What’s it like Being a Jamaican living in Russia?

In our “Jamaicans to the World” Facebook Live show, Jamaicans.com founder Xavier Murphy speaks with Kristine Bolt. She is a Jamaican living in Russia. We discuss the food, culture, customs, the people, things to do, the language, music and adjusting to living in Russia as an expat. Xavier asks what are the must eat foods and must visit places in Russia

Xavier: What is it like being a Jamaican living in Russia? Hi, I’m Xavier Murphy, the founder of Jamaicans.com, and today in Jamaicans to the World, we talk to Kristine Bolt, a Jamaican who’s living in Russia. Welcome, Kristine.

Kristine: Hi, Xavier, nice to be here.

Xavier: Well, Russia wow I can’t wait to get started on this one. But let me get to my typical questions before we dig in.

Kristine: Sure, fire away.

Xavier: Which paat (part) of Jamaica, yuh (you) come from?

Kristine: I am from Kingston

Xavier: Okay.

Kristine: although I spent the first six years or so of my life living in Falmouth in Trelawny. Because my dad is a Pastor and when I came along he was pastoring a church in Falmouth. We lived there until I was six, although I was born in Kingston. We lived there until I was six and then Kingston it was after that.

Xavier: Okay, I’m going to ask the obvious because you mentioned two things here that are kind of tied in. Last name is Bolt.

Kristine: Wonder where you’re going with this?

Xavier: We know this is going to come up in the comments, right? Because once we see the Bolt, we know this is going to come up in the comments. Any relations?

Kristine: And I’ll tell you what I tell everybody; we are all related, we are all related. Bolt is not a common name and so we are all related.

Xavier: Alright, alright.

Kristine: But full discloser, not closely related, not closely related. We’re not friends.

Xavier: Okay, I see. But have you ever met him?

Kristine: I have yes, I have met him a few times and a few years ago attended his family’s New Year’s family reunion, big thing that they do every year. It was nice, they’re really great family.

Xavier: Well, I am sure this name gets you a pass, and when you say you’re Jamaican and you say ‘Bolt’, I am sure yes.

Kristine: Well, I have to tell you, being from Jamaica and being like we are all aware we sometimes overestimate that. I have been in places in the world where people have no clue. They’re like, ahh Jamaica ha okay, okay and then they actually don’t know anything about Jamaica or where it’s from or where it is. Or they’ll hear my name and they’re like, uh huh okay.

Xavier: Alright.

Kristine: I have learned to be humble when it comes to where I’m from and my name because the places where I typically go, people don’t know so much or like Jamaica is not a thing here.

Xavier: Then the next thing I’m going to ask is if you went to high school in Jamaica, which high school are you representing because you know, we love wi (our) high schools.

Kristine: Immaculate Conception High School, the best.

Xavier: Alright, big up to Immaculate, big up to Immaculate. Russia; how did you, tell us that story? How did you get to Russia?

Russia Monument

Kristine: Oh my goodness, that story. I hope you have a little bit of time. I’m not quite sure how far back to go. I’ll give you just a little kind of brief pre-history. Originally, I spent most of my working life in corporate Jamaica. I was actually a Vice President in a large financial company and then I was made redundant a few years ago. I’d actually by that time gotten to the point of hating my jo, but really loved the money and loved the position and didn’t know what else I would want to do anyway. And so I kind of hang on and hang on until they made me redundant and when that happened, I kind of decided, you know what, this is a chance for me to restart my life. I don’t have anybody who’s depending on me for anything or needs anything from me, like urgently or anything. I can do whatever the heck I want. I picked up myself and went on a two months journey across the world that went from Europe to Africa and ended up in Alaska.

