15. Reflecting on Red Square - The Tourist Days
A man on a thousand mile walk has to forget his goal and say to himself every morning, today I'm going to cover twenty-five miles and then rest up and sleep. Leo Tolstoy, WAR and PEACE
Give yourself some time to enjoy!
Leading up to my entrance to Pirogov evening of April 6, I'm now in Moscow and conquering the city in my own brave tourist way. Left my coat in the London flat, so had to buy one here. Should have considered the currency exchange, but it's warm. And definitely needed it. This week is only supposed to be in the 40s. Sunny early, snowed on my walk back home from Red Square.
For those of you who end up in Moscow for HSCT, I hope you can add some tourist days. Sure, you might have to go backwards up the stairs inside St. Basil's, on your bum, like I did. But even that will be worthwhile. Memories of this beautiful city will go home with my soon-to-be brand new healthy immune system when I leave.
I may not stop the takeover of the Crimea or the Ukraine, but I will make a very good personal impression on this city as a world traveler! Always be kind, be patient, be grateful. Don't be loud, brash, demanding - it only makes it easier for people to stereotype your country. Like we've done with the Russians at times. I've found nothing but courtesy and open friendliness. It's a small world, and traveling to Moscow for HSCT is perfectly fine. Do it!
Random travel notes:
- You will want to use a VPN service. I recommend STRONGVPN.com. It's $10 a month and it looks like you're using your computer from NYC (in my case) so less likely to have sites blocked or slow or non-performing in English.
- Pack light for layering (cashmere/silk/light wools this time of year). The weather changes regularly. For those of you from anywhere in the USA but California, you may already be used to sun in the morning and snow by afternoon.
- Europe electric current - bring your converters and I recommend the ones that are also surge protectors.
- Old shoes only! Do not travel with new shoes - ever! If you've got to walk, the rattiest old comfortable pair will do. Preferably not 'tennies' as they're a sure-bet ID for Americans. Black leather is always good. Don't underestimate the wisdom in this suggestion. Blisters will ruin your trip. It's not a fashion show. You will walk more than you expect to, everywhere.
- Do not pack a bunch of food from home. You can buy anything here in Moscow (or anywhere else) including fast foods, all other products (just about) you're used to from home. PLUS you ought to broaden your experiences by eating local anyway.
- Do not be afraid, be cautious. A traveler who is aware of surroundings is a safe traveler. Moscow, during the week they intend upon taking over the Ukraine, is quiet and unmoved by the drama playing out on TV. If you or your family are worried, think about how the USA daily life was when we were at war in Iraq, Afghanistan, etc., etc., - it's like that here, too. Not to worry.
- I did pack one separate suitcase with items specifically for hospital, and I have not opened it through my tourist days. It's kept clean, antiseptically sealed inside (ziplock bags, etc) and I think this was good planning. Also easier to manage.
I'm sure I'll think of more. If you're like me, 'doing' eases tension. A lot of the general anxiety I experienced ahead of leaving for Russia and HSCT was spent learning everything and organizing the packing. Stress alleviated setting up the trip details, and filling my hospital suitcase. Whatever you need to do to de-stress, do it! And once you're here, it's all going to be just fine.
Maybe right now I can only do 3 miles a day on my way to my 1000 miles. But I'm still on the move, and it's a beautiful world out here!