Sunday, August 21, 2005

Chelyabinsk shopping observations

We went to Chelyabinsk shopping today. Nice experience. First thing I will say is that you can smell some air pollution, but it is worse in or near the streets (vehicular pollution). This is one reason why the town smelled to me when I first passed through. When you're driving through town you are always on the street. The air is still not pristine though. On returning to the camp the difference is noticeable to me - although I will admit I think I am sensitive to this.

The city itself is pretty in spots. It doesn't look poor, but it is not in the best of repair either. It seems far more rural than a city of 1 million people would in the US or Canada. In this regard it fits the pattern I have seen here. The affluence is still too new to have acquired the automobile flavor of other cities of the same size in other first world countries. The city fits the pattern of economic growth and activity I saw in Moscow, although slightly more subdued. The economy wasn't just Moscow.

On returning to Chumlak I again notice more details, and the town seems less 3rd world than unindustrialized European. I can see large brick buildings that appear abandoned or disused. They have a similar appearance to farm structures I've seen in the US. I wonder if they were farm structures not so long ago. This would fit with appearances to me. Although I could really be off on this, a scenario where this village is on the upswing, but went through some bad times recently would fit to my way of looking. It could have been that there was a larger farm operation here in the Soviet era, but at some point it shut down. Now changes have grown into place a little, and the economy is swinging up. Everywhere I've been things seem like that. I don't see desperation - not riches either, but not rags.

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