Sunday, May 11, 2008


Just arrived in St. Petersburg and am friggin exhausted. Never again will I fly internationally in economy class. FinnAir is a good airline and all, decent food and service, but I just can't sleep when I'm upright and someone else's head is practically in my lap.

When we arrive, I wonder if there was a crisis in the region as the immigration line is about fifty wide. Then I remember that people outside the Anglo nations never had queuing in their etiquette protocol. No words are spoken as I hand over my passport, parying there are no unnoticed errors in my visa ("Ma'am, your name is not transliterated properly/your patronymic is missing.") and when I get it back it has a bright orange stamp. After exiting through the customs door, I push my way through a scrum of Central Asians huddling by the portal waiting for loved ones to arrive. Our Tour Director informs us that we are the first of the tour group to arrive, but the first shuttle to the hotel already left. Our options are to wait for the next shuttle in two hours or take a taxi. We opt to wait, and I pass out on the bench, clutching my prized possessions to me. I grasp what it feels like to be homeless or a refugee when I awake with a very stiff neck and sore ribs.

The food situation will prove to be an adventure. Supposedly, the quality of the food (NOT customer service yet) has improved greatly since perestroika. The horror stories I heard about mystery meat and non-homogenized lava lamp sodas seem a thing of the past. However, at dinner I'm a little skeptical. I asked a waiter in Russian and then English if our appetizer salad was made with fish or meat. After three attempts in two languages, he shrugged and walked away. This is going to be fun...

This is my first major vacation since Prague, and I'm psyched! Flying around the country for long weekends to attend weddings and conference or work 20-hour days does not count. I did not review my entire Russian textbook as I had initially planned, but by the sounds of it my vocabulary and accent are better than the Tour Director's. More to come once I nap off the jetlag...