Vicky Tang’s Diary
Belarus Wetlands

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August 4, 2009: Road trip

Kolduni The team share breakfast together at a nearby café and then we pack our bags, ready to be loaded on the bus. We wait patiently in the lobby for the big red bus to arrive. The bus is exactly as described in the briefing, not luxurious, but hopefully strong and reliable enough. We stop for supplies at a hypermarket on the way out of town. The team buy essentials like tea, coffee, sugar, biscuits, and toilet paper. We get chocolate, lollies, soft drink and chips. Back on the bus for the long drive to the Poozerja region (Land of the Blue Lakes). At some point, a pack of cards is revealed. We share card tricks. It is difficult to play a game that we all know that doesn’t require a table. The ride is extremely bumpy. Most of us sleep for the remainder of the drive. We enter Klyastitsy late in the afternoon. It is a small village with less than 3000 people. There is a bar, supermarket and small post office. The closest large town is Polatsk (approx. 40kms, pop. 79,000). Before we start to unpack the bus, we have to decide on our Soup every night accommodation. Apparently due to the large group size (we are the biggest team to date -- 8 volunteers and 6 researchers) the team will have to split up. The second house only has beds available for 6 volunteers. The other two will have to remain in the big house (where all the meals will be served) which also has no hot water. It is suggested that two of the boys stay behind in the big house. The trouble is in deciding which two boys. All sorts of suggestions, including the ubiquitous “scissor, paper, rock” and draw a card, come out but the boys can't seem to decide how to decide. The girls are upset the team will be split up at such an early stage. We ask to see the other accommodation conditions to see if there is a way for all of us to stay together. After long rounds of negotiation, it is agreed that we will all stay in the second house. The girls pair off and share the two bedrooms. The boys are to stay in the closed off lounge room containing two sofa beds. They volunteer to sleep on the floor and alternate after a week. Although it will be tough, we agree that this is the best way to keep the team together. After unpacking, we return to the big house for our first Belorussian meal. It is a traditional one, starting with beet soup, and a serving of Kolduni (potato pancakes stuffed with meat). The meal is delicious but oily. We finish the meal with tea, coffee and cookies. We go home and shower after the long journey. We are all glad to be together.

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