The charm of Moscow in November


That’s the only way to describe my 10-hour flight from Shanghai to Moscow. Over the course of ten hours, I spilled water on myself (twice). Most of my (gluten-free) biscuit ended up on my blanket. My slippers (which Aeroflot gives out on all international flights) stepped into something sticky on the bathroom floor. I put on an face mask just as the flight attendants were serving food and my iPad was subsequently covered in the face mask goo for a majority of the flight. On the plus side, this was the first time I was fed on a flight all year. And as a result, I’ve confirmed that gluten-free bread tastes just as bad as one might think.

And so I spent close to 10 hours on the plane stuck between a row of slightly confused Shanghainese and more than slightly surly Russians (Aeroflot has yet to realize that it’s important to make announcements in a foreign language on its international flights), sitting next to a girl with teal eyeshadow, teal nails, and a teal sweatshirt, as I alternated between harried napping, solving the Sunday New York Times Crossword puzzle (“Action star would who would make a lousy free-range farmer?” – “Nicolas Cage”), and trying not to sob like a 13-year old at “The Fault in Our Stars”. Needless to say, it wasn’t my finest flight.

But now I’m home.

Don’t let the blue sky betray you, it’s cold as balls.


My breath is coming out in misty puffs as snow lazily drifts down to the ground. It’s 23º F outside and my grandma spoons another spoonful of black currant jam into my mug of black tea.

What prompted this trip back to Russia? Spontaneity. Well, that’s partially true. My mom is coming to Russia, and I felt like it was important to be there for her, and to reunite with family, if only for a brief time. True, I had just been in the south of Russia  over the summer , but in the winter, Moscow takes on an almost mythical sheen. Being in the country that birthed Nabokov, Pushkin, Bulgakov, and me (clearly, a literary great) is exhilarating. Though Russia (Moscow especially) may not exactly be home, it’s a return to the familiar, a return to streets filled with people who look (slightly) like me, and Russian grandmas making uninvited comments about my teeth (so white and straight) and my elephant earrings  (she insisted I take them off because they didn’t suit my face).

So maybe this isn’t quite home, but it is a home, and sometimes that’s all that matters.

0 thoughts on “The charm of Moscow in November”

  • Ive never been to Moscow (yet), only to St. Petersburg and Karelia to visit relatives many years ago. In 2010 I was last time in St. Petersburg on a university trip and it was interesting how much it had changed since 98.
    Well, my Russian is so bad that it cant get much worse so communicating was always a hassle.
    My worst flight was from Beijing to Helsinki in2011 asit was a connecting flight from Beijing to St. Petersburg from there to Riga and then Helsinki, a total of 19 hours just to spend 60euros less. Needless to say i only take direct flights ever since then.

    • I was actually born in St. Petersburg and lived there for 10 years, and I still feel like it’s one of the most beautiful cities. I’m hoping to go back next May during the white nights!

      My traveling experience to China was absolutely awful. I think after that I made the (yet unfulfilled) resolution to only travel direct. My flight was delayed 24 hours as 4 United planes in a row failed to take off due to ‘mechanical failure’. Luckily (and suprisingly) I’ve never had an issue flying Aeroflot.

  • It does look quite pleasant, in that photo, so the caption is informative. Even more so when I translated 23º F into English! I don’t think I can ever recall experiencing that sort of temperature during the day.

    • It’s pretty brutal outside! This morning was -10ºC. I’m also suffering because most of my things in China are still packed as I’m transitioning apartments and given the +10ºC weather in Shanghai, I am woefully underprepared.

      • I perhaps shouldn’t be surprised that you do centigrade too. I have the impression that America is all (puzzlingly to us) all Fahrenheit but showing your equally at home in Russia as well as America, and not forgetting China, you must get a lot of different points of view around the World. Here only old people would ever use Fahrenheit. We used it up to a point, and then stopped, and never looked back, so only people of my parents’ generation and beyond may drop into it occasionally and children are left puzzled.

        Looking it up now I see that weather reports started publishing temperatures in both Celsius and Fahrenheit in 1962, but dropped the use of Fahrenheit in 1970.

        • I am much better in Fahrenheit (if only from getting used to it growing up over the years), but I prefer Celsius, if only because it makes slightly more sense. I wonder what caused the drop-off in 1970.

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