Then after that, I decided, okay, I need to kind of decide what I’m going to do now and I decided that all those years standing at my office window feeling like, what is the point of all this, what am I doing all of this for? I decided, you know what, I need to be helping people, that’s what I need to do and so I decided that I would try to find a job or something with an NGO. I was like had big dreams about working at the UN, but when you spend 16 years in the corporate world, you think that you’re like everybody will want you. They don’t, if you haven’t come up through certain, in industries like come up through the ranks, nobody cares where you’re from or what you’ve done. Eventually I decided, okay you know what, I’ll volunteer and so I was a volunteer for about a year. I lived in Indonesia, working with an NGO with underprivileged kids. I was living in some places I never thought I would, but it was an amazing experience. And so eventually, while I was there I decided that you know what, I will get a certification in teaching English because I’m doing it anyway and I feel like I can do a better job. But I think I need some training, some help to see how can I be better at this. I did that while I was in Indonesia and then when my time was up in Indonesia and I left, I went back to Jamaica and I was like okay what’s next, what’s next?

I’ve always had like my heart has always have been out in the world, right. I’m one of these travellers where I like, traveling is like air and food and water to me. It feeds my soul, but two week trips like tourist vacation trips I love those, but those don’t feed me like the type of travel I do now. And so I was like, okay, I need to get back out there. I mean, when I got back to Jamaica, after Indonesia, where do I go from here? I started kind of hunting around, okay. I will find a job as a Teacher somewhere and as I was looking. I actually ended up with a job in Chile, and it never felt right. It just didn’t feel right. Even as I was preparing to go to Chile, I was still looking and happened to come across a job for Siberia. I saw Siberia and I was like, yes! that’s it, that’s what I need to do. Immediately it felt like mine I was like, that job is my job, that is it. And so I applied for the job and did an interview online and it was about two weeks before they got back to me. I’m telling you, it was like the most nerve-wracking two weeks of my life, because I wanted it so much. I went through a whole spiritual thing, I had to be praying and like Lord I want this more than I want what you want. Oh my gosh, it was like a whole thing. Anyway, I got the job. When I was telling people yeah you know I’m moving to Siberia, they’re like, why?

Xavier: I’m thinking the same thing.

Kristine: My response was, well why not? Why not? Why shouldn’t I move to Siberia? Nobody had an answer, and so I did; I moved to Siberia. Actually, the region where I live is above Siberia, above Siberia. Where I live is called is Yakutia, it’s the Republic of Sakha, Yakutia. It’s actually the largest Republic in Russia. Yeah

Xavier: Wow!

Kristine: That’s how I came to Russia.

Xavier: It nuh cold there? (it’s not cold there?)

Kristine: Well, let me tell you. I’ve spent four winters here now, four winter. This is my forth winter that we’re just starting to come out of and
this has been. Typically in the winter here we get to about like we have where around in the minus 30’s Fahrenheit (-30°F).

Xavier: Minus? You’re saying minus?

Kristine: Minus 30 Fahrenheit (-30°F) yes.

Xavier: Okay.

Kristine: Yes, but this winter has been the coldest one since I’ve lived here. I hear that it’s been the coldest one since maybe the last 10 years or so, and it was consistently minus 50 (-50) for about two months. All of December and January was between minus 47(-47) and like minus 53 (-53) most days.

Xavier: Man, I can’t even imagine.

Kristine: My friends think I’m crazy, I don’t.

Xavier: Just even thinking of minus weather to me mek (makes) me shiver.

Kristine: You know what, there will be times and I’m walking around outside in the minus 40 (-40), minus whatever and I’m hot because it’s all in the layers, right. We wear ski pants for example and I have reindeer fur boots and it keeps you warm and you’re comfortable. I get frosty lashes and my eyelashes are white just walking, you’re walking, you’re breathing the condensation is going up and your eyelashes are white, it’s amazing. There’s amazing things that you can experience at temperatures and in places like this, that you cannot experience anywhere else and for me that’s priceless.

Xavier: It’s amazing, that is amazing that you love the cold because

Kristine: I do.

Xavier: Because I don’t know a lot of our people that like the cold.

