Travel Reference
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accident, grabbing a baseball bat, and smashing up the windshield of the other car involved.
There was a woman caught on tape stealing a bumper; a farm truck accidentally dumping
a herd of cattle on the road; a Russian tank suddenly bursting out of a field and into the
middle of a busy road.
It was therefore no surprise to Russians when a meteorite happened to land in the coun-
try—not even to me and Rose, then having lived there for just three years. Crazy shit just
happens there. “Of course it landed in Russia,” Rose said to me on the phone from home,
as Sergei and I were still in Yaroslavl: “Rose, we've got to go to Chelyabinsk.”
“Of course you do.”
We are driving toward a hotel. Sergei asks Oleg if the meteorite is still all the talk in
Chelyabinsk, a week after the landing.
“Oh yes,” he says, chuckling. “There are still ads on television. One is for a new door.
The ad has a wife saying to her husband—Honey, what are you waiting for to buy a new
door? For the next asteroid?”
Oleg laughs at his punch line.
“I was home. My first thought was it was a missile. My second thought, maybe a plane
crashed. My dog hid under the sofa. I couldn't even woo her out with sausage.” (At least
Russian dogs are freaked out!)
“There was no panic, no fear. A thousand people went to the hospital, but they are okay.
There is a problem now, though—people are being arrested for selling fake space chunks
on the Internet.”
Of course they are. What's more, Russian scientists are coming around asking people to
donate the remnants they've discovered for research—and evidently there's been resistance
because people don't trust that the scientists are not frauds.
We pull up to a hotel. Sergei asks Oleg if we can hire him tomorrow to take us around
and inspect the meteor zone. He's thrilled for the business—and just a little stoked to be
involved in our mission.
He picks us up at 9:15 a.m. sharp and suggests we visit Chebarkul, a small city situated
on the lake where the meteorite evidently made landfall. The space rock flew over west-
ern suburbs of Chelyabinsk, shedding debris all over the place, then flew low over the city,
shaking apartment buildings and breaking windows, before heading east and flying into the
lake. Scientists have not yet found the largest remaining piece, but they did find a gaping
hole in the ice, so the assumption was the meteorite plunged down deep into the water to
its final resting place.
Chebarkul has a small downtown, with clothing stores, mobile phone outlets, and older
people bundled up in fur hats and coats selling fish. We approach one woman, who intro-
duces herself as Polina Skorobogatova.
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