Posts Tagged ‘RGGU’

Back in Moscow

Posted: January 16, 2017 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , ,

A few hours ago I landed back in snowy Moscow. I spent roughly a month “home” for Christmas and New Years. I use the term “home” loosely as I wound up in Vermont, Cape Cod, Boston, New York City, Connecticut, Chile, and Argentina over the month. Most of my trips were to see family or friends, but the trip to Latin America was business oriented. I presented a paper at a conference in Chile, and wound up winning a best paper award for the conference.

The host university.

The host university in Chile.

The flight back to Russia was its usual fun routine. I’m currently stuck with a conundrum when it comes to flying abroad. I have Global Entry, which also gives me TSA Pre-Check, which means that I can go through expedited security lines that don’t require me to remove my shoes, laptop, or liquids. I also get to go through a regular metal detector instead of the millimeter wave scanners. However, this only applies to American carriers. Thus, my choice of poor fates is to either fly internationally on an American airline or to go through regular security in exchange for a better flight experience. For Russia, I don’t really have a choice. Delta now only flies seasonally between Moscow and New York, and for some strange reason, the season is not in the middle of the Russian winter. People who have read this blog before will also know that I despise flying on American airlines and love the Russian airline Aeroflot. I’ve had much better service on their New York-Moscow flights than on the same route with Delta.

Breakfast Aeroflot style: blini and herring salad.

Breakfast Aeroflot style: blini and herring salad.

Check-in at JFK this morning (yesterday?) was a breeze. The security line was frustratingly long, as usual, but I managed to avoid having to be patted down. Boarding was delayed by about half an hour because the plane was late to arrive from Moscow, probably due to de-icing. What was new this time was a bevy of security checks at the gate. I’m not sure if there is something about the particular flight and current Russian-American relations or if screening has just been amplified after the Florida airport attack earlier this month. First I had to present my passport for a visa check, which is normal to fly to Russia. Then, my passport was checked by a TSA agent. From there, I was asked to show the contents of my bag to a different TSA agent. Finally, while getting onto the jetway, I was asked to show my passport to an Air Marshall, who left me alone, but they were asking the Russians what they were carrying, specifically quantities of money.

The flight itself was uneventful. I had a window seat, which I strategically booked towards the back of the plane in a row in which the aisle had already been selected. Thankfully, the seat between myself and the man on the aisle remained empty, and I could stretch out during the flight. As usual, the best part of the flight was the people watching. There was a Chinese man in the row in front of me who likely has a gambling addiction as he spent the entire 9 hour flight playing a Texas Hold Em poker game on the in flight entertainment system. The guy who had the aisle seat in my row was also a bit of a character. He got on the plane and moved his bag from bin to bin every few minutes. I also noticed, during some of his luggage rearranging, that he had bought a bottle of Bacardi at Duty Free, which he had consumed about 1/3 of before boarding the plane. Thankfully he wasn’t a drunk mess, nor did he consume more during the flight. In total, we were about 90 minutes late due to the delayed boarding and waiting to taxi and take off. The second we touched the ground in Moscow, the guy in my row and some others stood up and started to remove their bags from the overhead bins. This prompted the flight attendants to get up to tell them to sit down. The men who were standing were angry and responded that they were 90 minutes late, which somehow justifies standing when they weren’t supposed to stand?

Immigration was fine, as usual, and we had to wait a while for our bags due to “technical reasons.” I hopped on the Aeroexpress Train, which boarded exactly a minute after I arrived at the platform and bought the ticket, thankfully. I then grabbed a taxi from the train station to the dorm. Due to the traffic and the crazy intersections and long lights around the station, I probably could have walked to the dorm in the time it took to drive, but I’m lazy after the flight and with my luggage.

Back in the land of snow.

Back in the land of snow.

