Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Flying, continued

 I suppose I'd better finish my tale!

We made it to the hotel with all our baggage and family members, and tucked in for the night. I set my alarm for breakfast ahead of the 11 am checkout.

The kids slept in fairly late and we let them since there wouldn't be anywhere to put Sophia down for a nap preceding our 7 pm flight. I waited and waited and finally just went down to the lobby to get breakfast since we clearly weren't going to all be ready.

On the way up with the breakfast, I asked the concierge about the airport shuttle as far as the 11 am checkout. Well, the "last" shuttle was at 10 am. Until 4 pm. Huh. I couldn't quite wrap my head around that one...11 am checkout...shuttle until 10 am. It was too late for the shuttle, anyway. I headed back upstairs to finish packing.

We were downstairs and checking out by 11, and the hotel mistakenly put the charge on my debit card. Nope, DELTA will be covering that one! Luckily I caught it and got them to fix it. Meanwhile, they ordered a taxi for us.

From bits of conversation that I'd overhead, this hotel was a relatively new branch and they were still ironing out the kinks. We were certainly glad for accommodations.

We headed to the airport first (the cab driver was great) since we wouldn't be able to get far with all our suitcases. The terminal was a totally different scene this time. I first went and inquired about checking our luggage. There was no room where we could store them temporarily, but they could be dropped off up to 6 hours ahead of our flight.

Next I went to the machines and started checking in. I hadn't had a chance to try it at the hotel. As usual, I went through the whole procedure and got an error message. But in this case there was an actual agent standing there ready to help people who had questions. She took our passports and visas and checked them all and got us boarding passes. If there had been such an agent the day before, we could possibly have made our flight. Of course, it still took time and would have been more difficult at a busier time of day, but we were able to obtain information and results more easily.

We hung around until we could check our bags, and then we were free for a few hours. I had just connected with my second cousin, exactly my age, who lives in the area. She was still on summer break from teaching elementary school and cleared her schedule to hang out with us! After a little investigating, we found the public transportation pleasantly easy to use, and were meeting up with her at the aquarium in no time.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Flying by the seat of my pants

Have you ever missed a flight? Now I know what that feels like. Read on...

After spending a few weeks with my parents in the U.S, it was time to fly back to Russia. We had arranged with a transport company to be picked up 5 hours before our flight, leaving 3 hours for the 2 hour drive, arriving at least 2 hours before our flight.

It was our standard time to leave, but none of us checked the road conditions or had any idea that a MASSIVE construction project had been underway for the past few weeks. We certainly would have planned to leave earlier if we'd known! And the transport company definitely should have checked, too.

Still blissfully unaware of impending disaster...

Soon after we got underway, the driver checked his GPS and realized we needed to take a detour. So off we went on the scenic route. I figured our extra hour would help, but the situation was more serious than that! We were creeping along on country roads. When we finally neared the city (Boston), we hit bumper-to-bumper traffic. I was avoiding looking at the GPS, but I saw how it kept recalculating. We were "10 minutes away" for about an hour! It was definitely torture knowing we were that close, yet stuck in traffic. There was absolutely nothing we could do.

Probably the worst part of the whole ordeal was the feeling of suspense as we waited helplessly to see what would unfold. My mom and I were texting the whole time and she had a lot of people praying for us. I knew nothing bad would happen, but I still didn't want to be in this situation. Even if we were going to make our flight, I didn't want to deal with the intensity of rushing. "I don't want to be here! I don't want to deal with this, Lord. I just want it to be over!"

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Breaking up

I've written some about our church conflict, and sometimes an interesting development comes up that would be good to share, but then I run out of time OR it goes downhill again and I can't find the words anymore.

I will share eventually about the "dating" side of this period, but unfortunately right now we are still seeing relationships break down.

We have to say goodbye to being in close fellowship with a lot of long-time friends.

