(Very) First Impressions

August 31, 2011

Arrival!

Well I got a lovely view of Camel’s Hump out my airplane window leaving, which constituted the nicest part of the journey. 27 hours or so after I left my house, I am happily showered in my hotel room. (We all stay here for a couple days for orientation, then head off to our homestays). WiFi in Russia is not freely available in airports and hotels, so I am really hoping my host family has a good internet connection!

If I learn one and only one lesson in Russia, it will be how to wait in line. I don’t even want to imagine what the lines for food and gas were like in the Soviet days – waiting to get through passport control was bad enough. Passport control in the US (and Europe) generally consists of strictly demarcated lines, efficiently processed and moving at some speed. In Russia, foreigners are clumped together in a huge mass in front of a fence with several small openings. I started in one spot, realized it wasn’t moving, and moved into the middle. I think the trick will be scanning all lines first, gauging which is moving/which actually has the fewest people and then choosing it. Once in line, I have to be aggressive! One of my goals is to elbow through crowds on the metro like a pro – well, I got my first practice in the airport today.

So my first impressions have wiped out almost all of the images of Moscow from Soviet movies. The main highway from Domodedovo airport into the city honestly looks like any highway in Massachusetts or New Jersey – only the billboards are in Russian. Just outside Moscow are some gorgeous fields and woods, and now I understand why Russians love birch trees. They are so clearly white and tall, and unlike when I’ve seen birches in Vermont, outside Moscow the huge clusters of trees are entirely birch. Thankfully, for the country girl, trees are also very plentiful in Moscow (less so in the very center of the city, but certainly when you get a bit farther out). There are still plenty of Volgas, THE car in the Soviet Union, driving around – and they come in such an array of colors! I think I will take pictures of every different color I see and create a rainbow poster of Volgas. And the gigantic apartment buildings across the city ARE exactly the same, just as they are caricatured in films like “The Irony of Fate.” Flying in, it looked like the same exact buildings, simply in different configurations, constituted the entire city.

Tiny Victory: (I will need to really focus on these for the first couple months) the Russian gentleman sitting next to me on the plane to Moscow addressed me first in Russian! I am choosing to interpret that as, for now, I don’t immediately look American until I open my mouth. (Sitting behind me on the plane was a woman who teaches Russian at a university in Louisiana, who was loudly discussing how Americans have such strong, recognizable, and really unpleasant accents when they speak Russian. Lady – my goal this year will be to prove you wrong.)

Until I’ve truly ventured into the city (i.e. gotten lost),
Hillary

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One Response to “(Very) First Impressions”

  1. Debbie said

    I love your post. I hope you can create a collage of colorful volgas. That would be fun to see. I am really looking forward to following Troika!

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