Sunday, July 12, 2009

Poetry Train Monday - 109 - We Keep Watch

Once upon a time - 25 years ago, in fact - the first Tall Ships festival arrived in my city of Halifax, Nova Scotia. The year was 1984, I was 19 years old and my sister was 16.

We were both already attracted to Russia before we strolled down with the hordes to gaze in awe at the forest of masts that transformed our port into a time warp. So it was thrilling to walk towards the star of the festival, the largest ship whose home port was Tallinn in Estonia, which in 1984 was still a part of the Soviet Union.

Thus began one of the most magical, incredible chapters of my life (and more so for my sister.)

Because the Iron Curtain was still solidly in place, public access to the Kruzenshtern was highly controlled by Soviet authorities. Whereas the crews of the other ships were free to roam all over the city according to their ships' shore leave policy, the crew of the Kruzenshtern only set foot on dry land in supervised groups, and that was mainly to take part in a walking parade, one stroll around the downtown area, and one dance at the Metro Center.

My sister and I made sure we were with them for every one of these - because on that first night we stood and talked to the incredibly charming and insanely handsome sailor standing at the foot of the gangplank for the evening.

His name was Rashid Kamalov.

L to R: Rashid, my sister Michelle and Vitaly

It may have taken more than a moment. I'm not sure. But my sister and Rashid connected immediately. Their romance was very short-lived, because political reality made it nearly impossible to pursue. But I can assure you they tried.

For today's Poetry Train Monday, as an elaborate piece of blank verse/found poetry, I have transcribed a conversation I tape recorded while we were chatting on deck with Rashid and his friend, Yuri Bondaryenko. Yuri is referred to as Yura in the same way as a Robert would be called Bobby.

This conversation took place during our second chunk of time together. After sailing out of Halifax, the Tall Ships visited ports along the St. Lawrence and into the Great Lakes, including Montreal and Toronto. Before crossing the Atlantic to France, the Tall Ships visited Sydney, Nova Scotia. Nothing would keep Michelle away from Rashid, so we drove up there with a friend of mine and stayed at her aunt's, and for the final few days, at a camp ground when my friend had to return to work.

What an impossibly joyous reunion it was. The whole ship knew about us and welcomed us with incredibly sweet hospitality. Yuri and I knew without saying anything at all that we would both do everything in our power to make sure Michelle and Rashid could spend every second possible with each other.

Here is part of that magical time we shared.

L to R: Yuri, Rashid and Michelle

We Keep Watch

Michelle - That's from the Canada Maritime (a ship in the festival.)

Yuri - Oh!

Rashid - (translating for Yuri into Russian)

Julia - We were on it.

Michelle - Listen, listen. Look at this. This says Michelle - I am now a member of their crew.

Yuri - Canada Maritime!

Rashid - (translating)

Michelle - I spoke to...

Yuri - Yeah?

Michelle - Tomorrow.

Yuri - (in Russian, indicating 'this?')

Michelle - Yes. I need this to walk on the dock. To see you off. But! We will exchange them.

Yuri - Mmm!

Michelle - I asked him...Pete, from Canada Maritime to take me here. He says, 'Wait!' He gave me a pass!

Yuri - (laughter)

Michelle - I said 'Thank you, thank you, thank you!' He asked me, do I want to come to Liverpool? On the Canada Maritime. I said yes. But he said 'You have to share my bunk.'

Rashid - (laughter)

Michelle - I said, 'What?!? No way, baby.'

Yuri - Give me please, ah, dictionary.

Julia - Do you have it?

Michelle - Hey, are those...?

Julia - Oh! It's in the car. Yeah. Yeah. I left it with your address.

Rashid - Michelle, Michelle. I want...give you...cigarettes. Okay?

Michelle - For Vicky. My friend Vicky.

Rashid - For Vicky (translates into Russian) Okay? Now.

Yuri - (in Russian, disapproves) Very strong. No...for girls.

Rashid - Very strong! (laughs)

Yuri - For men!

Julia - (laughs) No!

Rashid - Okay...yes?

