Sunday, November 9, 2008

Second trip to Moscow

Second Weekend in Moscow

Traveling alone was a rollercoaster- I had the biggest thrills and the lowest dips, usually one following the other. It first struck me on my Halloween train to Moscow that I was going to a foreign city in a foreign country with a foreign language where I could count the number of friends I had on no fingers. Granted I can read Russian, but the only times I can understand what I’m reading is when the words are English cognates, or when it miraculously fits with my toddler-level vocabulary. On the train I was more exhilarated than anything else by the prospect of flying completely solo for four days.

The first day did not disappoint. I set out with a destination (Cathedral of Christ the Savior) hazily in mind and encouraged myself to take any detour along the way that seemed even remotely interesting. Then after getting to the cathedral and touring the ground floor for a little while, I went to the underground museum. I sat there for over an hour and spent some time thinking about and jotting down my own thoughts on religion, something I’ve been meaning to do for a long time.

I was completely and absolutely free like I have felt at no other time in my life. This gap year has already removed (at least temporarily) all the old burdens of school and work. But taking a break from my CCS program also ridded me of the responsibility to prepare for each volunteer placement, and even more importantly of any ties or accountability to any other human being. I was completely alone. And it felt in a strange way, totally liberating.

I woke up every morning and could do anything I wanted. Hell, I didn’t even have to wake up if I didn’t want to. (Now it’s starting to sound more like college). But the feeling of absolute freedom was a lot bigger than sleep. Each day was one hundred percent mine.

But then the sun went down on my first day and all the tourist attractions closed. And I didn’t know what do with myself, with all those heaps and heaps of freedom. I ended up back on Arbat Street where my hostel was, for all my Angelenos think of 3rd street promenade with the artists and performers from the Santa Monia Pier. I saw a large crowd gathered around one performer and went up to watch with them. It turned out to be a comedian. After a few jokes, he had the crowd laughing hysterically. The only words I had understood were “McDonalds” and “cheeseburger.” I walked away. I was completely alone. And it felt depressingly lonely.

But there was no use wallowing in it. I had dinner at Hard Rock Café, (worst burger I’ve had in a long time), and then went out to find the bar, Propaganda, I had gone to the week before with Jaime and Megan. On the way out of the metro, I stopped a group of girls for directions. Luckily some of them spoke English. Unluckily, they did not know how to get to Propaganda. So instead they said I could go with them. After trying a few different clubs we ended up at one called Sorry Babushka for the night.

Now some of you may have received some misinformation (from friends, family, possibly your very own ears) that I am one of the top 5 worst singers ever to walk this earth. But I’ll have you know that when the mic was shoved in my face after the mc caught me signing Foreigner- Cold as Ice with him, there were no bottles thrown at me. The main problem was that the rapper chose to give me the microphone right after the chorus ended, just in time for the second verse to start. And I did not know anything but the chorus. But I winged it fine (read the music was loud enough so that nobody had to hear me) and my time in the spotlight at Sorry Babushka ended without incident or applause.

We left the club around 2:30 and then headed to T.G.I. Friday’s, one of their favorite places to grab a late-night bite. I’m pretty sure it was my first time eating at a Friday’s. Pretty strange to go to such a quintessentially American restaurant for the first time and see Russian on the menu. Thankfully the menu was also in English, and the chicken tenders did not disappoint.

I met up with the girls and one of their boyfriends again on Monday afternoon. The boyfriend raps, and I got to listen to a few of his songs. The lyrics were good, but his English pronunciation was a little off mark. He told me that people thought his song “God of the stage” was instead “God of the sex,” which is different but I guess works too. It was pretty cool to talk American music with a Muscovite my age.

They showed me around the city, we stopped at a café for a late lunch and went ice skating. It was probably the second time I’ve ice skated in the last 10 years, but I made it out only falling once and didn’t embarrass myself.

I spent Tuesday, a national holiday for the Day of Union, at the Victory Park dedicated to the Great Patriotic War (WWII). And then I went back to Hard Rock to pick up my credit card, which might have been sort of, kind of misplaced for the weekend, and caught my train back to Yaroslavl. The rollercoaster of elation at my freedom, and depression at my loneliness continued throughout the weekend so I was very ready to get back to a more even-keeled Yaroslavl. Still a fun, successful trip.


McG said...

this actually reminds me a lot of how I'm feeling in New York right now, except I have a few friends in town but it's nearly impossibly to make plans, and apparently russians are more friendly than new yorkers.

Emma Kaplan said...

these two trips both sound INCREDIBLE and so exciting! of course you would force yourself to take all the detours possible. can't wait to see you when you're back in LA and far more cultured/mature than i am (although that was already true)...send my love to jaime!

Jordan Bender said...

This is awesome David! I just started reading tonight, but this is truly awesome.

Ryan Porter said...

I just stumbled onto your blog, and I have to say that taking a Gap Year to travel is such a sick idea!
I wish more people were open to the idea... Congrats on having the courage to do it!

You might be interested in reading an article I wrote (when you are not busy talking about hip-hop with Russian dudes) It's about students taking a Gap Year.