“He wants a son. He says we’re all so girly so he wants a boy to go fishing and hunting.”
A few minutes earlier Genia had appeared at my cabin door, a three-year-old under her arm and a nearly five-year-old at her hip. “I heard you speaking English.” I’d invited her in to sit on Jen’s soft-sleeper bunk bed.
“I teach English to children but I never get to have a conversation.”
She lived with her husband, a soldier, and their two girls 20 minutes out of Chita in Siberia. It was a good life in the forest with chickens and rabbits and fresh air.
Her husband wanted out of the army; the people he worked with weren’t good, the money was poor, and the petrol was too costly for the daily drive to work.
“Our republic doesn’t have its own gas so everything is too expensive.”
Chinese was Genia’s third language. “But I didn’t like the Chinese tutors at the institute so I prefer English.”
She was heading to Yekinterinberg more than 3,000 km from home to visit a friend for “maybe a week”. Her daughters played in the corridor and smiled shyly in the doorways of other passengers. She was teaching them to say “Hello” without their Russian accent. I liked it better when they said their throaty “Hollow”s.