Monday, May 27, 2013

What I Saw In Russia — Day 0

I write these words on the cold floor of the Sheremetyevo Airport’s Terminal D, awaiting my return flight to New York. I haven’t slept in over twenty-four hours and doubt that I will sleep very much on the plane. But while I still have clarity, I’m going to write the first part of what I would like to call

What I Saw In Russia, or, The Drowsy Seminarian.

My first recollection is of standing in line at the Megabus stop in Albany. I was at nearly the end of the long queue. Behind me were a man and woman in sunglasses; the woman wore large hoop earrings. Their favorite pastime seemed to be people-watching: “The girl in the green shirt…She’s got flats…That guy’s got nice arms…It’s a bit much…” I took my seat in the crowded bus next to a sleeping student in sweatpants, with my carry-on between my legs. The safety video was done by a girl who consistently mispronounced the definite article before words beginning with vowels. Instead of “thee aisle” and “thee emergency exit,” she said things like “tha aisle” “tha emergency exit”—it ground my gears a little. The seven-thirty bus left close to eight, and I had to make it to JFK by noon. Otherwise I would miss my flight to Moscow.

I was part of a youth choir chosen to represent the Church Abroad in the Motherland. In addition to participating in services, we were to sing a specially-prepared concert with readings in commemoration of the four hundred years of the House of Romanov. The whole trip was sponsored by generous Russian donors. Not one to turn down anything free, I jumped at the chance when Nicky Kotar offered it to me. Several grueling rehearsals and last-minute stresses later, I was on my way to New York and everything was smooth-sailing. From Penn Station I took the LIRR and then the AirTrain to the airport. In all, the whole process of traveling from Albany to JFK took me less than four hours, even with some traffic.

At the security line, someone tapped me on the shoulder. I turned around to see my friend Matthew, who is a seminarian at St. Tikhon’s, formerly of Jordanville. After clearing security, we went to the gate, where we were met at the last minute by Julie, the third person on our flight. She had endured a long bus ride to New York, which did not arrive until shortly before our flight. We got on the plane, which left in the early afternoon, set to land in Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport in the morning. During the nine-hour flight, I watched the movie “Ruby Sparks,” which I thought was a pretty good romantic comedy and interesting deconstruction of modern notions of romantic love, especially the ideal of the “Manic Pixie Dream Girl.” They served two meals on the flight which were pretty good for airplane food. Unfortunately, in the entirety of the nine hours I had ended up sleeping only two; this would have repercussions for the rest of the week.

We landed in Sheremetyevo perhaps a little before nine o’clock in the morning. I was now in Russia. Little did we know how crazy, exciting, and moving the trip would become.

Get ready tomorrow for:
* Russian soda
* Showers, space-age and otherwise
* Drowsiness
* Churches, churches, churches!