I have just return from Russia, and the events that took place will change my life forever, I hope.
It may not be proper but If I could I would like to dedicate this Trip report to Irina From Amazingloves.com, with out her help, above and beyond any expectation I had, I would have never met My lady. Some say its all fate, which may be so; it was fate that put Irina in my life to show me the right path for my journey. Thank you Irina.
I started planning this trip a few months ago, I knew that I wanted to ask My Lady to marry me and I wanted to make it a memorable occasion. I asked this board what others did for their proposal’s hoping to spark my own ideas. I read many good articles detailing how you men have proposed to your wives. Soon my plan was made; I would memorize a love song in Russia and sing it to her at a karaoke stand on the board walk on the black sea in Sochi. I would present her with roses (which were given to the karaoke vender ahead of time) at the right moment in the song. We would take a bicycle taxi to the most romantic restaurant in town (синее море, blue sea). After a good meal and a few dances we would stroll along the board walk listening, watching waves crash against the rocky beach. In the moon light I would ask My Lady to be my wife with a ring I had brought from the States. Now armed with a plan I set to work to make it all happen in perfect harmony. I learned to pronounce the words to любить обещаю by Филипп Киркоров, or To Love I Promise by Phillip Kirkorov. I solicited the help of friends in Sochi to help with plans and arrangements. And I went ring shopping. I ordered tickets, and visa. I made arrangements for some one to take care of my pets and my house during my absents.
Wed. the 25th of July during our daily phone call My Lady and I had a difference of opinion, (an argument). Not a big argument just enough to spark doubt in to what I have been planning. I was shaken up good, the relationship I thought I had with My Lady dissolved in an instant. All the planning and effort into making this trip perfect seemed, suddenly foolish. As did I. I am still amazed at how fast my whole direction in life could change What was an all out effort to make the perfect proposal turned into salvaging the 1400 dollar ticket and planning the work I would get done in the ten extra days I would get from canceling my trip. This was a severe case of cold feet. I canceled the trip and recouped about 900 dollars of a 1400 dollar ticket. At the time I was thankful that I had not yet picked up the ring.
After I talked to My Lady on Friday I realized how much I really wanted her in my life for ever. She thawed out my cold feet. So Friday at 4:00 I am scrambling to get plane tickets for Monday. I was hoping to reinstate my original tickets but the travel agent I used was closed. I checked the internet to find Aeroflot would charge me 2200 dollars to get to Moscow. Sat and Sunday I acted as if I had never given back the air tickets. I packed, made the emergency call list, I organized my work, and withdrew cash and sent money to my self via Western Union. On Monday morning I started calling the agency at 7 am to try to get my original tickets for that day at 6pm departure reinstated. Two and one half hours latter I finally got them on the phone, so they could tell me my tickets were gone for good but they could get me round trip to Moscow only with out a connection to Sochi. I would have to make to Kennedy airport by 2 pm for a 4pm flight. It was now 11:00 and at least a two hour drive through New York Traffic. I took it. I am back on track. Five hours latter I took off. For the next ten hours all I have to do is sit back and loose myself in the latest Harry potter book.
This was my fourth time flying into Moscow so passport control with immigration papers was all normal. All was familiar to me even the 25 times I repeated Net Spicebo to the taxi drivers. But as soon as I passed the last of the taxi drivers I hit unfamiliar territory. I did not have any arrangements for the next leg of my journey to Sochi. I knew all the Aeroflot flights would be booked so I was prepared for the worst. Staying a night in Moscow or even taking a 36 hour train ride. It is 12:30 now and first thing on the agenda is to find transportation to Sochi. I am glad I learned the little Russian I did in the last year. The first window was an information desk I could read the sigh above the window. “Tee goverete po angleeski” I ask the woman. “Net” she say’s. That’s it, just net. No smile, no attempt to help just net and then a blank stare. This must be what the taxi drivers feel like as I walk by. After getting my nerve I was able to explain to her that I wanted to get to Sochi. She was able to point me in the direction of another window which sold tickets for several airlines. Again very little English, like none. I want to say, to the readers, the lack of English speaking Russians was not a disappointment to me. I did not expect a Russian to speak my language and if all would have spoken English I would have felt like I was at an American tourist trap. At this window I was able to buy a ticket one way to Sochi that leaves at 4:00 pm that very same day. And the price was only 3500 Rubles or 140 dollars. This is going way too easy…. Oh what’s that …? What’s that you said? VNUKOVO? Ya ne panimio. Shto VNUKOVO? Oh a different air port I have to catch my flight at a different airport. I thought, this must be Like SVO 1 right? Just on the other side of the tarmac right? Net, it’s like a different airport 70 kilometers away.
Its only 1:00 and the flight leaves from an air port I can not pronounce 70 kilometers across a strange city in three hours. I hope I did not piss off any of the taxi drivers I think I am going to need one of them. I did start haggling with a couple of them on how much fare would be to Vnukovo, Funny thing the more I haggled the more expensive the fare got. I settled on one guy who convinced me that the driver would speak a little English. He wanted 3000 rubbles. I think the split is 2600 for the driver and 400 for the guy in the airport. So after I exchanged 1000 us dollars into 25000 rubbles (I always feel like I have more money when I do that) I am off to Vnukovo. A side thought is that it is not natural to put letters like V and N next to each other in the same word. I got really lucky with a cab driver his name is Oleg and I will talk about him some more later. He spoke good English, broken but good. With my little bit of Russian we had interesting conversation for the hour long drive to Vnukovo. Its 2:00 on the button and I am at the second airport. Things are going much better then I had expected.