Kristine: You know what, I am actually the opposite. I hate being hot, hate it, don’t like it, I hate when I’m hot. I think I like that kind of heat belongs on the beach. I love it when I’m hot at the beach, otherwise I don’t want to be hot, I don’t like it. I think the fact that I kind of don’t let the extreme weather or the extreme environment stop me from coming here. It has led to some experiences that Xavier I will never forget, never. It’s stuff I couldn’t buy with money, it’s been amazing.

Xavier: So since you’re there on the experience, tell us about one of them, tell us about one of the experiences that you’d say listen, if you come
here, well again I’m saying Russia and I know it’s big, it’s huge, it’s massive. If you come there, tell me one of these experiences or a couple of these experiences that you say listen, priceless you can’t, tell me.

Kristine: Xavier, when I talk about living where I live, I’m talking about living in Yakutia, okay.

Xavier: Okay.

Kristine: Because as you say, Russia is huge. People sometimes like if they see anything happening in Moscow for example, they’ll text me are you okay? I’m like guys I live six hours flying from Moscow, flying okay I’m so far away from anything that is happening it’s not like seriously, but anyways. So when I talk about where I live here in Russia I’m talking about Yakutia. It’s the Northernmost Republic. One of the things that I’ve done a few times well a couple of times, that it just makes my heart soar is dog sledding, dog sledding. I have like actually like not like sat on the sled and like oh it’s so nice going through the forest [mush, mush] it’s not like that. Like I’m actually the one

Xavier: controlling the sled.

Kristine: controlling the sled and the dog and everything. It’s exhilarating.

Xavier: You are officially anointed as the person that is starting the Jamaican woman’s dog sled team.

Kristine: [Laugh] I’m not that good. I’ve done it twice. it’s exhilarating. You’re flying through the forest and the fresh snow and the dogs are just running, it’s exhilarating. You fall a lot, you fall a lot especially when you’re not use to it, you fall a lot, but it’s fine you just get up and you get back on and just keep going.

Xavier: How many dogs yuh (you) talking about are you steering? Are these dogs trained?

Kristine: Two.

Xavier: They’re trained?

Kristine: Well for me two dogs.

Xavier: Right.

Kristine: When I’ve been sledding two dogs, yeah they’re trained. Sometimes they are in training so they may not be the best behaved just in terms of discipline. The first time I went, a group of us went and my friend she was like ”this dog is not trained well”. The dog kept stopping to pee (urinate) on bushes, but it’s exhilarating and it’s fun I have to tell you.

Xavier: Wow, well I know, you see I don’t know if I would visit in the cold, but it sounds like if I’m going to have to experience that I going have to come in the cold (I will have to come in the cold).

Kristine: Well for sure, it’s pretty amazing in the summer also but because most of the year here it’s winter-like conditions. For us, people in the autumn and in the spring will be like oh it’s winter, actually it’s not. It’s like winter temperatures for other places but for us like ahh it’s warm. Another thing like for me it just blew my mind. I went on a winter trip about two winters ago to the coldest inhabited place on Earth they call it here, it’s called Oymyakon. It’s North, Northern and a little to the East. It’s several hours from the city where I live and there it gets down to like minus 70 (-70). That’s typical in their winter time; minus 70 (-70) and while I was there we did some amazing things. I went with a group of people and on the way back, we stopped and met a reindeer herder, a reindeer herder and I went…

Xavier: Was it Santa Claus, you sure it wasn’t Santa Claus?

Kristine: Right, and I went and I ride through the forest on a reindeer drawn sled.

Xavier: Oh!

Kristine: I was like what is happening right now, that was amazing. Just stuff like that, I do that. I walk to the lakes, a lot of things.

Xavier: Have you done any of the, I’ve seen I’m not going to say crazy people, but people basically half naked jumping in the lake and or you know whatever and then jumping back out. Have you done any of that?

Kristine: I did it once, I did it once. Okay, I am not a fan of cold water; I’m not a fan of cold water. As much as I don’t like to be hot, I’m not a fan of cold water right. But, I cannot live in a place like this and not like do the thing atleast one time, like was I even here? Every January, there is a, it’s like a custom where people go to the local river whatever. The authority sometimes will actually cut a hole in the ice and people go and they dunk three times. And a couple years ago I did it. The water temperature it’s actually the water is warmer than the air temperature. When I say warmer I don’t mean like it’s actually warm.

