Bowling For Siberia


This blog entry about the events of Saturday, August 07, 2004 was originally posted on August 10, 2004.

DAY 294:  “So is Novosibirsk what you thought it to be?” my 20-year-old host Julia asked me at dinner that night.

“I didn’t think there’d be a city this big here.  I thought I’d be staying in some small house with an old couple.  I had that image of the babushka,” I said.  By that time in the evening, the entire image of the Siberian city of Novosibirsk had changed for me.

THE DAY STARTED NOT AT DINNER, but at breakfast.  “Breakfast is ready,” Julia announced to me at ten in the morning.  Her mother, off to work even on a Sunday, had prepared a spread of yogurt, eggs, bread, sliced cheese, toast, coffee and tea for us.  Julia and I sat at the table, where she taught me some history, even some American that I didn’t know of.  She told me about her theory on the origin of the Cold War:  it was Great Britain that started tensions between America and Russia; if not for them, America and Russia would have probably continued to maintain their relationship as allies.  Behind a regular 20-year-old Americanized by pop culture, Julia was still a bright, intelligent young woman.

While waiting out the storm outside, we got ready to see the sights of Novosibirsk — although not required by contract, Julia was going to show me around, being on summer vacation and all.  I typed up another entry and prepared my files for upload, while Julia did some things in her own room listening to Black Eyed Peas.  I flipped through the Russian TV channels to see a Russian version of the game show Pyramid and a Russian-dubbed showing of American teen flick, 10 Things I Hate About You.

THE RAIN HADN’T STOPPED but we went out anyway and took the public trolleybus to the city center.  Playing city tour guide with umbrella in hand and Jansport bag on back (complete with a lapel pin of the US flag on it), Julia told me how Novosibirsk only became as big as it was because of the railway; originally the railway was supposed to go to the pre-establish city of Tomsk, but they reused it, eventually giving Novosibirsk bigger industry and business growth.

The tour started off in the geographical center of all of Russia, the small Chapel of St. Nicholas, rebuilt in 1993 for Novosibirsk’s centennial, on the site of the original that had been destroyed in the 1930s.  We walked into a Russian Orthodox mass in progress.  It was a full house — there were about ten people in the room smaller than a American supermarket’s produce section.  After lighting some candles, Julia told me how amazed she was when she finally saw a big American and European church.  “It’s like a concert [in there,]” she said.

Julia took me through underground mini-malls to different sights on street level, passed the Local Studies Museum and the famous Opera and Ballet Theater, unfortunately closed for renovations.  In front of it was Lenin Plaza, featuring a statue of the former Communist leader, soldiers, workers and common folk.

To escape the rain Julia and I browsed some stores in an expensive mall with glassware by Fabergé and Versace, until the sun started to break through the clouds.  The street was still wet though, inhibiting the drag races scheduled for that afternoon, where “tricked out” cars raced each other like they did in America in The Fast and The Furious fashion.

We walked through the business district, passed a school showing off its traditional Russian hand-carved window treatments, a children’s theater where puppet shows were performed, and a drama theater.  “My [high] school is behind this theater,” Julia told me.  “I know this area because I used to skip class and play American pool.”

Novosibirsk, a city in the middle of Siberia, was really like American suburbia I was discovering.

“There’s the Levi’s store,” Julia pointed out to me.  “We have Levi’s too.  See, Siberia isn’t all bears and snow.  We have everything.”

“Oh, I knew you had everything when I walked in and saw the MTV in the corner.”

Julia led me to a local internet cafe so I could upload my latest stories cheaper and faster than her dial-up.  This internet cafe was on the mezzanine level of a bowling alley, yet another example of Novosibirsk’s similarity to Anytown, U.S.A., complete with a computerized and animated Brunswick scoring system and Sega arcade games on the side.  “Do you like to go bowling?” she asked.


We made a reservation for a lane and while waiting I worked on the internet.  In about an hour, I was wearing rented bowling shoes and holding a twelve-pounder with “Cosmic Bowling” etched on the side.  We played 3 1/2 games in our one hour lane (picture above) rental ($13 USD) all for the sake of me to say that in the middle of Siberia, I went bowling.  Not only that, but in the middle of Siberia, I scored the highest I’ve ever bowled (to date), a 168.

After bowling, we went out for a cafeteria-style American dinner at Kuzinas (Cousins), owned by an American ex-pat who also started the multi-located New York Pizza chain all over town — both establishments were frequented by Julia.  After lasagna and chicken rolls, we took a trolleybus back to the residential neighborhood, where we went to the supermarket to get me food supplies for the overnight train to Irkutsk that night.

I had tea with Julia and her mother while waiting for my taxi.  Julia asked me about (host of The Global Trip 2004 Pledge Drive and and the services of PayPal.  “But will it work here in Russia?” she asked me.

Russia?  Oh right, Russia.  For a second there, I thought I was in New Jersey.

It was sad to leave my Americanized Korean-Russian homestay, but I had to move on to other parts of Siberia.  Perhaps I’d run into another bowling alley anyway; it wouldn’t have surprised me.

Next entry: Lucky Lazy Day

Previous entry: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

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Comments for “Bowling For Siberia”

  • For those interested, the bowling scores (even though we just played non-competitively, for fun) were as follows:  Game 1: Julia 69, Erik 105.  Game 2: Julia 78, Erik 128.  Game 3: Julia 95, Erik 168.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  08/10  at  07:38 AM

  • Hi Erik,

    I just downloaded our pics. I’m glad you liked homestay in Novosibirsk.

    Have fun!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  08/10  at  08:13 AM

  • Julia - your scores are more in line with mine. Erik - that’s just stinky to beat up on your host with those scores!! smile

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  08/10  at  08:31 AM

  • NOELLE:  My dad’s been a league bowler for as long as I can remember… maybe it’s hereditary…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  08/10  at  01:20 PM

  • JULIA:  THANKS SO MUCH for your hospitality! I can see now here in Irkutsk, that I was really really lucky with you in Novosibirsk… My host here is turning out to be a mean old hag!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  08/10  at  01:21 PM

  • ERIK - Guess we’ll have to wait till next Thanksgiving to beat that score of 168…lmgyn

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  08/10  at  07:35 PM

  • MARKYT / FRANCIS:  You were suppose to comment with “Julia won that first game” or something… C’mon, that was a total set-up; that’s the only reason why I mentioned it… hahaha

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  08/13  at  05:37 AM

  • E - It was just too easy….that’s why i didn’t do it…

    hahah… if you only knocked down one more pin that last game too…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  08/13  at  07:14 PM

  • Sixty-Nine…..dooood!

    -Sorry, hadda do that.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  08/13  at  07:31 PM

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This blog post is one of over 500 travel dispatches from the trip blog, "The Global Trip 2004: Sixteen Months Around The World (Or Until Money Runs Out, Whichever Comes First)," originally hosted by It chronicled a trip around the world from October 2003 to March 2005, which encompassed travel through thirty-seven countries in North America, South America, Africa, Europe, and Asia. It was this blog that "started it all," where Erik evolved and honed his style of travel blogging — it starts to come into focus around the time he arrives in Africa.

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