Editor’s note: This article is the first in a series written by Leah Catherine Turner, who was born and raised near Hazard, as she spends five weeks in Russia over the summer.
I really thought I would hate flying. Seriously, there is absolutely nothing amusing about being thousands of feet in the air in a metal pencil case with a hundred strangers, a bag of peanuts and an almost certain death lest something go wrong. That being said, I was pleasantly surprised after experiencing my first flight.
I flew out of Cincinnati to JFK in New York. That plane ride was rather turbulent, and I hate to admit it but I cried after saying goodbye to mom and dad and finally getting settled on the plane; it seemed like I was never going to see them again, and sealed the deal for me that if Doctor Who ever came to Hazard and asked me to travel with him, it would have to be a resounding “no.” But when I got to JFK alive, I bucked up somewhat before realizing that the airport was HUGE and I had no idea what terminal I was even supposed to be in.
I couldn’t find flight 30, but fortuitously indeed at that very moment a man walked behind me muttering, “Flight 30…” and so without reserve I eagerly trotted after him in hopes that he actually knew where he was going (we only had an hour layover), and not that he was leading me nowhere and I would miss my flight and possibly look like a total creeper. Thankfully, he led me straight to the terminal, where I boarded JFK with no hassle, and was soon seated beside a very un-loquacious Russian man.
After almost nine hours aboard that plane, bound for Moscow, I felt like an airborne pro and relaxed to complete eight crossword puzzles, watch two movies, and play lots (and I mean LOTS) of trivia. I also had a brief moment of victory when the stewardess came by to ask us if we would like any beverages, and the Russian beside me said “Sok.” She asked him to repeat and I could tell she had no idea what he meant, so I chimed in, “That means juice!” and when she came back with some orange juice he seemed so pleased I was quite chuffed myself. Off to a good start!
Upon arriving in SVO, the Moscow airport, the jitters had returned and I was certain I was going to get lost and have no idea how to ask for help; but again, I was pleasantly surprised when everything went off without a hitch and the program director here in Russia was waiting for me as I exited the airport.
He was extremely nice and knew English very well, so after chatting a bit he asked how I had slept and I said none at all, so he suggested I try and nap on the way there as it would be about an hour drive. Although I was bound and determined to keep my eyes open as my GRINT chauffeur drove me to the Moscow University of Humanities for some first impression fodder, I was being awoken what seemed like minutes later by the same man as I was driven down a shady dirt road to my dormitory.
I was dazed and hopelessly fatigued by my 13 hour journey and one hour power nap; stumbling into the sunshine outside the car doors I turned to look at my new home and may have cringed a little bit. Granted, I wasn’t expecting American standards, but I was at least expecting what I had seen in the pictures posted online concerning our rooms. But it was not meant to be!
The campus is amidst a very beautiful setting, not unlike wooded areas you would find in Eastern Kentucky (less trees though), but the buildings are rather derelict and oddly constructed. The rooms are of adequate size, but are not in excellent condition, and there is only one phone jack per room for Internet (the horror!). The real terror here is the fact that the dorms have no air conditioning or fans whatsoever, so the fact that the management supplied us with not one or two, but three woolen monstrosities of blankets puzzled me to no end. And, quite honestly, a rather heinously-shaded orange pillow.
After freaking out over these rather primitive conditions for a time, I finally managed to grasp hold of myself and show a brave face; and really, it isn’t that bad. We grow accustomed to things a certain way in the U.S., but I think it is both a welcome challenge and opportunity for us to grow when these customs are upset and made new. I came to Russia in search of a challenge and a feeling of change for me, and in that I certainly will not be disappointed.
I have been singled out as a friend from the pack already- his name is Juan and he is from California. He’s smart, rambles and is very blunt. I can respect that in a person. We did some quick touring of Moscow and its metro today before I became completely exhausted (from lack of sleep and all that walking!) and had to return to the dorms. Pictures coming soon! до свидания!
Leah Catherine Turner is the name, and traveling is the game, for this summer, at least. I am a senior at Western Kentucky University with a double major in Pre-Veterinary Medicine and Chemistry. This summer I am flying to Moscow to study the language, history, and culture of Russia for five weeks. I was born and raised near Hazard, and despite having traveled quite a bit in the states (in a car with four wheels fixed firmly on the ground), I have never set foot out of this country, so this is very exciting for me; this is big, I mean really BIG. Leah, meet world.