Wednesday, January 23, 2008

My Traveling Adventure to Novosibirsk, Russia - Day 0

Most might think that the title should say Day 1, and not Day 0. It actually took me two days to get here so (of course) I know that it should say Day -1. To me, my first full day IN Russia is Day 1... Maybe it's a geek thing, but whatever... it's my blog... get your own. :)

Travel Day (Columbus, Ohio)
Ok, so I started by staying up all night with my family and packing Sunday night. The day was completely crazy and I had other things to attend to before I could actually pack, therefore I almost pulled two consecutive "all nighters". I didn't sleep at all Saturday night, and I went to sleep at 11pm Sunday night, only to wake up 4 hours later (at 3:00 AM). My flight left at 7:15, but due to the fact that it was an international flight, and also the fact that I live so far from everything, we had to leave the house around 4:30AM - 5AM. I got to Columbus around 6AM and had plenty of time to wait for the plane to begin boarding around 6:45ish.

Chicago, Illinois
Ok, the coolest part of the whole trip went down in Chicago O'Hare airport. I got to meet Charlie Murphy! I was walking from one terminal to another and on my way there, I saw some mac'ed out dude wearing a fur coat, a pimped out golf hat and some big sunglasses. I thought he looked "famous", but wasn't sure. As I went to pass him, I glanced over to see if it was anybody I recognized and... sure enough... it was Charlie Murphy. I stopped and got his attention and, as I stuck out my hand to shake his hand, said "Excuse me, is your name Charlie Murphy?". He said, "Yeah, wassup; how you doin!?" and he held out a closed fist for me to hit the rock. :) As I went to hit his rock, I saw that he had a diamond ring on his finger that probably cost as much as my house! Needless-to-say, I was pretty excited the rest of the time in Chicago having met him in person. Ironically enough, Tyler and I were talking about his skit just the day before saying how it was one of the funniest skits ever on the Chapelle Show. The rest of my stay in Chicago was pretty uneventful, paid for internet and did a few things before boarding for Munich.

Munich, Germany
I should really give this section the title of Flight to Munich, Germany since I was only actually in Munich Germany for 1.5 hours. The flight itself however was ~8.5 hours. This much flying is not recommended for anybody looking to travel oversees. Of course I realize that it's inevitable with today's (lacking) technology, but it sucked! My legs kept cramping, I couldn't get comfortable and everybody was speaking... non-English. That didn't bother me, but what did bother me was when I was on the butt-end of a non-English joke...

Ok, long story short: I switched seats about 3 hours into the flight so that I could sprawl over a couple of seats. Well, about 7 hours into the flight I saw a "somewhat" empty overhead luggage area, so I decided to move my carry on from where it was to somewhere closer to where I was. This way when the plane was ready to unload, I didn't have to go dodging people to get to it. So anyway, when I went to put my luggage in the overhead by my seat, one of the "local foreigners" began yelling "NO NO NO NO NO" and I just stopped and looked at him like "WTF!?". He then began to speak Serbian as he stood up to "manage" the situation and everybody around him began laughing while he continued to mumble Serbian at me. I know my face turned 3 shades of red and I was totally confused as to why he was so persistent that I not put my luggage up there. Apparently, he was carrying a map and he didn't want me to crease. He was afraid that I was forcing my luggage up next to it (which I wasn't).

Of course, I made light of the situation and generated some laughs back at him with some silly jokes... but on the inside I was pissed about how he approached it. His demeanor was totally to ridicule me once he had everybody laughing. He kept looking at me and mumbling Serbian while I sat back in my seat. When it was all over I wanted to punch him and say "Speak English if you have something to say to me" which I know he knew because he had been speaking some here and there. Looking back on it, I think it was just my embarrassment catching up to me at that point... Anyway, we talked afterwards and he was cool with it. Even though he handled it all wrong, I was cool with him when I got off the plane. :)

When we landed, I decided to charge my laptop and got to make use of my power adapter kit with the German outlets (Thanks Sis!). Other than that, Munich was a short visit and uneventful.

Moscow, Russia
This is where the trip takes a turn for the worse. The flight from Munich to Moscow was very quick and not many people were on the flight. I was able to tuck myself in the back right corner of the plane and do a bit of reading in my Russian dictionary. I needed to figure out the sounds of all the Russian symbols, for I knew I was going to be seeing these letters everyday for a while. I figured it would probably be a good idea to try and learn how to say them. :P Anyway, the trip was uneventful. Then we landed...

I was instantly in "culture shock". There were Russian policemen every where just standing around watching everybody. Russian advertisements and Russian words everywhere. The book helped a bit, but I still cound't pronounce anything unless it included some of the letters I learned to that point (which was very few). For the most part, I just followed the heard and got my luggage so that I could recheck it onto the next flight... in another (disconnected) terminal. The flight that I was taking to Novosibirsk was ran by a totally separate transportation systems, therefore I had to take a shuttle over to that terminal and check everything into their security system and go through their customs. Unfortunately, the unfriendly lady that ran the shuttle system told me that the shuttle I needed to take didn't come again until my flight was just about to take off; which meant that I had to find an alternate means of getting to the next airport... T minus 1.5 hours.... And, go!

