Getting a Dorm: The Russian Leg

So I’d flown across the Atlantic Ocean from Antigua, landed in London at Gatwick Airport, bussed to Heathrow and flew out of London after 10 hours. After 4 hours I was in Moscow where I waited another 6 hours before flying to Krasnoyarsk.

Krasnoyarsk

The city of Krasnoyarsk at 7pm in mid-October wasn’t to me it’s lovely self that I came to know during the 8 months I lived there. I stepped into the night and descended the flight of stairs. As my foot fell on the earth, I surveyed it. The buildings were far in the distance and I was unsure if I was required to walk the stretch.

A bus stood before me. Was it for the VIPs? Or could I pile on with the other humans? I just didn’t know. It was cold. I couldn’t just stand there trying to figure this out. I got onto the little bus, sat, and waited to be told to remove myself from the vehicle. I wasn’t disturbed. More humans piled in, the doors closed. And we were taken to the building and offloaded.

As I had learned to do so well I followed the human breadcrumbs through baggage collection and out into the parking lot.I wasn’t sure if I should’ve been standing in the parking lot or waiting inside. But I hadn’t seen anyone who looked like they were waiting for me. So I continued walking in the cold, ignoring the looks of taxi drivers trying to silently ply their trade.

I had stared at the image of the gal who would be collecting me from the airport for quite some time. But I still couldn’t conjure a decent image of her to which I could compare the faces parading before me. I searched the eyes of my fellow space sharers. None were too interested in me. They all had their own business, and went about doing them. I arrived at the curb of a road  and stood. She was walking along the sidewalk beckoning to me. Eagerly I put the last efforts I had into pulling the large, heavy luggage behind me as I balanced my coats and laptop bag. Moments before the weight had been insignificant, but now it was weighing on my arms.

I followed the Russian girl, Nina, to her car. It felt like forever, but finally we there and stuffing ourselves and my bags into it. The car was warm and welcoming. We sat silently with the purring engine as it shook us with its warm hug. Within seconds it would be become apparent that our ability to communicate was restricted. But for the moment we enjoyed the heat and, shelter from the cold.

And then she began.

Nina wanted to know where I was going, and where I would be staying, and if I knew who I would be meeting. At this point I don’t know how I understood half of what I understood. But nonetheless let’s just insert “Thank God!” right here because what follows is nothing short of a miracle.

At home, I had been informed that a fellow Antiguan would meet Tiffany, the other student with whom I had been travelling, in Moscow. However, I would have to find my way on my own. I had been told that the workers in and around the airport spoke English. Hence I wouldn’t have any problems. But I worry as a way of keeping calm. So I asked, and asked so’more, and then asked if the guy in Moscow might know someone in Krasnoyarsk.

Hallejuyah! Thank You, Jesus! He knew someone!

Now, if we are to get into the dynamics of “knowing”someone this could get complicated. In the simplest of words they were online acquaintances, not friends, acquaintances. But this young lady decided that she would assist by picking me up from the airport after 7pm mid-October.

She knew the least amount of English words, and the same could be said for me as well. I had tried to learn sentences in Russian like: I’m hungry; and Where’s the toilet? You know…survival stuff. 😉 But I didn’t need either in this situation. The only important bit that was certain was that I was headed to Siberian Federal University to study. So Nina pulled the car unto the road and headed in that direction. At that time I didn’t know this, and it took some time for it to be communicated.

According to the usual proceeding in a case such as mine, the receiving university would be notified of the arrival time, send someone to pick up the student and deliver them to their room. That sounds so simple and perfect. I didn’t receive simple, because the university administration hadn’t been informed of when I would be arriving, but thankfully I got the perfect.

Having finally come to the understanding that we were going towards the university, the task of explaining who we would be going to ensued. First their was a worded explanation, which was completely lost on me. Then a mime was added to the explanation and I came to the understanding that we were headed to see Nina’s fiance with whom she was presently in a fight. She managed to explain that he spoke English. He was the only person she knew who spoke English, and so we headed there without calling. If she called, he would ignore it.