I caught a break when coming back into the dorm. When I left, they took my electronic key card that gets me through the turnstiles at the security checkpoint in the building with street access. I have a student ID as well as a different paper ID that says that I live in the dormitory, but it’s a hassle to dig them out of my bags and talk to the guards about why I don’t have the electronic pass. Thankfully, the guard on duty when I arrived was Anatoly, who I have previously bribed with cigarettes. He said welcome back and opened the gate for me, and I walked right through and went to my dormitory building. The next fun step was getting my room key and keycard back. There was no one at the desk, and the administrator was not in her office. I just wandered down a corridor of offices near the laundry room and found the administrator in order for her to give me my stuff.

No, seriously, the land of snow. This was shortly after we began to taxi to the gate.

No, seriously, the land of snow. This was shortly after we began to taxi to the gate.

I quickly dropped my things in my room before heading to the main building to hand in my passport and migration card for the registration process and to pick up my letters of introduction to re-register at the archives.

The second I put my big bag down in my room, though, I began to slightly worry. I noticed that the lock was missing, a telltale sign that the TSA had inspected my bag. Whoever searched my bag must have thought I was a complete weirdo. My bag contained two pairs of pants, some sneakers, and a sweater. The rest of the bag was whiskey, chocolates, peanut butter, hot sauce, and a large bag of Splenda. In retrospect, having a bag containing white powders is probably a super sure way to get your bag searched at the airport. Thankfully, noting was removed, and perhaps the most important item remained, the Splenda. The woman who makes the letters of introduction for the archives has a diabetic mother. When I stopped by her officer every few weeks to check the mail for things from home, she mentioned how her relatives in the States send Splenda for her mother. Before leaving, I stopped by the office and asked if she wanted me to bring some Splenda before asking if I could email her the list of archives ahead of time to have the letters ready when I arrived. The promised bribe worked. Irina responded to my email in record time for RGGU and the letters were ready within 24 hours. I popped by her office and got the letters, and she very gladly received a large bag of Splenda from me. She was so happy to get it that she even hugged me.

I hit a new minor snag of sorts with the bureaucracy associated with the registration process. The visa office requires a photocopy of your passport, migration card, visa, and entry stamp to fill out the registration documents at the Federal Migration Service. Previously, I would walk into the office and they would do the copies then and there for me. Now, though, they want you to use a kiosk in the lobby of the building to do the photo copies. The copies themselves cost 7 rubles a sheet, or roughly $0.11. The problem is that the machine produces very low quality copies. I walked back up to the office with the copies, and the woman then just photocopied the necessary passport pages on the copier like she always used to. I don’t know why I was sent to throw money away in a low quality machine if she was going to make the copies again anyway, but this is an aspect of Russian bureaucracy that I’ve learned to ignore.

After taking care of this business, I went and bought food, showered, and napped. I feel human again and am more or less ready for five and a half more months in Russia. Tomorrow I’m off to re-register at some archives. Stay tuned for more adventures in Mother Russia, as well as some ex-Soviet republics. I have plans to travel quite a lot around my research this semester.

Advertisements

The rest of this past week has been filled with more bureaucratic nightmares. On Wednesday morning I returned to the international office at 11:00 AM to get my student ID and create the letters of invitation for the various archives. Unfortunately, the student ID was not ready as it hadn’t either been stamped or signed (or both?). Irina, the woman who works in the international office, then proceeded to draw up my archive letters from a list that I gave her. She made sure to double check the names of all of the archives, as they sometimes change, and sternly told me that it is now called the Russian State Library, and has been called such for a number of years, despite the fact that everyone colloquially still refers to it as the Lenin Library, or Leninka for short. Irina printed off my letters and led me down the hall to some office at the opposite end of the building, where someone would sign and stamp the letters. Not surprisingly, that person was not in her office and it was unknown when she would return for the day. Thus, Irina told me to come back the following morning to get my finalized letters and student ID.