-they were my family for years when I was alone in a foreign country
-they walked with me through numerous trials
-they rooted for us when we were planning to marry
-they organized and witnessed our wedding
-they saw us become parents for the first time

Part of me doesn't even want to look at the wedding photos, or birthday cards from over the years, various gifts in my possession that came from these friends. Breaking up does that to you, right? You just want to erase the memories? I look at our different personalities and wonder what on earth held us together in the first place. Surely our friendships had the wrong foundations if they could disintegrate at the first sign of conflict.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Hosting World Cup 2018 and other news

Haven't had a chance to write in weeks, and the World Cup has been in progress for a few weeks already. It's so cool being a host city! I've never been to the Olympics or any other large-scale sports competitions, so this is kind of a new experience.

World Cup welcome sign...
too crowded to take many photos

Although thousands of tourists hit St. Petersburg at this time of year, the demographic is totally different, of course. Instead of wealthy retirees or others simply on vacation, there are sports fans of all ages... not just from European/northern countries, but lots from the Middle East and Latin America, too. As you can imagine, that shakes up the cultural atmosphere just a little! It's so warm and friendly here. I love Russian culture, and have a cultural post coming up when I have the time. But all the people walking around smiling makes such a difference. Even the locals are admitting that despite the congestion and longer commute, the celebratory mood is contagious. It's hard not to smile when Brazilians and Egyptians are wandering around wrapped in their countries' flags. Hard to explain, but it's different from just the local soccer fans running around on a game night.

The city completed (or at least undertook) lots of various construction projects in preparation for this year's festivities. This year was also St. Petersburg's 315th anniversary. Public transportation is decked out in World Cup decor, there are banners everywhere, certain buildings have been restored, and two new metro stations have opened recently, with close proximity to the soccer stadium.

It's a great time of year to be in St. Petersburg: White Nights, soccer fans, and last Saturday was the annual "Scarlet Sails" celebration to honor high school graduates. Look it up to learn more! I've never attended, but various parts of downtown such as Palace Square are closed off to the public, and those with tickets get to attend a concert and gather on the bank of the Neva to see fireworks and the actual scarlet sails along the river. No alcohol is sold on that night...though I'm sure some people plan ahead!

Of course, there is always a downside to large events.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Movie theater triggers


Summer always has a special feeling in the air. In St. Petersburg, of course, it stays light until close to midnight nowadays.

David's workshops are over, so he is on "vacation," resting from all his hard work. ;)

Andrei's workload fluctuates. Lately we've been having guests several times a week, so it feels busy even though Andrei is working fewer days. And the summer will probably fly by!

Since Saturdays are free now, Andrei and David (almost 6) went to the movies this weekend. And they let ME come, too! My in-laws stayed home with Sophia (almost 2). We don't often do this type of configuration because David is so attached to his grandparents. But he was okay with leaving with us as long as he knew he could play with them afterwards.

It was my first time in a movie theater since The Fire at Kemerovo a few months ago. I wouldn't really say I was nervous, just more aware. Probably the way Americans might have felt after the Aurora shooting. I looked around for emergency exits-no padlocks or other safety violations to be seen. Regular emergency exits that have the bar you press to get out.

Still, though. My MIL doesn't even want to set foot past the first floor in the shopping malls. We haven't said it out loud, but I don't think we would linger in any of the kids' (enclosed) play areas anymore.

I stood in the foyer of the movie theater and had to struggle not to cry thinking of the schoolchildren who perished. When we took our seats, I let my mind wander a little bit to the unthinkable. Not because I was scared for myself, but because I had to mourn for them a little bit and put myself in their parents' place.

Other than that, it was quite a nice time, just like a trip to the movies should be. It was probably my first time being at the movies with David (he usually goes with Andrei), and it's fun to experience the joy of it through a child's eyes. The movie theater and special snacks are still something special. I loved his little rules, like not sipping our milkshakes until the movie started (except for a little tiny bit just to try it).

Andrei and I both dozed off multiple times throughout the film and agreed it was probably the worst we'd "seen." But David was content and even said he'd love to see it again. :)