Palace Square in St. Petersburg, Russia
Palace Square in St. Petersburg, Russia

This was another trip of firsts: first 13 hour flight, first time being anywhere near the North Pole, first time to spend the majority of all 13 hours in darkness, first time to be around plane full of Russian speaking natives and visitors, and my first time to visit the largest country in the world. Russia.

I knew my nerves would eventually get to me. In the air thousands of miles above Canada, Greenland and Scandinavia, it never hit me. In fact, just an hour or less before we landed, I looked out the window. It was drawing towards evening local Moscow time.

I looked towards the ground and quickly glanced at the sky. It’s the moon. I also saw two other bright dots: Jupiter and Venus. I had forgotten this event was happening until that moment.

Before I knew it, it was time to land. 13 hours is much too long to stay seated in such a confined space, but I survived. Then came the rush.

We landed pretty quickly. My anxiety was very low; I was distracted by trying to gather all my stuff and pack up. It didn’t occur to me where I was.
Not yet.

All packed and following the crowd. We weren’t at a gate and we walked down the portable stairs to a bus. Five minutes later, we arrived at the next destination: customs.

As I walked off the bus and and looked around, frost in my breath and intrigue in my eyes, it finally hit me.

This is Russia.
I’m here.
Thousands of miles away from everyone and everything comfortable to me.
Except one new person.

We walked up to the customs stations, waiting for our turns to be inspected. Not knowing where everything was, what to expect, I wondered if the other side of these booths was my friend. I searched but saw no one. Nope, just baggage. One more wait, and one more path until I met her. Tanya.

With two bags on my shoulders and a suitcase handle in my hand, I quickly greeted her, nervous and anxious. Here is my accommodation, my lifeline, and my only personal contact for the next 11 nights. The greeting was initially awkward and a little weird. I was really nervous but trying to act as smooth as I can.

My first car ride into Russia was mentally blurry, with so many new sites, foreign characters and letters and a curiosity about what’s to come. With lots of silence, quiet awe and wonder, I looked around, made awkward small talk and generally took in what I could see.

So began my first night in Moscow, my first night in Russia, and the first night in a completely new, foreign and intriguing place.