Thankfully both my student ID and letters were indeed ready Thursday morning at 11:00, so I immediately set off for the State Archive of the Russian Federation (GARF), which also is the same reading room for the Russian State Archive of Economics (RGAE). Registering for these was once again an ordeal. First, I had to go to the pass office to get a temporary pass to get past security and into the reading room. To do this, I had to show my passport and letter of affiliation. Next, I took my temporary pass and passport to the police officer near the stairwell and was allowed up to the second floor to register. I went to the GARF window and saw that the same two people I dealt with two years ago are still there. There is an older woman of about 50 who scares me and a man of about 35, who is always very helpful. Thankfully I mostly spoke with the man. Registration for GARF is now completely on the computer. I filled out a standard form with information such as my university affiliation, research topic, and location of registration and residence in Moscow. This took an annoyingly long time as I had to type everything in Russian, and I don’t actually know the real Cyrillic keyboard. I stupidly learned the phonetic one, which causes massive issues in times like these where I’m forced to hunt and peck for the letters that I need.

After filling out the electronic registration, I went back to the GARF desk to get a pin number for the computer system. GARF has now transitioned to requesting documents electronically. I had to have the guy from the desk show me how to use this new system. However, not everything has been input into the system. I wanted to order some folders that I had seen two years ago, but only about half of them showed up. We then had a very interesting exchange in which he asked where I had found those numbers, to which I responded that I had read the folders there two years ago. He then shrugged, said they were probably partially secret, and then told me that I would have to order them on the old paper form. I also had to initial the print out of the electronically requested documents.

I then took my temporary pass from the GARF window to the RGAE window to register there. Once again, I basically filled out the same form on the computer. I was then given another pin code. Both GARF an RGAE will create long term passes that I can use to enter the archives. The woman at RGAE reminded me that I need to specify also at GARF that I will use my laptop in the archives, and there will be something like that written on my passes, which should be ready to get from the pass office on Monday. Unfortunately, the passes for GARF and RGAE are only good for calendar years, meaning that I will have to completely re-register with new letters of support from the university in January. Joy.

Just a sample of everything that I have to carry with me: passport, student ID, dorm pass, dorm registration, RGVA registration, and metro card.

Just a sample of everything that I have to carry with me: passport, student ID, dorm pass, dorm registration, RGVA registration, and metro card.

As I finished registering at GARF and RGAE early enough, I headed off to another part of the city to register at the Russian State Military Archive (RGVA). The travel itself is slightly complicated by the fact that the Frunzenskaya Metro stop, the one for GARF, is closed for renovations. Thus, to get to that archive, I take the circle line from my stop, Novoslobodskaya, to Park Kultury, where I would normally switch to the red line. Now I exit at Park Kultury and take a free bus to the Frunzenskaya stop. Thankfully these replacement buses seem to run almost as frequently as the metro itself. So leaving GARF, I took the bus back to Park Kultury and switched to the green line to go to the penultimate northern stop, Vodnii Stadion, for RGVA.

Registering at RGVA was its own series of ups and downs. For example, the pass office immediately generated a card for me that is good for an entire year, or until September 2017. The last time that I worked in the archive, I had to meet with the director and get his permission to research there. This time, that step was avoided and I was able to go directly to the reading room to register. Unlike GARF, the registration at RGVA is still done on paper. Additionally, I handed a blank sheet of printer paper as was told to copy a  form letter to the director to ask for permission to use my laptop in the reading room. After spending some time with the finding aide, I was given a series of opis guides in order to determine which folders to request. Annoyingly, at RGVA, I can only request five folders at a time. They also told me that my folders wouldn’t be ready until Wednesday, unlike GARF which said Monday. I foresee this as being a bit of a problem as the majority of the documents I need to research are in RGVA, so the limits and long waiting period might cause some issues and frustrations.

