Thursday, April 21, 2011

Get me on a plane! Part 3

Read part 1 here and part 2 here

This here is the story of how one shy, gawky teenage girl ended up in a foreign country. She didn't speak the language, didn't have any international travel experience, and was only 14.

My heart pounding, sweating and trembling with anxious excitement and a large dollop of "what if they don't like me?!", I stepped off the plane, gathered my bags and moved with my group to meet my Russian host "sister". I had the initial disappointment of her being unable to come to the airport, and only her father was there. He spoke NO English, and we made our way out to the car in silence, him with a soft smile on his face, and me panicking inside because I can't communicate with this strange man that I'm being sent off with. My group leader assured me that he was a good man, and Olya would be waiting for me when I arrived at the flat (apartment).

Ghena (Olya's father) is very chivalrous, and carried my bags for me, opened the car door for me, etc. As we careened along the long winding roads back into the city (the Minsk airport is on the outskirts of the city...pretty much in what feels like nowhere), I surreptitiously held onto the seat below me for dear life. The front seat had no seat belts, and it felt like we were going about 80 mph!

I felt like this poor kid

After about 20 minutes (or more, my perception was really skewed and I really just didn't want him to realize how badly I was freaking out), we pulled into an apartment row. It's like a complex, but bigger, cement buildings in a row (surprise!) and no main office crap like we have here. The buildings themselves are dreary gray and not exciting looking at all, but hey, they're apartments. The buildings look kind of like this, minus the markets on the bottom floor:

After going in through the secure door at the ground floor, we walked up a few small flights of stairs, and I LOVED what I saw. Each flat (apartment) has a door directly into the stairwell, and everyone has decorated around their dwelling. There's color everywhere, and some people have bright red doors, flowers, flags, etc.

We reach Olya's flat, with a lovely red and gold leather door, and Ghena opens it for me, ushering me in. That door is both a security door and a noise barrier, so there's a tiny (about 4 foot) hallway, then the door to the flat itself. Ghena opened the door, and a GIANT dog that looks like a German Shephard on steroids, jumps up, puts his massive paws on each of my shoulders, and kissed me hello.

An auspicious start to a fabulous turn in my life.

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