A few brief notes.

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.

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4 Responses to A few brief notes.

  1. Mark Holland says:

    Excellent. We need photos.

    Do the locals resemble Yul Bruynner? Who owned the Russian Far East before the Russians turned up? Did they turf out Mongols, Koreans and Chinese or was there no-one about bar a few reindeer herding nomads?

  2. W. Shedd says:

    I wouldn’t ditch White Sun of the Desert .. It’s an excellent and clever name, I’ve always been envious of it. Besides, a name is a bit like your history.

  3. Tim Newman says:

    My history is a bit weak on this subject, but I’ll give it a shot. Anyone knows any better, pipe up in the comments.

    Who owned the Russian Far East before the Russians turned up?

    I think it was occupied by Chinese, Japanese, and Koreans. The Chinese were always there and in Siberia, the Japanese occupied and owned Sakhalin Island at some point, and the Koreans arrived after it was Russian territory in the decades leading up to the revolution. I don’t think anyone governed it as such, they were all sort of nomads and fishermen. The Russians didn’t encounter much resistance when they moved in, AFAIK.

    Did they turf out Mongols, Koreans and Chinese or was there no-one about bar a few reindeer herding nomads?

    The Mongols had long gone by then. Russia only conquered the Far East in the 1700-1800s. As I said above, I doubt there was much more than a few nomads.

    Interestingly, most Koreans who had settled in Russia got deported by Stalin en masse, mainly to Uzbekistan. But it appears, by their sheer numbers, that the Koreans in Sakhalin avoided this fate. As the days pass, I am beginning to wonder if this is because they didn’t have anywhere to deport them which was worse than Sakhalin. :)

  4. lee says:

    welcome to hell my friend
    thought i’d give you a few tips and a bit of info on paradise island. i see you have soviet experiance so i’ll skip the whole drinking problems, queing, lazy arse wasted men, red tape coruption, dangerous russian visa seeking women issues associated with the crazy world of russia.
    firstly enjoy the weather while you can by december it will be -20. get a heater for your flat now the heating system in most of the town isnt on till november and its brass monkey time in the flat and get a fan for winter as it will be a 50 degress sweet box when the heating does go on. the bugs are nothing now compared to summer and a plus point about the winter is no bugs but thinking long term get a flat with anti mozzie nets on the windows. get some spikes remember they make bugger all effort to clear the snow, by mid winter your walking on 3 foot of solid ice with 15 foot piles of snow either side of you. stock up on any food you see in the supermarket that you like there is sod all available in the winter. yes there is a lot of korens on the island but they don’t work any harder than the russians there just better at getting money out of you (i even have a crew of north koreans working for me! poor bastards escape NK and end up here they must be wondering what all the fuss about the outside world is about). becarefull at night and never answer the door at night unless you are very sure. you get a lot of late night door knocking and i know of people who have answered the door and ended up regreting it. sorry if i am sounding despondant lol. on the plus side the one must do thing is to go to the coast in mid winter and walk on the frozen pacific ocean its the one unforgetable experiance i will take from this place. well good luck mate for me i’m out of here in a month (the wife left for the uk a month ago threatning to kill me if i ever mention this place again lol) but hey its an experiance!

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