While leaving the archive, I had to return a mysterious call from a number that had called me twice while I was registering in GARF. I called the number and asked who called me, because I didn’t recognize the number, but the person on the other ended wanted to know who I was. I said I was Susan and it turned out to be Irina calling about the payment for the multi-entry visa. She told me that I should give the receipt to the visa office. I responded that I tried to give it to them on Monday, but that they told me to wait until I return from Ulyanovsk. Irina said that she heard otherwise, and that I was to hand in the receipt. I said that I would do it the next morning, when I went to pick up my Moscow registration from the passport office. Irina said that that was acceptable, and I headed back to the university to relax in the dormitory. While walking near the university campus, I was surprised on the street by Irina, who once again told me to hand in the visa receipt. I told her that it was 5:10, and that I was unlikely to find anyone in that office by that time of the evening, and that I would first have to get the receipt from my room. I told her again that I would hand it in Friday morning. She apologized and said she forgot and that that would be okay.

Friday morning I headed to the visa office at 11AM to get my registration. There was a man in the office who I hadn’t met before. He searched through the registrations and said that mine wasn’t ready yet, and to return at 2:00. We then had a quick discussion about the payment receipt for the multi-entry visa. I told him that I was originally told to hand it in when I return from Ulyanovsk, but that I was called the day before and asked to hand it in. He said that I shouldn’t have been called and to keep the receipt in a safe place because I should hand in the receipt with my photos, application for the multi-entry visa, and passport when I return. With that I left and returned again at 2:00 to finally acquire my Moscow registration.

Not everything here is a bureaucratic nightmare, though. I’ve managed to have some fun around my waiting. Without the ability to go to the archives as planned on Wednesday, I decided to do something for myself and headed off to Moscow’s celebrated Novodevichy Cemetery, where the likes of Yetlsin, Prokofiev, Gogol, and Mayakovsky are buried, among others. In Soviet times, this was the most important place to be buried after the Kremlin Wall Necropolis. While I made sure to see some of these important graves (some for the second time as I had been here in the winter of 2009/2010 on a Lafayette interim trip), the real purpose for my excursion was to visit my great-great-uncle’s grave. He, Ilya Selvinsky, was an important Soviet poet. I did not realize until a few days ago that he was buried in Novodevichy Cemetery. When I get back from Ulyanovsk, I will call his daughter Tatiana again, my grandmother’s cousin, and see if she is willing to meet with me.

The grave of Ilya Selvinsky in Moscow's Novodevichy Cemetry.

The grave of Ilya Selvinsky in Moscow’s Novodevichy Cemetry.

I’ve also begun to have some fun with the other foreigners in the dormitory. On Tuesday night I got back to the dormitory after strolling around the banks of the Moskva River with a friend named Masha. Earlier in the day I was in a bad mood because I had purchased two packages of salami, which were stolen from the communal fridge. I somewhat ranted about it on Facebook, and due to the goodness of social media, my downstairs Canadian neighbor informed me that she found a package of salami in her kitchen that did not belong to her or her neighbors. Thus, I was reunited with half of my food. Then, Friday night, I had a fun moment of cultural connections with the two Canadians on the eight floor. They said that it looked like there were bullet holes in the wall. Being an American, I should be able to tell them if they were indeed bullet holes.

I mean, it does look like someone fired at shotgun at this wall.

I mean, it does look like someone fired at shotgun at this wall.

I also noticed the frightening lack of fire safety on their floor. The end of my floor has some terrible chute/fire escape device. Their floor has a diagram for using some sort of block and pulley to repel off of the building in case of a fire. However, there was no sign of the block or pulley anywhere on the floor, though the anchor points are visible on the outside of the building.

The diagram shows what to do, but there is no explanation or indication anywhere on the floor if the tools to do this exist.

The diagram shows what to do, but there is no explanation or indication anywhere on the floor if the tools to do this exist.

 

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.

Vladimir

Posted: June 30, 2014 in Uncategorized
Tags: , ,

The last few days have included a series of adventures both in and outside of Moscow. Friday was my day to be pretentious. I went to my Dutch neighbor’s presentation on her work in the Russian State Socio-Political Archive (RGASPI). Her presentation to some department in RGGU was entirely in French. She was nice enough to invite me and I had fun listening to the discrepancies between what she said in French and how it was translated into Russian by one of the department members. The documents she had been looking at were in French that somehow magically wound their way to the Russian archive. Many of them happened to be letters declining invitations to dinners or balls or theatre programs.

