Thursday, May 22, 2014

Vancouver BC to Seattle to New York City to Moscow

It was a bit of a gruelling flight stretched over a day and 2 nights. .  First Vancouver Seattle then overnight  Seattle to New York City.
Some idiot left his iPhone charging in the Seattle Airport Lounge.  (Alternatively, a devious unconscious will go to any length to get the latest iPhone.)
Arriving in New York at 7 am, not having to fly out to Moscow until the afternoon, I took the A train to Manhatten.  What a thoroughly different city Manhatten is in daytime. Just people going about their business, not at all the ‘party central’ of night Manhatten. I found the 5th Avenue Apple store and bought the latest iPhone 5S. Thanks to iCloud back up I was able to download contacts and apps including the Kindle with Moscow and Russia Lonely Planets.
With time to spare I caught a taxi back to the JFK and linked up with my friend Barrett who’d  just flown in from Alaska.
Now a 9 hour Delta flight from NYC to Moscow.  Captain Phillips was an awesome movie. Tom Hanks is an amazing actor.  Lone Survivor was a terrific Afghanistan war film of a platoon caught outside the wire and the morality of beyond Geneva conventions.  A lot of stiff messages and a large dose of reality.  I also liked the new tv series Turn. The Tom Clancy Ryan movie was fast paced intrigue and adventure,  with some excellent filming in Moscow. I’ve really enjoy world travel  if only for recognizing all the places I’ve been. in movies and on tv.
I drank lots of water which helped with flying. I take an extra Vitamin water along these days.    Still the trips  a bit of blur.   The pilots flew fine and the  Delta staff were great .   Still I felt like I’d done a couple of nights of obstetrics call when  I staggered off the plane into Russian Customs.
Given all the issues of visa,  concerns right now with international relations,  and fears from past cold war days, I was happy that my contact with Russian officialdom was anticlimactic.    Barrett's dual citizenship put  her ahead of me. She waited,  then we both headed off to the washrooms.  I shaved.  I didn’t ask what she did.
A guy offered us a taxi into the city ranging in price from 300 to 3000 roubles.  The lonely planet recommended 1500.  We took the bus instead changing to the superb Moscow subway where they joined up. The Moscow Subway stations with their tile and art are exquisite..  In NYC the train had been faster transport than taxi because of traffic jams.  Here in Moscow the traffic wasn’t much better.  I love rapid transport trains and subways.
People dressed alike in Russia and America. There were stunning women and handsome men in both places.  I don’t tend to look at the poor and ugly. They’re there too. I have this thing about ‘cookie cutters’ and see recurrent ’types’ wherever I travel.   I liked the high fashion in NYC and Moscow.  There seemed more wealth in the subways of NYC and wider ethnic variation.  I didn’t understand a word in Russian and couldn’t read the signs in the Russian alphabet.  Barett speaks and reads Russian. I enjoy having a translator.
I remembered renting a car in Greece and realizing I couldn’t read any of the road signs.  It had been exciting ‘winging it’.   Everywhere people helped me then. The same was true in NYC and here in Russia.  Barrett asked directions from strangers. Everyone was so helpful. Travelling around the world I find the vast majority of people are really decent. It’s so easy to overlook this especially when fear gets the upper hand.
Eventually we found our way to the apartment she’d  rented on line. Homey, not fancy but more than adequate. Secure building, clean, pleasant rooms.  The owner was there with her ‘little girl’. The little girl practiced her English on me. I had no Russian to practice on her.  It seems that despite reading up on the language all that’s remained is ’spaceba’, thank you.  The little girl, 3 or 4 ,knew all the parts of the body in English and all the furniture in the room.
The apartment is  a block from Red Square.  People rent their apartments to tourists just as people rented their lawns to motorcyclists at Sturges Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota where I rode my Harley last summer.  
After we got the apartment keys Barrett had us hiking all over Moscow.  I love the exercise I get being a tourist.  We  bought our Russian Sim Cards for our cell phones.I like my new iPhone even more now that it’s actually a phone.
I’ve been using the iPhone to take pictures of the place I’m at and the surroundings so when I get lost I can show people pictures of where I want to go. This worked really well in Azerbaijan last November.  One picture is worth a thousands words especially when you don’t speak the language.
Barrett’s other mission was to get us train tickets to St. Petersberg and Lenins home.  She accomplished these though I wasn’t allowed in the building. The dress code didn’t allow men in sandals.  A big business complex.  I and Jesus waited outside while suited hooved men and women in very pretty sandals came and went.
After Barrett got the tickets,  we went grocery shopping in a deli. I love seeing the variety of groceries the world over.   Barret's mostly  a vegan and likes eating in suite.  I’d personally been eyeing the KFC’s and MacDonalds and thinking of ordering pizza.  Instead  I bought Russian bread, cheese and Riga sardines. Nothing like hanging with healthy eaters to help steer one clear of fast food.  Gilbert, my dog, is a good influence with exercise but I think he may be the best person to follow when it comes to a health human diet. He does have some particularly peculiar tastes.
A ‘gypsy taxi’ brought back to apartment but first took us by the Kremlin.  For a couple hundred roubles Russians are happy to ‘taxi’ folk along their way.  The Lonely Planet says don’t get in if there is more than just a driver. and not late at night outside bars. Apparently this is  especially true if you are an attractive drunk foreign woman alone.   We had excellent results with just getting from a to b.  Being older has it’s benefits.    I don’t worry at all about sexual assault travelling at my age, not that I’d complain.  Now people want to 'strip me' for wholly different purposes.
Back at the apartment I literally crashed.   Barrett woke me on her way out for an evening with friends at a night club.  I was invited but, really, a glorious nap versus clubbing, with the techno music urban young people like, I chose the nap.
Now I’m awake. I’m planning on going a walk to nearby  Red Square.  Lonely Planet says it’s lovely lit up at night.  Apparently the ‘red’ was a ‘mistranslation’ as it was originally called ‘Beautiful Square’.
Other than that more people look slavic, the distinction about Moscow, other than the alphabet and foreign language, the onion and cross church architecture and the huge ‘Soviet’ and even pre soviet era complexes is in the atmosphere. The atmosphere of a place is what makes it so distinct.  There’s a unique ‘buzz’ here. There’s industry and  a robustness.  More smokers. People appear very busy just like in NYC.  I like that big city buzz. And lots of young people. So full of possibility.
Right now I feel great with a nap and a cup of instant coffee.  A shower and change of clothing will make things even better. Then a walk in Red Square taking night photographs.  I’d especially love to see St. Basils.  I love celebration of the highest ideals of man the world over.   My life is blessed.  My nephew Graeme is probably doing something similar right now in Poland. My brother is always photographing too.  We are a photographic family. Historians. Travellers  Dad  loved cameras especially early movie cameras and Mom always loved to travel.   It’s in the process more than the content.

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