I spent today chasing the sun. We started west, but quickly realized we would not catch it so we turned north and flew directly over the Artic Circle. We finally caught the sun 10 hours later in Moscow.
Upon boarding my plane I was reminded that Russia is a little different than North America. Although Communism has gone it is difficult to shake the culture left behind. Our plane was functional, but not pretty. It was dirty and a bit tired. The flight attendants were efficient, but serious. No luxuries like movies were to be found, and we were packed in like sardines.
At first thought I would get off ok when the seat in front of me was left empty. I would not need to deal with the seat recliner. However, shortly after take off a couple fancied the seat in front of me more than their own and quickly moved in and set the seats to full recline for the duration of thee 10 hour trip. I had limited space to begin with and once the seats were reclined it was almost unbearable.
First my computer battery died and then my iPod battery died. But fortunately entertainment was not far off. I noticed a man swaying down the isle. He stopped and sat on the arm of the empty seat beside me. I guess he needed a break. Then with a very fluid motion he slid right into the empty seat beside me and right on top of my book and my computer that I had laid o the empty seat. I stared at him waiting for him to realize he had just sat on my stuff and quickly concluded that he was too drunk to notice. I did my best to explain what he was sitting on, but the language barrier was not helping. Eventually I pointed to him bum and the seat and made a lifting motion with my hand. He seemed a bit confused, and then offended, but slowly rose from the seat just enough for me to snake my hand under and grab my stuff. Unfazed he plunked back down and began to speak to me in Russian. Annoyed that I did not understand, he dismissively waived his hand at me and fished out his cell phone.
For some reason the phone would not turn on even after repeatedly striking it furiously on his leg. After some words that I can only assume were profanity he stuffed the phone back in his pocket. I tied to avoid any further catalyst that would gain his attention and immersed myself in my book. Eventually he got bored or just forgot why he was there and drifted off to find another seat.
Welcome to Moscow. Man it is hot here. Record temperatures for over a month. No A/C in the airport and this would turn out to be the norm. Usually it is not necessary. I made my way through customs easily enough, retrieved my bag and found a good spot to watch the world go by. Another member of our team would arrive about 1.5 hours after me and our Russian driver would get us both at the same time.
No airport that I have been in can rival Khatmandu for sheer chaos, but DMV was close. I could not walk 5 feet without being propositioned by a taxi driver and people were everywhere. It was good people watching however and the time went by quickly.
The drive to our hotel was about an hour and uneventful. It gave me a chance to catch up with Al who I have not seen since Everest. Our hotel was built to house the Olympic athletes for the Moscow Olympics and is a huge compound surrounded by 12 foot high fencing. After a quick check in I made my way to the 27th floor to my room.
Upon opening the door I was struck with thee stifling heat. A thermometer on the wall read 38c. The room consists of two small single beds, a table with a TV and a small bathroom. The bathroom is complete with a heated towel bar that was too hot to touch and with no off switch.
I took a cold shower and then met Al for a bit of exploration. Spying a mall (a relatively new addition to Russian life) we headed for the door and the air conditioned air within. Unfortunately there was no air conditioning and the heat was oppressive. We found a Baskin Robbins ice cream shop and had a treat to cool us down.
The whole group is here now and we have just returned from dinner. There are 6 climbers plus Ryan our leader. There are two Americans, three if you count one who has been living in Qatar and Saudi Arabia for 20 years, two Brazilians, and me the Canadian. Although we have just all met I think we should be a good team. The development of the team for Elbrus will not be quite as critical as for Everest. However, it will still be important.
Dinner was our first introduction and the first stage of our formation. Tomorrow we will have our first official team meeting after breakfast and then we are doing a 4 hour tour of Moscow.
Dinner was a buffet with quite a large variety of items that are recognizable and many that are not. All the signage is in Russian so it is a bit of a guessing game. Most of the food is very similar to what we are accustom to in North America, but with a slightly different flavour.
I am now about to go to bed in our sauna room. The temperature has dropped to 34.9c. My roommate and I spoke to the desk to see if we could get moved to a cooler room. One with more of a cross-wind. I was not sure if they understood what we were talking about but they told us to wait in our room and they would take are of it.
We have just be given a 12” fan to replace our 8” fan. No new room, but a new fan. We asked if we could keep both fans and the answer was a very clear “no”, only one fan per room even though the hotel is only half full at best and there must be 1000 unused fans laying around. Old habits die hard. The customer service revolution has not yet made it to Russia. Good night.
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