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.
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.