5.7 Wild Dogs
I'm in Russia, but I'm not really in Russia. I'm exploring, looking around but I'm not finding very much. I've told myself that I'm not here to find anything, just here to work. Put your head down and work. No time for exploring, talking to locals, understanding the culture more. Perhaps this was what the organizers wanted? For us to experience the Olympic Games without actually experiencing the place where they were being held? Don't get me wrong - the work has been fulfilling and challenging. Meeting lots of great people. Want to see more of Russia, but we really are kind of isolated. We've been living in a fenced in compound that we enter by walking through a guard tower. There's nothing in the compound except makeshift tents that sell Russian beer and food. The accommodations are modest, but I'm not picky when it comes to this kind of thing.
After taking the bus once or twice, I decided to start walking to and from work everyday. First, to get some exercise. Second, to have a bit of time to myself. You get the feeling that you're not ever really alone here. Cameras are everywhere. Guards are everywhere. Right next door to our compound is row after row of barracks for army troops. You can see them outside doing chin-ups on metal bars, smoking on the stoop.
In order to get into the Olympic Park, you have to go through airport-type security. The guards scrutinize you, frisk you, but everyday seems to get a bit more relaxed. To get in and out of anywhere, you have to scan the accreditation around your neck. This also operates as your visa, so don't lose it. We were instructed to have it on us at all times. You scan it on a machine at the entrance, your photograph appears on a screen facing the guards, you get the green light. Your whereabouts are known at all times.
In my room I felt like I had some space. Sure, things needed fixing, but for some reason there was a router in my room. So, I had no shower but high speed internet. Then I remembered that the Russian government made it clear they would be tracking all emails. If they wanted to read an email written to my mom, fine with me. There are no government secrets in there.
I understand that this is not necessarily tied to Russia, the level of security at these types of events is high. The thing that made me kind of sad is how quickly living like this became normalized. You just did what you had to do in order to work, eat, sleep, live. As mentioned, I enjoyed the work, I enjoyed my time there. But as time moves forward, I long for not having to scan in everywhere I go, be constantly aware that I'm being watched, worry about the wording I'm using in an email.
On a day off, I made my way to the mountains on a train. There were two main sites: Olympic Park and the mountain cluster. The train took about forty-five minutes. Surrounded by mountains, I exited the train, excited to have to take a cable car the rest of the way to the top. But you needed to scan in to the cable car and my accreditation wasn't valid for this site. I walked out in the rain in the middle of the square, looked at the mountains from there. So close. I've talked a great deal about mountains before in the places I've visited. This was the first time I hadn't been able to reach them. Took the train back to my compound. Walked past wild packs of dogs looking for a home, just like me. The difference being that out here in the wild, they were home.