Xavier: Right, right.

Kristine: It’s warmer than the air temperature so yes I did it, it was cool. I did it and when you do it I come out and I was like oh my gosh I did it! So you kinda (kind of) feel exhilarated again, it’s something.

Xavier: Tell us a little bit about the people, the people where you are. What are they like, talk to us about the people.

Russia Landscape

Kristine: I have to tell you Xavier that the people of Yakutia are some of the best people I’ve ever met in my life, bar none. I have a theory that it has to do with the cold because people are so generous here. People are generous with their time with anything. Sometimes it’s kind of stern generosity where it’s not like they’re all grinning and stuff like that but most of the time it’s just like this warm welcome, this warm kindness and oh my gosh. I don’t have enough words to tell you how amazing the people of Yakutia are. They have made me feel like. Can I tell you something Xavier? People tell me all the time, oh my gosh you’re so beautiful; they’ll just say that to me. Before I moved here, I cannot remember people telling me that, I can’t remember that, just random people I don’t even know. You know what I’m saying.

Xavier: Yeah, Yes.

Kristine: Occasionally people will just stop me in the streets and talk to me. Obviously, I look different.

Xavier: I know, I know and I was going to get to that because obviously there probably is no other maybe not many or probably none, no other black people in the town or in the city.

Kristine: There are some, so there’s a big University here; North-Eastern Federal University and there are students here from Africa.

Xavier: Okay.

Kristine: From different countries in Africa, not a ton but there are some. I don’t see them often but occasionally and they’re also like a couple other people not just students who are from, other black people who are from other countries who live and work here.

Xavier: Okay, okay.

Kristine: But it’s not a ton of people.

Xavier: When they find out that you’re…well probably English is not the first language obviously you’re in Russia right.

Kristine: Yeah.

Xavier: For those who speak English and they meet you and they realize that you’re Jamaican what’s typically the reaction?

Kristine: Okay, so there is apparently this song called Jamaica, Jamaica. I don’t know where this song is from, I had never heard about it until I moved here. So when people find out that I’m from Jamaica, they’ll start singing this song ”Jamaica, Jamaica”. I don’t know this song Xavier, I’ve never heard of this song before, that’s what they know about Jamaica, that’s mainly it.

Xavier: And is it a reggae song?

Kristine: No, it’s not a reggae song, I think it’s some song from…I think Jamaica is probably the only English thing in the song. I don’t know the song. Occasionally people will break out into that song but they’ll say ”ohh Jamaica, okay” and then they’ll start asking me about how I like it here, what I like about living here, how I like the food you know, they’ll ask me more about my life here than they’ll ask me about where I’m from.

Xavier: I see. Speaking of food, what’s the food like there?

Kristine: Oh my goodness, the food is amazing okay. Let me just profess this by saying it’s going to sound weird okay because it’s just not what most of us who are from the West or from the Caribbean are used to. I’ve eaten moose, I’ve eaten reindeer, I’ve eaten horse; baby horse yummy, so good, delicious. I’ve eaten frozen horse liver; it’s so good and I’ve eaten frozen raw fish. Frozen raw horse liver and frozen raw fish. Okay, those are the most unusual things I’ve eaten here. I haven’t had one bad meal; I have not had one bad meal.

Xavier: Oh wow!

Kristine: Good, that may be my mindset right. I know alot of people who are very tied to only eating what they’re used to. I’m okay, I’m completely fine with eating what is eaten where I’m at because it’s a part of the culture, it’s a part of the life of the place where I am and it’s a part of experiencing life in this place. So I throw myself fully into it. Having said that, one of the things I enjoy about living here is the Georgian restaurants; Georgia di (the) country. Oh my gosh, I did not know that Georgian food was so amazing, until I moved to Russia, so good. You’re missing half of life if you’ve not had Georgian breads okay. Bread lovers yuh (you) need to be eating Shotis Puri, you need to be eating Khachapuri, you need to be eating all the Georgian food and Georgian wine, so good.

