As I watched the start of the Olympic competitions, I couldn’t help but reflect on my found memories of traveling in Russia.
I was only a freshman when my high school won a government grant; six students from Russia would spend three weeks in my hometown before six lucky American students would spend three weeks attending a Russian high school. My parents let me apply because they never thought a freshman would be chosen. Only five students filled out the application! I won by default.
17 years later, the “highlights” that stand out are bit strange, but I was also only 15 at the time.
- I remember being shocked at how old the technology in the school was, yet how hard their math classes were.
- The food was amazing; lots of meat and potatoes.
- Party! The Russians’ know how to have fun!
- Russia was my fist introduction to “public” restrooms. By this I mean having to use the faculties where others can see you doing your business.
- My lasting impression of Russia was the cold. So, very cold. And I was there in spring, not winter!
- The shock of seeing guards armed with machine guns. Not fear, just shock…again I was only 15.
I ended up with a two-day layover in Moscow on my way back home from another trip and decided to spend that time seeing how much had changed. Surprising not that much had changed, but the way I viewed things had.
- Red Square looked just the same! Yet, somehow it wasn’t as impressive. My awe-impressed-15-year-old-self had turned into a 26-year-old-world-traveler who was finishing up a 6 week back-packing trip.
- The subways, while still just as beautiful, were insanely difficult to navigate until I realized I needed to ditch the English map and just figure out the Russian. 10 years later most of the escalators still didn’t work.
- This time I was aware of the danger (or perceived danger) and willing paid the taxi driver a crazy amount of money to take me to my hotel when I would have been stuck walking alone at 1AM due to a flight delay.
- Russians’ still know how to party. They are a friendly bunch who almost always find a reason to smile.
- Even in August it was still cold.