Friday, April 19, 2013

Библионочь - Biblionoch

It was my second time meeting her and my second day in Russia. When I first met her, it was at the Couchsurfing meeting where the most noticeable thing about her, right off the bat, was her fluency in English. She's a like the Christmas lights of Moscow.

Renata, I know you'll be reading this and I want you to know that when I know someone will be reading what I've written about them, I sort of get weird. Sometimes I skip writing altogether or I abbreviate extensively.

Renata lives conveniently and coincidentally at the same metro stop as Vova. There are 188 metro stops in Moscow with over 11 million people in the city (20 million with 'burbia). I have yet to even need the same stop twice for more than one reason.

Anyways, I met up with Renata and we grabbed some carrots and soymilk and then skittered off to the forest of Moscow. It was muddy. I was happy to have on hiking boots.

After a short jaunt, we headed to her house to check out a notebook. We silently entered her flat. Upon entering the main entryway, the sort of “king of the apartments” lady checked to make sure that I was with Renata. One thing about Russians is they seem to be quite suspicious... Not all. Just many.

Once in her flat, we slipped into her bedroom. Eventually, her mom did hear and came to check on us. She was surprised, at first, to see me, but she was ok with it. In Renata's words, “She likes you.” She asked if I was hungry and I was, a bit.

In the kitchen, I was shown amazing hospitality as they fed me a beet salad, a sausage, and some meat – with plenty of offers for seconds.

After dinner, Renata let me use her computer to figure out my bank card. I had thought that it was closed but after a call through Skype, my bank told me that everything was in order and that I shouldn't be having problems. Since then I've learned that only certain ATM work. Like the Moscow Bank works out qiute fine – but it is a $5 fee each time (from my American bank, the Moscow bank has no extra charge) I use the card and there is a 3% tax on everything. So if I take out $200, I'll pay an extra $11 to the bank and America. Not cool, America, not cool.

Once that was all sorted out, I felt a lot more relaxed and was able to engage in conversation and interactions again.

Renata's mum said that there was a “Night at the Library” (Библионочь) so at around 11 PM or so, we headed out across the street to the local library. When we entered, we were warmly welcomed.

They had quite a bit going on. There were folks taking photographs with a giant check, acting and theater, dancing, short films, a DJ, and coffee and tea. We ended up staying until past 1 AM.

This was, once again, a beautiful example of why Couchsurfing rocks and makes any travel experience badass. Without Couchsurfing (and Renata), I doubt I would have found out that I was supposed to go dance salsa at a library at 1 AM in the morning... This was my second night in Moscow.

Although I had booked a hostel room for that night (and my belongings were there still) and I had the keys to Vova's flat, I ended up sleeping at Renata's that night.

I was still jetlagged, though, so I didn't fall asleep until around 5:30 AM – which was around the same as falling asleep at 8:30 PM in New York.

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