Xavier: You’re saying this now so I guh (going to) move into language.

Kristine: Sure.

Xavier: How much of the language have you picked up?

Kristine: I don’t know how to gauge that.

Xavier: Okay. Would you say you’re… okay let’s say level one is the highest, alright and level five is the lowest. How would you rate yourself based on those levels then?

Kristine: I would rate myself around maybe a three.

Xavier: And that is still pretty good, you’re having conversations there.

Kristine: well yeah, three and a half years ago when I moved here, I didn’t even know the Russian alphabet because it’s a completely different alphabet; Cyrillic alphabet. I didn’t even know the Russian alphabet, I didn’t know numbers, I knew nothing zero. So I started at literally zero and now I have conversations with you know. I live life I go shopping, I’m on the bus, I’m taking taxis, whatever I’m living life and yes I have conversations. My grammar is questionable, it’s questionable but I can make myself understood and have great conversations with people. A lot of time people more want to practice their English than me practicing my Russian, but it’s okay. I actually learned a lot, I’ve learned a lot of Russian from talking to the people who like run the fruit and vegetable stands where I buy fresh fruit and vegetables. They’re teaching me a lot of vocabulary, lots of vocabulary.

Xavier: It’s something that I’ve heard, few people I’ve talked to in the series they say listen you gotta go (got to go) to the local market, it’s one of the places you gotta go (got to go) But are you dreaming in the language yet?

Kristine: I aspire to, I’m not dreaming in Russian. I do find myself saying things. Like sometimes something I would say in English for example typically, now I find myself saying it in Russian. I haven’t noticed that I dream in Russian, but sometimes I just do automatic translations in my head even if I’m not actually talking to somebody. I’ll do automatic translations and sometimes even when I’m speaking I’m just saying things in Russian that normally I’d say in English.

Xavier: What’s the scene like in terms of the music scene there. Again I know winter is the dominant season there but is there a music scene where you’d actually even hear reggae per se?

Kristine: YouTube, no not so much Reggae. You know people think that because it’s so consistently cold here and that it’s mostly winter that nothing is going on. We’re hibernating for seven months of the year but it’s not true. There’s always, always stuff going on. There’s always activities, there’s always things are open, things are happening venues are having events and so on. There are all kinds of different music here. Where I live, it’s pretty close to Asia and so there’s a lot of Asian influence like K-pop is popular. But then also, music from the ’90s and the ’80s and even some Disco is popular. People love Abba; Mamma Mia. People will just break out in singing Mamma Mia in a party or whatever. It’s very kind of varied. Russian music obviously is very popular and the old Russian music also. Just like how we, when we heard certain music from the ’60s or the ’70’s or the ’80s you’ll be like rayy! And if it starts to play, we all start right, it’s the same. People just…it’s the music they grow up with and so they love it. But there is a rich mix and variety of music here. There was one point, I have a friend who she goes to Music College here. There’s an instrument here which I’d never heard of before in my life before I moved here called the Khomus. The Jew’s Harp; it’s called a Jew’s Harp in other areas. We don’t have one in Jamaica as far as I know, we don’t have this instrument in Jamaica and my first time knowing of it was when I moved here, it’s a big instrument here. My friend goes to college to music college, she’s studying the Khomus and she’s studying all these things. She decided she was forming a band at one point and she’s like, ”Kris, come join our band”, I’m like no, why. You know what, somehow she convinced me and I was there the lead singer in her band.

Xavier: What!

Kristine: I’m telling you Xavier, I’m telling you. I even learned this song in Russian called, ‘Unki’ it was so cute, it’s this little lullaby.

Xavier: Yuh gwine (you going to) sing a little piece of that right now.

Kristine: This was like three years ago, I don’t even remember most of the song,

Xavier: I’m not going to put you on the spot.

