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Leaving

5 Jun

In cased you missed it, I’m leaving Russia on Tuesday. Right now, everything feels too surreal for me to do a convincing retrospective on the Fulbright experience. Expect something like that later.

The cleaning is done, and almost all of my things are packed. Tomorrow I take a train to Moscow and on Tuesday I’m flying home. I’m a little nervous about the whole thing, so to distract myself, I’ve been rewatching Buffy the Vampire Slayer (no shame). Sadly, I’m getting really close to rewatching the dreaded sixth season, so I need a different melodramatic distraction (too bad I don’t have those Sookie Stackhouse books). Some how, I’ve ended up watching movies based on Jane Austen novels because: 1. British people and 2. Alan Rickman

Marry me!

 

That’s about all I’ve got for now. Think positive thoughts for my trip!

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A Visit to the Tsiolkovsky Museum

28 May

Happy Memorial Day Weekend America! In celebration, let’s talk about something that has absolutely nothing to do with America and also is about space!

A week ago I visited the Tsiolkovsky Museum here in Kaluga. The museum is located in the original house of Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, a famous Russian scientist who, according to wikipedia, was a pioneer of astronautic theory. He is directly responsible for the Russian space flight program and spent a major portion of his life in Kaluga. Clearly, a BFD.

One of the teachers at the institute arranged for a personal tour of the museum with a few of her students and myself. The man who led the tour was actually a former student of hers and gave the entire tour in English, which I think is the first time I’ve ever had an English tour in Russia (no surprise there).

Now, I’ve been to my fair share of Russian museums. I half-jokingly, half-seriously told one of the students that I’ve been to more museums in Russia than in America (this is true). After awhile, you kind of know what to expect in these places: the silent older women who watch your every move, the ropes that are (laughably) meant to keep you away from the more delicate exhibits, and the complete lack of air-conditioning. It’s all old-hat. As jaded as I am though, the Tsiolkovsky Museum was still pretty cool. They’ve managed to preserve most of the original set up in the house:

Tsiolkovsky's air-horn (he was partially deaf)

Work bench

Tsiolkovsky's bike (with the laughable rope and bonus air-horn!)

The man himself

Interesting! Tsiolkovsky was also a science-fiction writer, and his books are still read here in Russia. After finding out that one of his novels describes a future utopia where the elites of society live in orbiting-spheres and laugh at the rest of us schmucks that are stuck on Earth, I also kind of want to read his writing.

The whole trip was a nice little send-off from my students, and they ended it by giving me a few very considerate gifts. I actually managed to get a little teary-eyed, which really drove home the notion that I’ll miss at least a few things about Kaluga.

Expect a few more sporadic posts as I countdown the days until I come home. Have a good three-day weekend!

How to fly internationally

10 Mar

Tatar Air plane

Over the past four years, I’ve ridden on a decent number of international flights (including two 11-hour flights to and from Moscow).  Now I’m by no means the most experienced international traveler in the world, (not even in my family–my jet-setting dad wins that award) but my relative inexperience isn’t going to stop me from telling the rest of you how you should live your lives; people on cable news get to do it all the time!

1. Don’t fly with me:

Members of my immediate family and others who have flown with me (hi Mike) can confirm how horrible I am on planes.  I get way to nervous and have a habit of madly clinging to the person next to me at the slightest sign of turbulence.  If you’re looking for a relaxing flight, don’t take me, or at least don’t sit next to me.

2. Bring sleeping pills

I used to be a big sleeping pill nay-sayer, but I’ve since changed my ways.  If you buy powerful drugs (and not the weak Tylenol/Advil stuff), you can knock yourself out for the majority of a trans-Atlantic flight.  This really helps cut down on the tedium of being trapped in a small space for eight or more hours.  The best situation is if you’re leaving from a foreign country, and can buy sleeping pills there, where pesky FDA regulations don’t apply.  My favorite apocryphal flying story involves a friend who bought some Georgian (the country not the state) brand of sleeping pills for his flight from Moscow to Chicago.  He took the pills right after take-off and only woke up 15-hours later, when the plane had already landed.

3. Upgrade to Economy Class Plus or whatever the airline calls it

Don’t get too excited, economy class is still coach, but with six more inches of leg room.  That might not seem like much now, but after you’ve been stuck sitting behind a person who insists on reclining their chair alllll the way back (without fail this happens to me on every single flight I take), you’ll be longing for those extra inches (insert ‘that’s what she said joke here’).  Depending on what airline you’re flying, this upgrade will cost anywhere from $50-100, which is a lot less than upgrading to business class, so just suck it up and fork over the extra cash.  Your legs will thank you later, trust me.

4. Don’t listen to the fools who tell you to stay up the night before a long flight

I hear this piece of advice get passed around a lot: don’t sleep the night before a flight so that you’ll pass out once you get on the plane.  Anyone who tells you to do this hates you, and you should stop taking advice from them because they’re probably secretly trying to kill you.  Staying up the night before never helps you fall asleep on the plane; it just makes you more miserable than you should be after hours of flying.

5. Don’t travel alone

If at all possible you should never travel alone.  It really helps to have at least one buddy (although a trio is the ideal situation) who can watch your bags while you go pee or while you nap on the airport floor.  If you travel alone you not only have to carry all your stuff with you everywhere, but you also have to stay alert the entire time (which is why not sleeping the night before is especially dangerous for the solo-traveler).  Plus it’s just boring to travel alone; there’s no one around to help you irrationally judge the other airport patrons–one of the only good parts of flying.