Where were we really going?

We were going to the university Nina had implied, but she had also mimed that we were headed to the English-speaking fiance. At the time I didn’t know but they were one and the same. The little lady and her beau were past and present students of the university (respectively), and the latter was still living on-campus. And so on we went.

The drive was a long one, made slightly longer by the extreme traffic jam. Work had ended an hour before so you can imagine the amount of cars lined behind one another simply waiting for a jolt forward by their predecessors. Nina is the friendly type, so as we made our way behind the other mobile snails she told me various things while pantomiming, and driving. It was interesting and taxing at the same time. And I really don’t know how Nina kept it going while maintaining her chipper disposition. But all in all her positivity kept me feeling rather optimistic.

After some time the lines of traffic dissipated and we were cruising. The road was massive. I had had this thought earlier as we were pantomiming but now in the silence and the lack of vehicles I could see it more clearly….and the buildings! They were so big, so tall, towering. I felt as though I was on a magnificent evening tour…like a kid in a shop with really big, beautiful candy that had never been seen before. I didn’t want to eat them, but simply to stare at them in awe forever. My eyes bounced from left to right as I tried to consume everything.

Siberian Federal University Campus

We turned off the main road into a darker section sparsely filled with tall buildings.  We wound around a few buildings, jumped out the car, and climbed the steps into one of the dorms.

Nina spoke to the guard for a short while. She referred to my presence by turning towards me so that the elderly man could get a view then they continue their parley. She for my passport as she gave an ID of hers to the guard. We were let through, and the guard removed himself from his small office and made his way with us to the dorm of the lad.

Nina knocked on the door several times. There was no answer. We became uncertain about if it was the right room. And at that moment the door was opened. The English-speaking fiance, who was actually a former boyfriend, a Nigerian, stepped out speaking Russian as he greeted the guard and to Nina in an irritated tone.

The breakup had apparently been tumultuous to the point where they were not on speaking terms. Both had informed me that Jeremiah would not have picked up if Nina had called. They both seemed like alright human beings in their own right. But you know, love/romance changes things.

I was extremely gratefully that neither had allowed their broken relationship to hinder their ability to assist a complete stranger. At the time, the bizarreness of the situation didn’t register but looking back I can’t help but think: How many people would go to the extent of going to an exes home for a stranger; How many persons would solicit the help of acquaintances to help a stranger and despised ex? It would be a tad difficult for me on either side. But these two did it with open hearts and in earnest.

Jeremiah greeted me with an open smile.

My story was relayed to him, and he began the act of finding whether I should be there, and finding the necessary individual to assist in my situation. To find this individual, or rather the number of the individual, the help of other foreign students was enlisted as doors opened to find the reason for the noise in their hall.

Finally, a Chinese student, Qi, produce the number after asking several friends online. The call was made. Jeremiah translated as he asked questions and relayed my information back to the administrator on the phone. He asked for my documents which stated that I should be there, relayed his findings to the administrator, then we waited.

is post. Nina stood to the side staring out the night. I stood in the hall hungry, a bit anxious,and feeling a bit filthy as I conversed first with Qi, and Jeremiah. Finally, Jeremiah’s phone rang, and he was given instructions about where I should go. Nina, her ex, and I made our way out of the building and to her car. I collected my things, and we said our goodbyes.

Jeremiah, helped me with my language, and we made our way up the slope and into the dorm I would be living in for the next several months. He exchanged words with an elderly lady who had been waiting for us. She escorted us to the room. Jeremiah gave me a tour of the two-room dorm, asked about what I’d like to eat for dinner, so that he could get it for me. Then left me to myself.

I was tired, and besides the cup of orange juice I’d been offered by him some time earlier I hadn’t eaten an actual meal (excluding airplane food) since I left home. However, the feeling that pervaded my very being was one of filth. Everything felt strange, and I felt to dirty to actually be there.  The only thing I could really think of doing was taking a bath.So I did.

THAT CANNOT BE THE END OF THE STORY! It’s not but you’ll have to wait for next week for another installation…

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