Yuri - Very strong.

Julia - Not this girl.

Yuri - Oh. I see. I don't know. For men. For seamen, for seamen. In the ocean. (makes coughing noise)

Michelle - Yura, Julia and I think you are very funny.

Julia - Ha, ha, ha!

Michelle - Ha, ha! Funny! Yura, you are our very good friend.

Yuri - (laughs) Okay. You are, too.

Julia - We spoke with Pete, from Canada Maritime.

Yuri - Yeah?

Julia - About you going on. He said the captain of the Kruzenshtern...

(Michelle & Julia laugh at the look on Yuri's face)

(Rashid returns with two packs of Russian cigarettes)

Michelle - My God. Two. She...Vicky will be very happy.

Yuri - Ah...?

Julia - He said, ah, he asked the captain. It's too late.

Yuri - Our?

Julia - Yeah.

(Yuri tries to light a cigarette but the match goes out)

Yuri - Wind.

Michelle - (sees that the recorder is on) Hey, Jule...this is...

Julia - Yeah. I know.

(Michelle & Julia giggle)

Yuri - Record. Recorder. Yeah?

Julia - Yeah.

Michelle - Yeah.

Julia - That's okay, isn't it?

Yuri - Let'

Julia - Music?

Michelle - There's music down there.

Yuri - Yeah (but not caring for it)

Michelle - He doesn't like that music.

Julia - You want Michael Jackson.

Yuri - Oh! Do you have? Okay!

Rashid - (laughs)

Yuri - I keep Now, I. I keep watch in chart room.

Julia - Then what are you doing here?

Rashid - (laughs hard)

Michelle - Why are you here?

Rashid - (translates into Russian)

Yuri - Yeah, yeah, yeah...

Julia - I like this chart room.

Michelle - (laughs)

Rashid - (laughs) Very nice watch.

Julia - Lots of charts.

Michelle - Look at all those charts.

Yuri - Julia, where is umbrella? Is umbrella?

Michelle - Ah, we don't need it.

Julia - In the car.

Yuri - Ah...rain?

Michelle - It's not raining.

Yuri - (to Rashid, in Russian, then - ) If...rain? Go?

Julia - Then, we'll get wet.

Yuri - (amused noise) Okay.

(Yuri & Rashid speak in Russian)

Julia - When the sun was going down, all the clouds went away.

Michelle - Your officers. Watch.

Yuri - Okay. Come.

(more sailors approach - Yuri & Rashid giggle)

Julia - Wow. More apples!

Michelle - Thank you. Spasiba! (Russian for 'thank you')

Rashid - (delighted laugh)

Yuri - Without action. Spaciba. She say without action, spaciba.

Rashid and Michelle

Rashid - You say spaciba very, very well.

Yuri - Repeat, please. Spaciba. In Russian.

Michelle - Spaciba.

Yuri - Okay! (giggles)

Rashid - (admiring) Oh!

Julia - You mean I'm not supposed to say 'spaseeba'?

Yuri - Ah, ah, small, small action. 'Spaciba.'

Michelle & Julia - Spaciba.

Yuri - Ah...where is Michael Jackson?

Michelle - California.

Yuri - I see! I see!

Michelle & Julia - (laugh)

Julia - In the United States.

Yuri - Ah! In the United States! He the United States. Yeah.

Michelle - We're funny gals. Well guess what?

Julia - We asked Rashid what he watches up here. He goes, 'I don't know!'

Michelle & Julia - (giggle)

Rashid - I say, 'I look...our officers.'

Yuri - (laughs hard)

Julia - Yeah, you do this when you're at sea? Do you stand up here?

Yuri - Yeah, yeah, yeah. Ah...look out...

Rashid - But not...but not we. Our officers.

Michelle - They are training you to watch when you work on fisheries vessels. So even though there's nothing here to watch...

Rashid - Ah. No, no.

Michelle - have to stand here for four hours.

Rashid - Ah, stay, ah, at sea, ah, young cadets. From second course. We keep watch...We keep watch?

Yuri - We are keep watch, yeah?

