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Mongol Rally, Day 11: Photo etiquette in Russia? Who knew?

July 24, 2012
(Leon Logothetis )

The trouble with using experience as a guide is that the final exam often comes first and then the lesson.

--Author unknown

Have you ever been menaced by Russian Gypsy women? No? The same can’t be said of me, I am afraid.

One encounters all sorts of interesting folks on the Mongol Rally, the 10,000-mile road trip that my co-driver, Steve Priovolos, and I have undertaken. We left July 14 from Britain; we hope to make it to Ulan Bator, Mongolia, in about five weeks. In doing so, we will, we hope, be able to donate one book (to FirstBook.org) for every mile we travel; if we make 10,000 miles--and we are determined to do so--we donate 10,000 books that to go underprivileged children.

A few hours after we crossed into Russia from Ukraine on Tuesday, I stopped at a crossing as the train screeched by. Three women started harassing people for money. When it was my turn, I was polite and told them I had no money. Eventually they got the message and left me alone.

As they went to a car in front of me I made the fateful mistake of taking a picture of them. Steve  tried to warn me of the perils of clandestine picture-taking. My first mistake was to ignore him. My second mistake was not to shut the window when they saw me. They swarmed around the car and started screaming. I couldn’t understand a word, but I could understand they were agitated.

One of them tried to grab my iPhone (which I had used to take the picture), and the other tried to take the keys out of the ignition. My only option seemed to be to give them something to calm them down; 200 rubles, about $6, seemed to do the trick. They left me alone but continued to speak harshly to me. I'd venture a guess and say they were swearing, but that's just a guess.

With the Gypsy fight in my rear view mirror we continued our journey through Russia. On Wednesday we will be driving to the Kazakhstan border. Time flies when you’re being screamed at by Gypsies.

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