Sunday, September 23, 2012

Я в Москве!

I'm in Moscow!

After many stressful hours of travel, it feels so nice to relax in my little home stay before classes begin tomorrow.

Traveling to Russia is a very controlled operation with document checkpoints at every point on the journey.  The Stanford Bing Overseas Studies Program helped us apply for our visas during the Spring Quarter of last year, so I thought that I had all my paperwork correct.  I had a passport, a visa, and a non-stop, roundtrip flight.  I was all set!  Or so I thought.

When I went to check in for my flight, however, the woman behind the counter would not let me through.

"Your visa expires before your date of return," she said, "I can't let you through unless you change the date of your flight back to the United States."

My heart started to thud very loudly in my chest.  Weren't my documents correct?  How could this happen?!

Frantically, I called my program director in Moscow.  He explained to me, my family, and the woman behind the desk that because I am staying for three months, my visa will be changed to a student visa upon arrival. This one was only temporary.  Yet, the woman behind the front desk was adamant.  She would not let me through unless I changed the date of my flight back to the United States.  At this point, it was nearing 2:00 and I needed to get through security.  So, we were forced to change my return flight to a random day in October.  Of course, we will now have to change it back to December.  The whole ordeal was quite frustrating and provided me with a great deal of adrenaline coursing through my already nerve-wracked body.

After yet another document check-point, I settled into the waiting area for the flight.  We boarded on time, but varying wind patterns prevented us from departing until nearly an hour and a half off schedule.  Once we finally got off the ground, the flight went well.  It was nearly ten hours, but I really only remember three of those ten.  Since I knew I wanted to sleep, I brought ZzzQuil, which is NyQuil but without the cold medicine.  It worked wonders!  Я спала как убитый.

When I woke up, we were an hour outside of Moscow!  For the last hour, I zombie-moded in my seat, which basically means I sat there and watched the little airplane icon on our flight tracker approach the dot on the map that represented our destination.  I should have studied my Russian.

After we landed, Stephanie and I passed through another document checkpoint, gathered our luggage, went through customs, and met our driver from the BOSP program.  There is no better way to describe our greeter than with one word: Russian.  (I realized how terribly stereotypical this is).  He was short, thick, and puffing on a cigarette the moment we walked outside.

View from my window on a rainy day.
Our first stop was Stephanie's.  I waited outside while our greeter (I still cannot pronounce his name) and Stephanie lugged her bags up the staircase.  It was a dreary day.  The forecast was calling for afternoon showers.  Moscow isn't cold yet, but it is further into autumn than the east coast of the United States.

After getting Stephanie situated, we left for my home stay.  Moscow is expansive, but surprisingly empty.  I expected the streets to be jammed like those of New York and to see swarms of pedestrians on every sidewalk.  It is Russia's largest city after all.  As we drove along, however, I saw only a handful of people out and about.  Maybe it is because Moscow itself is so large, the Metro system is so widely used, or because it is a Sunday afternoon.

Then, the phone rang.

"Алло?"  It was Stephanie's host mom.  Apparently, the home stay we dropped Stephanie off at was actually my home stay!  Ой!  We made a quick U-turn.  I was fearing for my life a few times during the drive from the airport and this was one of them.  Who knew that there could be space for a Mitsubishi in between two trucks and a merging bus?

We arrived back at the apartment complex where I tried to explain to our flustered greeter that the mix up was смешной.  I doubt he understood my horrendous attempt at the Russian language.

I met my host mom, Nina, in the stairwell as the greeter and I hauled my bags upstairs.

"Здравствуйте!"  I exclaimed, slightly out of breath, "Меня зовут Александра."

She smiled, said something I didn't understand, and showed me into her дом.

My room


  1. I have a feeling that your blog is going to be one of my favorites!! I can't wait to read about your views of Russia as someone who wasn't born there and isn't used to the different traditions.

    Aren't the drivers there CRAZY?? I have no idea how the drivers fit through all those tight spaces without getting into 242351232 accidents daily.

    -Irina @ Chocolatea Time

  2. Hi! Just found your blog through a comment on Meals and Miles and had to click over. I studied abroad in Rome way back in 2006 and love hearing about other cultures.

    I haven't read all your posts but I hope the flight got figured out! I had to do that with my VISA when I studied abroad but they were not strict about the flight. Geesh!

    - kilax (