The time I thought my plane would crash

FullSizeRenderkkThe plane went through a zone of turbulence late yesterday evening.  I was on a flight from Newark, N.J. to Charlotte, N.C.   As it shook and rumbled, the calm voice of the lead flight attendant assured us that it would end in a few short minutes.  I had a flashback to almost two months earlier, to a flight with Transaero Airlines from Moscow to New York, when for a few long minutes, I believed that our plane was going to crash.

I have been flying periodically for many years.  Once or twice a year I fly domestically, and two times (there and back) I fly transatlantic to Russia.  I am not afraid of flying.  In fact, it relaxes me, and I usually sleep through most of my flights.  Of course everyone who flies knows that the plane goes through zones of turbulence.  While not always pleasant, it is normal.

On the flight from Moscow to New York in late August, the flight attendants did not pass out blankets.  When my mom inquired, they said they only have enough for children.  My six year old niece did not get one.  The small television screens on the back of seats were not working.  No one dared to ask if the plane had a stash pillows or ear-phones.  Obviously, it did not.

I have always taken for granted these small amenities that where offered to you when you pay $1,000 for an 8-hour flight.  I did not realize that such things went a long way to reassure me, as a passenger, that the airline and the crew had it together.

I sat there wondering if the plane had enough gasoline to fly over the Atlantic Ocean or if it was going to run out somewhere above Greenland.

Note to self: these are not thoughts you want to be left wondering when you are already up in the air.

Sometime after we were served frozen (!) pierogis and the lavatory completely ran out of toilet paper (maybe they did not have any to begin with), the plane went into a zone of turbulence.

Instead of a calm flight attendant reassuring me that it would end momentarily, we were greeted with chaos.  The flight attendants on board, two men and three women, did not stop for a second to say a word to the passengers.  Instead, they were running from one end of the airplane to the other, to fasten themselves in a seat.  Ivan, one of the male flight attendants, practically pushed one of the woman out of the way, running in long strides to get to his seat.

Worst of all were the looks on their faces.  Gone were the cool and collected blank facial expressions… All of them looked utterly mortified.

A woman in front of me was telling her elderly parents in a high-pitched, near hysterical voice to buckle up their seat belts.  Her father was fighting against her.

For two minutes, as the plane plunged up and down, I was praying with an urgency I have never prayed with before.  I do not want to die.  For a split second, I thought I would.

I thought of my mom and niece sitting next to me.  I thought of my weak faith.  I thought of friends and family; even the afterlife. I thought of many things.  But, mostly, I thought that I do not want to die.

When the plane finally steadied, all of the flight attendants disappeared.  Mom said that they must have been summoned to an impromptu meeting with the pilot.

While I believe that this was one of the most ill-trained, unprofessional crews in the history of aviation, I also believe that something was amiss.

I am sure that this was not the first time these flight attendants were on a plane (even if at times it seemed like it was), so they had to have experienced zones of turbulence before.  Their reactions that day showed that the turbulence was abnormal, and that they were afraid.

My greatest wish, for you and myself, is to never see a frightened flight attendant.  It cannot possibly mean anything good.

My mom muttered every swear word she knew under her breath.  All I could say, as if my rewind button was broken, was, “Mom, I was so scared.  Mom, I was so scared.”

After we calmed down, we managed to crack a few jokes about the most ridiculous flight, airline, and crew.  For the rest of the flight, every time we saw Ivan, Mom would snicker, “There’s the one who s**t his pants.”

my_signatue

Eating McDonald’s, or catching our flight

I’m lovin’ it!

Every year, I visit my family in Russia for three months in the summer.  This year, I made the cross-Atlantic journey with my mom and 5-year old niece.  We were flying from CLT (Charlotte) to JFK, and JFK to VKO (Moscow).  The morning of our flights, I prayed to myself for everything to go smoothly.  I made sure to repeat the prayer multiple times, and I did this not because I’m paranoid, but because I know that when I fly with my mom, things hardly ever go down without some sort of adventure.  I prayed, nonetheless.

