Leaving On a Jet plane - The Adventure of a Lifetime!

Call me corny, call me old-fashioned; while I was packing last night, the lyrics to "Leavin' On a Jet Plane" were playing in my head.

29 September 2018, Newark International Airport

The last several days have been crazy, running last-minute errands, getting my website up, and trying to get my work space upstairs cleaned up so my wife doesn't have to do it. Last night, as I carried my twenty-month-old son up the stairs to bed, I couldn't help but get a little emotional at the thought of not seeing my little buddy for several weeks. It's a terrible shame to be missing him starting to learn his first words while I'm away. I made a point of spending some time with the kids and my wife, playing chess, getting ice cream, and going to the temple over the last couple days. I knew it would be a while before I'd see them again. 

I miss them already.

But hey, at least it's for a worthy cause! I'm developing my ability to provide for my family, and I'm scratching a couple of major items off my personal bucket list in the process. Though the tugging at my heartstrings already makes me miss home, the promise of adventure beckons me onward, rising fast above lights of Louisville, racing eastward to meet the sun.

I've always enjoyed flying, especially when I'm going someplace really cool, like, say, Russia for example! My 6:00 a.m. flight to Newark was uneventful. Now, killing ten a ten-hour layover, I find myself wandering the airport aimlessly. At around nine I found a twelve-dollar breakfast sandwich that only quelled about four dollars worth of hunger, and then sat down to write.

It'll be good to get some more web pages translated before I board my long flight to Germany tonight at 5:00.

30 September 2018, Safe and Sound in Russia - Finally!

As I boarded my flight to Berlin, I couldn't help but be amazed at how fast they spoke German. "That weren't the German I learnt on the internet!" I thought to myself. It was too dark to see Greensland or Labrador or even England, so I watched a couple movies and didn't fall asleep. 

The Berlin airport was an adventure. The policeman who checked my passport on my way in was really a nice guy and pointed me in the general direction to start looking for baggage drop-off at S7 Airlines. I eventually figured out that I had to identify my concourse and gate before finding the airline, promptly got in the wrong line only to see the right one across the room. It was fascinating to hear a thousand conversations going on in German. Struggling to interact with security and baggage personnel really made me wish I had spent more time getting up to speed on my German before I left.

I thought the Russian airplane I took from Berlin to St. Petersburg was pretty cool. In place of the "exit" sign, it read "ВЫХОД". Again, I was blown away by how fast the flight attendants could talk. I while I could hardly pick out more than a word or two, I did not miss the fact that the pilot was bored and the attendants were hurrying to get on with the flight. At least that much was familiar!

Unfortunately, once we were in the air, the view of Denmark, the Baltic Sea, and Helsinki that I had hoped for was obscured by clouds the whole way. I felt the weight of being awake for 26 hours pull me into a deep sleep that lasted until I heard the pilot announce our descent into St. Petersburg.

After getting through passport control and getting my migrant card, I had some trouble finding the lady who had come from Liden & Denz to pick me up. My cell phone was not working due to an extremely unwelcome automatic Apple update that needed a wi-fi connection to finish, so I couldn't take any pictures. But worse, I couldn't call the school to see where the driver was. I got all the way outside looking for whomever it might be, then ended up going through security to get  back inside to try again there. I had to ask in my broken Russian for access to a telephone. They spoke just enough English to direct me to the information booth. The nice lady there called the school for me. They told the driver to meet me behind the Starbucks. I spotted her within minutes, and then we were on our way to meet the host family, with two other students who had arrived at about the same time I did.

I took some pictures of some of the random things I saw along the way. 

One of the things that fascinates me about traveling abroad is seeing aboslutely everything in a foreign language. Seeing McDonalds written as "Макдоналдс" and Burger King written as "Бургер Кирг"--in the same font, even--just seems to grab hold of my American brain and not let go.

The driver first let me off at the wrong host family. She had to come back to switch me with another student, then take me to meet the Sidorovas. I was feeling a little sheepish for not having realized the guy's name was Sergei, as opposed to the "Vladimir" I was supposed to be expecting. I guess not sleeping for two days will do that to anybody.

The apartment buildings here are quite old. Anna (host family) told me hers was built in 1882. You can see that it had been wired and plumbed after the fact. While the buildings do look quite old, the insides are remodeled and kept really nice. I'll wait to ask her permission before taking or posting any pictures though.

I met more students staying in Anna's apartments tonight. One guy is from Switzerland, another from Sweden, and we have a girl from Iceland as well. Her Russian is getting pretty good. As we all talked over a nice dinner of Russian salad and dessert rolls, she and Anna would get going, and I could only follow most of what they were saying.

When my efforts to start working on this post ended with my typing complete nonsense, I ended the day by going to bed early, and then slept for ten hours.