Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Journey to the Beginning...

We made it. Alison & I made it to Moscow but we haven't even begun our trip really. We've yet to meet up with our contacts where we're staying during our time here, we've yet to see Red Square (though I caught a glimpse of the gilded onion domes of the Kremlin at one point) and of course we have not bought our first tickets for our Trans-Siberian train trip. But we are here, and we have had quite the adventure thus far. So let me rewind...

Monday morning I picked Alison up from the airport in Vancouver and we booked it over to the Chinese embassy where she was hoping to accquire her final visa in order to enter China after Russia & Mongolia. We waited for hours and tried every possible thing we could think of but could not secure her visa. So we've prayed, and we'll keep praying, and when we get to Ulaan Bataar, Mongolia we'll stop by the embassy there and see what can be done. Please, PLEASE keep this in your prayers.

That evening, a friend from Menno drove Alison & I to the airport after hanging out and providing us with travel tips and contact information for friends and places all across Russia. April had lived in Siberia for several years and has traveled extensively throughout the country and has been gracious enough to help us out even while studying furiously for Hebrew exams/rooting for the US men's swim team (which even the Brits, Estonians, and Russians have been doing as evidenced by the local papers).

Our first flight from Vancouver to London Gatwick left two hours late which put us in a mad rush upon landing in England. Just the day before the city's mayor had blasted the Gatwick airport for its terribly slow processing times and baggage delays...I'm pretty sure this poor exposure helped us out because while things were slow, they were apparently not as bad as they'd been the day prior. Alison had bags she needed to courier to London for when she flies back after our trip to teach for a year, so we flew to the left luggage department and then checked in less than an hour before our flight. We careened through the airport with our cart laden with baggage just about smashing into all sorts of polite British folk and harried tourists, but we made it with sweat dripping down our backs and no food in our bellies. Silly us, we thought we might get fed on the flight....

If you think Air Canada is bad about charging you through the roof if you want a blanket or snack, try Estonian Airlines! Three pounds for a blanket and you don't even want to know what a quiche cost! I decided to try sweet talking the flight attendants though, when I realised that we would be arriving in Tallin, Estonia well after airport restaurants were closed for the night. In the end, one sweet flight attendant loaded us down with hot rolls, two hot meals, and a big bottle of water. With this as well as all our backpacks in tow, Alison & I set out for a night spent in the Ulimeste airport in Estonia's capital city.

I swear you would all be grinning from ear to ear if you could see the bed we constructed in the front waiting area of the airport. A few others were forced to spend the night in the airport as well, but our construction was pretty stellar (I'll get pics/videos online eventually)! We shoved three benches together so that we had a sleeping platform the size of a queen-sized bed, then locked all our bags together underneath with zip ties. Next we unfurled thermarests, jackets, and sleeping bags, and finally, we changed into our pjs in the restrooms. While we didn't sleep a whole lot due to some of the others who decided not to sleep, the floor polishing machines, and bright flourescent lights, it was still fantastic to be able to get horizontal for a few hours, and we were pretty comfy too!

This morning we boarded our flight from Tallin to Moscow and upon arriving in Moscow changed some US $ into Rubles and caught a shuttle to the metro which we road into downtown. We've spent a better part of our afternoon looking for cheap eats which proved to be EXTREMELY difficult in this city. I don't even want to tell you what we payed for an orange juice at a coffee shop we stopped at...let's just say that we were so appalled, we split the juice! Eventually we found a fantastic (and more reasonably priced) Russian restaurant that served a lot of locals and a couple really hungry Canadian girls. The food was AMAZING and we really didn't want to leave...but leaving brought us to the internet and to you, so I'll speak for both of us and say that it was well worth it!

So far, Alison's Russian has been a blessing to me...oh the struggles we would have had without it. And she's also been able to connect with some really cool ladies we've sat next to or chatted with in the airport. I can't wait until I can start blessing others with my photography, and I probably won't have to wait long. We'll be going to Perm after Moscow (probably by Sunday or Monday) and there's a Russian couple we've heard of who needs a wedding perfect!!!

Anyway, I'm gonna run out of time here, so I'll wrap this up.

From Russia with Love!

Jaime & Alison ( I've now been calling her by her Russian name)