After her presentation a few of the department members were confused by my presence and were surprised when I started to speak to them in Russian. At least I made one of them laugh when I responded with some extremely colloquial Russian. I did not say anything inappropriate. It was mostly how I said “dorm” instead of “dormitory” that made the woman laugh.

Leaving RGGU’s building off of Red Square, we headed to the Arbat to get a few souvenirs. The Arbat is the complete pedestrian tourist street. In addition to tons of souvenir stores, practically every restaurant on the street is an American chain. I counted two Dunkin Donuts, a Starbucks, a McDonald’s, a Wendy’s, and a Shake Shack. There were probably others that I tuned out.

I was completely surprised to see a Shake Shack on the Arbat.

I was completely surprised to see a Shake Shack on the Arbat.

Saturday’s adventure was going to the Kursk Train Station in an attempt to buy train tickets to the ancient Russian city of Vladimir, which is about 120 miles east of Moscow. I headed off to the train station to buy my ticket in person because the RZhD (the Russian railway) website refuses to accept foreign credit or debit cards. Matanja was nice enough to accompany me on my frustrating trip. On the main hall I asked where to buy tickets to Vladimir as different windows only service certain locations and types of trains (long distance or regional electric trains). The lady at the desk told me to go to the far part of the second floor. At the far part of the second floor I went to the window that said it sold tickets for express trains, but the woman at that window sent me to a different window. When I went to the next window the woman told me to go back to where I had started. Seeing no sense so this I quit and returned home. I texted my friend Emily who told me that the tickets for the express train that I wanted are sold in the main hall of the second floor. Why one of the women at the ticket windows couldn’t have told me that I will never understand.

Sunday morning I got up earlier than I would normally do on the weekend so that I could make it to the train station to buy my ticket in time for the 11AM express to Vladimir. Thankfully I managed to buy the ticket and had a comfortable ride. An hour and 45 minutes later I found myself in one of the former medieval capitals of Russia. The city has a few beautiful churches from the 12th century.

The Golden Gate. It has a golden dome at the top, but this is what you get when strangers take photos of you with landmarks.

The Golden Gate. It has a golden dome at the top, but this is what you get when strangers take photos of you with landmarks.

Unfortunately, that’s all that’s really in the city. My friend Emily showed me all of the main sights in the city pretty quickly. After that, we hopped on a bus for about twenty minutes to see a church on the outskirts of the city. We got off of the bus, crossed the railroad tracks, and then walked across a field for about ten or fifteen minutes. The walk through the field was pleasant and it was great to find the small old church located on a picturesque little pond.

The real Russia.

The real Russia.

While there may not have been a lot to do in Vladimir, I’m really happy that I got a chance to see the city. The train ride there and back was interesting and only cost about $25 roundtrip. It was very nice to leave Moscow, which really isn’t like the rest of Russia at all. I enjoy spending time in the extremely beautiful Russian countryside. Plus, the Russian historian in me enjoys exploring other sites important to Russian history even if I’m more interested in Soviet history than imperial.

Does your city have a 12th century church? Probably not.

Does your city have a 12th century church? Probably not.

I have arrived safely and without hassle in Moscow. The traveling itself went well. I made it to JFK in record time. I was driving quite conservatively but managed to go from our place in Connecticut to having parked outside the terminal in one hour and 3 minutes.

The fancy car computer doesn't lie.

The fancy car computer doesn’t lie.

Aside from a brief slowdown on the Whitestone and the usual mess that’s Jamaica, the ride was a breeze. My new rule for life is to only drive to the airport on Sundays. I was pleasantly surprised to see that they had finally fixed the baggage drop off at Terminal 1. When the conveyors were broken, you used to have to put your bag on the scale at the check-in counter. They would apply the luggage tag and then you would take your bag to a central screening and drop off point in the middle of the terminal. The security line was also practically non-existent. Also, either Aeroflot or Air France have changed their flight schedules. I have always left New York on the same flight, SU101, to be surrounded by hundreds of French people headed to DeGaul. This time around there were no flights to France on the board around the time that I checked in and the security line was almost non-existent. Duty free was fun as always as I found my entire flight crew stocking up on cigarettes and alcohol along with a few Lufthansa pilots. As usual, we were late to board and late to depart from JFK.

