Tuesday, September 29, 2009

My First Hours in a Foreign Land

I have been in Russia for a week and a half already, but my first impressions are still burned into my memory like a hot iron on the rump of a steer, as though I arrived just yesterday...

After approximately 30 hours of horrible flights (another story), we were finally on the plane to Moscow when the speaker announced something over the intercom. I couldn't understand, of course, because it was spoken in German, but the man next to me quickly came to my rescue by translating: "They need to check our temperatures to be sure we aren't hosting any harmful diseases."


The next thing I knew, the flight attendants were walking past everyone with a hand held machine (which looked like a gun, might I add) and pointed it towards every passenger, until it beeped, checking our temperatures. I looked over to the man on my right and giggled nervously as I whispered, "I thought you were joking!"
He simply replied, "Welcome to Russia!"

Never having experienced a life without "luxury" conveniences, my most basic first impression of Russia was that everything seemed so old. The roads, the buildings and the cars all seemed to carry their own story from a different time period, when life wasn't exactly easy. Lyosha told me about how much he had always dreamed of having a big SUV, and after seeing the big pot holes and cracks in the roads I finally understood the logic in his "boyhood" desire.

The buildings, I discovered, aren't all that old. The simple, practical architecture appears to be weather stricken, but in actuality I was just not used to the thick brick walls and lack of wood used to create the tall, surrounging structures. The bricks, I later learned, are necessary to insulate against the extreme weather conditions during Siberian winters. Also, earthquakes are not an issue here, so the use of wood has no practical use, as compared to my familiar California boxes located on top of one of the biggest fault lines in the world.

Another difference, between California and Russia, that I noticed almost immediately, is the people. Not only are the women beautiful here, but they also seem to have a different perspective on attitude and sincerity.

The first Russian woman who spoke to me was in the airport security check. I had no idea what she said to me (it was in Russian, of course), but Lyosha later told me that she made a teasing comment about my Ugg boots because I looked like I was traveling to the North Pole! Excuse me, but Siberia may as well be the North Pole to someone who is used to 100+ degree weather at this time of year! She is right in the fact that they aren't exactly stylish, but when my skin is covered in goose bumps and my teeth are chattering from almost freezing temperatures, being fashionable is one of the last things on my mind. Not to mention, my Ugg boots were the only controlled comfort I had on a very uncomfortable 30+ hour plane ride to Moscow.

So far there are no dragons or bears, but my defenses are still up and my eyes are opened wider every day to different experiences. This is my first impression of Russia...

- Juliana


Igor said...

And for now you are able to disassemble and reassemble AK-74. It's an integral skill of every Russian. :-)

Ivan said...

I guess it wasn't really bad idea to persuade Lyosha to rent a hotel room in Moscow :) Living in a small kitchen wouldn't be comfortable at all even considering the fact that you are ready to some difficulties of being here. Anyway, I hope you find some time to visit us in Moscow. :)