Today I would like to talk to you about juice. Russian juice is delicious. Nathan got one of my least favorite kinds of juices today, blueberry. How can anyone hate blueberry juice, you ask? Well, eat a blueberry. Now drink some blueberry juice. Can you look me in the eye and tell me that the latter didn’t sadden you? Unless you squeezed your own blueberries (I’d pay money to watch you try), what you were drinking was mostly sugar, nasty apple juice, and some dye that probably causes cancer and at least turns your mouth weird colors. Yuck. On a related note, I also got some cranberry mors (if anyone  can explain the difference between mors and juice to me, I’ll be very grateful), and it was just like liquid Thanksgiving, delicious and tart and red. Unfortunately, it came in a juicebox, which revealed an incompetence I wasn’t aware I had. My sweater, bag, hands, and left side of my face had a thin film of sugary juice on them by the time I finished drinking. I didn’t realize juiceboxes required any particular skill on the part of the sipper.  I thought drinking was pretty much the first think you learn in life.

A very quick rundown of hte day:

1. arrived at customs, made it through with no problems or questions–we tried to stop and ask the customs officers about declaring things, and they were having none of it.  THey just kept waving us through, saying, “It’s ok. It’s ok. Go.”

2. Much to the surprise of the 10 Fulbrighters on our flight, no one met us at the hotel. We did have a driver from the airport, but once he unloaded our bags, we were left by ourselves with no instruction except an e-mail that read, “Orientation begins at 9:30 tomorrow.” We got checked in and found our rooms with the only somewhat begrudging patience of the hotel receptionists.

3. Got together with Kate (there are three of us ETA-Kates) and Arielle to go do anything and everything we could to stay awake. This included, first and foremost, getting Nathan to his hostel. This turned out not to be a very difficult task: you can see Red Square from the sidewalk outside his hostel. After that, he stayed behind, and we went to Red Square and Oxotnij Rjad (Leisure Row), a shopping mall right off Red Square. Not my choice of how to spend the day, but someone needed a plug adapter, and we were told by the hostel receptionist that one could be found there (we later concluded that she didn’t know what a plug adapter was).

It’s really enjoyable to be here and able to understand things. I don’t understand a whole lot of what’s spoken, particularly when people are talking quickly and directly at me, but I get the main ideas, I can ask questions and order food without trauma, and a couple of times I even managed to pay for things without the clerks thinking I was mentally deranged (see last year in Moscow).

Our first meal in Russia was appropriate:  mushroom bliny and salad (can’t help myself) with mors from Teremok, a very common chain in Russia. After that, we wandered out of the mall (thank God) to go sit outside in the sun. While we were sitting there, we somehow got roped into doing a flash mob with about 30 high schoolers.

For the first time in a long string of travels, I have successfully stayed awake the entire first day, despite the fact that I  only slept for an hour or two on the plane (ALL the movies were good. It was unfair). So with that, good night!

NOTE: I will probably wind up editing this later, when my brain isn’t like a beehive of confusion.