Rashid - On bridge.

Julia - Oh.

Yuri - How...understand. 'We are keep watch' (Russian for 'or') 'we keep watch'.

Rashid - On chart, we work with chart.

Julia - Do you...?

Yuri - Nyet. 'We are keep watch', or...

Julia - Just 'we keep watch'.

Yuri - Ah. Okay.

Julia - Sometimes at my work for four hours (Julia's note: at that time, the candy and pastry department at Simpson's) not very many people come in. So, I eat candy...

Rashid - (laughs)

Julia - ...for four hours.

Rashid - (translates into Russian - Rashid & Yuri giggle) Oh! I see! (laughs)

(Yuri picks up a cassette tape that drops)

Michelle - Yura to the rescue.

Julia - Yura to the rescue. Yay!

Yuri - This is Michael Jackson?

Julia - We taped it from a record.

Michelle - (to the tape recorder mic) Okay. Sorry tape. Here we go.

Me and Yuri

I'll have more of our conversations on future Poetry Train Mondays.

The 2009 Tall Ships arrive in the port of Halifax starting Thursday, July 16th! The Kruzenshtern will be among them! My sister and I will be there - for old times' sake.

Ride the Poetry Train!

Stan Ski says A wonderful memory.

Michelle Johnson says Will Rashid and Yuri be on board this year you think?

Amy Ruttan says How romantic and they are very handsome.


Stan Ski said...

Thanks for sharing - a wonderful memory.

Michelle Johnson said...

How exciting you and your sister got to go aboard the Kruzenshtern and meet some sailors. Will Rashid and Yuri be on board this year you think? I sure hope so. I think it would be neat for Michelle to speak with Rashid again. I enjoyed this post today. Hope all is well.

gautami tripathy said...

Julia, this is wonderful. Thanks for letting us glimpse into a tiny bit of your memories.

the sky melts away from the earth

Louise said...

I wanted to ask the same: Will Yuri and Rashid be on the ship??? Very excited to hear more (and loved your conversation a lot. I was living a year in Washington DC in 1989, and also tape-recorded some conversations I had with my Danish girl friends over there, and this sort of reminded me of those tapes. LOL.)

Akelamalu said...

How lovely! :)

PS don't forget to come and collect. :)

Amy Ruttan said...

How romantic and they are very handsome.

Julia Smith said...

Stan - Thanks for sharing it with me.

Michelle - Exciting doesn't begin to describe what happened to us. You have to remember how it was before the Iron Curtain came down. The authorities aboard ship tried to make it impossible for the sailors to fraternize with foreigners - yet circumstance after circumstance just materialized to enable us to spend time together. We kept saying 'This is like a movie. This is like a movie.' Ultimately, a five-hankie-weepie, but still - just exactly like a movie.

Rashid and Yuri were students at a marine college - that's where the crew for the Kruzenshtern comes from. I highly doubt they would be aboard this time. Unless it keeps being like a movie, and they're on the regular crew somehow.

Gautami - Having the Kruzenshtern return to Halifax was the nudge I needed to tell the story.

Louise - Aren't you glad you taped your friends? I just wished I would have taped hours and hours of them.

Akelamalu - Heading right over...

Amy - It's the most romantic thing that ever happened to us or likely ever will. It was so romantic, the whole ship's crew fell under its spell! And as for handsome...did they scour all of Russia for the most handsome young men to go on that ship? I think maybe they did...

Travis said...

I hope we get to see some tall ships during Seafair this year.

Linda Jacobs said...

Such a nice romantic story!

M. said...

I'm sad I've never had the opportunity to see the tall ships...

Dorte H said...

Hi Julia.

I just wanted to tell you that I have posted my 6 things meme. I really enjoyed doing this one.

Thomma Lyn said...

What a delight, Julia! Thanks for sharing this. :)

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

Wow. If I'd so much as *thought* about something like this ill-fated romance, I'd have been slapped down and told to forget it.

I think every girl needs to have an experience like this. And what a cool memory to associate with something as cool as tall ships!