Kristine: Thank you.

Xavier: We will look out for when somebody quietly link in the comment that YouTube or that video on Facebook of you lead singing and taking over this band.

Kristine: I don’t think it exists but we’ll see.

Xavier: You never know, you never know. Tell me is there like a local custom that you found a little strange when you got there that you said man this is kind of different and it may not be, you may not have one but you may. Is there any customs that you know you say oh, it’s a little different or you love it I absolutely love this custom it may be something different than what we’d done in the West?

Kristine: You know what; I think that living in Indonesia before I moved here prepared me to live here. When I moved to Indonesia I was in culture shock for about three months before I realized that I was in culture shock. I was actually coming out of culture shock when I realized that I was in culture shock in the first place because I’d been traveling my whole life like you know just start trips, vacation type trips, two weeks, three weeks whatever. And so when I was moving to Indonesia, I thought, I didn’t think culture shock would be a thing, it never occurred to me, but it was so vastly different from what I had ever experienced in my life. Indonesia is a majority Muslim country and it was so vastly different and so much hotter than anywhere I’d lived. I mean the equator runs through that country, it’s hot, it’s hot, hot. And so having had that experience and having realized that I had gone through culture shock, when I was moving here I was aware of it and when I came here I came with a mindset of this is going to be very different from anything I’ve experienced or anything I’m used to and so I came with a sense of not like oh my gosh, that’s so weird. I came with the sense of wow that’s interesting.

There’s nothing I have found that has been like strange or anything but there’s one custom that I love, love it. It’s called the Yakutian Kiss, it’s called the Yakutian Kiss. I didn’t even realize it was a thing until a few months after I’d lived here and I was like why do people keep smelling me. What it is like when you embrace someone. I hug you and your face is next to the person’s face, you just inhale, you just inhale. It’s just like a deep breath, you just inhale and it’s called a Yakutian Kiss. I’m hugging you and I’m [inhaling] and I inhale and they inhale me and I inhale them. It’s such a touching, such an affectionate like of thing. I just automatically do it with my friends I mean now is Covid nobody is hugging each other, but when I do it, it feels tender, it feels tender to me and I just love it.

Xavier: That one is new, and never heard anything like this one but very very interesting.

Kristine: Yeah.

Xavier: I will keep that in mind. Is it just that region, so it’s just that region?

Kristine: As far as I know, I don’t know of people doing it to other parts of Russia

Xavier: Right.

Kristine: I mean maybe. When I meet you in person Xavier, I’m gonna (going to) give you a Yakutian kiss.

Xavier: and I will know what it is, I won’t think it’s strange. You also mentioned that you’re close enough to Asia. Is it Korea that’s near or is it China or both?

Kristine: China; we actually share a border.

Xavier: Right.

Kristine: I could drive to Vladivostok. Vladivostok is maybe

Xavier: Oh it’s…go ahead

Kristine: I could drive to Vladivostok, they call it the San Francisco of Russia and just across the border is China, but I can fly direct from here from Yakutia to Seoul. I’ve done it before; the flight is about five or six hours.

Xavier: Okay.

Kristine: Flying from here to Mascow is about the same amount of time as flying from here to Seoul. One is a different country, one is the same country.

Xavier: It’s funny you mentioned Vladivostok because I worked with a company years ago with this company, I had worked with and the gentleman who was the programmer always came up with these weird [coq?] names for the code of the software that we’re developing. And I know I will be talking Spanish to some people but you know, just say like version one, version two, version three of the software. So he comes up with this name, he comes up with the hardest names for people to pronounce.

Kristine: Russian.

Xavier: Yea, he always came up with Russian names and one of the names he comes up with is Vladivostok.

Kristine: Vladivostok.

Russia Lake

Xavier: I’m like why, how are you going to write this down and I said is this real because I never knew you know the city, I never knew what it was he just said Vladivostok and we’re like…and he’s like yeah it’s a real city and it’s in Russia. So we go look it up and I was like oh really it’s a real city.