When we landed in JFK at around 12:45 p.m., we knew that we didn’t have much time before our next flight at 2:20 p.m.  However, my niece kept yelling, nonstop, “I’m hungry!  I’m HUNGRY!  I’m H.U.N.G.R.Y!” Mom desperately needed coffee, and when I checked our boarding pass, it said, “Boarding at 1:30 p.m.”  I figured that, my goodness, we had plenty of time to stop for a quick bite!  So we took some time tracking down a McDonalds and placed a big order.  My niece started to crave pretzels after JetBlue offered her a small bag on the flight from Charlotte to New York, so her and my mom went shopping for pretzels while I waited for our order.  Nonchalantly, and out of pure boredom, I glanced down at my boarding pass.  Humming to myself, I skimmed through our seat numbers, airline name, and destination, before my eyes glided over the boarding time again.  My heart stopped beating for a second, and I reread the fine print, which clearly said, “Boarding until 1:30 p.m.”  I glanced down on my phone, on which, in bold, bright numbers, it read, “1:45 p.m.”

Now let me tell you that in my 20 years, I have never stepped away from a McDonalds order.  There are very few things in this life that are more important than my large fries and iced coffee.  However, if anything can top that list of priorities, it is missing a trans-Atlantic flight that cost us thousands of dollars with a hungry 5 year old, my wild mom (more on her later), and $20 in my bank account (I tend to shop a lot for these trips to Russia) in, of all places, New York.

So I drop everything, grab my bag, and begin to run around the airport like a half-baked fool.  Worst of all, Mom was no where in sight, and I had no idea where she went to buy the damn pretzels!  I run up to the nearest security guard, look her dead in the eye, and say “Idon’tknowwheremymomisandIammissingmyflightpleasehelpmetrackherdownortelltheplanetowaitorkillmecallsomeoneforhelppleaseIamdying.”  To which she, of course, replies, “Okay, do you know where they went?”

Ummm…

I didn’t even bother replying and continued running around the McDonald’s in circles with frantic eyes.  I finally spot a lanky child digging her hands into a large bag of pretzels, and run up to my mom and niece.  I thought of how to quickly explain the whole situation, but the only words that came out of my mouth were, “Hurry!  Late!”  I grabbed my niece and ran towards Gate B31 which was, naturally, located on the other end of the airport.  My mom was 20 feet behind, and I kept yelling at her to hurry, but all I saw was her muttering words under her breath (nothing good, I’m sure) before she completely disappeared from my view.  I just remember thinking, “Aw, hell!  This ship is sinking and I’m not going down with it! Sorry, Mom!”

At around 1:55 pm, we ran up to Gate B31, my mom coming up behind me a few minutes later, only to see a huge line going around the gate. The passengers had not even boarded yet.  While the flight was running a little behind, I knew that boarding would start any minute!  I turn to Mom, who swears one more time, and says, “What about the food?!”

Wait, what?  She can’t seriously be worrying about the McDonald’s order…

“The food!” She yells again, “We left our food!”

I look at her wild-eyed as she goes up to one of those airport golf-cart cabs, and asks the driver to drive her back to McDonald’s so she could pick up her order.  I stood there, watching her and not knowing whether I wanted to laugh or cry, until she got onto the taxi and drove off into the crowd.

Forget the flight, my mom wasn’t going to let anything stop her from getting McDonald’s.

Part of me wanted the flight to depart just so I could say, “That’s what happens when you choose a Happy Meal over boarding your plane!”  But then I thought about the aftermath of such a catastrophe, and figured, “Eh, maybe I don’t want that after all.”

Twenty minutes later, before boarding ever even begins, Mom pulls up in a golf cart cab like the Queen that she is, towing a large paper bag filled with fast food.

Thankfully, we boarded the flight and safely arrived in Moscow, but we couldn’t have done it without some swear words, a golf-cart cab, and McDonald’s (which was delicious as always).

All is well that ends well.  I hope you have an awesome Thursday.

Much love,

my_signatue

First Lady: Surgery, Finals, and a trip to Washington, D.C.

