"Mickey Mooouuse Miiiickey Mooouuse" ... Bam! Bam!... Sasha Alexander stares at a rug nailed to the wall. He is looking for any kind of movement, waiting to attack. Meanwhile, on the other side of the small inspector's cabin, a Russian military drama plays on the television, which David and I are watching, void of distraction. Explosions and gunfire battle against Sasha's attempts to exterminate the little critter. Bam! Whack! Bam! "Ha! I got you!" He did not, until a few nights later when we were doing pretty much the same exact thing. But this time, instead of watching a Russian military drama, it was a bootleg copy of American Gangster with Russell Crowe and Denzel Washington… dubbed in Russian.
Our time in Udege Legend was not the most productive time. We were told that we would have work, and to us this meant enough work to justify traveling half way across the world. All in all we spent 21 days in the park, but amounting to maybe 8 hrs of work. I do not want to sound ungrateful for the opportunity and the park's initial attempt. We were their first volunteers. And the main reason we were not given too much responsibility was for our own safety. We were treated very well in the small town of Roschino. We met a lot of the community and eventually gained some celebrity status once the knowledge of our existence became known to a group of high school students, who visited the park. We held a chunk of heavy space rock, from a meteorite, that landed in Primorski Krai in 1947. We were guests in many homes. And twice we were special guests in the local primary school. We had the privilege to hear the school's choir and watch a group of Cossack students perform a traditional song, complete with sword twirling and whips. The second time, to sit in and help a 9th grade English class and to join a 7th grade fitness class where Dave ripped his pants and I nearly threw up after they force fed us before heading to a heated volleyball game.
At times the hospitality and generosity felt undeserved, considering the small amount of work we did. But now I know that our effort in traveling half way across the world, to visit this beautiful place, was enough for the community to want and take us in. We were guests, many times, in many homes, for tea and dinner.
The park staff of Udege Legend National Park were very helpful and protective of us. When we mentioned that we would like to travel to the coastal town of Terney, they not only arranged the six hour ride over the snow crested mountains but they also contacted the Sikhote-Alin Zapovednik (Strict Wildlife Reserve) in Terney, where we are now volunteers.