06/17/2006 (Seattle) - 06/18/2006 (Moscow)

Arrived at SeaTac at 5:30 AM. The international line had only 3 clerks, which

handled various needs (ticket purchase, changes, etc.) so movement was slow.

Security was quick and we arrived at the gate about 6. Dave and I rested,

boarding the flight at approximately 7:30. The flight, as Dave says, “was not

the best in the world” – there were reports of turbulence, so we were confined

to our seats for much of the flight and they didn’t serve any meals.

We landed in JFK with an hour before our next flight, starving. We hurried

across the catwalk and found ourselves in a Burger King line for about 30

minutes. We boarded our plane with 20 minutes to spare. The flight to Moscow

was pretty smooth. They served us one hot meal and some snacks. I was able to

use my laptop, read, and nap. Overall, the flight was good sans a little

kid kicking my seat.

Arriving in Moscow, we were surprised to find no one at the VIP area waiting

for us. Dave was pretty worried but having no other option, we got in line for

immigration. We checked several times for the VIP person while waiting but

eventually made it through without a single word. We picked up our bags and

headed for the ‘nothing to declare’ section, which allowed us to proceed

without a single inspection. Immediately outside baggage claim was an unfamliar

gentlemen with an Isilon sign. Dave called Alex K. and she spoke with our

driver for a few minutes. The ride into Moscow was neat – Russian motorists

drive like they are teenagers; they accelerate and stop quickly, change and

straddle lanes aggressively, and seem as if they fear nothing. Traffic was

extremely light – Moscow’s 10 lane roads were virtually empty – so the

experience was a bit surreal.

We arrived. Our driver appeared a little confused, but after calling someone,

we were led to the back of the building. We met Alex, who appears to be an

apartment manager or landlord. He was very explicit in showing us how to work

the buildings two exterior locks (one from the 1800s and one electronic) as

well as our apartment door. The stairway is very drab and we think we share it

with one other tenant. The apartment is very nice, with vaneer floors,

furnishings, high ceilings, air conditioning, gas heat, dish washer, washing

machine, etc. Alex teaches us how to light the pilot light, operate the AC,

stove, refrigerator, etc. He does so in Russian (of course), so while Dave and

I were both grunting ‘da’ we likely missed any subtle points of instruction.

The apartment is one bedroom with a “pull-out” couch. (Note, the couch is

bearable but not necessarily comfortable.)

Dave and I headed up the street and around the corner to the Courtyard Marriot,

where we exchanged some money. The rate was approximately 26 rubles per dollar.

Our next stop was a grocery store Dave had visited before; we bought milk,

cereal, bananas, and yogurt. Back in the apartment, we snacked on some of the

meat and cheese in the refrigerator (which was a gift from the apartment) and

watched some of the world cup (US vs Italy). I decided to take a walk and Dave

decided to take a nap.

In Moscow, there is cottonwood flowers everywhere. It has the appearance of

dirty snow, and is constantly floating in the air. The streets are lined with

it, it covers cars, flower pots, signs, etc. We’ve found breathing to be a

little difficult – not sure if it is pollen/cottonwood, pollution, or both.

I walked around aimlessly for about an hour and a half. I was approached by a

Russian soldier who began asking for help. I told him, in Russian, I don’t

understand Russian and off he went. Moscow is a circular city, so if you can

remember how to get from the center to your home, you can always return.

Luckily we are only a few blocks from the Kremlin, so it will be difficult to

get lost. Nontheless, I got turned around while trying to a different way home

and managed to find lots of neat sculptures and parks before arriving our

street.

Back at home, there was a strange see-sawing noise emanating from Dave’s room,

so I decided to rest my eyes for a bit. 30 minutes later, Dave and Alex K. were

arranging our dinner rendezvous. Dave and I walked across the street and while

we were trying to figure out whether (or how) to purchase coffee Alex arrived.

She was there with her friend and cousin, neither of whom spoke English. After

a brief introduction, they decided to entertain themselves and the three of us

went inside to eat.

We had two Russian dumpling dishes (one with meat, one with potatoes) and a

cheese plate. The service was a little slow initially but once the food and

beer arrived we ate easily. Dinner was pleasant; I think Dave and I would have

had trouble without her presence. The cafe was very crowded when we arrived,

emptied out (as the soccer match ended) and was dead while we ate, and became

crowded again before we left (as the next match began).

After dinner, Alex toured our apartment and taught us how to use the washing

machine. She then parted ways to spend time with her cousin and friend. Dave

and I walked around looking for a villa he had been accosted at (his first

trip). We found the villa, but he couldn’t find a restaraunt he was looking

for. Back at the apartment about 9, things were winding down. Dave hit the sack

about 10 and I was asleep before midnight.