facing me and one to the left. And it’s this window that intimidates. The five in front are clearly intended for visa purposes – applying, paying, and collecting. But the window to the side doesn’t have any sign stating its purpose. It just has a big, clean-shaven Russian guy behind its bullet-proof glass, sitting and staring at me. He looks like he’s pure KGB and appears to be related to Drago. It dawns on me at this moment that I’m from the same town as Rocky. I hope he doesn’t find out.

I go through the formalities of handing in my documentation. The woman behind the glass is curt, but nice enough. She wastes about an hour of my time before telling me to come back the next day to pick-up my visa and passport. Drago is staring me down so I split and head to the restaurant at the corner. I ask the waitress whether they have beef noodles and she says they have noodles but not with beef. I can’t quite figure out what kind of meat it is until she points to a picture of a donkey on the wall. Well, you are what you eat, right? So I order a large bowl of donkey noodles – tasted like chicken.


Anthony Lascio said...

You shoulda walked up to that bald, steely-eyed Russian and boldly stated, "I must break you"

Eleanor Armstrong said...

are you calling yourself an ass? LOL Not on your life!!! Brave is more like it! The place sounded scary and I wasn't even there.

love, mom

p.s. did you find out how the French woman made out?