BACK FROM RUSSIA, WITH LOVE
“Russia is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma; but perhaps there is a key.” Winston Churchill.
Russia is not a snowy warrying backward Antarctic Viking or Ottoman landscape. It is a huge subcontinent occupying 1/8 of all the land on the planet, inhabited by many ethnic groups. It spans two different continents. It offers a diversity of cultures on a scale unmatched anywhere else in Europe…
Aeroflot, Flight # SU7Q, left Saint Petersburg LED at 09:20 AM. It landed in Moscow SVO at 10:35 AM. Four hours later Aeroflot, flight # SU102Q, took off from Moscow SVO, it landed at NYC JFK at 05:20 PM local time. I arrived home three hours later 08:30 PM (03:30 AM, Moscow time). Door to door, from the Marriott in Saint Petersburg to my home in Warrenville, the return trip lasted 18 hours and 10 minutes.
But it takes more than a day to psychologically return from the double whammy of a FIFA World Cup, at the edge of the Universe, in the Legendary Russian Federation, a nation of many nations. It lasts an eternity to wake up from the dream, from the incubus. That was one of the most glorious trips anyone could enjoy, a most exhilarating adventure any traveler could live.
Russia is absolutely fascinating. It is nothing of what you think it is. Driving in the streets of Moscow is akin to reading several volumes of historical encyclopedia spanning 1,100 years. Old and new buildings, parks and monuments parade in a kaleidoscope of tones and colors, tern or lively. It is the Northernmost and the coldest capital on the world map.
Saint Petersburg, 700 miles away, is a few years older than 300, thereby relatively young. It has the attitude to match. The people act friendlier; they are more cosmopolitan. They dress with more vibrant colors. And they do smile. In and by itself, the city on the Baltic, the European jewel of Peter the Great, is a museum and a marvel of urban planning.
The first Russian Word Cup was a miracle of meticulous organization and friendly reception. The football level was quite high in quality. The competition was spellbinding. Even the grand final was inedited, it opposed a favorite to a Cinderella. Until the last minute of the last match, no one could have had a secure prediction of who will win it
One of the tournament highlights has been the deep run of the Russian national team, into the quarter finals. Rated 78th by FIFA, it was the lowest classified team, except for Saudi Arabia. They demonstrated an admirable and inspiring alloy of courage, abnegation and steely will. They were outed by Croatia, a side with similar qualities, but with several tested stars to match.
Travel-O-Ganza’s Russia 2018 World Cup Adventure was a true winner, on all facets. More than usual, the plateau of Education and Culture, Entertainment and Fun, graciously served, did not leave room for much of an alternative. The children, who accompanied their parents, will have acquired a taste for travel and exploration. The program was fast paced, exhilarating, and masochistically insomniac. The staffers brought back 8,000+ pictures and video clips for the museum of posterity.
The most gratifying feature of being in Russia for the World Cup is the fact that none of the catastrophic scenarios materialized. We were not kidnapped by the FSB (formerly the KGB). We did not get frozen to death by a -42*F temperature. We were not caught in a skirmish war with Ukraine. We were not victim of a Syrian terrorist attack. We were not arrested for spying for the CIA. The US embassy did not close while we were there. The British did not win the World Cup… It is such a pity that too many wasted this unique lifetime opportunity over these concerns.
Instead, we all felt at home. Our stay was too short. We should have been able to spend a few more weeks or months, and party with the new friends we made along the way. We could have fallen in love all over again. Or we could have decided to settle down on the Baltic banks, learn Russian, have free health insurance, and free education… But the reverie was short-lived and would not survive the challenge of reality.
I am back from one more trip abroad. My conviction was reinforced that there is only one human race, with one single set of dramas and dreams. In the novel post-Soviet Russia, the dream of every citizen remains similar and generic: a safer world and a better tomorrow for their progeny. In their heart, the people of Russia are not any different from the people of America.
I am a citizen of the world. If a blue-watered Caribbean island is my homeland, the world is my patria, and Warrenville is my home… Yes, I have returned home to the rat race. It is so good to be back home.
Until the next adventure, that was The Traveller
(The Traveller, Tuesday, July 17, 2018)
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