Thursday, September 23, 2010

Russia - Coming Home

Don't take any of the following as having any bearing whatsoever on how much I enjoyed my trip. It just seems as though as perfect as the preceding 10 days were, my travel day home was fraught with missteps, near disaster and a whole lot of hassle.

You might remember that my suitcase seemed a bit heavy but that I thought I'd taken care of it with a careful packing the day before I left. Well, in fairness to the driver who I nearly killed under the load of this bag in St. Petersburgh, one of the wheels on it had been broken in transit, so it wasn't exactly as mobile as it should be. And apparently all my working out with Jon made me not realize the suitcase was as heavy as it is, because at check-in in Moscow, they made me "repack" right there at the check-in desk, unzipping my bag for the whole world to see my dirty laundry, literally. Problem was, I'd already packed all the heaviest stuff in my carry-on, in anticipation of this ritual which I'd done before. There wasn't much more stuff I could take out of the larger suitcase and carry on. I was meant to shed 6 kilograms, about 12 pounds! In the end, the agent let me carry on a shopping bag of stuff, so Dad's fur hat, a castle replica with a music box and three sets of matroyshka dolls all came on board with me.

Moving on to immigration, you might also remember how I said I "breezed in" to Russia when I arrived? Well on departure, the immigration agent was suspect of me because I did not look like my picture. Even when I took off my glasses, they were still doubtful. (I was pretending that I'd lost some weight in the 8 years since I had that photo taken, to ease the pain of this entire experience). I'll tell you, having Russian immigration officials, four of them, criticizing your picture and entry documents is a near intestinal-releasing experience. All I needed was three stamps on three documents to send me on my way, and it took them 20 minutes and a superivsor to get those stamps. But when I finally had the documents handed back to me, hallelujah! I ran for duty-free...where I had room in my bags to buy exactly nothing! Oh well.

Fast forward a bit to Munich, where I "only" had 90 minutes to connect to my flight to Boston. I had to go through security again though, despite never leaving the secured zone of the airport; literally off one plane, on to the bus to the terminal and into the terminal and directly on to the next plane. But the security agents saw the two Faberge eggs (replicas, not the real thing, but they apparently look like primative bomb parts) in my carry-on and, you guessed it, I had to unpack the entire carry-on for inspection. I actually think this was more the satisfaction of a bet between the two security guards, because while they were both looking at the x-ray of this bag, I heard them say twice "Faberge", so my guess is they were just trying to prove that's what they really were. But in my eye, this engorged carry-on wasn't meant to be anything but unpacked once, and that was supposed to be in the comfort of home, but I did it. I had no choice. And I repacked it too. And still managed to make the flight, even with a toilet and water stop!

And finally...Munich is one of those airports where the plane can taxi forever to take off. I mean we taxied so long that at one point I expected to look out the window and see Logan on one side and the Tobin on the other. We finally arrived at what looked like the take-off runway, and then the pilot came over the PA and, as is customary on Lufthansa, made the announcement first in German and then in English. All I heard at first was "blahblahblah PROBLEM blahblahblah PROBLEM blahblahblah PROBLEM". I knew something was awry even before he announced in English that there was a strong electrical burning smell in the forward galley and we'd be returning to the parking stand to investigate. Excellent. Long story short, it took them an hour to identify a coffee maker that was smoking (as in burning, not lighting a Marlboro) and they tossed that off-board on to the tarmac. Literally. Then another hour to confirm all other systems were go. Then we taxied again and took off. The 8 hour flight became 10 1/2 hours. But finally I arrived home. Safe and sound. I supposed it is better to find the smoking coffee maker before take off than somewhere mid-Atlantic.

Looking back even while still a bit jetlagged, the entire trip on the ground in Russia was just so wonderful, that while temporarily inconvenienced, I would not let the travel day jade my experience. Stuff happens. I am home safe and sound and with a wonderful trip under my belt.

Stay tuned for more...I have a few thoughts for longer essays on some of the things I blogged about in brief. Thank you for reading along with me though and for all of the feedback via email! You're fanning the flame for future travel writing!

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