The pressure is still on I have not checked in and I am not at all sure where to do so. This air port has international and domestic and I can not pronounce the airlines I am flying on. With a little help I find where I am supposed to check in and check baggage. With that problem diligently solved I want to take a little time and call My Lady in Sochi. She had not heard from me since I left New York 13 hours before. She was very excited to hear the news and she pointed out that I would be arriving in Sochi 5 hours earlier then if I had kept the original tickets. Always sees the silver lining this one, yea she’s a keeper. She said she would be waiting for me at the airport. All that’s left is to check in, sit back and read a few more chapters of Harry Potter and Deathly Hallows. Sochi is a vacation point for many eastern Europe people so the check in lines were packed with families traveling for vacation. They were long and slow, but it did not bother much because I was too excited to finally see My Lady again. As I was standing in line I was watching the other people. I noticed the man in front of me with a small child was talking with a woman in the next line with a small girl. The man said something to the boy and he left the line and went to talk with a woman in a third line. The Woman in the first line was very beautiful and was definately in charge. For purposes of this story I will call her Queen. The man then went over to a third line and brought back a suit case from another woman. Then the boy in my line went with the first woman after the man came back. Then the small girl came to my line and the man went to the third line and another woman came to stand next to the girl in front of me. The whole time the Queen was giving silent commands with her pointy little finger to all the players of her game. I finally guessed that they were all traveling together and the queen wanted to get the fastest possible rout to the check in. (So she could hurry up and wait at the gate). My line was moving pretty good and the Queens game continued. It was a tie between my line (just in front of me) and the space she was occupying. It happened in an instant the man left the spot in front of me vacated at the barking of the queen. I took my chance I pushed my rolling suit case just 8 inches. Just enough to block his rout back in front of me. Then with a skillful little shift of my weight and by slightly protruding of my elbow he was successfully blocked from re-entering the line. He tried but with no way in he had to return to the silent wrath of his queen. Oh how I love air ports.
I checked my bag and took out my paper work and set off to find the gate. It was strange I could not recognize any of the writing on my tickets as being a gate number. I finally asked information and she pointed me in the right direction. It was nice to see the line to go through security to the gate was short. But when I handed the lady my papers she started talking vary fast Russian. I had no Idea what she was saying after a few minutes she got it across to me that I did not have my boarding pass. I needed to go back to the checking counter. There is no way I would have time to wait in that long check in line again so I scureed up to the front. I saw the same woman that checked my bags and she saw me and smiled. I thought to my self she was expecting me back, how nice, she forgot to attach my boarding pass and was waiting for me to return. Wrong…. She looks at my papers and frowns instantly, She starts pointing frantically at a number on my ticket 20 , 20 , and points to some where across the airport. All I can say is “ya ne panimio”. She steps out from around the counter and starts nudging me in the direction where she was pointing. We went to a window which said Cassa above it. Oh Now I get it I was over weight on my luggage and I had to pay extra money. I paid something; I do not even remember what it was a small amount and returned to the check in desk. The same woman was glad to take me first and give me my boarding pass. (I think to finally be rid of me). Lines in Russia interest me, the way people form a line and how long they are willing to wait says a lot about the people in the line. I got to the gate an hour before we were scheduled to take off and there were already people in line. I sat down to read my book. When they called for passengers to start boarding the busses every person not waiting in line walked to the front (by the exit) in mob fashion. This left all the people in the back half of the nicely formed line truly at the end of the line. And they were the ones who waited all that time. Ok ok I can hear you screaming at me from here, I promise no more talk about lines. My god was this air plane a piece of shit. My butt was all the way back in my seat and my knees were touching the seat in front of me. The fan was broken, the light was broken, and the tray worked two thirds I mean it would only go down two thirds and sat there at a 25 degree angle to my lap. The seats were all different colors, I think because they would salvage replacements out of old air craft. Every thing was dirty, scratched, and worn. I was a little scared about this flight, more then a few times I made the connection of safety and maintenance to what I was looking at inside the cabin.
But all was good and I flew and landed safely in Sochi.
I forgot to mention a minor point in my journey. I left New York in a bit of a hurry and skipped the hair cut I had intended to get before going to Kennedy Air Port. After I called Sochi in Vnokovo I found a beauty salon. Inside there were two devushka one busy with a woman and the other waiting for….. Me. This was one of the best hair cuts I had ever gotten. Much better then the barber I usually go to.
I had last seen my lady in Moscow in May. That meeting in the airport was on the shy side. This meeting was different, nicer, and more familiar. When we saw each other we both knew we possessed the others love. It was like a science assignment to see how close two magnets get before the force takes over and draws each other into the other. We saw each other and were unconsciously with an invisable force drawn into each others arms. Two peoples silhouette with only one outline. My lady arranged an apt. for us and after a taxi ride and some diner day one came to an end.