UPDATE - I stole some photos from Scotty's blog - can find them below in the 'Cesky Krumlov' etc. post - will have to go back a wee bit. Will put some on of my own soon - was going to upload the rest of my Vienna photos today but alas! brought the wrong CD in :( Also not sure how to use the editing software at the school. Will try though...
Something that you see a lot of in Moscow. Especially in the metro - after you fight your way through the people trying to give you pamphlets and the people trying to sell you stuff (newspapers, a string of something that looks like dried mushrooms but I wouldn't swear to it in a court of law, balloons, mittens - you name it) then there are the beggars. Most of them have the common decency just to huddle on the floor or to drape themselves artistically over their crutches, but there are your pushy homeless as well. Last night on the metro a guy with a cane and a sign got on, accompanied by a bright-looking little girl of about 7. It was the girl's job to give the begging spiel - the only word of which I caught being "Pomogitye" - "Help". Today on the way to school there was another guy begging on crutches. Not to be harsh, but he kinda looked like he was faking it.
Once you get off the metro, you'll doubtless walk past a row of portaloos. Wait - the door of that one's open and there's someone inside. Not using the facilities, but sitting in there, fully dressed, maybe with a blanket or a book. "Oh my God," you think, "people are living in the portaloo!" Look again, and perhaps you'll see the crone dart out to collect payment from a portaloo user. "No," you realise "they don't live in a portaloo, they work in a portaloo!" These 'portaloo gnomes', as I call them, are everywhere. For me, that's a bad business model - buy an extra portaloo which you won't be able to use, and pay for the portaloo gnome to guard it every day. Surely there's not that much money to be made. And that has to be a contender for worst job ever - in stinky summer and freezing winter, you have to sit all day in a tiny little toilet with the door open. I just hope it's ethnic Russians filling the posts, none of these dirty migrants who come here and steal all the jobs.
Plus - more about the metro (yes, I realise you're probably sick of hearing about it). That respected English-language journal, The Moscow Times (or is that The Moscow News I forget?) (sample article, last week - "Putin vows to retain influence after his presidential term ends. Here's all the reasons why we think that's a brilliant idea. PS Did we mention that he's handsome and he smells nice, too?") (too many brackets, I've lost the train of the sentence, let's start again): The Moscow Times reported yesterday some interesting stats about the Moscow metro. An average of 9 million people use the metro every day (well, 9 million trips, I suppose - I entered the metro 4 times yesterday). This is compared to 2.7 million for the London Underground. On workdays, between 8 am and 9 am, 920,000 people will use the Moscow metro on an average day. So not so far off the population of Auckland, all underground. On workdays between 7 am and 8 pm, there will be no fewer than 400,000 passengers on the metro at any one time. So no wonder it's crowded!