Back in Russia

Posted: September 4, 2016 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,

I arrived in Moscow on Friday afternoon Moscow time, early morning Friday New York time. I’m still loyal to Aeroflot, but the experience was slightly more Soviet this time around. Unfortunately Aeroflot got rid of their second free checked back from NY-Moscow. I couldn’t buy the bag ahead of time either. So I made it to the check in line and they printed my ticket, but then they held my ticket and passport captive until I went around the corner and paid for the bag at a different desk. I had to take a coupon to that desk, which was written on, and I was given another receipt. I had to give both of these items to the check in desk woman to get my boarding pass. Security was its usual joy, but it wasn’t bad.

The plane was supposed to board at 6:30, but the plane didn’t show up to the gate until 6:25. They then eventually made an announcement that we would board at 7:30, despite the fact that the Russians had all mobbed the gate in line starting at 6:30 or so. I waited in line for roughly 90 minutes before I got to board closer to 8:00. By the time we took off, it was just shy of 10:00PM.

Aeroflot was its typical joy. We were taxiing and people were still standing and arranging baggage and no one cared. The safety video was also played at a low volume without any attention having been given to it. There were no crew demonstrations of how to inflate life jackets or use seat belts, and none of them stood in the aisles to direct us to our nearest exits.

I don't know how, but the Russian woman next to me got a pickle in her cup.

I don’t know how, but the Russian woman next to me got a pickle in her cup.

I’m not sure if it was caused by the delay, but when we arrived in Moscow, we didn’t get a jetway. Instead, we taxied almost to Terminal F, had to disembark with stairs, and then take a bus to Terminal D to clear customs and get our bags.

As usual, I took AeroExpress into the center of the city. I sat next to a man of about 50 who was taking some sort of exam on paper about hazardous materials. He also happened to have a copy of them exam on his iPad with the answers already filled in. By taking the exam, I mean he was copying the answers from his iPad. That made me feel safe.

Safety first!

Safety first!

From Belorussky Station I took a cab to the dormitory at RGGU. I was let through the main door to the 4th building, which houses the office for the dorms. I registered quickly with the woman there, and was placed in a decent room on the 9th floor of the 4th building. Unfortunately the International Office was closed by 4:00PM when I arrived, and I have to wait until Monday after 11:00AM to start the registration process with the Federal Migration Service as well as get letters of introduction for the archives and things like a university ID and electronic card to get into the dorm without ringing the buzzer every time. Clearly I am very distraught that I will not be able to register at the archives on Monday, and that I might even have to wait as long as Wednesday.

My accommodations are ok. I’m on the 9th floor of the 4th building, which is a different one than the last time that I stayed at RGGU. The level of accommodation is roughly the same as last time, except that I have a sink to myself and one that is shared with the room next door. Like last time, there is one kitchen for the floor and two showers and toilets at the other end of the hall. I’m directly across from the kitchen, which is convenient but also a little noisy. So far I’ve met three of my neighbors, who are all international students at RGGU. One is from Bosnia, one’s from Germany, and the last one’s from Slovakia. They’re friendly and insist on speaking Russian in the dorm, which is good I guess as I’ve regressed from speaking like a three year old to a two year old. Actually, lies, Russian two year olds probably know how to use verbs of motion.

60% of my majestic spread in the dorm.

60% of my majestic spread in the dorm.

After settling into my room I ventured out to the shopping mall place a block or so from the dorm next to the metro stop. The inside of the mall is the same and the grocery store is still there. However, the underground crossing used to come up inside a different building with tons of kiosks, which has recently been torn down. Thus I am without the quick Teremok stand on the street as well as the place where I got my sim card the last time.

I spent yesterday doing a few more tasks related to getting set up in my room, like buying a water filter and electric tea kettle, as well as meeting up with a few people from Ulyanovsk. A former student of mine, Julia, flew from New York to Moscow the day after me and we met briefly in the Kazan Train Station. She gave me the tip on the best phone provider. MegaFon has a good deal for 5GB of data plus unlimited texting in Moscow for about $7.50 a month. As the data is cheap, I use WhatsApp to contact my friends in Ulyanovsk, and that’s cheaper for them to contact me as well.

In the evening, I met my friend Inna who used to work at the International Office of the university in Ulyanovsk. We went out for drinks with her friend from Ulyanovsk who also lives in Moscow. We mostly caught up, but the conversation turned to politics briefly, as usual. I was asked about the election. They knew the name Trump but couldn’t remember Clinton’s name. “Who’s the other one? Hilton?” And so begins another year of what I am sure will be amazing adventures in Mother Russia.

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