Sunday, May 6, 2007

The Town of Lazo (April 18)

After spending my first day chatting and consulting away in the zapovednik headquarters, I decided to take a little walk around the town of Lazo, which has a population of about 3000 people. All the zapovednik staff live here. The Russian countryside towns I have been to in the past have been a lot smaller. So I discovered that you cannot actually walk around an entire town of 3000 people in 2 hours, the amount of daylight I had left at the end of my day! But it was really nice to see Lazo and breathe some fresh air. Almost all of the town is paved, and many of the residents are government officials, since Lazo is the district capital for the Lazovsky district. Lazo is surrounded by hills about 500 m high, many of which still had snow on them. It is so nice to walk around Russian towns like this in the evening – even the smells are familiar. (Hello, wood and leaf burning! But somehow, in the country and in the fresh air this is almost comforting.) Lazo has a lot of one-story old wooden houses, as well as some 4-story Soviet-style apartment complexes. Unlike many of the (much smaller) villages I’ve been to in Siberia, Lazo did not have any cows wandering the street. In fact, there used to be 10,000 head of cattle in the Lazo area, but today there are less than 900, and there are surprisingly not that many vegetable gardens, livestock, etc. in Lazo – I’m not sure if this is a sign of generally more challenging agricultural conditions in the Far East, or what is the reason. Thus although you expect that people in the countryside would always be eating some kind of fresh, homemade food, that’s not the case in Lazo, where people apparently buy a lot of conserved and packaged stuff.

If Lazo doesn’t have cows on the streets though, it makes up for it with dogs! There might be as many dogs in Lazo as people (ok, not really) – and they have some fierce barks. They are made up for by the general friendliness of kids in the country, though, almost all of whom will say “hello” to a new and unknown face on the street.

Pictures: 1. Lazo and hills in the background; 2. A tree in Lazo with a parasitic mistletoe species attached (those are the things that look like spheres of leaves) – I’ve noticed a number of trees with this parasite; 3. A house in Lazo.

No comments: