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Day 1: Russian welcome

April 16th, 2011

The only part of the flight attendant’s announcement that I understood was “minus one degrees centigrade”. My first thought was “I’m going to freeze here” and my second thought was “I’m screwed because I can’t understand any Russian and that wasn’t even in Russian”. The flight attendant was speaking in English but had a Russian accent.

I wasn’t feeling any more hopeful about the start of my trip after being turned away at the immigration desk because I had put in the wrong number for my Visa # on the form. Apparently I should have written the number in the top right of my visa and not the number that was shown under “VISA ID”. Go figure. To make me feel more out of place, once I got out of customs, I couldn’t find a working pay phone and I had no idea where I was supposed to meet my couchsurfer hosts. It was a small international terminal so there weren’t many places to look. Standing around outside the terminal exit only attracted random men to me asking if I needed a taxi. I’m assuming that’s what they were asking because the word “taxi” was the only word I understood. Eventually, I got the nerve to try and ask someone if I could borrow their mobile phone to make a local phone call. As I was trying to make one person understand what I needed, another man handed me his phone. Thank you! But looking at the phone, I couldn’t figure out which button on the menu was to make an outbound call. Mental note: look into phone app UI designs later.

Made call, figured out where to wait and then stood outside waiting, amazingly, not feeling cold in my cotton jacket. From then on, everything has been excellent in Vladivostok. My couchsurf hosts, Eugenia and Olga, love their city and drove me around showing the beach and the construction work. Apparently there is going to be a big Asia-wide conference here in 2012 so the whole city is under construction.

After getting to their apartment, we spent hours talking and eating. According to one of my hosts, her favorite thing is to “eat, drink, and gavareet”. I learned quickly that gavareet is to speak. One host speaks English and translated for the other host. It’s hard to explain how thankful I am that they took me into their lives and are making every effort that my introduction to Russia is hospitable, fun, authentic, and memorable. There are behind the scenes stories that I’m going to cherish and will share privately.

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  1. Roger
    April 16th, 2011 at 13:45 | #1

    Enjoyed the pics of HK. Still too chilly in Vladivostok to get into the water? I would like to see the surf if there are any waves. The natives look friendly and I hope you enjoy “eating, drinking and gavereeting” with everyone throughout your trip.

  2. Jan
    April 16th, 2011 at 14:49 | #2

    great sandy! :-)

  3. Raquel
    April 17th, 2011 at 15:12 | #3

    Love it. Still jealous. :) I can’t wait to see more of your epic journey.

  4. Ukey
    April 18th, 2011 at 23:24 | #4

    Love the part where you finally spent “hours talking and eating”!!! GREAT START with a little tiny bumpy troubles. People, its people… and you have met good people there! :-)

  5. Yasushi
    April 20th, 2011 at 10:53 | #5

    The food looks too healthy ~ !!!

  6. from SD
    April 22nd, 2011 at 06:22 | #6

    It sounds like you met really nice people in Russia, didn’t you?
    The beach you went to looks like my home town….
    Sandy, what a great experience you had celebrating your first day in Russia!

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