I apologize for the delay, dear Readers. (And by Readers, I mean Mom and Dad. I got your frantic calls –I’m back from Moscow and everything’s fine, so don’t worry. )
When traveling in Russia, it’s important to keep in mind that it’s going to take a while to get to one’s destination. As Americans, we’re used to some good old fashioned hustling. In Russia, what I’ve seemed to notice that everything just takes longer. Waiting in line is longer, drying my clothes takes longer, mailing a letter (and receiving it too) takes longer, etc. Case in point, traveling to Moscow meant taking an overnight train to Syktyvkar and flying from Syktyvkar to Moscow. I could have taken a 30 hour train again, but that’s just too many hours on a train, and I didn’t want to risk the tiny jet that flies from Ukhta to Moscow.
I spent a day in Syktyvkar, the capital of the Komi Republic, with one of the Fulbrighters located there. She was an amazing host, and showed me her corner of Russia*. She also cooked for me, and food is always much appreciated in my book. So if you’re reading this — a big thank you!!
In front of the eternal flame in Syktyvkar
Onward to Moscow: Moscow is a huge, bustling city, and the human traffic jams that occur in the metro can be overwhelming. But from a humble tourist’s point of view, Moscow is an amazing city to visit because there is so much to do and see! You can’t get bored even if you tried. I don’t think that I could ever live there, though, mainly due to the human traffic jams. I’m terribly claustrophobic, and the term “personal space” doesn’t translate into Russian, so you can understand my dilemma. And don’t even think about driving here — it’s like a 24 hour, non stop traffic jam.
Throughout our orientation there, I kept forgetting that we were in Russia, because, well, Moscow doesn’t feel Russian. It’s like a strange hybrid between Russia and the West. There’s Red Square, St Basil’s, Novodeviche Cemetary, and then there is an overflow of Wendys, McDonalds, Starbucks, etc. Not to mention the influx of tourists and foreigners that are in Moscow. Despite all of that, it is still a great city to visit.
Even though I have only been in Ukhta for a couple of weeks, the trip to Moscow was a needed getaway. It can be incredibly isolating being the only American here in Ukhta**, and it was a breath of fresh air to be surrounded by my fellow Americans.
Moscow. Taken from a bridge.
So now I’m back in Ukhta. I’ll have to be honest, it’s been a little hard adjusting to the small city life. I’m from right outside DC, and so I’m used to having a big city and tons of museums at my finger tips. And frankly speaking, I really don’t enjoy being stared at on the streets — it’s as if I’m a walking exhibit and everyone wants to take a look. Hopefully, as time goes on, I’ll become less of a novelty and people will stop staring. Sounds like stage 2 culture shock is setting in! Time to light some candles and engage in retail therapy.
*Syktyvkar is only 200 miles away from Ukhta, but it takes 10 hours to get there by train. Like I said, things just take longer here in the motherland.
**As far as I know, I’m the only American in Ukhta. There are a handful of Americans in Syktyvkar — even one from my home town! But if there are other Americans/foreigners who speak English here, I haven’t met them yet.