JFK was a shock, especially for a group of college students from Kentucky who'd flown out of Cincinnati, where the head of security came over and chatted with us about our trip and then mentioned that she never had these types of opportunities "in high school."
It started with the shuttle to the terminal that was broken, forcing us to trek across a sketchy little street to find our way to Terminal 1. Even better, there was the Russian visa checker who asked us why Meredith was only staying in Sochi for one day, thus giving Madison, Meredith and I a complimentary heart attack. Next up: security, where I got snapped at for putting the bins on the floor and almost lost my mind when my laptop slipped off the pile and landed on the floor (it's fine now, no worries). But the cherry on top of this shocking milkshake was the gate security.
After we'd all dropped our bags and weary bodies in the chairs at the designated gates, we were herded back out and told to go through security at the gate. It seemed superfluous, considering we'd gone through security and then walked through a completely secure area to get there. But no matter; we followed protocol. What followed was the most thorough bag search I have ever been subjected to, followed by a very long two hours in a roped-off gate approximately the size of my apartment's living room that became increasingly stifling and overpacked.
By the time 6:25 p.m., our supposed boarding time, came around, I was sitting on the ground surrounded by all our luggage, being smushed every second closer to my teammates by the press of bodies around me.
Just when it seemed like we wouldn't be able to handle it any more, and the entire ocean of humanity would erupt into a volcano of indignance, we were allowed on the plane.
We'd been warned by earlier travelers that Aeroflot, the Russian airline we're flying on, was "uncomfortable," and "sketchy," so I think it's appropriate to say we all boarded with mixed feelings. But the next nine hours were what just might be the most comfortable flight of my life.
Apart from the fact that I slept (yes, actually slept!) for nearly two hours, my childhood was validated when I spied on a fellow passenger and saw he was watching a movie I've been trying to find as long as I can remember.
This is the movie, that has painted the landscape of my mind and inhabited the nooks and crannies of the dustiest corners of my brain.
It pretends to be the story of a thief called Philippe Gaston (an adorable young Matthew Broderick), a talkative and sassy little pickpocket after my own heart, but the truth is it's the tale of Etienne of Navarre and Isabeau. Theirs is the love story that first awoke in young Karis the idea of love. He's a brave, dashing captain; she, a beautiful, fair lady. They are the epitome of star-crossed lovers (I won't tell you why they're even more star-crossed than stupid Romeo and Juliet, or that would ruin the movie for you) and something about them awoke in my heart a love of beauty and a feeling that all things beautiful have a hint of pain, something I've been exploring ever since.
You should watch the fan trailer so you can fall in love with it like I did:
I know that has little to do with Russia, but guys... I finally saw again the murkiest dreams of my childhood. I always believed there was a reason I knew pulling out arrows was painful, wolves are the best creatures in the world and talking to yourself is a good thing; now I know why.
If nothing else, the trip so far has taught me that nothing is as terrifying as airport security agents, and the dream of my childhood was a reality. So that's important.
In other news, you'll be pleased to know we made it safely to Moscow and are now waiting to board our final flight to Sochi (!!!) Stay tuned for more updates!