14 May 2010

Irkutsk and Igor the Irishman

Relatively uneventful train journey this time, as we shared our ‘cell’ with a couple of very unfriendly females.  One eventually left, and was replaced by a sweet old lady, Anna, who talked to Audrey for hours, even though Audrey only got about 25% of what she was saying. They got along well by Audrey repeating the only keywords she could pick out from Anna’s sentences (Stalin, hunger, Lenin, encephalitic ticks) and Anna enthusiastically nodding her approval. We soon realised that all Anna wanted to do was talk and be heard.

We’d tried to get our tickets from Ulan Ude (our next stop) to Ulan Bator the previous day while waiting for the night train, but were told it wasn’t possible, as the international ticket offices were already closed.  We heard that these tickets sell out quick, but finally secured them later that day, after a mad dash to a tourist office in a hotel when we found out on the phone that there was only three seats left for our chosen date.

We met up with Audrey’s Russian teacher’s daughter that afternoon for a drink.  Her attitude to Russian history/current life was somewhat different to Katia from Yekaterinburg.  She couldn’t wait to get out, and was moving to Prague by the end of the year.  Also, she had a polar opposite view on Stalin, that he was much worse than Hitler (“At least Hitler didn’t kill his own people”).

She brought us to a market where we picked up a load of pelmini (link, Russian dumplings that we were fond of) to cook at the hostel.  1.5 kg of pelmini was too much for us, so we invited a Korean (called Herman), and Scotsman and two English fellas to join us for dinner.

As we were cleaning up, another person who joined us in the kitchen.  He picked up on the fact I was wearing a Derry jersey (I knew it would be handy), and to our amazement start to speak Irish to me.  Now, as many of you will know, my Irish hasn’t been much use since I finished it at GCSE, and even then that would have been debateable.  I had to do the usual embarrassing “Sorry, I don’t speak it”.

Seemed he was from Donegal and he had a fiercely strong accent and spoke so quickly that even I wasn’t getting everything (didn’t help that I was doing the washing up).  Anyway, we all headed out to The London Pub, and when he was away from the table, I asked one of the other lads, “What’s his name?”
“Igor, I think”, said one of the English lads.
“Igor?  It couldn’t be.  He was trying to speak Irish to me in the hostel.  Are you sure?” I asked sceptically.

I got some of the story out of Igor when he got back to the table and over the following few pints at an Irish bar.  Turned out he had an Irish grandmother who came to Siberia decades ago from Donegal.  It seems like a lot of the Irish-ness has passed through.

His knowledge of Irish words and slang was perfect.  Never have I spoken with a non-native-Irish person who used ‘bog’ to describe the toilet, spoke affectionately of scallions and colcannon and knew his Irish breads inside out. As he gave us a lift from the hostel to the bar, he even stuck “I Wish I was Back Home In Derry” on in his car!

The beers flowed freely, and then back in the hostel, the Vodka was out, which we’d got at a supermarket on the way home.  It was the Scot fella’s birthday, and he had a train to catch at 5:30 in the morning. I didn’t stay up till the end, but according to Igor, they nearly had to carry him down there.

I went to bed at 4:00am.


Unknown said...

whats going to happen to that cat, is it still alive

pok said...

That's bit mad...seems like another story for the Irish Star - time Karl was following up on your need to make some more money!

King prawn said...

Incredible that you met that Irish/Siberian dude, he sounds like an interesting chap. Great post!!