As you know, my sister dropped me off at the airport in Kingston on the morning of the third Thursday in August. The night before, my bottom left wisdom tooth had started acting up, as my wisdom teeth tend to do from time to time. Once a year or so, one of them pushes out some more, making it necessary for me to spend a few days not eating on that side of my mouth or risk chewing up my jaw or aggravating my gum back there. I prayed over it and decided not to sweat it because I can’t do anything about it anyway except wait it out and be careful when I eat.
At the airport, I got myself some breakfast from Café Blue and waited for my flight to board. Because I walk quickly through airports and had an assigned seat near the back of the plane, I boarded pretty quickly, stowed my backpack and rollaboard and settled into my customary aisle seat. When the young fellow and his girl who would occupy the other two seats in the row arrived, his first words to me after glancing at the full overhead bin above our row was, “Which a dem bag ya a yours?” I asked him why and he responded that his bag needed to go up there so he needed to know which were mine; I assume he meant to remove mine. I told him that only one of them up there was mine and he could try fitting his bags into the bin across the aisle instead by shifting some poorly there. I mean seriously! Like I would point out my bag to him.
The four-hour flight passed quickly and I watched some movie or other, clearly not a memorable one. When we got to JFK, I had to claim my checked bags then lug them all on the train from the JetBlue terminal to the Aeroflot terminal, where I had to re-check them. I was concerned that I would have to check my carry-on suitcase (more baggage fees!) because the Aeroflot agent monitoring the bag drop line picked it up and told me to weigh it when I got to the counter. However, the desk agent’s confusion over figuring out how to apply the coupon for the baggage fees that I had already paid for my two checked bags in Jamaica caused her to forget to weigh my carry-on suitcase and I sure didn’t ask her to do it.
After that, I got through security, found my gate and bought a New York dog with sauerkraut, mustard, ketchup and hot sauce for lunch/dinner. By that time, I had about three hours to wait before boarding my flight to Moscow. While I waited, I people-watched. I have never seen so many piercing blue eyes in one place. Half the people waiting at my gate had blue eyes. But that was the only interesting thing I observed at my gate. I found it more interesting to watch out the window as a baggage crew loaded a Saudia Airlines aircraft that was parked at the next gate over, bound for Jeddah. I even love how that sounds…so exotic!
Our flight pushed back from the gate about thirty minutes late and we didn’t take off until another hour later because of heavy air traffic. I didn’t really mind since I didn’t have another flight to catch immediately at my next stop. However, I was a little concerned that it may cause problems with my airport transfer service in Moscow. It all worked out fine though because we only arrived about thirty minutes after the original scheduled arrival time, and my airport transfer company tracked the flight anyway.
Despite poor sleep over the previous four nights (I think that was due to anticipation) I didn’t expect to sleep for the entire nine hours of that flight. However, I drank a little red wine and I think that helped me to sleep for about two and a half hours after dinner then for another thirty minutes or so before landing. For the rest of the time, I watched movies. Interestingly, as we approached the end of the flight, I watched our progress on the map and saw that there’s a city in Finland called Kristinestad. You know I’m going to have to visit there some time, right?
As our flight landed just after midday on Friday, I observed a practice that I’ve since come to decide is a Russian thing: while the plane was still taxiing on an active runway to get to the gate, with the seat belt sign still on, people started standing up and getting their carry-on luggage out of the overhead bins. The purser came on the intercom about five different times asking them to sit down and saying that the flight attendants would let them know when they could disembark but they totally ignored her announcements and continued standing in the aisles and getting their bags down from the bins. I watched them in fascination from the belted safety of my seat. It was like a bus was pulling up to a bus stop, not at all like an international flight taxiing to a gate.
I got through immigration very quickly. The official didn’t ask me anything except to sign both copies of the departure card she gave me (every visitor to Russia receives one). I’m pretty sure she didn’t speak English because she just indicated where I should sign; she didn’t actually say anything to me. After that, I waited with everyone else at baggage claim for about thirty minutes then I exited with all my luggage, passing who I assume were customs officials (they didn’t stop me as I walked by) and that was it. I was getting into my ride an hour after my flight landed.
Easy peasy! Now I had just over forty-eight hours to see what I could of Moscow.