stories, discovering the fruits of personal ambition in a place where that wasn't really pos-
sible not so long ago.
It seems the only thing Alexei's starving for is children. His sister, who lives in Dubai,
has a son. “My mom adores him and spends a lot of time there.” Alexei pauses. “And I'm
thinking about this because it's time. You know, whenever I see my grandmother she's like,
'I have to talk to you!' And I did watch this Russian comedy recently, where the guy was
saying 'I don't want to get to my son's prom in a wheelchair.' And this is what I'm saying
. . . if I have children when I'm forty.”
Right now, he lives alone in an apartment his mother bought in 1995, shortly after she
started the carpet business.
“There are so many girls to choose from in this country,” Rose says. “They're beautiful.
Alexei smiles, pausing for a few seconds before abruptly changing the subject. “Okay,
you can type my name in YouTube and find all my videos. And you can follow me on Twit-
He has to run. His phone rang twice already, but he didn't want to interrupt our conver-
sation to answer it. “Okay guys, it was real fun,” he says, shaking my hand, hugging Rose
then heading outside.
Leaving the café a few minutes later, I tell Rose about the people she's missed on the
trip: Nadezhda and her struggles running a business, Ivan in Chelyabinsk, the babushkas,
and the ominous e-mail from Olga in Vladivostok.
“Do you think seeing her again is dangerous?” Rose asks me.
“For me or for her?”
“Either, I guess.”
Rose has always been level-headed about these things—more street smart than I am. I
can sometimes take more risks, thinking it's worth it for the sake of the story. But I never
want to put anyone else at risk.
“Well, I remember the guys who followed us in Vladivostok,” Rose says. “They were
idiots. Harmless. If that's who is calling Olga's family, it's probably okay. Just be careful,
Greene.” Arriving at our hotel, we stop by Sergei's room, and Sergei literally jumps.
“Rooose! It is so good to see you.” They hug. We really were a family for our time in Rus-
sia, and now the family is back together.
We do a bit of exploring together in Novosibirsk, then head in the evening for the train
station, where I break the news to my wife.
“So, one difference I haven't told you about yet. Sergei and I have been traveling third
class. And, um, we have third-class seats on this train. I don't think you've been in third