On the rains, we usually take coupe--a four person "room" on an overnight train. At first, not knowing the language, culture, etc... it was easier to fend of two other people as opposed to many more that you find in Platskart--a full carriage of beds with no divisions. We had received advice when we first got her that we had to try Platskart at least once. It was an experience. Recently, a few of our friends had taken Platskart pretty much across the country and spoke fairly favorably of it (as favorably as you can get about a noisy, bumpy, overnight ride). So, on our way to and from Khmelnytsky (where we worked in a fairly unsuccessful summer camp), we decided to try Platskart. It was well worth it not only for the presence of so many people--which makes getting away from one quite simple--but also for the kind people whom we met on the train.
On the platform, we walked the seeming mile length of the train toward our carriage. We showed the conductor our tickets and boarded. My seat was taken by a large woman and her small child. it was daytime, and I wasn't going to use the bed, so I didn't bother trying to sit in my exact seat--as the American in me is wont to do. I sat with Karen on her bed--which folded up in the middle to create a little, uncomfortable table. The carriage was half full, and we found ourselves sitting across from one of the only full berths on the train. there sat a family headed to Simferopol, in Crimea. After a few hours, the mother of the family discovered that we could speak Ukrainian and engaged us in a very pleasant conversation. We talked about the weather, the lack of farms in Ukraine (which was strange as, while we talked, we rolled past 18 billion farms), and some ukrainian literary figures. Normal and pleasant.
Pleasant because the woman didn't treat us like three year olds because we still can't navigate the genitive case.
Pleasant because she didn't treat us like a novelty because we were Americans who spoke Ukrainian and not Russian.
Pleasant because she treated us normally like we were normal people normally riding on a normal train.
Unfortunately, that's kind of rare. Usually, we feel like fish in a bowl. Googled at because we're American. Because we speak Ukrainian. Because we don't understand Russian. Because we're here at all.
But she treated us like normal people, and I thank her for that.