Hurrah! I've just heard that the letter of invitation, the necessary first step to getting a Russian visa, will be arriving in my hot little hands on Tuesday. I still haven't heard anything back from the Russian embassy, so who knows if I need to organise an HIV/AIDS test or any other such requirement, I think I might just show up on Wednesday or something if I don't hear from them by then.
I've started making my little preparations for Russian life - buying some warm(er) clothes, primarily. I've also taken the liberty of trawling around on the net for some information on Russian life.
In winter, it can fall to 30 degrees below zero (hmmm, let me just close my eyes and imagine that for a second - nope, can't quite manage it) and washing machines, I learn to my dismay, are not readily available 'be prepared to handwash' :(
From the US Consulate, I've learned that swarms of children (possibly armed with knives) sometimes attack tourists, knocking them down and stealing their possessions. Always fun... Also, neo-Nazi racist movements are on the rise in Russia, so one should take care if of 'African or Asian origin'. Well, at least that's not me.
You should also take extreme care who you drink with, as drink and food spiking is also on the rise.
Security on Russian internal flights is apparently a little hazy, leading to two Russian commerical airliners being downed by terrorist acts in the last few years. And of course, terrorism is not restricted to the skies - we all remember the Beslan school siege and the opera house siege. There have also recently been explosions in Russian marketplaces, which 'appear to be motivated by commerical concerns, rather than targeting foreigners' - business Russian-style, huh?
What have I let myself in for?
However, my school (well, they are in the business of recruiting foreigners) has this to say: 'Once someone has expressed an interest in coming to Moscow, every mother will no doubt be beside herself with worry. Reassure her - it is not as bad as you have read in the Western press.'
In case I sound like I'm down on Project: Moscow, I'm really not - still looking forward to it, but as An Awfully Big Adventure, some of which will be scary in the extreme, but which will also be lots of fun, I hope. I'm aiming to be in Moscow by the 15th of November, which is really not so far away now. Luckily I've also lined up a hefty list of people who have promised to come visit me, so they'd better not let me down!
In my Prague life, things are ticking on... Friday night we went out to gay night at Radost, a yummy vegetarian restaurant slash club. I sneaked (snuck?) in my own vodka as a cost-cutting measure (shush!) and justly endured the slings and arrows of my outrageous friends. It was fun, although both ladies and gentlemen were generally impervious to my charms. Yesterday Scotty, Sonja and I went shopping, where we outfitted Scotty for winter in Prague, since he came sadly under-equipped for the season (not what we expect from a native of Thunder Bay, Canada - his warm clothes are being shipped as we speak...) and then we headed back to Carolyn's for movie night Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure ha ha ha with Laurie, Greg, Gracie and Alasdair making up the rest of the gang. Today Scott, Sonja, Greg and I went to an exhibition that contrasted photos of Prague from the last 19th - early 20th century with photos of the same areas today. It was interesting seeing how much has changed, considering to the casual eye (minus the tourist tat), one would imagine that Prague's been preserved more-or-less intact through the ages: not so!
PS It has snowed a little the past few days, mostly while I've been tucked up in bed, and it hasn't been the sort of snow that's stuck, unfortunately, just a few wee snowflakes in the air. Well, I'll get plenty of snow soon enough.