Kristine: Yes Novosibirsk, they call that the capital of Siberia but, you know what, speaking of people not knowing these things and these places. Before I was going to move here to Yakutia I had never heard of Yakutia, never heard of it. I’m sure you never heard of it before I told you, that’s that where I live.

Xavier: I never heard of it until you said to me this is where I am and I’m having difficulty pronouncing it that’s why. If y’all (you all) see I’m avoiding pronouncing it, I am having difficult I’ve said Yukutia and Yakultia and all sorts of wrong stuff. So I’m having difficulty pronouncing it.

Kristine: Yeah, Yakutia

Xavier: I looked it up on Google before you and I..days ago before and I’m looking up the city and trying to pronounce it and I’m like, why am I having such a hard time pronoucing this name?

Kristine: Our mouth, our English mouth don’t run across the consonants so easily. We think verbs, we think vows should go in certain places and they don’t in some of these words. But what I was going to say is thay Yakutia is actually one- third of the landmass of Russia. It takes up 1/3 of the entire area of the whole country of Russia and yet people have never heard of it, never heard of it.

Xavier: You’re so right.

Kristine: It blows my mind.

Xavier: You’re so right and you just telling me that it’s 1/3 even blows my mind even further

Kristine: It’s huge.

Xavier: that we have never really, we hear of Siberia. Again, I hear of Vladivostok, Moscow and all these places but it was the first time I’ve heard about it.

Kristine: It’s huge. One million people live here in Yakutia, about a little over a million people live in Yakutia. As I said it’s 1/3 the size of Russia. Jamaica is a fulllstop compared, is a fullstop compared to Yakutia.

Xavier: Don’t say that enuh (you know), don’t let the Jamaicans hear that

Kristine: In terms of size, in terms of size okay. You could take up Jamaica and put in Yakutia and you wouldn’t see it, it’s so small and three million people live in Jamaica.

Xavier: Well that’s true, that is true. Our influences is far and wide and so. Listen, I’ve had so much fun with this conversation, I have tons of more questions I could ask and I have a couple more, let me ask a couple more.

Kristine: Sure, I’m free to talk to you as long as you want.

Xavier: what would you say was the biggest, biggest adjustment? I know you said you were prepared but what was the biggest adjustment you think you had to make when you got there?

Kristine: Mhmm

Xavier: The Winters, was it the winters? I don’t know if it was the Winters, preparing for the Winter I don’t know?

Kristine: that’s a great question, wow I don’t know. Actually…

Xavier: I’ll be honest with you, you sound like you are well-adjusted okay. The only reason I asked that question is because I’m like, man it sound like they took this Jamaican out of Jamaica and drop her there in Russia and she’s it’s almost like I’ve been here, this is it. And that is why I’m like is there anything that you had to adjust to? It doesn’t sound like it.

Kristine: Well, perhaps the language, perhaps the language is really the only adjustment I had to make. But the truth is when I came here when I just arrived in Yakutia, in Yakutsk in the major city of the region. I thought okay it’s a city, really it’s a big town it’s not really a huge metropolis but I’m like okay, it’s okay. But I fell in love with Yakutia before too long before long. I think it’s the environment when I say the environment I mean the actual nature of the place it’s stunning, it’s beautiful. I mean in every season. In winter it has it stark beauty which is my favourite right. But in summer it’s just as beautiful. I go on camping trips, I go on hiking trips, I go all over the place and it’s amazing. The wealth of nature here it’s amazing. That’s one of the reasons why I love it. The second reason is because of the people honestly.

Xavier: and it sounds like you have developed a circle of friends really quickly there. Is it people you work with and I didn’t even ask what you do, I really didn’t ask what you do. I think it’s teaching but or it may be the NGO but it sounds like you’ve developed a circle of friends there that you know you have a good support system.

