Beautiful To Meet You

Jul 6, 2013 by

Just moments before he opened the conversation with us, the saturated clouds had wrung themselves out on us, dumping hail and rain, soaking us through.


When we emerged from the metro station, I saw the sky, and then I heard the loudest thunder I’ve ever heard in my life. I thought fire crackers were going off behind me, and my bones tried to jump out of my skin. A car alarm was set off by the cacophony. No rain yet, but I knew it wouldn’t last.

We got as far as the church on our map that we wanted to see, and it was then the first rain drops started. Attempting to take shelter under one of the church arches was futile, as the rain and hail found us anyway, pelting us hard. We screamed and squealed and agreed to seek shelter under one of the business’ canopies across the street. Water raced down the street like a river.


It was there that three women in a travel shop (coincidence?) invited us inside and offered us coffee.

“Welcome to Siberia,” the girl said as she handed me my coffee and offered us large sugar cubes to sweeten the brown liquid.


When the rain stopped, and we finished our coffees, we left the travel shop (still soaked through), and it was then that we met him.

He wasn’t the first man to latch onto us in our walks through the cities we visited. Men, approaching at intersections, would ask us something in Russian that we would be unable to answer. Seeing our foreignness, they were drawn to us as if magnetically. Maybe in a different country, on a different trip, in a different story, this would have given me the heebie-jeebies, but I could see that these men were genuinely just curious. (Well, one was drunk, actually).

He began following us, and we got so far in our inability to communicate as to explain that we were from Canada and Australia, and our names were Colleen, Sara and his, Andrej. He continued to follow us, and he continued to speak to us, hoping that we might grasp something he said, but to no avail.

Andrej was friendly, but didn’t want his photo taken. I had to sneak a couple in order to remember him and his yellow tinted glasses.


It was when we arrived at the Lenin statue (one of the countless Lenins of Russia and Siberia) that Andrej shuffled off and came back with someone he found who could speak English. He’d found a translator.

He asked simple, curious questions.

How long will you be in Novosibirsk? (We were here for one night, but we leave tonight.)

Where will you go next? (Krasnoyarsk.)

Do you travel by train often? (No, but I have traveled by train in other countries. I listed a few.)

He asked us what actors we liked, what TV shows we liked, and we reestablished that we are from Canada and Australia. I knew he’d just been curious, dying to ask these strange foreign girls in Novosibirsk, “Why are you here?”

Then he said something I’ll never forget. I don’t know if these were his words exactly or just how the translator converted his statement. “It’s so beautiful to meet foreigners traveling in my city, in Novosibirsk.

We could only smile at this. I was relieved to have the translator there, someone who could release the pressure of not being able to communicate with the locals.

Before we shook hands and said how it was nice to meet both Andrej and our translator, they asked us if we would return to Novosibirsk.

Of course, I don’t know if I will, nor do I have any immediate plans to come back to this Siberian city, but we could answer only the truth.




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  1. I’m loving reading about all your encounters, Colleen!!!

  2. Wonderful to see what can transpire during travel. Had you not been open to a conversation there wouldn’t be a story but you were and here we are. Love that he was interested enough to source a translator. 🙂

    • Colleen

      Yes, I was very glad he did… it’s been frustrating not being able to communicate. I just keep thinking… Russian classes! Russian classes!

  3. What an authentic experience. It’s so beautiful to read about locals happy and friendly with travelers. I must admit, in my younger days, especially while working as a waitress, I was often short and frustrated by travelers with language barriers. Now that I’m older I realize that I should be thrilled that people think the place that I live is interesting enough to come and visit! What time will teach you…

    • Colleen

      Yes, he seemed genuinely surprised to meet us foreigners! It was lovely to meet him, and while we’ve met spatters here and there of incredibly rude people, the kind ones have been so lovely and unforgettable.

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