Unless milling about and smoking is part of their job description, some Russian laborers have perfected the art of taking breaks. I passed one such troupe recently; a half-dozen road workers honing their resting skills with pensive draws on inexpensive cigarettes while squatting in the shade and staring indifferently at the occasional car or truck that passed.
This was the Ternei County roads crew, and they were out fixing potholes. I was one of four people in a pickup truck headed north to the village of Ternei, with tiger biologist Dale Miquelle behind the wheel, and this section of road was a patchwork of unpredictably-located and sometimes unavoidable pits. These ruts were waiting to be filled with shovelfuls of hot asphalt and pressed flat by a steamroller, but in the interim they were being filled instead by inattentive drivers who plowed their vehicles into the depths of these yawning chasms.