March 13, 2011

I want to be forever young

"There's no such thing as bad weather...only bad clothes."
-The Russian way.

I had quite the whirlwind day yesterday. I woke up at 8:00 to get ready and take the shuttle to the metro station at 9:30 to meet Myriam and Jeska at 10:30 a few stops away. I arrived at the metro around 9:45 and stood outside for 15 minutes because I wanted to be in the fresh air as long as possible. I have come to love the metro but nothing changes the fact that it smells disgusting.

I entered the Metro at 10AM sharp. I read the signs, got on the correct line (well...there was only one line in the station I was at. But I got on the line going the right way.), counted the stops, got off, read the signs, and went to wait for the girls near the brown line. Like a champ. The time is now...10:15. I am supposed to meet them between 10:20 and 10:45 and they're going to call.

Time passes. No phone call. No sight of them.

I had resolved to leave the metro at 11:00 if they didn't call or show up. Then I realized that the shuttle from the metro station by my house comes at 11:10 so I probably wouldn't make it and I would just be stuck there for an hour until the next one came at 12:10. I was reading the shuttle schedule for the weekdays anyway so...the shuttle thing was a moot point. But I didn't know that. I just sat and sat and sat and thought and thought and thought.

I played a game that I like to call "Ugly Russian, Pretty Russian, Not Russian, Fat Russian, Babushka." Pretty self-explanatory...but literally everyone falls into one of those five categories.

I people-watched a lot. And you know what? I saw someone I know. I think I know probably five people in this entire country, and there I was just sitting in a random metro station and I saw someone I knew running down the stairs. I didn't talk to him. I just started at him and watched him run to catch the metro. And thought.

I had brought a book with me (Great Expectations) but I didn't want people to know I am American so I didn't want to read a book written in English. Lame, I know. At this point three different people have walked up to me to ask me for help/directions and I feel bad just shrugging my shoulders and shaking my head.

It's 11:07. Myriam had an appointment at a salon at 11, I was just meeting up with them along the way, and at this point I am convinced that they aren't coming and I am going to be stuck in the metro for hours until I can work up the will to go back home. Tears were welling up in my eyes. All I wanted to do was GET OUT OF THE HOUSE. I kind of convinced myself that this little metro romp had been adventurous enough...that even if I had to go home I would go home knowing that I saw a bit of Russia. Ha.

I exhausted all my resources to try and figure out their phone number and try to get a hold of them. Hint: never plan to meet up with someone unless you BOTH have contact information for the other. I was just sitting there with basically no hope left that they would find me, but I thought that maybe If I waited long enough I would see them on their way back home from the salon. I played a lot of Fruit Ninja, let me tell you.

Then I heard a English "There she is!" Someone grabs my shoulders. MYRIAM! People in the metro probably thought I was a psycho because I just screamed and hugged her. I was in such a daze that M&J had to scurry me through the open doors of the metro car right before they closed. I was elated. Turns out when they call my phone number they get a message that says "This number does not exist." Kinda what I figured.

We took the brown line for one stop and got out to find this salon that their program coordinator at ILP, Gulia, ("Nice to meet you, my name is Julia Gulia.") had scheduled Myriam an appointment at. We talked to Gulia on the phone. We read her directions on the paper she had given them. We followed her directions over the phone. We crossed the street 6 times. We asked people for help. We gave people the phone to talk to Gulia so they could try to help us. We found a really really cute bakery that I intend to revisit. We found THREE salons, none of which were the correct salon. 2 of the 3 we found were in building 21, which was the building number we were looking for...apparently we were on the wrong street. Then this hot Russian angel man approached us and said, "Can I help you with something?" in broken English. I think I just stared at him. We talked to him, Gulia talked to him on the phone, I said to Myriam "I think I am in love," he talked to his friend who was an older man and already using his phone to search for the address on our paper. Anyway, they figured it out and walked us to the building that the salon is in. Seriously the nicest Russians ever.

So we go in and to even enter the building you have to tell the security guard at the desk where you're going in the building. There's really no communication happening. We are getting the blank mean Russian stare from this bald and scary security guard. The angel accidentally took our paper with all our directions and the name of the salon on it so we call Gulia (she hates us now) to ask her the name, tell the guy the name, he gives us these little papers for the salon that say where to go. 5th floor. Number 7.

