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Episode 1: The Beginning

Getting stuff done

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Rain in UB, Russian visa bureaucracy, a potential change in plans

There had been an incredible amount of rain in UB the last few days. In fact, this is the wettest summer of the seven summers I have been here. We had two continuous days of rain which meant mass puddles everywhere. This is also the first year that I have seen goloshes being sold and people actually wearing them. Not that these help tremedously. UB drivers, who are manical even when calm, have not or cannot comprehend the relationship between puddles and pedestrians nor the relationship between puddles, potholes and speed. As a consequence people walking rapidly become mud splotched and cars fall into volcanic potholes creating gridlocks galore with each driver honking at the one in front....and yet no one will give way nor can they move anyway.


Today was also my third attempt at getting my Russian visa for my train trip. I have never come across a tourism company that is so unfriendly, surly and unhelpful. Admittedly, there is also a language issue. My Mongolian is basic at best and the two ladies had even more rudimentary English. The first two visits centered on finding out the process of getting a Russia visa and booking train tickets. So...third visit on Monday and I find out that I need a biography in Russian for my visa application as I will be travelling on my Australian passport. An important tidbit of information. I email an elusive Tatiana and ask for the format of the biography. I get no response, so I make one up and the translation gets done. I trundle down on Tuesday, show my Russian biography to Natalia behind the desk and I am told I need to provide both and English and Russian versions. Damn. I move on and show her the filled in application.

Natalia the Hun: 'This will not do'

Me: 'Why? I downloaded it from the Russian Embassy website in Australia.'

'It is not proper application form. This is the one you need.'

'These two forms are exactly the same. Why do I need to fill out this second one?'

'Embassy cannot scan.'

Well.....of course.

Today (Wednesday) I trundle down with newly filled out form (being exactly the same as the one I downloaded), biography in English and Russian, picture, alien card and passport. No Natalia the Hun today. Today is The Surly One.

The Surly One: 'This is not the correct form for biography. This is form, she says, pulling out a piece of paper sheathed in plastic.

Me: 'And I was not told this yesterday because....'. This sarcasm being totally lost on The Surly One because the conversation is in rather stilted, grammatically wrong Mongolian (on my side anyway) interjected with English words (again on my side).

'This is the form. It needs the translator's signature and chop.'

'May I please get a photocopy?'

'Cannot. Also, you give me biography in Mongolian, not Russian.'

This is the point I discover that for whatever reason, the translator tranlated my original biography into Mongolian, not Russian. I had not checked properly...I just noticed all the cyrillic...but on closer inspection, I found I could read it...which I should not have been able to do had it been in Russian.

So I hand write the letter format (as compared to my CV format) which contains the same information as in the application form and my CV format. This gets typed up thanks to Teresa and sent off to the Russian translator.

But will I still get my visa? I have not heard from Tatiana on my final train itinerary. I also discover today that I have one too many days in Russia as as I calculated from the time I arrived in Irkutsk (25 August) rather than when I cross the border (24 August). And the tour agency person, with her vast amount of experience, could not have picked this up a wee bit earlier?

So the question is what to do. I am fast running out of time as I need to pack up the apartment and get organised for my 12 day trek into the Altai Mountains. I need to get my application in tomorrow at the latest and I still don't know my train itinerary. I am beginning to think of flying to Kiev and exploring Ukraine and Romania instead. Tomorrow will tell.

Posted by IvaS 11:21 Archived in Mongolia

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