Monday, February 21, 2011

The second interesting thing about going to Moscow in February...


...is that almost a year ago to the day, I had made the same trip, also for bureaucratic purposes. This meant that I could remember a few helpful pieces of information about Moscow this time of year: 1) It's cold, even inside the train station... and 2) Stores don't open very early. 3) Therefore, getting in at 5:30 am is bad. Later is better. We got in at 7am.

Not sure about the donuts...
We waited and waited for something to be open, so we could sit in the warmth. Finally the doors were open and we found our way to a food court. Just as we had ordered and were sitting down at the table, I looked at the time. It was 10:40 and my appointment at the Embassy was at 11:00. Panic! How had we gone from killing time to running late?

The thing about the Moscow subway is that there are many branches and it SEEMS like it will take forever to get somewhere, but in reality the stops are all quite close together, and the escalators are not so steep and slow as in St. Petersburg. It only took about 10 minutes to get to our stop, and then we just needed to find the right address. People on the street were quite helpful, even jumping in with advice as they overheard us asking for directions. read more/-

After we found the right door to the U.S. Embassy, Andrey went to a nearby shopping center to keep warm, and I went inside to get my "marriage letter."

It took a while to get through the security checkpoint, partly due to there being a line, and partly due to the Russian security guy being very chatty, especially when he learned I was from Massachusetts.

Inside, there was a line, too. The Consulate in St. Petersburg is nearly always empty. I got in line and it seemed that there was only one woman serving clients even though there were 4 windows and some people in the background doing something. I looked at the schedule saying they were open until 12:00 and looked at the clock reading 11:30, and I suddenly began to get nervous. Why didn't they have more people working? Why weren't they helping people who had appointments? Why hadn't I requested an earlier appointment?

The lady came back to the window but wasn't looking up, so I approached the glass and asked if I was in the right line since I had an appointment. "Yeah, just a minute." Grrrr. All-night train crankiness was setting in. After a few minutes she took a look at my form and then sent me over to the cashier's desk around the corner.

There was no one at the cashier's desk. Just a little empty room. 11:40. HELLO? I paced back and forth, poking my head in all the windows to remind them that I was there. Eventually someone waved at me, indicating that they would be there in a minute. After paying, I had to go back to the main room to wait for them to call me. It only took a minute and I signed the document in front of the notary. The stamps ended up not touching the signatures, which seemed weird, but whatever. The notary was a middle-aged American woman. "Congratulations," she said. Oh, that's right. I'm getting MARRIED. There was a reason for all this. She gave me a map and instructions for getting the document legalized.

As I was going back through security and reclaiming all my various gadgets, the security guy wished me well. I realized that the U.S. Embassy was the only place where people had actually regarded getting married as something positive. In the other places it was all about the paperwork and the visas and name changes and general stress. So nice to be reminded of the actual goal.

Andrey and I sat for a few minutes in some comfy chairs in the shopping center and he brought out my breakfast for me to eat. Smart decision considering I was probably low blood sugar at that point. After refueling, we decided to go check out the Church of Christ the Saviour. It's a beauty both inside and out. Besides the spacious sanctuary, the church has a downstairs part where there are more icons and some temporary exhibitions. Many visitors seemed to be sincerely praying to the icons and even to some skeletal remains on display. If you want to get technical, this is called veneration, and not worship...but I have never quite understood the difference.

The clock was ticking, time to get to the next office to drop off the document for legalization! I had goofed a little bit with the address and it was farther from the metro than originally thought...but there was no line this time and it was a quick errand. The guys in the legalization office said we could send anyone we wanted to pick up the document, potentially saving us another trip to Moscow.

Done with business! On to "pleasure." First stop? McDonald's. Yep, if you've lived abroad, you know that McDonald's can be counted on for having nice seating, prompt service, and, most importantly...a free bathroom. We found a nice comfy booth near the soundproof (!) birthday party room, ordered lunch, and rested for a few hours before making our next move.

We were headed to a bookstore, but we hadn't gotten very far when Andrey spotted a cow sculpture and I simultaneously spotted a Dunkin' Donuts. That's right, in one day we visited Sbarro's, McDonald's, and Dunkin' Donuts. What can I say, out of the fast food options they're not bad. And I hadn't seen Dunkin' Donuts in St. P., although I heard rumors of its opening.

After initiating Andrey into the Massachusetts donut tradition, we made our way to the bookstore and spent an hour or two browsing before heading back to the train station. We boarded our train, noticing with amusement that it was the same company and the same wagon we had traveled in on the way over (a bunk or two closer to the bathroom). Andrey let me have the bottom bunk and I slept a little better. :)

6:30 am-Home sweet home! We survived our first trip together!

3 comments:

  1. I totally spied that Dunkin Donuts bag in the picture at the top of the post! I had no idea the franchise has made it's away across the Atlantic! A little slice of New England in Russia, that must have brought a smile to your face :) So glad you were able to get all that paperwork taken care of, sounds like it was a long day but I'm sure you were glad to have your sweet man with you!

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  2. Did the doughnuts taste like Dunkin' Donuts? The thing about McDonalds in Moscow is that to me it tastes SO Russian... I sit there trying to figure out how that is, exactly. More onioney? Also, the first time I was in McDonalds' in Moscow they had the most spectacular salad bar. Now THAT I wish they'd import to the US!

    Adoption was the same way. Amidst all the paperwork, and umpteen zillion offices, someone at the US Embassy said "Congratulations!" and I honestly thought they were congratulating me on getting the last bit of paperwork done - not having a new child! It took me a moment.

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  3. It was very nostalgic. :) The craziest is going to be visiting New England WITH my man. Now that is going to be a strange/fun experience. :)

    These doughnuts were not extremely fresh, and I suspect they were day-old, based on the reduced price and the fact that they were Valentine's doughnuts and it was already Feb. 15th. But still had that familiar taste, I would say. Makes me want to hunt down the DD's in St. Petersburg to go get a fresh one!

    I think McDonald's food tastes a little different and their menu tends to have a slightly different assortment, but honestly I don't usually visit McDonald's at home, except on long car trips. :)

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