The lengthy post preceeding this one was mainly written when still in Dubai, I just held off posting it until I was safely beyond the clutches of the UAE authorities who may not like such insolence as somebody thinking that things are not perfect in their desert paradise. I’m just finding my feet in my new job, and looking for a temporary apartment to move into for a month or two before we find something more permanent. Rental prices here are in the region of $2,000-$3,000 per month for a 2-3 room apartment, thanks to the huge influx of expats working on the LNG projects: the companies all pick up the bills, so the rental prices have skyrocketed. The plan is to find a place for the company to buy which we will then move into, but this will take a month or so and we can’t really stay in a hotel all that time, so we have to find somewhere temporary until the apartment is bought and our stuff arrrives. I don’t have internet in the hotel (it’s $8 an hour!) and there isn’t much chance I’ll have a connection in my temporary apartment, so that leaves me only able to connect when I’m at work which doesn’t give me much scope to write many posts. What I will try to do is write stuff at home in MS-Word or something, and post it when I’m online in the morning.
The first thing I noticed about Sakhalin Island was from the air, when I noticed it was very hilly and covered in trees. It never occurred to me there would be many trees here. And they weren’t the straight standing conifers of Alaska either, they were deciduous trees of a variety of types and all still had their leaves on. So instead of being attacked by a polar bear and having to flee down a glacier to get home, I was instead grumbled at by a drunk who was enjoying the sunshine and I walked casually through a leafy park to get home. Yes, for the first few days the weather was very hot and sunny, but today it is grey, overcast, and raining. Apparently, a typhoon is coming in from Japan later in the day, which judging by initial observations should reduce much of the town to rubble. Despite a mini construction boom, most buildings still date from the Soviet era with the associated build quality and maintenance programmes. Walking around in Yuzhno at midday would be almost uncomfortably hot, but in the mornings and evenings when the sun is not at its peak the temperature drops noticeably by several degrees. And once the wind picked up around the barbecue last night, those of us who showed up in a t-shirt wished we’d brought something a bit warmer. Seems as though I’m going to take a little time to adjust. Another thing I’m going to have to get used to is the wildlife. The mosquitoes are pretty viscious and the wasps have been cross-breeding with the bears. I haven’t yet been stung by one of these huge creatures, and nor do I want to. I think I’d lose a limb. Hopefully the winter will kill them off whilst sparing me.
The second thing I noticed was the huge number of ethnic Koreans here. Western Russia is pretty homogenous compared to most westerns cities, even in ethnically mixed places like Kazan. So it is somewhat surprising at first to notice a high percentage of people who obviously don’t look Russian, and even more surprising initially when instead of hearing them speaking the (to me) familiar sing-song Korean they break into fluent Russian. On the subject of language, I was a bit disappointed to discover that English is widely spoken here, not by everybody but by most. Almost all receptionists, waitresses, barmen, etc. speak English, which means I am not going to be forced into speaking Russian in a lot of places, which for me is a bad thing. Nevertheless, I will make a serious effort to command the language as fast as possible, by speaking to elderly shopkeepers and taxi drivers if need be.
As for the name of the blog…I had thought about changing it, as White Sun of the Desert doesn’t seem very relevant now I have left the sandlands. But if I change it to something related to Sakhalin Island I will not only lose the few links and miniscule reputation I’ve got built up around the blogosphere, but I’ll probably be looking at another name change when I leave here in two or three years time. I don’t particularly want to lose the White Sun of the Desert name in the internet either, because other than the famous Soviet film whose title I pinched, the name appears to be related only to this site and nothing else. So all things considered, I’ll be sticking to the original title.
At some point I will be out and about with my camera, and I will post pictures where I can.