“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” — Eleanor Roosevelt

IMG_9560
Me, at the National Museum of American History.

I’ve been on a blogging hiatus, mostly because of a sinus surgery I had done, and finals taking over my life for two weeks.  The former I spent on the couch, popping pain pills and watching One Direction videos on YouTube.  The latter found me hunched over my coffee table, an espresso from Starbucks in hand, surrounded by sheets of papers strewn around textbooks.  I’m proud to say that I’ve gotten through both, successfully, and now have a minute to sit down and do what I love most — write.

In the midst of the surgery and finals, I also had the great honor of visiting Washington, D.C.  It was my second time in the Capital City, and my first touring the White House.  I was very excited, because not many can boast that they were ACTUALLY INSIDE OF THE WHITE HOUSE.  This trip was a much needed two-day getaway for me, my best friend Katie, and her mom (and also my dear, dear friend) Brenda.

We arrived in DC Thursday evening.  After stressing over the traffic in a big city, and finally finding a parking spot, we had dinner at Nando’s.  Nando’s was introduced to us through One Direction and 5 Seconds of Summer.  I can describe the establishment in one sentence: They have amazing chicken.  So Katie and I dragged Brenda with us to be the ridiculous fan girls we are, ordering the same food Harry Styles allegedly orders when he dines at the chain restaurant.  Continue reading “First Lady: Surgery, Finals, and a trip to Washington, D.C.”

October – Then and Now

298992__cold-fall-rain_p

As the sky becomes gray, the sunlight dulls, and the leaves start to fall, I can now say for certain…fall is upon us.  Fall is upon us in all of it’s Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas-preparation glory.  Pumpkins are all over the grocery stores, as are ten pound bags of candy.  I love it all — the smells, the colors, and the traditions.

My best friend, Katie, came home from college on Friday.  We spent yesterday shopping, watching One Direction’s Were We Are movie (One Direction is my dirty, guilty pleasure — I can’t help but have a little crush on Harry Styles), and then eating junk food and watching Love Actually until 3 a.m.  Tell me that is not your dream Saturday?  It certainly is for me.

Throughout my day yesterday, I couldn’t help but think back to two years ago, when my Saturdays were dramatically different.  In fact, I used to believe in Russia that the Saturdays I experienced across the globe in America must have been a fathom of my imagination.  Surely people couldn’t live so differently on the same planet.

We had school in Russia on Saturdays.  In my remote city, I would wake up to the (already) freezing temperatures in October.  My school uniform required that I wear a skirt, and I always wore three layers on top of my tights to make sure I stayed warm.  In one hand I had my book bag, and in the other a plastic bag with a pair of flats to change out for my boots when I arrived at school.  We were told that we shouldn’t bring in the mud from the outside, and were not permitted to enter the school unless we had a change of shoes to put on.

The mud.  While a few years after the civil war the main roads had been paved, the roads within communities were still nothing but pebbles and dirt.  When it was humid and rained, all of the pebbles and dirt would turn into oceans of mud.  There was no avoiding it.  I walked to school, and by the time I would enter the gates, I would have three inches of thick mud going up my boots.

It was almost always cold.  The temperatures in our school were never right for the season.  We had no air conditioning, so in the summer time I was constantly hot, and the small heating panels did not do much in the winter times.  I always wore a thick sweater.  It was Ralph Lauren, one I had gotten prior to moving back to Russia.  My little piece of America in remote Russia.  It humored me.

One great thing that our school offered was baked pastries.  In those cold months, the cafeteria was our retreat.  The big ovens gave off heat, and the potato and sausage filled pastries that were baked in them warmed us up from within.  I remember we would sit in the cafeteria, usually us girls at the table, while the boys stood by the windows.  There weren’t enough seats for everyone, and the boys were gentlemen.  We would eat our pastries and drink canned Lipton sweet tea, gossiping and laughing until our teachers would yell at us to go to class.

After school I would walk home, again through the mud, where my mom would be waiting for me with homemade perogies.  Our apartment was always warm and cozy, and the windows in our small kitchen would be fogged from my mom’s cooking.