This is no salon. Seriously I have no idea what the hell happened but we just ended up in some freaky place with no humans in sight and the longest hallway ever. And a piano and two fish tanks. With HUGE fish. Pictures cannot convey the horror.

It's been probably 2 or 2&1/2 hours and we throw in the towel. Myriam gives up on getting her face threaded because we are donnnnnne. The bright side is that it was really very fun wandering around and now I know one block of Moscow very very well. "Caitlin, What if the only reason we wandered around for two hours was so that we could meet that guy and he could accidentally take our paper which happens to have your phone number on it..?" Destiny. That's the other bright side. You're all invited to my wedding reception in Red Square.

Then we got back on the lovely metro, traveled back to M&J's neck of the woods, and went to grab Blini in the mall food court. Blini is like the Russian version of crepes. Mine had ham and cheese rolled up inside and it was yummy.

Then...the grocery store. I wish I would have taken pictures but before you go in they make you put your purse in a plastic bag and they melt it shut so you don't steal anything. But anyway, I was afraid to rip the bag and get my camera out. Russian grocery stores are THE worst. Imagine Costco on a Saturday but 1/4 the size with twice as many people. People who don't mind SHOVING you. People who have no sense of personal space. It was terrible, really. I'm glad I never have to go, but I'm glad I got to go one time to see what it was like.

We left the store, groceries in tow, and walked to the bus stop. It takes about 45 minutes to get to where the girls live because they literally live in the middle of the woods. Across the street from the President. Side note: Forever Young was playing in the mall, and I kept singing one line over and over for the rest of the day because it was stuck in my head. Myriam, Jeska, Amy, Elise, and Kara feel the pain that my roommates feel when I get five words of a song stuck in their heads for days. This time it was "Are you gonna drop the bomb or not?" Then we got off the bus and walked down the road to their apartment. We were supposed to go ice skating but that didn't work out because it was now 4:30 and we come to find out that it will take us 20 minutes by car to get to the ice rink, but two hours by bus. So since they don't have a car...Myriam, Jeska, and I walked around the woods for a while.

The girls live in a pretty wealthy neighborhood and there are security guards and such separating the subdivisions of this neighborhood. There is a convenience store right inside one of the subdivisions so we went there and I bought my favorite chocolate (Milka bar with whole hazelnuts) and a diet coke. Then we decided to walk around the subdivision (the guard told us later through hand motions that next time we can only go to the convenience store and come back out. We're not actually allowed to walk around. Woops.) The houses are beautiful and weird and I loved every second of it.

Right across from Myriam's apartment.

My favorite photo of the day!
The sky was perfect.
Will you live with me in this house? Please?

You can't tell very well but this house is mint green. Like, gorgeous mint green.
I was trying to take a picture of this house by climbing onto the snow and looking over the wall...don't know why I thought I wouldn't sink in. I did it down the road again but this time as I was sinking I reached out to grab something for support and grabbed a security camera. Then I started cackling and clumsily stumble-ran away.

The pink house I so desperately wanted picture of. This is what I don't get...if you're going to build a glorious house, wouldn't you want people to be able to see it? Hmmmmmm?

Then it was time for me to go home...Myriam took the bus to the metro with me and I learned a lot about her. She is seriously one of the coolest, most adventurous people I know. She rocks. On the metro I sat across from a sleeping hobo who had snot dripping into his mustache and his mouth hanging open and I thought I was going to vomit. Then I strategically waited 30 minutes for the shuttle: walked around, shopped inside the little mall, changed locations a few times so as to not get kidnapped, etc. I hopped on the shuttle and a few seconds later two girls ran up to the shuttle and got in. They are in 8th grade and neither of them wore a coat or a hat or gloves or even a sweater. I guess Babushkas were like screaming at them all day and hitting their arms for not wearing coats. I didn't really feel bad for them...if you don't wear a coat you will freeze your butt off and also stick out like a sore American thumb. And get yelled at by everyone. Anyway, the were cute. I love the zeal 14 year-olds have for life and going to the mall and iPhone apps and such. Seriously one of the greatest feelings is getting on that shuttle after a long day. Of all my modes of transportation, it's my favorite because I get on and I know exactly where it will take me: home.

PS. Unfortunately even the bra I was wearing through all of this smells like Russia now. The scent is seeped in to everything and it is disgusting but also beautiful.

PPS. Make this station on your Pandora: Jean-Yves Thibaudet.

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