Getting to Novosibirsk

~a journey~

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My story traveling from the US to Russia. I had no idea what I was getting into…

I flew out of San Francisco, and of course, being sleep deprived and anxious, everything that could go wrong, went wrong.

I was flying from San Francisco to Istanbul and then from Istanbul to Novosibirsk - the capital of Siberia. I lost my prescription glasses while I was asleep on the plane and my thick winter jacket in the SFO airport. The entire plane was searched and I called the SFO airport, but nothing was recovered. Two of the things that I would call most valuable to me in Siberia.

I had decided about three months ago that I was going to move to another country and by process of elimination, I found myself moving to Siberia to take a job as an English teacher. Of course, I wasn’t going for a large salary or the beach or to ‘follow the crowd.’ I wanted adventure. I wanted to feel uncomfortable, to grow, and to meet different people. My curiosity of Russia brought me to Novosibirsk, the third largest city in Russia, situated near Mongolia and Kazakhstan. Of course, I was confident of my decision, but also paranoid that I was taking such a big step in my life.

While flying, I remember being anxious about looking out to the black sky. I felt like I was going to die. It was the first time I started to rethink everything I had chosen. Why was I going to this place? I had only heard negative things about Siberia. While I was in Las Vegas, staying with a friend for a few weeks, quite a few of my Uber drivers were from Russia. One guy literally laughed in my face and with a grin said “good luck.” Another Russian Uber driver was shocked that I was going and tried very hard to give me advice. He had a more fatherly appeal and wanted to make sure I would be safe and warm. He told me over and over than Russians weren’t “like” Americans or other Europeans. But I didn’t understand what he meant, and I still don’t. Others had told me that the people here are cold, the weather is cold - there is nothing but endless tundra. Of course, there were few that were very supportive. One guy I was building a website for, excitedly told me how cool it would be to live in another country like Russia. He explained that its “ONE YEAR OF YOUR 100 YEAR LIFE WHY WOULDN’T YOU DO IT?!” Another man I worked with explained that I wouldn’t “achieve my long term goals by being a teacher.” But I realized then that I wasn’t doing this for any future job I had in mind, but for the journey, wherever it takes me.

During the flight, we would fly over faint lights. They must have been such small cities to have such little light. It was worrisome. I saw the tundra below. I listened to some guided meditation and did some of my Russian Duo Lingo. Anything to calm myself down. Mid way through meditation, the lights came on and they brought food. We had pasta and chocolate pudding, a typical airline meal, but I instantly felt better. I kept repeating to myself that everything was going to be okay.

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As we started our descent, I started to listen to the music on the personal screens. I found MIA and the energetic music woke me up and brought me back to reality. There was this point where we were in between two layers of clouds. It was no longer the pitch black I had dreaded. And when we passed the clouds, suddenly I felt myself getting excited. I think it helped that the other people on the plane were starting to wake up. We started to get closer to Novosibirsk. The ground was lit up but also absolutely covered in snow.

It’s always funny to me how easy it is to slip away from reality and get lost in our thoughts, only to be disrupted but something as simple and primitive as chocolate pudding.

We left the plane and I felt a rush of cold air walking from the plane to the terminal. I squinted and followed the signs to passport control, 1 of 5 people in line. Then I went to baggage claim and got all of my stuff. I walked out to the main gate and looked around for a sign or something.

A man approached me and asked if I was Bianca. I asked if he was Ivan, the man that was supposed to pick me up at the airport. It was. I was surprised he recognized me, but later found out he had my visa photo as reference. He asked me if I had a jacket but I said I would be fine to walk to the car. I was already burning up from the layers I was wearing. The air outside air was cold and refreshing. He took my large bag and we got into his car. It was a Japanese car with the steering wheel on the right side. He amusingly said that 40% of cars in Novosibirsk were like this, and the rest, on the opposite side. We drove and spoke about different subjects. He had traveled to the US three times, could speak French, and liked to joke. He made me feel very comfortable and made sure I knew who Yuri Gagarin was before I left the car. (first person to travel in space for those who don’t know)

We saw three accidents on the way and it was about 7:45am. He told me about all the places we were driving by and he took me around where my possible apartment would be. It was crazy for me to drive through this type of weather after flying and traveling for 24 hours. The car was very warm. He dropped me off at my new home for the next two weeks. I guess it was all what I expected, but I also didn’t expect. I hardly knew what I was getting myself into.

My hosts, Irina and Alex answered the door and welcomed me in. Irina was petite, 23, and spoke English really well. She showed me the flat. It was nice and cozy. Alex didn’t talk much but he didn’t speak English like her. Later he opened up more and we had good conversation. He was a project manager at a tech company and introduced me to some Russian rap. Irina showed me my room, which I was so happy with. It had a desk, bed, and a nice window with a snowy view. She showed me her cat, which was her “prized possession” and told me not to feed the cat since it was now on a diet.

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She said she was going back to sleep, since it was so early, so I settled in my room, rested, and slightly unpacked. When she woke back up, we sat together, drank tea, and conversed about many different topics, like the school, Russia, and our plans for the day.

A few hours later, she showed me the town, we got sushi, and laughed at all the differences and similarities between Russia and the US. The first Russian words I learned were “кот хочет есть” which means something along the lines of “cat wants to eat.”

What I realized so far: don’t let people stop you from pursuing your curiosity. Most people won’t understand your motive like you will. If you have a desire and want to try something, then there’s nothing wrong with going for it. Even if it’s ridiculous, like moving to Siberia.

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