Wednesday, September 2, 2009

First Day in Russia

I arrived in Moscow airport after a 12 hour flight to get my first taste of waiting in line in Russia - the chaotic crowd at Passport Control. A crush of about 300 people trying to pass through 4 gates, reminiscent of a subway rush hour in Tokyo. 90 minutes later,got my passport stamped,  found my luggage and was met by Greenwave's coordinator Timur Mukanov, and had a great chat with him on our taxi ride to the "hotel" in Moscow.  Not really a hotel, but one of the former Olympic villages from 1984. The room was tiny with 3 beds, and I did my Goldilocks impression while trying to figure out which one was mine. I guess the athletes who normally stay here take the "Spartan" tradition very seriously.  Went into the bathroom and found the hand-held shower head had broken sometime between 1984 and today and not one bothered to replace it, so literally hosed myself off before taking a walk with Timur to the adjacent shopping mall.

                                                           Timur at the mall
 The mall was a different story - only a few years old, it is a shopaholic's  dream with 4 floors of sparkling new stores of every variety, many with slogans in English that sort of make sense like "happy dog tree". There I had my first meal in Russia from a buffet at the food court. I took a plate and filled it with fish, chicken, potato, pickles, and 3 desserts.  When I got to the register, the cashier looked at me in disdain, and Timur translated that she told me I had put enough food on my plate - "this size holds 1.5 kilos!". So, I went back and added one more of each item, and returned to her shrug of "well, if that's all you want, ok.".
                                                           First meal In Russia
Back to the "hotel", where we seem to be the only non-atheltes in the building. This place is stereotypes on steroids - anyone casting for henchmen for the next Bond flick should top by here first. At the room, I find Sayan from Huun Huur Tu has arrived, who turns out to be one of my mystery roommates.  We chat a bit - his English is very good, and he lets me know the other bed will be taken by Vladimir, or Volodya, as they call him here. I show Sayan my new little travel guitar I have purchased for this trip, and he is impressed. I hand it to him, and he improvises and impressive few minutes of chords and leads.  This guy is a great musician! 
                                                           Sayan plays my travel guitar

I go next door and say hi to Chad from the video crew and we catch up as an episode of "South Park" in Russian plays on the TV.
                                                          Chad, Timur, & Sayan in our "hotel" room

                                                                                       Timur, Sayan & Mark
A beer and an hour later, I finally crash, and Sayan graciously connects headphones to the TV so I can try to sleep.  Sometime around 1 am I hear Vlad enter, and then I am gone to the land of Morpheus, resting up for what I know will be an intense day tomorrow when I meet the rest of the band, and go to the orchestral rehearsal.  


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