|All smiles pre-flight|
I'll start at the beginning: our flight to Moscow from D.C. I knew a ten hour flight was going to be hard, but I figured worst case scenario, Jack would sleep three or four hours. The flight left at 5:00 pm and by 10, I was ready to kill someone (maybe the consumptive child hacking up a lung across the aisle. I swear, you've never heard someone cough or sneeze so much in your life. John was convinced we'd all walk off the plane with tuberculosis). Finally, Jack fell asleep. So did John and I. All was well for about thirty minutes, when something (I blame the plague-ridden eight-year-old) woke Jack up. Hysterics commenced. Finally John and I gave up on sleep, and at 3 a.m. or so, we dragged our butts off the plane and into the airport.
The Moscow airport is a truly terrifying place. It's just one giant open room with a bunch of check-in desks lined up in rows. Everything else was chaos. No one spoke English, you had to go from one line to another without any rhyme or reason, and I was completely baffled by the fact that everyone was shrink-wrapping their luggage. Sarah, seasoned traveler that she is, had seen this before, but it was a first for me. Jack fell asleep the second we got off the plane - natch - so we wheeled him over to a lounge and spent the next three hours in blissful silence. By the time we got on our flight to Yekat, Jack was still asleep. We were scheduled to arrive at 7 p.m., and I knew the only hope for Jack sleeping that night was if I didn't let him sleep too long during the day. But an hour into the two hour flight, he was still snoring away. Then John and I made the mistake of trying to wake him. More hysterics ensued. From hotel door to apartment door, the trip was close to 24 hours. It felt like a week.
I'll be honest, the drive to our new house was disheartening. The airport is about twenty minutes from the city, and between the two is a whole lot of nothing. It wasn't even a particularly pretty landscape. (There was a wake-boarding center, randomly enough.) Then we arrived in the city and I really started to panic. Anyone who has been anywhere in Europe knows that even the most beautiful cities have their ugly parts. The same is apparently true of Yekaterinburg. Only that was all I saw when we first arrived. But then we got to the apartment, and I started to feel slightly less on the verge of a nervous breakdown. The building isn't much to look at from the outside, and the elevator is down-right scary, but people, once we opened the door? Hallelujah! It's ENORMOUS! And clean, and modern, and yes, it has weird Euro touches like a bidet, but did I mention it's huge??
|Part of the foyer, with menfolk for scale.|
That first night was kind of rough. We all went to bed around 11 and Jack woke me up at 5. I managed to keep us both awake until almost 11 a.m., and then we napped together on my bed. John had to work his first day here, but he came home for lunch and told me about his day, and then he returned to work while Jack and I watched movies on the computer and putzed around.
|Jackie taking a much-deserved nap.|
That evening, one of the other FSOs, K, came and graciously played tour guide for the next few hours. The weather is really nice right now, and it still stays light out pretty late. We took a tramvai (sort of like a San Fran bus) up the street and passed a beautiful park and several really amazing buildings (and more hideous ones, admittedly). Then we arrived at what will no doubt prove to be my refuge come December: the mall (or malt, as Jack calls it). One of several, actually, but this one was fabulous. Aside from the large grocery store, which has an amazing variety of, well, everything, there is a Nordstroms-esque department store with a Whole Foods-esque grocery store. I spotted a Mango, a Naf-Naf, a Zara Home (!), plus a bunch of other stores I didn't recognize but fully intend to explore at some point.
|Did I mention they have Skippy? $8 a jar and worth every penny.|
After we did some quick grocery shopping and K rode the escalator about a thousand times with Jack, we went to an Italian restaurant that had delicious food AND an English menu! I was thrilled. It was getting late, however, and high chairs aren't nearly as ubiquitous here as they are at home, so Jack was starting to revert to his alter-ego. He slept pretty well that night, thank goodness.
|Triumphant after flinging K's brush over the ledge.|
|The "park" outside our apartment building. Sad, I know.|
Which brings us to today! Jack slept fairly well last night, John is at work, and our UAB (unaccompanied baggage) arrives any minute! I don't remember what the hell I put in there but at least I'll have some decent sheets (seriously, the ones they provide have a thread count of 10, and the toilet paper is half-ply). My mom and dad arrive on Monday, and tomorrow John is presenting a children's program that Jack and I get to attend. All in all, it's been a remarkably good first week here. Now I just have to learn some Russian and I'll be good to go, at least until winter hits in about three weeks.
But hey, there's always the malt.