After 5 weeks in Russia, I’m finally back in the US. I really didn’t want to leave…Moscow is so incredible. On Tuesday, my last full day in Moscow, I woke up early to get some last minute sightseeing done. Sadly, Red Square was still closed, but I did walk down to Lubyanka to see the former KGB Headquarters and notorious prison. In the evening I had dinner with some friends at the Georgian restaurant and then we went back to Shabalovka for cake and ice cream.
On Wednesday morning I checked out of my dorm. It is kind of an odd process. The dzherunaya checked my room to make sure I wasn’t stealing anything, for instance a desk or bed. I had to turn in my propusk (entry card) which I was hoping to save because the stamp they used on it said “MGY – CCCP”. She handed me another card which listed the number of bags I was taking out of the building. I thought this part was really odd…when I left the building I had to turn in that card to the security guard, who checked it against the number of bags I was carrying out. Very, very odd. When I said goodbye to the dzherunaya she kissed me on the cheek like 10 times…no joke, it was crazy, because during my 5 weeks at Shabalovka I had only seen her one other time before I checked out.
A driver from MGU picked me up at the dorm to take me to the airport. Liz and Luke skipped class that day and asked the driver if they could tag along to the airport. We finally got to Sheremetevo-2 just in time for me to check in. Russian airports are odd, as you can only check in/clear customs 2 hours prior to your scheduled departure, not any earlier. I got in the line that was listed next to my flight number, but it changed, so I had to get in another one. When I finally got to the front of that line, the customs officer told me to get in a different line. The entire process was extremely annoying. They finally screened my luggage and I was allowed to check in and get my boarding pass. After that you stand in another line for passport control. I am happy to report that this time (unlike last year) I went through the entire process without being yelled at by an irate Russian border guard. By the time I got through this process, I didn’t have any time to check out the stores or, more importantly, exchange my Russian Rubles for dollars. So now I have $70 worth of a currency that I can’t get exchanged anywhere but in Russia…excellent! My plane from Moscow to Paris was an hour late taking off, and I was sure that I would miss my connecting flight to LA. When we finally landed in Paris I had to wait for 15 minutes for the stupid terminal bus to transfer me from Terminal B to F. The other passengers were really pissed off at having to wait…they kept screaming that they were going to miss their flight, but the airport staff would just shrug their shoulders and say something in French. Charles De Gaulle Airport really sucks…the layout just seems really stupid. My plane to LAX was about 45 minutes late taking off and was probably one of the most annoying flights I’ve ever been on. It was a fun filled 12 hours of little French kids running up and down the aisles screaming their heads off, the lady in the seat behind me kept putting her nasty feet on my armrest, and one of the male flight attendants kept hitting on the girl sitting next to me. Well, at least the food was decent. We finally landed in LA around 11:15. On the way to customs they have a huge sign that says “Welcome to the United States of America” and under that is a tiny framed picture of George Dubya…haha great. U.S. customs was even more annoying than Russian customs because the lines are longer and you have to go through like 5 different checkpoints. The passport control officer spent 2 minutes talking to me about Russia and then I got my bags and went through the USDA check. The USDA officer asked me if I had any food and I said “no” because I’m sure by “food” he didn’t mean chocolate, turkish delights, tea, kasha, and instant borscht. I got into Palm Desert around 2am. It feels good to be back, but I wish I was still in Moscow! I had a great time there and made some good friends. Pictures will be up in a few days…now I gotta unpack.