In Russia that word is as frightening as ekskursiia , or vodka . A plan is translated into
English as “plan” but means so much more. It means that Maria has devised a schedule that
will be hard to alter once it comes out of her mouth. She begins rattling off times to Sergei.
“Okay, David, Marina says now we have lunch in the cafeteria of the sanatoriy . At 3
p.m., you meet with Marina for an hour. She wants to spend time showing you around and
talking about the sanatoriy complex and the Udmurt people. At 4:00 p.m. you may meet
with the babushkas. After, you will have dinner in the cafeteria. Later, at 9:00 p.m., Marina
will be available to answer any more questions you have.”
My head is spinning. I can't help but notice we're spending a lot of time with Marina
now, but this must be separately allocated time with her, not part of my additional hour in
the afternoon. She's still yelling at Sergei.
“David, Marina would like to know if we want her help tomorrow.”
Pangs of fear.
“Tell her—um—we'll see.”
“She wants to know our plan.”
“Okay, tell her our plan.”
Sergei tells her we are trying to go to the Kalashnikov museum in Izhevsk. Quickly,
Marina is on the phone, speaking to the Kalashnikov museum, working up our plan for to-
morrow which now seems to include her.
With that, Sergei and I are dispatched to lunch in a sunny dining room that feels in
every way like the cafeteria in an American hospital or nursing home. On the buffet line
is borscht, warm noodles, stewed meat in gravy, and an array of Russian salads swimming
in thick cream. I go for the noodles. Sergei and I finish up and return to Marina's office,
where our ekskursiia commences.
“Come,” says Marina, who has added blue pearls to her outfit, almost matching the snow
pants. She takes us on a dizzying tour of the complex. We see mosaics of Udmurt cultural
scenes. “You know,” says Marina—the jewelry on her hands and wrists clanking whenev-
er she points at something—“there is an old Russian tradition of welcoming someone into
your home with bread and salt. For the Udmurt people it is honey instead of salt. Okay,
Now we've stopped in a room where you can rent skis, sleds, roller skates, guitars,
movies—seems all purpose. The man behind the counter is standing, almost at attention,
almost as if Marina had told him she would be bringing some folks by on an ekskursiia .
“David, Marina wants to know if you have any questions.”
“I'm good, Sergei.”
Marina is leading us on. “Come into this office. This is Tatiana. She is our psychologist.”