Part IV: Across the Pond

Dec 10, Tuesday:

Come on
Baby don’t you want to go
Back to that same old place
Sweet Home Chicago

So off we go from Houston to Chicago. As we fly north up to the lake and then west towards the airport, I have an eerie sense of familiarity with the place. I have never been to Chicago, but a long time ago as a computer flight simulator geek I flew over it day in and out. With the old Sublogic Flight Simulator – the original, mind you! – your default starting airport was the old one on the west shore of the lake; I think it may have been called Midway? Anyways, it juts out into the lake, and as you go north there is another finger of land pointing east, and just northwest of that are the buildings of downtown. It’s all fairly close together, and in the days when it was just a neat thing to do and not an expression of terroristic hatred, we’d take off and search for the coolest way to hit the buildings.

Anyways, we change planes for London. It’s a nice spacious and largely empty Boeing 777. Those are nice birds, all the amenities, lots of room. I’ve flown one of those at the United simulators in Denver and let me tell you, while the pilots have all kinds of buttons and switches to deal with, the computers make it really easy to fly. (While in the simulator, we got to practice another time-honored Flight Simulator tradition; high speed passes under the Golden Gate Bridge!) It’s a long flight but I managed to sleep some at least. At one point I look over and the guy next to me has seemingly disappeared until I realize he is passed out cold face first into his seat, with his knees and feet on the floor under the seat in front of him. Whatever works, I guess. Smile

Dec 11, Wednesday:
As the sun rises over Old Blighty (above the clouds that is) we do racetracks over the English countryside until they finally decide to let us land. We have to grab our luggage and get over to the Aeroflot counter for the flight to Moscow. It’s only about a two mile journey, but then again it’s entirely possible we just missed it twice, too. (doubt it) So it seems there is some confusion regarding our visas. The problem isn’t Moscow however, but Tashkent. The Russians are fine with us, but if they bring us along and we can’t head on to Uzbekistan, then it costs Aeroflot $5K per passenger. Eventually after much calling back and forth the situation is resolved, and onto the plane we go.

And it is chock full o’ Russkies. Not that you wouldn’t imagine that, flying into Moscow and all. Actually, the interesting thing was that so many were not Russians but a lot of Americans and various different Oriental types. It’s funny to hear the safety instructions and other airplane whatnot in Russian, then in accented English, but they all spoke it well. At one point the stewardess started to spit out the meal choices at me, got this look on her face “I should know better, he doesn’t understand what the hell I am saying, switch to English!” Actually, I could understand her, but only at about 1/3 as fast as she was saying it. See, one aspect of a few other foreign languages is that you should speak as quickly as you possibly can, presumably because you don’t really like the people you are talking to, I guess. And I don’t mean your standard “Northeast Seaboard vs. slow southern drawl” either, but a truly horrendous pace that must completely exhaust you after a paragraph or two. Anyways, it’s difficult knowing that you could actually communicate with these people, but since their English is so damn good, you are afraid to trot out your sloppy badly remember Russian with all its vocabulary gaps.

So we landed in Moscow, can’t say much about Sheremeyetevo-1 except it’s cold, poorly lit, and I may have thrown an extra syllable in there. Hope not. Additionally, we may have gone to -2 first. At any rate, we got into one of them, wandered around for a bit in the duty free area, and went ass around elbow to get to the other airport, since one is for international flights and the other is for domestic. And let’s just add at this point that you can tell the difference between the two. Almost no English is spoken on the domestic side, and there isn’t any heat at all it seems. No sleeve going to the plane, you hop on an unheated bus and drive up to the base of the aircraft. You may hop on a bus and only go 100 yards as well (did that twice.) Must be a control thing.

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