Kristine: I do, I have developed…a few of my friends are also expatriates, people I met here right. So I have a couple of friends from South Africa, they are not black by the way. Everybody from South Africa is not black. People think that if you’re from Africa you’re black. Remind me to tell you a story about that when I’m finished. I have a couple of friends from South Africa, England, from other places and I have Yakutian friends. Friends who are Sakha from this region. People who…for example here Christmas, December 25th is not a holiday because we go by the Russian Orthodox calendar. New Year’s it’s like Christmas right. So where as we would spend December 25th with our family, December 30th is family time here; it’s the family holiday here. The people who I know and the people who are my friends from the first year I was here, they said you know what come over to my house for New Year’s. They could have just said ”oh you know Happy New Year whatever” and I mean I’m a solo female traveller, I’m used to been on my own I’m fine.

Xavier: Right.

Kristine: But they invite me into their houses, into their families. Last summer because it was all the whole world was locked down and so were we. My friend she was going to the…okay I’m about to use a term that will sound weird it’s called a Dacha. It’s like summer home, country home.

Xavier: Okay.

Kristine: and she and her family were going there, she’s like ”Kris come on we’re going to the Dacha, come let’s all go to the Dacha” and it’s like rustic but it’s just beautiful time just with their family and it’s just amazing. Yeah I have a great circle of frends here. My circle is small, after I left my previous life I shed a whole lot; I shed stuff and I shed people.

Xavier: You have to do that sometimes, sometimes you have to do that.

Kristine: Yeah without regret, I shed stuff and I shed people and I am now very selective about the people who are close to me and I have the best people close to me, the best. People from here but also people…like my best friend she’s American, I met her in Indonesia and she lives in Denver right. I have an international circle of love and support.

Xavier: Amazing, amazing. So I’m going to wind it down because you and I may even take this conversation aside but I got to wind it down. But here’s a question I have for you and I know you’re well adjusted. You land in Jamaica, you get off the plane what is the first thing you’re going to guh (go) get to either eat or the first thing you’re going to do, what is it?

Kristine: The first thing that happens is oh my gosh I’m so hot, okay that’s the first thing, I’m so hot, I’m so hot. The second thing; patty. Stop on the way home at a Juici Patty or a Tastee Patty and get a patty.

Xavier: Alright.

Kristine: Usually I’m hungry and because a patty is a patty, yuh guh (you’re going to) eat a patty, but a patty.

Xavier: Alright, alright that’s fair.

Kristine: A patty and a danish.

Xavier: Patty and a danish. I know when I’m coming to and I’m going to mess the name up again; the city’s name. Ya-ku…

Kristine: Ya-kutsk

Xavier: Ya-kutsk

Kristine: Close enough

Xavier: Whenever I get to Yakutsk, I’m going to make sure we have the frozen patties ready for you.

Kristine: Okay, you know what and I’ll make sure that I have the frozen raw fish and the frozen raw horse.

Xavier: I’m only for that one.

Kristine: and we are going to have eat some Bambi?

Xavier: Some Bambi?

Kristine: Bambi is yummy

Xavier: No, I don’t know about the Bambi part of it.

Kristine: It’s so good, it’s delicious, really is.

Xavier: Here is how I typically end and listen Kristine thank you, thank you for sharing your story, just a lot of information, just a lot. I mean just really great we almost spent an hour here, I typically go about 25 minutes and this was just a really good conversation here.

Kristine: It’s because I talk a lot.

Xavier: I talk a lot too, but I usually end this way. I ask my guests to teach me and I already messed up the city’s name already Yaka… I won’t try it. But, how do you say bye-bye, the most informal way of saying bye bye in Russian or in that particular region?

Russia Building

Kristine: There is a language here, called Sakha language. I don’t know it, I know one word in Sakha which is maxtal which means thank you. So that little extent of my Sakha language, but in Russian formally I would say goodbye Dasvidaniya.

Xavier: Okay.

Kristine: But because you and I are friends now I would say, ‘Paka’.

Xavier: What was that?

Kristine: Paka

Xavier: Paka

Kristine: Paka

Xavier: Okay. Kristine, Paka.

Kristine: Paka, Xavier.

Photos  – Deposit Photos