It was a different time for me.  Unlike anything the life I lead in America now.  I love my life today.  I appreciate every aspect of it.  I appreciate how I can drive anywhere I need to go, and that the roads aren’t muddy even if I had to walk.  I appreciate the vast amount of different foods we have on every street corner, and that the heating and conditioning is so advanced.  It’s a good life.  But the time I spent in Russia was also beautiful to me, in a simple sort of way, and on a chilly October day, I can’t help but reminisce to the days of the muddy roads and warm potato-filled pastries.

I hope you have a wonderful Sunday.

With all my love,

2032765680083201260814

A glance back at summer.

“By all these lovely tokens September days are here, With summer’s best of weather And autumn’s best of cheer.”

 — Helen Hunt Jackson

It hit me today that summer has come to an end when I had to wear a jacket outside.  It was, to my surprise, chilly.  It is interesting how the sun shines differently in the summer, as opposed to in the fall and winter.  You can just see that it is cold, even before you step outdoors.

As I bid a farewell to the summer of 2014, I can’t help but remember all of the great memories.  I was in Russia visiting family from the end of May until the beginning of August.  Before returning back to the States, we decided to take a family vacation to Antalya, Turkey.   We spent two years in Turkey when I was a baby, and my parents have always reminisced what a beautiful country Turkey is.  I have been dying to go back, and was very excited for this trip.

It was one of the best vacations of my life.

photo 1
This shot was taken on the drive up to our hotel. The mountains are breathtaking!

We were greeted at the airport by our tour company’s bus, and driven directly to our hotel.  We stayed at the Vogue Avantgarde, a 5 star resort.   The view of the mountains is amazing, and it was interesting to drive through Turkish towns.  I could sense the beautiful culture even out of the car window.

The view from our room.
The view from our room.

After checking into reception, we dropped our bags in our room.  Everything was very luxurious, although we did have issues with the air conditioner and shower not working properly.  The problems were immediately fixed when we called the front desk.  It was, however, very amusing when my mom was attempting to explain in Turkish what the issues were.  I always joke that Mom thinks she speaks Turkish from the two years she lived in Istanbul almost eighteen years ago… but she really doesn’t…

I’m just kidding, Mom!

photo 4
Dinner on the patio.

Oh, my goodness, I can not talk enough about the food.  The resort we stayed at was all-inclusive, but I have never experienced such high quality food in my life.  First off, there were so many choices,  I didn’t know where to start.  My eyes would get really big, and I felt like a deer caught in headlights.  After the first day I quickly adjusted, and there was NO STOPPING ME.  Everything was set up lavishly, and there was everything ranging from fish to chicken, to lamb and beef.   You had table after table of vegetables and salad bars, dressings and spices.  My favorite part were the desserts.  I have never eaten so much baklava in my life!

The servers work hard to make your stay pleasant by adding sweet touches like this dolphin.  I didn't want to drink the smoothie! It was too pretty!
The servers work hard to make your stay pleasant by adding sweet touches like this dolphin. I didn’t want to drink the smoothie! It was too pretty!

The ocean water was so warm and clean.  I’m usually not a big fan of salt water, but I couldn’t make myself come out!  The best part was that the waves were very gentle the whole time we were there, and it felt as if you were floating around.

THEY HAD FLAMINGOS AT THE RESORT!
THEY HAD FLAMINGOS AT THE RESORT!

Another great thing was that they had a lot of activities for kids.   Every night we would take my niece to the children’s disco party.  It was so fun, even I joined in and danced!  They also had a petting zoo, and a lot of kiddie slides and pools.

Our last night in Antalya.  The moon took my breath away.
Our last night in Antalya. The moon took my breath away.

I don’t get to spend a lot of time with my mom and sisters, because we live on opposite sides of the planet.  This can be very hard, as I am very close to them.  My favorite part of the vacation was the many laughs we shared, and the memories we created.  I will carry those with me forever.

I hope you had a great summer as well.

All my love,

2032765680083201260814