Friday, August 27, 2010

Just wasting time...

So here we are at T-15 days. Somehow the time has just started to creep. I find myself getting restless and frustrated. I've started doing mini-countdowns in my head: three more Spinning classes, one more Monday at work, one more payday.

In a stroke of luck, I called my doctor to see if he'd write me scripts in the event I encounter some intestinal nastiness while away. In the end I came away with a nuclear arsenal for anything that might bother me, and as a bonus, Hepatitis A shot too. Apparently, Russia has an "intermediate risk level" according to the CDC, so it's a wise move to get a vaccine. Even though it's a two-shot deal, one shot now should cover me when I'm there. I'll get the booster in 6 months, just because it seems like a smart thing to do given the amount of travel that I do. In the meantime, I've got an achy arm to remind me of the upcoming trip. As if I need the reminding!

Trip planning continues, and I believe is almost done. I just received my new Capital One card in the mail (no foreign exchange fees on purchases!), I subbed out the four classes I will miss while I'm gone, and I finally found laminated city maps of both St. Petersburg and Moscow. I've sort of stopped doing historical reading for the trip, as my tolerance for any more history hit overload at the beach last weekend, so now I'm reading fiction, City of Thieves, to be exact, and I've found two possible fiction reads for the plane. I'm stockpiling magazines and making a list of things I can do on the flights, including study for the PT cert and watch past seasons of House, The Tudors and The Office on my iPod. Sudoku is always good for a few hours too. I copied and scanned to PDF my visa and passport, so those at home have it and can send it to me if I need a copy of it while I'm there. I think all that is left is to stop the newspaper, buy the cat food and let my credit card companies and banks know I'm traveling so they don't shut me down the first time I use my cards there.

I am excited. No, I am beyond excited. I feel like a puppy who's about to pee on your carpet if you excite me much more. I'm trying to see past the 13 hours travel time to just get there (and the 16 hours to get home!). I'm still mentally and emotionally locked up in wondering if I'm going to love this or loathe this or just get by. I'm really hoping I'll love it....this would be an expensive trip to not love so much. I think about things like navigating the metro in another language and another alphabet. I think about trying to order lunch or dinner. I think about trying to find a rest room when I hit the ground in St. Petersburg. It's been a long time since I've been personally challenged like this; like I said before, usually travel for me is a no-brainer. I just cannot wait to get there and see how it all plays out.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Still waiting...

It's three weeks away today. And I vacillate between it happening sooner than I want it to, and not happening soon enough. Sooner than I want it to because of the reading that is left and the honest fact that I love to anticipate a trip. Not soon enough because I really want and need a vacation and I really, really want to see Russia.

In a show of utter mental exhaustion, last week I threw out my ATM card at the gas station. Better now than in two weeks, but the hassle of replacing it and blah blah blah. I'm just tired. 2010 has been a tough year in a lot of respects and I just need the mental break. I haven't had a proper vacation since November, so I'm overdue and ready. Hopefully when I get back I'll stop doing things like throwing out my ATM card absent-mindedly and putting the cereal away in the fridge and the cheese away in the cupboard. Ha!

In the good news department, Russia's historic heatwave (nearly 2 months at almost 100 degrees) ended last week and with that, the wildfires that have created poisonous smog over Moscow have started to subside as well. I'm hoping for more normal, typical fall weather there, in the high 50s, low 60s. That's what I'm packing for anyway. I've started to track Moscow and St. Petersburg on wunderground.com, to see what the extended forecasts look like.

And in more news, the trip spending got a bit of a kick when I bought a European surge protector (to plug all my need-to-be-charged devices into to recharge) and I received the Mobal cell phone and finally, finally found a pair of black pants that are suitable for travel (along with a couple shirts, a sweater and a pair of yoga pants for the flights...but I digress!)

So I think all that's left is to stop the newspaper, find my Spinning subs and pack. Literally. Wow.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Wheels in motion

I do not shudder when I realize that I'm now in days 20-something in my countdown. Now I've kicked the departure plan in motion. To that end, I just bought an international cell phone that I can use forever more on my various trips outside the US. I've confirmed my seat assignments with the airline. I've typed up an itinerary for my family so they'll know where I am when. I charged my laptop, did all the updates to it to get it up to speed and made sure I can download photos and such on it. I bought a travel diary, most of my toiletries and have started a staging area in my office at home. I've lined up my mom to take me to Logan and pick me up when I return. She's also taking care of my boy for me while I'm gone. Folks, this trip's a coming!

I am still more excited about this than I realize. August has flown so far, which I guess is a good thing. I feel like things are good...if only I could find some decent pants to travel with...all I have are jeans. Argh.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Stop the calendar, I want to get off!

Today marks the last day in the 40s in my countdown to Russia. It is also the second day that I can say "next month, I'm going to Russia." And I am desperately seeking the stop or the pause or the rewind. Something, anything to make the calendar slow down!

See, it's not that I'm not ready (I am!) or that I still have a ton of reading to do (I do!) or about 12 movies to watch (that too!) or that I'm nervous (you may be, but I'm not!) or that I don't want to go (not on your life!), or that I still have to shop for my toiletries, get a travel journal, get my international cell phone and a prescription for Cipro, you know, just in case. Yes, I have all of that left. It's just that I'm really, really enjoying the anticipation.

I could offer up any number of stunning analogies for you: reasons why I like to wait. God knows, this may just be the most awaited trip in history, certainly in my history. But there's something absolutely delicious about wondering and hoping and thinking about something and wondering and hoping and thinking about whether it will meet your expectations and fulfill your dreams. This morning I found myself staring out the train window wondering what it will be like to see the rainbow colored domes of St. Basil's Cathedral or the Church on the Spilled Blood, or to see if St. Issac's really is reminiscent of St. Peter's in Rome! I also find myself thinking about being in Red Square for the first time and wanting to pinch myself saying "you're in Red Square now, sister...RED SQUARE!" And wondering what my grandparents would think of this. Me, little Amy, in Red Square. And getting to see for myself: just how massive is this square? On his Russia episode, Anthony Bourdain called Red Square "the grandest public space in the world". Is he right? Will I be overwhelmed or underwhelmed? What does it sound like, how does it smell, can I take it all in at once? You see I've been to Vatican Square, I've been to San Marco Square...been there, done that. They were gorgeous but not overwhelming. Will I feel like I'm just in a tsar's living room like I did in front of the Doge's Palace?

Will I drink vodka? Will I eat well? Will I get around ok on my mediocre knowledge of Russian? All of this is milling about in my head. Do I really need to see three palaces of the Tsars as I have planned? Will anything I see in the Hermitage move me to tears? Can I take on the Hermitage in a day? Will I find all the artwork I want to see (damn, still have to pull THAT list together!)? What will places look like, how will the people be, how will my private tour will work? It's all that. All that and more. I don't think I've felt this level of excitement about a trip since my first: to see U2 in Dublin in 1993. Now, like then, I can't shut off my brain about it and somehow, I'm under the mistaken assumption that pushing pause or taking a break from the calendar will shut it off. But it won't. And tomorrow I'll be in the 30s in that countdown. With 3 1/2 books left to read, a dozen movies to watch and all sorts of errands to run. But it's coming. No pause button allowed.