At SVO in Moscow! We're met by Dmitrii and Victor, two great Methodist guys!The video monitor on the plane---we're finally here!
On the plane to Moscow---I'm guessing this was early in the flight, because Steve looks really well-rested!
September 18 and 19---We leave for and arrive in Russia for Trip 1
(Ok, yes I know this is a bit late--wanted to at least give you some info on what we did while we were there, since my laptop was not behaving properly in Russia!)
The trip over was interesting--we were able to fly from the new Springfield airport to Atlanta, and from there non-stop to Moscow. We got to the Springfield airport WAY early, because they wouldn't let us pre-book our seats (many thanks to Lin who not only drove us there, but picked us up on the homebound trip when we were seriously delayed in Atlanta by weather).
We also found out, belatedly, that there's no food service inside security yet in the Springfield airport--if you want to eat, you have to do it on the other side. We settled for bananas and snacks that we'd brought from home.
The flight from Springfield to Atlanta was on a teeny plane--not as small as the puddle-jumper I used to fly from St. Louis to Columbia, but almost. There actually was a flight attendant, this time.
In Atlanta we had a few hours to wait for the Moscow plane. We made use of the time by finding our way to the international concourse (the signs in the Atlanta airport are somewhat confusing--they need to have signs that say "look behind you") and by having something to eat. We chose TGIFridays because we could sit at a table and have someone wait on us--a step up from the food court food. The rest of the time we just waited, read, and tried to rest up for the journey.
The plane from Atlanta to Moscow was ok---very crowded, with lots of Russian-speaking people. It was at this point that Steve commented that he probably should have reviewed his Russian language tapes a couple of times. Both of the movies (Night at the Museum 2 and Star Trek) had Russian characters--go figure. We both slept a little. When we arrived in Moscow, they "took our temperature" to see if we had swine flu as we were getting off the plane. This was completely non-invasive. They just pointed this thing that looked like a radar gun at us as we were walking off. I didn't see them stop anyone. I guess that we all passed---or we weren't speeding, anyway!
The movement through passport control and customs was the fastest I have ever seen it be at SVO. We must have been through in about 30 minutes. We did have to wait for our luggage, but even that was not a huge problem--we were just glad it made it with us!
(OK, at this point it has now become day 2--you lose so much time when you travel east!)
Now the story gets sort of different from many other peoples'. You see, (1) we were supposed to be met by "someone" from our agency, probably a woman, and (2) we had this coat. Ah, the coat story!
Time for "flashback" sequence here: about 7 years ago, I went on my first mission trip to Russia. One of the guys on the trip, Mike, has such a heart for Russian missions, and was just there about a month or two ago. They had met a man that trip who was working with the church in Russia who needed a winter coat. Mike asked me if I would be willing to take a coat over, and of course I couldn't turn him down. We had stuffed this rather large coat into the top of one of our suitcases (thanks to my amazing packer of a husband). Mike had told me that he would have someone meet us at SVO when we got there to pick up the coat. So.....
Back to the story---we're waiting in SVO (we actually got there early) for these people. And we waited. And waited. Finally, Victor and Dmitry (who I knew from before and was very glad to see) showed up to get the coat. We talked in their ok English and our pitiful Russian for quite awhile, (actually Steve and Victor started sharing pastor stories) but they were clearly worried that there was no one there to meet us. So they were going to wait with us. That was very cool. So we were all standing around. For awhile....
Finally, this poor guy comes up to us and asks if we are the Burbees. He's clearly distraught, and says that he's been waiting for two couples. He's been looking for two couples together, and hasn't seen them. Of course, we've been standing there talking to Dmitry and Victor. We don't look like who he's been waiting for. His only clue was that we had our ex-rays with us, and they were clearly labled "BURBEE". Now the problem was what had happened to the other couple.
Ok, I had talked with the wife of the other couple that week, and knew they were coming over for court about the same time we would be there, but didn't think they were coming that day. We didn't know them to see them, and hadn't met them on the plane. After waiting around, and then Ivan looking around and talking to the people at the airport, he finally decided that they weren't coming that day, and there had been some misunderstanding--but there were several phone calls made to various people to make sure that they weren't being left there. I can say this to all the people who are with our agency--they aren't going to leave you behind at the airport unless you are hiding someplace! Ivan was very thorough. (They did arrive the next day, in case any of you are still worried!)
We told Dmitrii and Victor goodbye and headed for the van with Ivan. We then made the about 3 hour drive to Kaluga. Let's just say that most Russian drivers are pretty aggressive, and Vasilly our driver is no different. I told Steve that I will never again complain about his driving! I actually don't remember much about the trip to Kaluga--I do know that we drove by Vnukovo (I saw the airplane out by the airport), and that after we got out of Moscow the traffic wasn't too bad. We both dozed on and off for awhile.
When we got to the hotel in Kaluga, we met our Kaluga translator, Nadia. Nadia is Ivan's grandmother, and a former college professor of English. We checked into our room, and then Nadia took us to dinner at "The Wall". For those of you who haven't been there, the elevators at the hotel are tiny, and they sort of clank/rattle as they work. A bit disconcerting the first time you use them, but you sort of look forward to it after awhile. "The Wall" was ok--we were the only people actually eating there (it was at an odd time--about 4 or so in the afternoon), and we were entertained by videos of a guy named Robbie Williams singing pop songs in English. The food was ok, too...the soup was good, and the main courses were pretty decent, with sort of odd names (I had the pork deja vu--that's what it was called. We wondered if it was pork that reminded you of pork you had eaten before. It didn't.)
After dinner, Nadia took us to the grocery store to buy water and a few basic supplies. The grocery store was well-stocked with nice looking (and some expensive) items. Bottled water was very reasonable, and we got some milk and bread and other stuff. We walked back along the main street of the city (Kirov Street) and looked at the large amounts of reconstruction going on (even the hotel was under "restoration" while we were there!)
When we got back to the hotel we both crashed---hard. Before we even had much of a chance to try out the modem we had rented from the hotel. It would continue to frustrate and not work while we were there, but I think the fault was with my laptop and not the modem. We did get our money back, after much insistence from Nadia with the people at the hotel. However, after sleeping for about an hour or so, we both woke up about 11:00 because fireworks were going off near the hotel. We found out later that it's part of the way that some people celebrate weddings!
Finally back to sleep. It was a LONG two days, but we're here! We had some good news from Nadia about baby K this afternoon--apparently she's sitting up on her own! YAY!