Stranger in a Strange Land
I'll admit that on the leg of the trip from London to Moscow, I started to have some serious misgivings about my decision to travel halfway around the globe to a country where I didn't speak the language. Suddenly my first excursion to a foreign country (other than Canada) by myself seemed a bit...overly ambitious, shall we say. But I was to be staying with TravellingEm, so I knew I'd have help if I needed it. And being forced to go out there and try on my own, while COMPLETELY AND UTTERLY out of my comfort range (how did I forget that detail about myself?!?) would probably be a very good thing. Besides, people travel all over the globe all the time without being fluent in a language. This'll be fine. Ooh, look! We're in Moscow!
Oh, look. My bag is still in London.
Let's just say that immediately my Russian - or lack thereof - was put to the test. The folks working the luggage area were helpful enough, but spoke juuuust enough english to rattle off their memorized lines about the paperwork to fill out for the lost bag. Any deviation in the conversation off of this script brought everything to a screeching halt. But we managed to piece it together, they knew where my bag was, and arrangements were made to have it delivered. Ok, an inconvenience, but not the end of the world. I sure hope my driver is still waiting outside though - it took an extra 90 minutes to get that all worked out.
Luckily yes, my driver was waiting outside customs for me still, holding a sign with my name (and I will tottaly admit that seeing my name gave me a cheap thrill.) He immediately asked, "Lost bag?" I said, yes. And as he asked in english, I added, "Its still in London," which was met with "Eh?" Ah, I see. We've swerved off the script again. Tired and frazzled, I didn't really try for conversation for the drive into the city. Mostly I spent the next 90 minutes dozing, or trying to decipher signs (my reading is noticibly better than my speaking) or trying to not throw up from the jerking around in stop and go traffic. I think I mightily confused my driver with my reading; every now and then I'd sucessfully figure out what a sign said and I would just blurt it out loud: Center! Sports! Metropolitan! Open! Stop! Iggy Pop! (Apparently he was in town a few weeks ago and the billboard was still up.)
Eventually we arrived at Em's pad, and I met her at the door with crazed laughter. We hung out for a bit, and then went out to a nearby Georgian restaurant for dinner -- after I made her promise she'd do all the speaking for me (I'd been travelling for something like 14 hours at this point and awake for nearly 24; I could barely remember my own name.) She (amazingly!) rattled off a barrage to the waitress in Russan, who then immediately ripped the menu from my hands and returned with one in English. We ate tasty lamb, and eggplant stuffed with walnut paste, and this odd cheese bread, and of course, we had vodka. The vodka was preceded with a toast and chased by pickled vegetables with each sip, which sounds a bit odd, but the brine mellowed out the booze and the vodka knocked down the salt, so they went really really well together. Hooray! I'm a local now!
Oh, and our waitress cracked me up. She was attentive and would often check with our table to clear dishes or refill our wee vodka glasses from the special vodka carafe, but every time she came by, she'd reach over and take my used napkin. I have absolutely no idea why. She didn't do it to Em. Its not like she'd seen me drop it on the floor. Its not like it was even particularly dirty. I just got the feeling like she didn't like seeing it wadded up next to my plate as opposed to in my lap or something. I ended up going through about 4 napkins that night. Quite random.
All in all, it was a very pleasant evening as Em and I chatted and gossiped (in english!) and ate tasty food. I think in hindsight I probably rambled oddly and without editing, but whatevah. :) I then passed the fuck out in the guest bed around 2230 local. Woke up this morning around 0600 (dammit!) and actually saw Em off to work. That was about 3 hours ago, but I'm thinking I need to crawl back into bed. Even with the tea I had for breakfast (amazing Russina black bread and some funky Norwegian cheese - yum!) I'm realizing I'm about to fall off my chair. Besides,I need to have my wits about me if I'm going to try and write witty blog entries about my mis-adventures in Moscow, n'est-ce pas? Oh and yes, I need to stop trying to constantly speak in French here too. It just floats up automatically, and strangely. Let me assure you Russian sounds nothing like French. NOTHING.
Crashing and laying down now.