REVIEW PART II (Dec. 27-Dec. 29):

Do you think that you've ever had a bad traveling experience? Yeah, I thought I had too -- Dec. 22, 2008 (I don't actually remember the date, but it was around there): stuck in the Seattle Airport for a day due to heavy snow and not enough de-icing fluid. I waited in line for about 3 hours, got put on a new flight and on standby for an earlier one, and then was trapped in the airport overnight. I got out, but the icing on the cake was having my bags get lost for a day.

Whatever. That story is so outdated now it's not even worth mentioning. A mere trifle.

So here's how the trip from hell starts out: I'm super excited because I'm going home and I'm going to get to see my family and Brian and have a superfantasticamazing time. I'm also happy because my tutor offered to give me a ride to the airport, which means that I can save some money and trouble. I'd been up really late packing and cleaning my apartment, but I was ready when they arrived. They got here early because we were afraid that the roads would be icy. They said that there had been some problems with Moscow airports, but I blew them off because that was silly and I was sure that nothing was going to interfere with my holiday travel plans. It wasn't even a peak time! Who travels on December 27th? Lots of people it turns out.

The roads were perfectly fine, so we got to the Samara Airport 3 hours early. No big deal, I was too excited to have waited any longer at home anyway. There seem to be some delays, but my flight (a measly 1.5 hour commuter flight to Moscow) appeared fine. My tutor, being the amazing person that she is, decided that she would wait until it was time for me to board just to make sure that everything went alright. It didn't. Fog came, the flights didn't leave Moscow, and I started to get agitated. After my flight had been delayed 2 hours, and I had been waiting for 5, I was angry, but not distressed yet. I had purposely planned a night in Moscow so that I could get some sleep in a hotel room and start out fresh the next morning for my international flight.

I'm not going to go into detail about the next few hours because it's still a touchy subject. In short, my flight was delayed 15 hours. I became extremely sullen and angsty and mentally pictured all of my grand vacation plans going up in smoke. At that moment I wanted nothing more than to simply be out of Russia. The airline ordered a hotel for us, but I was too nervous to stay there the whole time. At about 6 am I couldn't stand it anymore and went back to the airport, because I thought that there was some hope of still getting to Moscow on time. The information boards teased me a good deal, but at about 9 am I finally did get on a plane. We took our sweet time getting off the runway, and for the entire trip I just stared at my watch and hoped that there was still time. In short, there wasn't. We landed right as my plane was supposed to be taking off. Although, who's to say if it even took off at all?

An entirely new kind of hell awaited me at Sheremetevo. When I got my bag and left the isolation of the baggage claim I was assaulted by a vision of pure chaos. In that moment my heart fell. Before me were 2 day's worth of displaced travelers all crammed into the check-in area with no apparent sign of anything being done to help them. No one was around to advise travelers where to go, so I found a sign that seemed to be indicating that it was where you should go to alter your travel plans, and I waited in a mob for 6 hours. This was in no way a line; it was a shoving contest. After about 4 hours I started to get genuinely depressed. I hadn't really eaten or slept in a day, and I had looked forward to going home for so long that I was pretty much on the verge of tears. I had already sent a few international/long-distance text messages to pretty much anyone whose number I had and who I figured would be sympathetic, but at this point I sent my mom a message telling her to just get me a completely new ticket out of Domodedovo. Cost was not really a consideration at this point, because I was pretty sure that I would either shrivel up and die on the airport floor or have a nervous breakdown if I had to stay in Russia any longer.

Before you go and call me a wuss when it comes to traveling, let me remind you that I've done a lot of air time in my years. This was actually a disaster though...and I was dealing with a whole lot of crushed hopes on top of that.

After finally making my way to the counter only to be told that they couldn't help me, waiting in another line to be told that I could be sent to Copenhagen (but not necessarily Chicago), and coming to the conclusion that I was never going to be able to leave Russia, I decided to take matters into my own hands. I remembered my neighbor on the plane to Russia complaining about how the internet wasn't free in *wherever I was leaving from* because "In Russia, all airports have free wi-fi." These words often come back to me, and in most cases they seem to be true. I took my trusty purple netbook to an abandoned corner, put 500 rubles (a little under $20) on my phone so that I could send as many international texts as necessary, and decided to bust myself out of Russia. After finding and attempting to buy a plane ticket (only to have my credit card bounce), I finally heard back that my parents hadn't actually abandoned me, and that a ticket in my name was reserved and ready to be bought as soon as I gave the word. Relief!

The depression lifted and determination once again filled me. Now it was simply a matter of taking care of simple things like finding a hotel and getting to the airport. I took care of this in a matter of minutes, and then lugged my bags all across the metro system. By the time that I actually made it to the airport (Ekaterina Park -- excellent hotel, by the way. Free wi-fi and mini bar!) I only actually had about 4 hours before I needed to leave again. No matter. The important part was just that I was leaving! I took every item from the mini bar and put it in my bag, got on the internet to let Brian know about my plans and get some moral support, took a shower to wash the grime of Sheremetevo off of me, and then took a 1.5 hour nap to refresh myself. At 3:45 am I was downstairs ready for my breakfast (they asked if I wanted complimentary breakfast...I asked if I could get it at 4 am, they said I could, and so I did).

By 5 am I was at Domodedovo and ready to go, but just waiting for something else to go wrong. I was surprised once I could check in, more surprised when I made it through security, and astonished when there was actually a plane waiting at the gate. Things were slow to get started, and then the snow began to fall, and that was when I just knew the flight was going to get canceled. I watched the neighboring flight get delayed an hour...and then I watched my gate open..and people start to board. Then I myself boarded and I couldn't believe it. When we taxied around for another hour I was convinced that now the joke was up...we were just going to go back to the airport and unload. However....we didn't. 2 hours in we were de-iced. 2.5 hours in and we were taking off...I was still skeptical. I would not be happy until I was sure that we were out of Russia!

When we got to Frankfurt I was relieved. There were still problems though -- the security was the slowest that I had ever seen in my life. With the delays and slow security my 4 hour layover completely disappeared, and I only had time to make it to my gate 2 minutes before boarding. I was still horribly anxious, but starting to feel some hope again. When I was finally in my seat (a middle, but who cares?) and in the air I could at last relax. That was the shortest trans-Atlantic flight of my life and the happiest that I can ever be to get a middle seat.

I finally made it to Chicago 24 hours late (although it felt like years), exhausted, not attractive at all (as I'd hoped to be after not seeing Brian in 4 months), but completely happy. I escaped Russia, I did not die in Sheremetevo like I'd been convinced that I would, and I was now free to start my vacation.


Post a Comment

About this blog

Good news: no more required disclaimer!
Bad news: I'm really lazy about posting when I'm not in Russia