Travel Reference
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As we walk from the car to the building, Dmitry tells me not to say anything too critical
of the government in the corridors, as there are some former military guys who may get too
interested in my visit. But once we walk into the apartment, and remove our shoes, it is an
entirely free environment. Olga limps over on crutches to hug me. I feel as welcome here
as I do in friends' homes in the United States.
We sit around the table. A radio next to the refrigerator is blaring American pop music.
Olga and I are digging into some sushi and pizza, washing it down with champagne, as
Dmitry stands at the stove cooking pork.
“Smells amazing,” I say.
“It's some Asian spices. Spanish pork”
“You eat pork?” Olga asks me.
“Ahh, but you're Jewish.” Dmitry has a good memory.
“I guess not a really good Jew.”
I fill them in on my trip across their country—Moscow, Yaroslavl, Nizhny Novgorod,
Izhevsk, Perm, Ekaterinburg, Chelyabinsk, Ishim, Novosibirsk, Krasnoyarsk, Baikal, Biro-
bidzhan and finally here to Vladivostok.
“Did you hear about the meteor?” Olga asks.
“I chased the meteor.”
“You know, a friend of mine at Stanford University wrote me and said, 'I hope you
haven't been hit by the meteor.' I laughed, thinking, you know how far we are from
“Like five thousand miles,” I say, from experience.
Dmitri says Americans often ask where he's from. “And I would say, you won't be able
to guess. And they'd say try me. And I'd say I live less than 500 miles from Japan, less
than 150 miles from North Korea, and less than 50 miles from China. Now tell me where
I'm from.” No one ever guessed Russia.
Dmitri was actually going to school in Alaska when the Soviet Union fell: “I was sev-
He heard about the news in his country, and was so optimistic about going back that he
declined the chance to apply for an American green card. He says a lot about his country
today has turned out worse than in Soviet times.
“Back then, everyone had the ability to get an education. It was no problem for a family
to have two kids, or five kids. Didn't matter. There were free schools, free medical service,
everything. So to some extent, it was easier. Now you may be able to get everything, you
just have to overpay—twice as much as in the U.S. for the same medical services, same
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