kball11 December 31st, 2009
First thing’s first: Aren’t we all amazed at my ability to post a blog two weeks after I said I would? Oops. Turns out being back in the US combined with a good bit of my extended family being at my house was a little more overwhelming than I thought it would be. Writing this two weeks later actually turns out to be a bit better, as I now have a little bit of perspective on reverse culture shock (pretty sure a blog two weeks earlier would have just focused on how jet-lagged I was and that I kept getting up at 5 am).
The bus ride to the airport was…. eventful. We left Vladimir between 4:30 am and 5:00 am in the morning (don’t ask me, that’s too early for me to function) in about -30 degrees Celsius. In a bus with a mediocre heating system at best. It was cold. Very cold.
In our almost 5 hour journey to Moscow, we had one pit stop. What did our teachers do in this -30 weather? They bought ice cream. I’m still trying to recover from the shock of that one….
The most interesting part of our journey to the airport; however, was getting the bus to the airport itself. The drop-off zone for this airport was not the most organized I’ve seen in my life, on top of very pushy traffic. The bus had to go through a gate with a mechanical arm in order to get that parking ticket that they give out at every airport. Our bus driver decides to go through the gate to the far right…. Immediately before the road veered sharply left (not a turn I could envision our bus doing comfortably in even the most ideal of circumstances). And of course, there is a car parked, sans driver, right in our way.
So our bus driver manages to pull the bus forward only about halfway through the gate and begins to lay on the horn…. To no avail. All the while the mechanical arm, desperate to do it’s job, keeps hitting the roof of the bus as it’s trying to go down. After a few moments, our bus driver exits the bus to go hail a policeman (who has been watching the escapade from a distance). Keep in mind it’s -30 plus windchill, this man is BUNDLED UP. The policeman walks over to the obstructing vehicle, looks at it… And that’s it. He continues to look, to the left, to the right behind him… As if this would magically fix the problem and appease both our bus driver and the line of angry traffic stuck behind our bus.
Finally the owner of the offending vehicle comes running out and quickly drives away before anyone can do anything about his parking offense. Our slightly appeased driver maneuvers the bus so we are now parallel to the airport, but decides that pulling up along the curb to drop us off would be all to easy. So he decides to pull a u-turn in order to drop us off on the other side of the street. So we can lug our stuff across eight lanes of already irritated Moscow traffic.
In order to do this; however, our bus driver had to pull the bus through a rather tight hole in the barrier separating the directions of traffic. Ever the go-getter, he proceeds to pull the bus across FOUR LANES of angry traffic, only to realize he can’t quite pull the bus through the barrier. So, he puts the bus in park, exits the bus, makes an angry gesture at the four lanes of honking traffic he has blocked and proceeds to move the barrier himself. Having satisfied himself that there is now enough room for the bus to pass through, he makes more gestures at the traffic, gets back on, and drives through, the entire time muttering, “I hate the airport… I HATE the airport.” Does he move the barrier back once we’re parked? No.
Other than that, our journey home was relatively uneventful (nothing like 42 hours of travel to make you appreciate being home in sweet, sweet California).
I had initially thought that being home wouldn’t be a challenge at all, but the first week especially was pretty tough. Not that it’s a surprise, but I’m still amazed at the amount we consume. My first day here my father took me to the local drugstore, I found my feet firmly glued to the entrance as I just stared at everything. Did you know, in this small drugstore, there were thirty varieties of dish soap? Four different colors, different flavors, grease-cutting, moisturizing…. All this for dish soap? Wow. That being said, I do enjoy having variety back in my life.
I’m finding that I’ve become very pushy on the street (I think it dawned on me at the museum the other day when I found myself trying to navigate through a group of sugar-happy six year olds). People here are also so much friendlier on the street, I’ve had random strangers say Merry Christmas (that may just be my strange town)!
All in all, I am very happy to go home, but I wouldn’t trade that semester for the world. That being said, if you were to offer me a plane ticket back to Russia, I wouldn’t just jump at the opportunity, I’d probably have to think about it for a little bit. And don’t worry Russia, I’ll be back.
I hope you all are enjoying the holidays, and Happy Almost New Year!
We will close to a small tribute to my dear, dear Vladimir….