Last time we made this journey we took three planes; one from a nearby city to a bigger city, from the bigger city to Amsterdam and Amsterdam to our destination in Russia. This time we skipped the first flight and just drove 3 hours to the bigger city, so we only had to transfer once in JFK. What a difference! First of all, just having one less flight, one less pass through security, and one less layover hugely increased my energy level. And second, I can't believe how much more user-friendly JFK was than the airport in Amsterdam. I was a bit nervous about being able to figure out how to get around to different terminals, but the airtram was a breeze. There were lots of restaurant choices, comfortable seating, and the officers orchestrating security were actually friendly to us. No stark "fish bowl" to sit in after security like Amsterdam. Throw in the clean bathrooms and I am one happy traveler. We will definitely be taking this same route when our little man comes home!
On our flight to JFK we had a good laugh when an airline attendant came over the intercom to announce the drink service and used a rather poorly place pause:
"Today we also have pink lemonade for sale and my colleague will now explain breast cancer
-long pause and confused looks on passengers faces-
.... awareness which is highlighted in October. Proceeds from the lemonade sales go to breast cancer awareness."
Ha! And no one ever did explain breast cancer awareness anyway.
Aboard the Russian airline we were invited to join their airmiles type club by visiting them "in the internet." And then immediately wished an "adorable" day. Why thank you, I will have an adorable day.
Getting through customs was a breeze, after a slight confusing moment when the only lines through passport control were labeled "Russian Citizen" or "diplomat." Not knowing what else to do, we got in the diplomat line with a few other confused passengers. Thankfully a non-Russian citizen line opened up just it was our turn to present our passports. I am impressed again with Russian efficiency; last time we had to fill out a little customs form on the plane but this time "there has been a new technology" and they just printed out our little form for us when we got to passport control. So easy.
Our luggage arrived safely (always a relief) and once we had it loaded on our cart John said, "Alright we found our luggage. Now let's find our Igor!"
Our driver Igor was waiting in plain sight as soon as we exited the baggage claim and walked us quickly to the car. Igor is an amazing driver with a sense of depth perception like I have never seen. I think the rules of driving here are just "the boldest wins" and Igor always wins. I am not exaggerating when I say we came within 2 inches of other vehicles (on all sides!) on multiple occasions. The lane lines on the road appear to be suggestions only. I don't know why we don't see more accidents here! Aggressive offensive driving at its best (worst?). My defensive driving instructor from my teenage years would not be impressed with Igor. But I am.
We stopped off at a grocery store to pick up water and some groceries. I can't wait to have an egg in the morning; they are so good here! Like free range, farm fresh eggs at home with rich orange yolks.
We rented an apartment again to save on hotel costs and it is very comfortable with a wonderful view. Neither Igor nor the apartment representative spoke any English but you would be amazed at what a person can communicate with body language. Including how to pry open the broken washing machine door with the room key. Hopefully we won't need to do any laundry because I'm not sure I'd ever be able to get my clothes out!
It is evening now and tomorrow mid-morning we will walk with our translator to the medical building to have our exams done. She called to tell us when to meet her downstairs. "This is not fun, but don't worry. I will be with you." I love our translator; she has that mama bear comfort thing going on and makes us feel safe in a strange land.
Thank you again for your wonderful prayers and encouragement. You lift us up.