Entry #002: Tuesday, April 9, 2013 (Moscow, Russia)

When I was in high school, I was planned to be the star in a play called The Foreigner. ("Planned" because the play never actually opened, as there wasn't enough interest by the other actors, but that's beside the point.) It's a play about an Englishman who pretends to be a foreigner from some unspecified and ultimately made-up Slavic nation. He does this so that nobody will want to talk to him (because he didn't want to talk to people?...I forget the exact details). As the play progresses, stuff happens and hilarity ensues (I do remember it being pretty funny).

I bring this up because I just got off the first leg of my flight to Madrid, and I was reminded of it in two different ways.

Thing is, I am actually heading to Madrid in the most roundabout way possible - via Moscow. That's a twelve-point-five hour flight eastward, and a five-point-five hour flight back west. Why would I do this? Simple: it was the cheapest option.

I am flying on Aeroflot airlines (which is pronounced in as many ways as there are people to pronounce it), and as can be expected on the Russian national airline, there were a large number of Russian folk on the plane. I'd say it was about...eh, 85% or so Russian, Armenian, Ukrainian, or a member of another Eastern European country. Back to the play. First of all, my character in that play spoke a lot in his fictional Slavic language (which was pretty much gobblety-gook). Funnily enough, listening to real Slavic languages...not much different. That's not a value judgement or anything; it's just that to my ignorant ears, it all sounds like my big monologue, which starts out "Mirduschki omni, bolyeeshnya, mirlo aramznyi bro-o-oach peevno."

More than that, though, the flight was my first true feeling of being a foreigner myself.

I've been in foreign countries before. A number of times. But being on that plane, hearing English spoken second - if at all - and picking up an in-flight magazine and seeing that it's completely written in Cyrillic really made it sink in that I'm the odd man out. I was the one that people had to go out of their way to communicate with. That even the question of "beef or fish" was an effort to ask. I felt like I, personally, was a huge inconvenience for my attendant, despite my Armenian neighbor's insistence that attendants on international flights should be comfortable with speaking the de-facto international language.

I tried to at least pick up how to say "thank you" in Russian. I then promptly forgot it as soon as I took a nap. (Looking it up now, it's "spasibo".) So every time I got something, I answered with a simple "thank you", thinking about how some 'murican might feel if they were told "spasibo" at their day job at Wendy's, and wishing my memory could extend to more than one hour.

Now, I honestly don't care about Russia - or more specifically, my couple hours in it - one whit. But the general feeling is a good one, I think. Taking the fish that is Andrew Schnorr and placing it firmly out of water. That is a state I will be in for the majority of this trip, so it's good that the first sensation of it is in the relatively mild location of a Russian airplane. Once I get to some of the really foreign places, maybe I'll be comfortable with being uncomfortable.

Also, two other things:
  • I need to remember, it's Coca Cola Light, not Diet Coke.
  • My backside is super sore from that flight.


  1. So far so good. Congrats. One long flight behind you. I remember feeling "odd man out" on KLM, only worse, because it sounded an awful lot like Afrikans, hhhcckkkhhh...which is no melody to my ears. And I always feel weird where groups of people are homogeneous. It is just so bizarre and peculiar when one has grown up in Southern California. Just wrong somehow. Yes, that's one reason we travel...to remind ourselves that there is more out there! ( :

  2. It's not everyday someone can say they are landing in Russia en route to Madrid...Not to start a political discussion here, but I can sympathize with immigrants on the "fish out of water" experience. The thing is - that's their experience every day. Of course, there is a point when sympathies end, but that point is not well defined.

    On a less political note, if the movie Airplane! is any guide, never order the fish on an airline. It is the one universal truth regardless of culture or language. As for the plane, I understand that Aeroflot's supposed to be a fairly decent airline, Soviet-era logos not withstanding.

    P.S. I'm afraid this post (specifically the line "...I honestly don't care about Russia...") will be mistaken as the official US line and result in a nuclear war. Or perhaps that was your goal and thus, your sudden trip.



  3. Your sense of direction hasn't changed at all. What does airplane food on the Russian national airline taste like? Loving the blog. Actually found.myself being very introspective. You are touching.lives Andrew!

  4. Coincidentally, this was the blog I chose to start reading tonight. I sooooo wish we could have completed The Foreigner. Still is my favorite American farce. Here's great positive energy as your interesting journey sweeps you along. "mirlo aramznyi bro-o-oach peevno"