Tuesday, January 24, 2006
Day 11 - Time to Go, SVO to JFK
Day 11, Time to Go, SVO to JFK - Ugh. So this is it, the last day of the trip. I guess I was all over being sad about it. At the end of my first visit with Katja I was positively miserable. I was sad yesterday and now I am just accepting. Better to have good spirits and make the most of the situation. Katja had come to the same conclusion. We had arranged for a taxi at 9:30, anticipating that the traffic could be bad on a Friday morning, especially if there was some light snow. So we were up rather early at 7:30 and downstairs having breakfast shortly past 8. The breakfast buffet was mostly empty, just two other couples in a large room ... and a second room with all the students we had seen the day before (they kept them separate, which was probably a blessing.) Much of the food was salads and such ... Katja called it "leftover" salads and most likely it was. I was interested in more traditional breakfast fare ... tea, blini, eggs, rolls ... and some kefir to try because I am told it is good for me. This was my last chance to be healthy, Russian-style. Katja isn't fond of kefir, which seems unusual to me as she eats lots of dairy products. She makes her own tvorog (farmer's cheese), eats cheese like it is going out of style, yogurt, tons of butter, and milk more sparingly. Russian milk tends to have higher milk-fat than the stuff you see in the US. The Rostov dairy Moloko was listed as something like 4.8% milkfat and I have read that lots of milk here is higher than that. I know that one evening Natasha tried to pour some milk, and it didn't want to come out at first ... a small plug of milk fat had formed at the top of the milk! Oh sure, and that milk fat isn't going to clog your arteries! It's perfectly natural! Anyway, I eat lots more dairy products while in Russia. We were well prepared this morning and gave our key to the conceirge one last time. This is one peculiar feature of Izmailovo ... you have to check in on each floor to get your key back. You get a slip of paper when you leave the floor, and return that to get your key each time. Maybe it is for security purposes, but I think it is to keep people from bunking up 4 or more to a room. Our taxi driver was rather quick and the traffic was light, so we found ourselves in Sheremetyevo with plenty of time to spare (my flight wasn't even listed yet). We decided to have some tea and coffee at the TGI Fridays in the airport. As we saw the menu, we decided up on some ice cream as well ... I had been craving and talking about ice cream the entire trip, and hadn't found anything really suitable. Russian ice cream sold in stores tends to be either American Snickers, Mars, or some other candy-filled crap, or a similar gelatinous and whipped Russian version. However, this little slice of American served up REAL ice cream ... nothing but ice cream ... THREE gignormous scoops in a BIG goblet. Now this .... THIS is American-style eating. You order something, expecting to get this <-----> much and you are surprised when it arrives at the table and you have <----------------------> (!) THIS much! Anyway, we couldn't eat all the ice cream. Very wasteful. Also very American-style. But it was great, I was completely bloated with ice cream now. I wouldn't crave it for weeks now. Katja and I went over the menu, and I pointed out some of the items and arrangement of the menu that would be typically American. Buffalo wings for example. And an ability for a restaurant to put together a diverse menu, with something for almost anyone (well ... unless you are a strict vegan or something). And so now ... we had killed enough time and said our good-byes. T'was time for me to wait in line .. and then another line ... and get checked in ... and go to another line to have checked bags searched ... and then another line for passport control (and give them that damn migration card) ... and then another line to have myself screened for metal and bags xrayed ... and then another line to have my bag searched for matches and other things. And then finally, another line to give my boarding pass and to get on the plane. Yep, these Russians are GOD-DAMN STATE OF THE F*CKING ART when it comes to waiting in lines. This time actually went much faster than the last time I passed through Moscow. I got a chance to use some Russian while waiting in line, and one of the people searching my bags seemed impressed that I spoke any at all. On the flight, I was seated next to Volodia .. a Russian university student who lives in the US since he was about 9 or 10. His friends in the US called him Vlad, which he said ... strictly speaking isn't really Russian and isn't a suitable form of his name. But I had no trouble saying Volodia. Mother is a professor at some university in Florida and his father lives in Russia and owns a bread factory. He is returning after spending the holidays with his father. At first he started speaking Russian to me, I must have looked very Russian today, as I got that from the flight attendants and others also. Good ol' Volodia brought some bottles of booze on board also, and was looking for a drinking partner. So it was Johnny Walker Red on ice for me, once the flight got going. Unlike Gleb, he was smart enough to bring a screw-top flask of booze. I knew I was going to have to drive from JFK after this flight though, so I tried to stay somewhat sober. I also tried to get some rest, as it was going to be a long day of perpetual sunlight as we came home. And as much as I enjoy visiting Russia, I have to say .... there is something comforting about returning home to your native country. Hearing your native language spoken and understanding every word ... feels like being at home wrapped in a warm blanket.