Thursday, 6 June 2013
The Accidental Diplomat - Day 1 - Arrivals
At 3:30am on Monday May 27th my alarm clock screamed out that it was time to get up, get dressed and head down to Heathrow for my flight to Moscow before I would head to Perm where I would be a delegate at a conference entitle 'Russia Language between Europe and Asia.'
After two night buses and a train I arrived at Heathrow where I had enough time to check in and sample the delights of the Duty Free section. As someone who does not particularly like flying being able to try some new whiskey or a nice orange vodka before a fly is a definite bonus. A flight is a much more enjoyable experience following a rather large shot of orange vodka, or three.
It was then time to board the plane where I was able to meet my fellow UK delegates for the trip. We had previously communicated by email and it was nice to finally meet them and be able to put faces to names.
Four hours later our plane landed at Domodedovo Airport in Moscow where we were greeted by a taxi driver holding a sign for our conference and a torrential thunderstorm that would rival some of the ones in the UK. It was then that we got to experience the legendary Moscow traffic jams. On previous trips to and from the airport I had always used the express train and negated these jams, today however I was able to experience the joy of taking an hour to travel just over 5 miles. No wonder Russians are such terrible drivers.
Eventually we arrived at our very Soviet looking hotel and were given our conference itineraries and told that there would be a welcome dinner later that evening where we would have the chance to meet the other delegations. There was a few hours to spare so we had time to settle in and unpack.
My style of unpacking is to open my suitcase and tip everything on the floor, so for me unpacking was done in about thirty seconds. This then gave me time to run out of the hotel and buy a new SIM card for my Russian mobile. Luckily for me there was a Evroset kiosk not far from the hotel and close to Dinamo metro station. The only thing standing between me and it was 12 lanes of traffic. Upon witnessing several Ladas jump through red lights I decided it was best not to try to play frogger but to in fact simply wait at the crossing. It didn't take long to sort my SIM and I was back in time to change for dinner.
During the dinner I got to meet my fellow delegates from countries such as Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Belarus, Ukraine, Vietnam, USA, France, Tajikistan, and Moldova. All of whom spoke Russian and it was amazing to communicate with people such a range of countries.
With dinner over it was time for bed before the conference activities began the next day. After four years away from Moscow it felt very strange to be back. Especially when I opened the curtains of my hotel room to see that my view was overlooking a building that I used to see everyday when I was walking to Sokol metro station. It seemed as Moscow was exactly how I had left it.