Travelogue – Somewhere over Mother Russia – Aug 2, 2011

Our flight from Kennedy airport was delayed 3 1/2 hours.  We didn’t leave until after 6 PM.  It seems that two thunderstorms materialized somewhere over the Eastern seaboard, even though the sun never stopped shining.  There is now the possibility of an overnight stay in Moscow.  The passengers continuing on to Israel are lobbying for them to hold our connecting flight.  … Given that nearly 1/3 of the flight (over 30 passengers) will be continuing on to Tel Aviv, that option is likely.

A FEW HOURS LATER … after our 2nd on-board meal. Strangely, but not so strange, they offered us a Kosher meal.  And the food, some stuffed fish and rice, was quite tasty.  The eggplant salad was extremely spicy, even for my taste … We have landed in Moscow, 4 hours late … and of course our plane has departed.  We are now BACK on line.  At the front is our ringleader and negotiator screaming at the impassive Russian customer service representatives.  One hour passes with no progress.  But, we do get some bottled water.  Finally we get some progress, a boarding pass for a flight that leaves at 8:40 PM (we had arrived at noon), and a food voucher.  The delay from our lead negotiator was her demand for Kosher food.  Because of that demand, no boarding passes for the next flight had been issued.

BARBI DOLLS. The American vision of Russians is babushkas, the stooped and wrinkle grandmothers, pushing their shopping carts.  How wrong.  We are in the international transit terminal. Between the gates are the makings of an upscale shopping male with all the luxury brands (Guerlane, Lancome, Dior, Givenchy, Clinique) and the women look like they actually buy this stuff.  Russians on a whole dress up at the airport as if they are going to the metropolitan opera.  Full battlegear, plunging necklines, tapered waists, and ultra-high heels, long flowing blond hair and perfect tans.  This is the NEW Russia.


Travelogue – Transaero – Aug 1, 2011


After a mad dash across the width of Long Island (2 hours) we arrived at Transaero check-in.  It was a mix of Russians (the flight terminates in Moscow), Orthodox and Hasidic jews (our destination is Tel Aviv) and mixed groups formerly part of the Soviet Union, now the Russian Federation.  The foreignness started as soon as we entered the line to check in.

We cleared security very quickly.  After a single announcement in English a member of the U.S. based flight crew attempted a Russian announcement.  The result from an otherwise quite group was applause.  After a series of announcements in Russian (none in English) I noticed that we were among the last few people still sitting down.  We had scarfed some “dinner” from a food kiosk, fearful of the “inedible” Russian food that would be served on the flight.

I remarked in a stage whisper, observing the long queue that wrapped into the next gate: “The Russians surely love to stand in line.”  I got a chuckle from a fellow seated American who nevertheless stood up immediately to join the queue.