Our majestic A330 named after the engineer Kulibin.

Our majestic A330 named after the engineer Kulibin.

I love Aeroflot, but they’re becoming increasingly unfriendly to passengers who don’t speak Russian. Thankfully they finally found one Russian speaker to make announcements at the gate concerning boarding, but this meant that all of the important information about boarding was conducted in Russian. Similar information also happened with the in flight safety video, which had English subtitles, and certain announcements.

Very interesting review of the UAZ Patriot in the Aeroflot magazine. Good to see that a bit of Ulyanovsk already made it into my trip. My only gripe is that the license plate should say 73.

Very interesting review of the UAZ Patriot in the Aeroflot magazine. Good to see that a bit of Ulyanovsk already made it into my trip. My only gripe is that the license plate should say 73.

Can we please discuss the photo of the CEO of Aeroflot in the inflight magazine?

Can we please discuss the photo of the CEO of Aeroflot in the inflight magazine?

After the usual fun that is passport control and waiting for luggage, I crossed into the terminal where someone from the university was waiting for me. I expected that we would take Aeroexpress, the train that goes from Sheremetyevo to the center of Moscow, but I was pleasantly surprised by a car and driver. Riding around Moscow is always fun. As we were leaving the airport, the driver had a brief freak out when he saw a police checkpoint in the distance doing seatbelt checks. He quickly buckled up before we passed the cops, but as soon as we hit the road he took off his seatbelt. I’m hoping that the speedometer in his car was faulty because it showed that we were doing around 90 mph while weaving around cars until we hit the notorious Moscow traffic jams. We eventually wound our way through the city and I was deposited at the dormitory. I was given a university pass, keys to my room, and vague directions for where to find the visa department and international office to take care of additional bureaucracy.

I have a nice single room on the 8th floor of a building on campus. Life in this dormitory is pretty exciting because we have a fridge in the kitchen and curfew is 1AM, which is conveniently the time that the metro stops running.

View from the dorm. I doubt I'll see babushki herding goats from this window.

View from the dorm. I doubt I’ll see babushki herding goats from this window.

It’s been a fun-filled past few days. On Tuesday I met up with some old friends from RUDN and we had dinner together. Yesterday I had fun with my awesome neighbor from Holland. She’s here doing archival research in a different archive. We decided to head out at see the statue park across from Gorky Park. The last time I went to the park was on my Lafayette College interim trip in January. Everything was covered in snow and it was brutally cold. This time around we had a pleasant walk through the park.

I wonder how many Lenin statues I can take my photo with this time around?

I wonder how many Lenin statues I can take my photo with this time around?

After the park we got hungry and headed off to Yeolki Palki, a Russian theme restaurant of sorts. My best analogy is that it is to Russian food and culture as Applebee’s is to American. Most of the staple traditional dishes are there and there’s a Russian peasant theme. We enjoyed our dinners and as we were about to leave the two men sitting at the table next to us invited us to have a drink with them. What was supposed to be one quick toast turned into a few hours of conversation and drinking. All in all we had a good time.

This morning my neighbor and I met up with two first year university students that she knows through one of her university contacts. We had a fund morning wandering around the Moscow Zoo. They had a pretty impressive collection of animals, but my favorites were the two polar bears.

Mr. Polar Bear's Russian relatives.

Mr. Polar Bear’s Russian relatives.

Around 2:45 I left my neighbor and her two Russian friends to meet my friend Inna from Ulyanovsk. She’s in Moscow for the weekend because of the holiday. It was fabulous to see Inna after almost two years. We went to a restaurant, relaxed, and talked. We have plans to hang out again tomorrow.