At the time, it didn't sound so scary, but once I got on the bus, I realized that I had no idea where I was going, I had no idea which exit to get off at, I had no idea if I was even on the right bus. So, here was with all of my luggage, trying to navigate through a foreign country using public transportation system, unable to read these foreign symbols, and it was clear that nobody wanted to talk to me. Perhaps it was my Boston Redsox shirt?? No, that couldn't be it... I mean, who doesn't like the Redsox? :)

The whole time I was on this bus, I just sat there looking as confident as I could just hoping that nobody tried to talk to me and "blow my cover". The few feeble attempts I made to communicate with the locals, it turned to a rude and short cold shoulder; therefore I knew to keep my mouth shut unless I was ready to speak Russian. The longer I sat on the bus with all of my luggage, the more worried I got. I didn't know if had passed my exit or not and the windows were totally covered in condensation, so I couldn't really see out the windows... oh yeah, I forgot to mention that there was snow everywhere and it was friggen cold. It didn't help that the bus driver spoke Russian at every exit and the words on the LED display were (of course) in Russian. Most people would have flipped out by this point, but I'm gonna do this!!

Finally, I met an angel and he helped me. He spoke very little English, but just enough to help me. I quietly said "Do you speak english?", to which he said "Little, what you need?" I used my hands and was able to communicate to him that I landed in "Terminal 1" and needed to get to "Terminal 2". He said "When I have, then you have." I said OK??? Then I just sat there for a couple more exits. Finally I got nervous and said "Here?" out of nowhere. Then he said again "No... When I have... then you have." I then realized that he said "When I [get off the bus], then [at the next stop], you [get off of the bus]." I said, "Oh OK!". My muscles began to relax, for I understood at that point that I was on the right bus, and I hadn't missed my stop. My flight was to leave in less than 1 hour at this point and I still had to call my friends in Novosibirsk once I got through Russian security. At least I was on the right track up to this point.

When I got to the next airport, I wasn't able to read anything, but knew that this had to be the place because there were pictures of airplanes and there was a line of people at the front door waiting to get through security. I made it through security OK but of course got taken aside so that they could find out why I "beeped" as I walked through the metal detector... damn iPod! :) I need stop and remind you that up to this point nobody spoke English, nor did anybody want to!.. Except for the angel I met on the bus.

Once I checked my luggage and made it upstairs to my gate, I still had to call my friends in Novosibirsk to let them know when I was going to be there. Uh oh, more attempts at Russian communication... this sucked! I had no phone, no phone card to use at the Russian phone booths, and $20 worth of rubles burning a whole in my pocket (which, by the way was about 466 rubles). I walked from person to person asking if I could use their phone to make a phone call with broken Russian words that I quickly learned in my handy dictionary. Even after I told them I would pay them, they still waved their hands and looked away. I found myself wandering around these people looking like a lost puppy trying to find somebody to help me. I wanted to scream, but I kept my cool for the most part... even though my plane was about to board in 5 minutes. I finally met a young girl who was selling cellular phones at a small booth. Today was her lucky day! I needed one and stat!. She sold me some minutes and let me call my friends while she filled out my paper work... I made the call and boarded the plane.

Moscow, check!


Novosibirsk, Russia
The plane ride was more Russian talk and more rudeness from those around me. One of the flight attendants actually gave me a smile, so that eased some of my frustration. When we landed, I (again) followed the heard like I did in Moscow... only this time I was misled to the wrong spot. Apparently this flight was connecting with another flight and I was (unknowingly) waiting on a flight that I didn't need to take. When I realized that the people around me weren't waiting on their luggage (?), I jumped up and quickly learned how to say "baggage". I went from person to person and tried to figure out where I needed to go. Again, most people spoke lightning-fast Russian and turned away from me as if I was bothering them. One guy actually pointed to a door at the end of the hallway as he spoke at me. To which I said "THANK YOU!" with a Russian attitude and walked down the hall.

I must admit that I wasn't very happy with my time here in Russia up to this point Moscow was the scariest experience in my life and so far I was looking to have a similar experience here in Novosibirsk. I finally scurried around and walked up to a Russian police officer saying "baggage" (pronounced "bah-gah-dj") with my hands waving all over the place as if I have a lot of luggage around me. :) Yes, picture a crazy man pulling very heavy, invisible luggage, and that's me talking to this policeman. :) I eventually showed him my flight ticket and he spoke into his walky talky; many words were exchanged, and another police officer came over and they spoke a while too. Finally he said "follow" and began walking. I didn't know if I was in trouble or if he was going to be taking me to the "baggage". :) On our way to where ever we were going, I heard "Lucas!"... it was my friends!! I shook the policeman's hand, picked up my luggage, and switched my focus to happy thoughts and smiles with my friends from Novosibirsk. SERENITY NOW!!

Conclusion!
I am very sorry for everybody reading this that lives in Russia. I do not want to give the impression that all Russians are rude. I love this country, especially after having been here for a full day now. Please understand that the people I ran into were very rude to me and it was the most frustrating experience I've been through in a long time. My experience definitely made me a stronger person! Of course, the few smiles and patient people I met helped, but overall I hated my time here until I met up with my friends. Looking back on it now, I can't believe I made it here in one piece with all of my (very expensive) luggage. I just want to warn anybody that plans to travel through Moscow, be warned!!

By the way, today was my first full day in Novosibirsk, and I had a great day. I plan to write a post each day I'm here so that everybody knows how awesome Russia really is. So, stay tuned for that story! :)

3 comments:

foreme said...

Looking forward to your updates are you continue on...

Tim said...

Lucas,

Be careful about assuming the behavior of others, as you observe it, in a foreign country is rude. In your situation, it is difficult to imagine that their behavior may have absolutely nothing to do with you. But very often, it does not. Just be polite, patient and gracious...always helps

Have fun,
Tim

Muse said...

Oh, I do feel for you! Even though I`m from Novosibirsk, I went through the same shock coming back here after 5 years in England...