There was only one bedroom, but the kitchen also served as one. Mother and daughter would sleep together while I could take the sleeping couch in my favourite part of the house. Basically, the bathroom was bigger than the kitchen.
The 16-year-old girl showed me around the city with great enthusiasm. I loved the way she was passionate about her home town, and how she broke an icicle from the roof and carefully broke it into small pieces with her bare cold hands. I loved the way she apologized for her youthful behaviour while she had all the rights to do so. Besides that, one shouldn't let the child inside you die.
The warm welcome of the modest family made me question the Russian stereotype once again. My bag quickly exploded all over the flat, leaving me with an uncomfortable feeling that I was the creator of the sequel of Space Invaders. After waking up in their kitchen, I decided to switch hosts. I never really liked science fiction anyway.
Being a girl travelling alone, I preferred to meet up with my new host before making the decision. A guy in suit entered the coffee bar and had a seat in front of me. He quickly seemed like a very decent person who did some stand up comedy in his free time. You are probably declaring me crazy, thinking I must have dreamt all of this. But it was real: Russians can make jokes too, although I need to admit their humour is not quite comprehensible.
A Russian smile is only for friends.
This truism is the number one rule in Russia. People don't smile, but if they do, it sure is a real one.
So, what do you prefer?
The ride to my new home made me flip out. The taxi kept on driving, far away from the centre I knew as Irkutsk. Who was this guy? Did he lie about his friendliness? I quickly opened his CouchSurfing profile and noticed that he was not a verified member, nor had references of people hosted in the past.
He stayed polite and answered my questions in all his serenity. As soon as I got into the apartment, zenness came over me again: roomies! Yes!
Once more Russian kindness was spoiling me. I lay down on a massage table and underwent one hour of deep pain which a tiny woman granted me. She treated my back until it turned blue. I tried not to make any sound, hiding I was suffering.
It hurts so good.
My new host was a very proud young man with a difficult past. He was the great example of "what doesn't kill you, makes you stronger.", because in all his toughness, he had a heart made from gingerbread with extra sugar on top.
The next day I stumbled into a squat-like art house, where I found a woman smoking Marijuana and crafting wooden statues. I kindly refused the pipe and noticed that a small blond girl was staring at me without any shame. She smiled and walked towards me with open arms and hugged me. I don't know why, but children always seem to like me, whilst I don't especially like them.
She looked at me with her big eyes and even though she must have been only 5 years old, her Russian was better than mine. Not understanding a word she said, I was enchanted by her will to explain me everything with great expression and creative sounds.
It's by following my hosts in their every day life, I have seen places I would never be.