Saturday, May 31, 2014

First Day in Irkutsk

When we got to Irkutsk, the coordinator met us at the airport to take us to the dorms. I live on the 5th floor with a Korean roommate who is attending university here. She is fluent in Russian and only speaks some English. This is baptism by fire! We've already broken out the dictionary a few times because I just didn't know the words. (Although I should probably memorize the answer to 'why are you a vegetarian?!?!)
Some of the people I went walking with. Here we were walking along the lake.

My self and a few others here on a program from the US (the we at the airport) decided to,go try to find the university. We had a map, but that was it. The map did list the buses that would take us back, so we walked a bit and then hopped on a bus. Here you get on the bus and pay as you leave rather than pay as you get on. 

To get to where the map said the university was, it took about 30 minutes. We guessed the stop to get off on, but we couldn't find the actual building that the University was in. We wandered for a bit and decided that there should be food near the river, right? Nope. Just FYI food is the other way...

A church near the school

We did eventually find a restaurant near a shopping mall, where i had no idea what I was ordering, but it was a cucumber, radish mayonnaise salad plus mystery soup with pickles. Not the worst thing I have ever had, but I won't be going back. 

We then attempted to find our way back. I mean, the bus that got us here works, no? Apparently, not in Russia. It is a one way circle thing. We ended up going to the airport, and switching to the same bus number but a different bus and finally found our stop. It was interesting to get to see part of the city?

When I got back, my roommate was gone, but she forgot to leave the key, so I was locked out for a few minutes until a floor mate who is fluent went down and convinced the babushka to give me her key so I can get into the room.

a different church, this one is on the river, and they maintain a little garden

After a nap, I went to get some dinner supplies. Spaghetti and what I thought was tomato sauce. Which it was, but only tomatoes no spices. Which was fine but I think I will be trying to buy some spices. I also bought milk, cereal, juice, and yogurt.

When I got back, the floor was starting the welcome party they had planned for us. It was fun hanging out with people who mostly only spoke Russian. I understand a lot, but a few questions didn't make since, since I couldn't hear the words in the noise. 

I ended up crashing about 11pm. I was able to take a hot shower, which was nice, even though it is a handheld shower spirit instead of being able to be placed above your head. (Normal throughout the rest of the world.) 

Some first thoughts...

The city is currently backwards in my mind, for some reason the map in my head is different than the legitimate map.

The buildings are different from St. Petersburg. They aren't as European, not that this is a surprise, they are beautiful buildings, and very intricate. Mostly wooden on the outskirts, but concrete in the center area. 

There are few restaurants in one part of what is considered the center of town. Trust me, we walked it.

See you around the globe!

Friday, May 30, 2014

Arrival in Russia

I began my journey to Irkutsk at 5 am on Thursday, with two layovers in the us and a 12 hour one in Moscow with an arrival time of Saturday.

Everything was smooth, even though we had a delay in JFK for some sort of plane check. (I mean the jokes write themselves...the 'random' plane check that delayed the flight to Moscow is as random as the guy with a turban getting flagged for extra security checks...)

Delta's Economy Comfort was defiantly worth it...for the close to 10 hour flight it was $120.  For that you get to board first, after business of course, and you get extra leg room. I also choose an exit row, which meant that I could stretch out my legs and barely touch my backpack under the seat in front of me!!! Now, legit considering purchasing it for the way back too....but that way at least I have a window and not an aisle. Delta is not as stingy as Virgin with the food, but you only get one big meal, then a sand which, and a granola bar. 

Getting through customs was easy. However, they had a 'for Russian citizens' line and a 'for diplomats' line. It felt silly to go in the diplomats line, but the other didn't make any sense either. Eventually the nice agent people just said go wherever, it doesn't matter. They were looking at the passport and visa for a long time, but it appears they are doing that to ALL Americans. 

Luggage pick up was easy as well. However, figuring out where to go for a connecting flight? Or the capsule hotel I had heard about? Guessing is as good as the signs. I did eventually find the ticket counter and sat down to wait, but I was exhausted. I was trying to figure out how weird it would be in Russia to just sleep on the floor, when I heard an announcement for the 'Baikail Lounge' where for 2,000 RUB you can sleep for three hours, shower, get free coffee and tea,  and I was sold. I was starting to get that dizzy you haven't slept enough yet feeling. 

After the nap, I felt like a human again. Then the shower really helped!

I am currently awaiting my next flight. It's almost 7 local time and my flight leaves around 10:15pm. It's another red eye....we get into Irkutsk about 9 am local time (it's a 13 hour time diff to EDT, so about 8pm EDT). There will be two others in my program on the flight, but I don't know them, so we will see each other there! 

See you around the globe!!