I was first greeted in Volgograd by strong gusts of wind and blinding sunlight. Including the time I drove to Seattle and waited in airports it took nearly three days to arrive to Volgograd. But I won’t complain about the trip here because for some reason the airline upgraded my ticket from the East Coast to Moscow to business class (it was nearly a 10 hour flight). I could actually stretch my legs and even lay down! I was so amazed I wanted to take pictures but noting the nonchalance of my fellow business class passengers I tried to feign my disinterest (Anyone who knows me well can attest to how difficult masking my enthusiasm would be for me but it was good practice!). For instance, they actually gave us a choice of gourmet dishes, refilled my water in a fancy glass and even offered me warm lightly salted nuts in an elegant glass container. Yes, I am easily impressed! I hope I will always appreciate such luxuries.
Sleeping was still hard because of the time difference but I don’t want to imagine such a long flight in the economy section. I had a long flight from the West Coast to Korea once before but Korean Air offers much more space and luxuries than the U.S. carrier I took this time.
I was so relieved to retrieve all my baggage and even more happy to see the familiar face of my Fulbright coordinating host at the airport. I stayed in the Institute’s guest room for several days and my coordinating host even ensured I had food, water and tea. Did I mention this guest room included toliet paper? What luxury compared to my arrival to Vladivostok as a mere exchange student just two years ago!
Everyone at the institute has heard about my arrival and I am pleased to be received with such enthusiasm. I am very grateful to have met so many kind people. I was even invited on a boat trip on the Volga with some German guests, the Dean and other administrators of the institute.
For now I am living with a very sweet host family until I can find a suitable apartment for the year. My class schedule is also still being configured so I have been trying to get oriented with the city and learn as much as I can about how I can imitate my host mother’s delicious food.