Nearly Out and About Again

Heard this in Russia last November, it’s so 80’s but it’s only a year old. Love it.

Well, it’s been 2.5 years since I got back from my first trip. I had always planned on leaving again, and relatively soon afterwards, but life happens, and that put me here a little longer than I expected. I’ve been very lucky that I’ve been able to learn what I have at work, and been able to have the fun that I did while I was back. But, the time has come again for me to head out. A huge part of my decision to leave now was that I’m getting too old for my Australian work visa (which must be used by age 31), and also because I travel cheaply in hostels and I’m bordering on being the “old guy” in the room. So before that happens, I’m getting out there again to see what I missed before.

First stop: going on the Trans-Siberian from St. Petersburg to Beijing, and then continuing down to Hong Kong.

However, since I’ve been back, I’ve also done a few things. One of which was a Cannonball Run, a semi-legal road race from coast to coast in the minimum time possible. We did a slightly modified route, but made it coast to coast in just over 40 hours, which put us in pretty good standing over all the years people have tried this race. After going from Sacramento to Maryland, we made our way to New York.

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The sign in the back shows our starting point and the distance to our destination.

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In transit. I had a SLR set to take time lapse photos from the trunk area, but I didn’t account for the night photos having longer exposure times, so the battery kept dying and we missed a huge chunk of our trip. But there were some cool shots in there. I think these were taken in Utah and Ohio.

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At our destination, and the sign referencing our starting point.

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Made it, and in good time.

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3000 miles of bugs.

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The globe that sat in front of the World Trade Center.

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New York humor.

After that trip, it was a back to the grind while I did some more travel planning, and then headed out to Hawaii for a friends wedding:

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Waikiki in both directions from a pier. I was actually slightly impressed at how little there is to do in Waikiki.

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I think this was Sandy Beach Park.

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Rode this guy all around the island. I’m not a big Harley fan, but I wanted to try one out and this was a good opportunity. They’re loud, slow, hot, and too expensive. I also burned the s#!7 out of my leg trying to fill up the gas tank because the exhaust pipes on the bike are its radiator.

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3 foot long turtle.

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This was crazy. We go diving and because of rough waters, we didn’t make our dive site. So instead we did a dive around some random stuff thrown into the ocean. One of which was this Buddha statue. As we came up I kept trying to get pictures, but people kept getting in the way, so I waited behind to try and take a clean shot. But all of a sudden, as I tried to grab onto it to anchor myself, fish came out of nowhere from every direction and started swirling in around the statue. The moment I grabbed onto it, the fish started biting me. That picture with me actually captured me screaming “F—” into my mouthpiece as my finger got bit and I jerked my hand back. As I drifted away the fish kept swirling in tighter and tighter to the point where I couldn’t even see the statue anymore. Sadly, the pictures at that distance were too blurry to make out anything. I still don’t know what to make of that.

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After Hawaii. It’s not everyday that you see someone drive a car into the ocean. And especially not a brand new canary yellow corvette. The things I’ve seen living in PB never cease to amaze me, including listening to someone get murdered (seriously), watching this happen, getting stopped during runs by drunk girls who want kisses, and my roommate’s girlfriend seeing someone who was near-dead drunk driving around with a deployed airbag and shredded tires. Good times, but I’m getting too old for this.

Then, last November, I went to Moscow to visit a friend. Part of the reason I went to Moscow, even though I’m about to go back to Russia, is that there was too much to see in Moscow to fit into the 2 days I’ll be there this time. The two weeks I spent there last November showed me everything of what is basically the London of the old USSR world. Plus, I wanted to really explore an area that almost no one ever goes to.

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St. Basil’s in Red Square, in the last picture you can see the Kremlin wall (fortified complex, in Moscow this is the government mall) on the right, with Lenin’s Tomb in front of the wall. Sadly, I didn’t get to see Lenin, but there’s a big controversy as to whether he should be buried now. Lenin formed the Soviet Union and asked upon death to be buried in St. Petersburg, but because he was a national treasure for having formed the Soviet Union, his body was preserved and set on display right outside the seat of the government.

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The roman style of church is to cover every square inch of the interior with something religiously significant. The main alter has the style above, which is not meant to be entered by regular people.

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Facing the other way in Red Square, the State History Museum, and in the bottom right, Resurrection Gate. Through the Gate is the next area:

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Here people stand in the center and throw a coin up for good luck. There’s a whole army of elderly folks who run down these coins after they’re tossed.

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On the entire other side of the Kremlin from Red Square, one of the towers on the Kremlin wall, and the Russian Tomb of the Unknown Soldier right up against the wall. On the inside of this area is the Russian Ministry of Defense, called Arsenal, that’s surrounded by 400 of Napoleon’s abandoned cannons after his army was shattered by the Moscow winter in 1812. Sadly, I didn’t want to risk being arrested for espionage by taking a picture of those cannons, since they’re up against their version of the Pentagon, but you can see someone else’s picture here

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Inside the Kremlin, the largest cannon ever made in the world. It was never fired in wartime, and if you look carefully, those cannon balls can’t actually fit in the barrel.

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The oldest “modern” building in all of Russia. This was the first major construction using new European technologies ordered by Ivan the Great in the 15th century, and is the oldest building in the Kremlin. More structures popped up over time as the different Tsars came through.

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Outside, but nearby, the Kremlin, the backside of Cathedral of Christ the Savior Russian Orthodox Church. This is the church where the band Pussy Riot created headlines recently.

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The Museum of the Great Patriotic War. A dedicated museum to the winning of World War 2, with a crazy huge obelisk in front.

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Upon entering the museum you enter the Hall of Memory and Sorrow and see this teeny statue way in the back, that turns out to be huge when you get close. By the statue is a caption that reads something (in Russian) to the effect of “this hall is dedicated to all those who lost their lives during World War 2 in defense of the motherland. Each tear shaped glass bead hanging from the ceiling represents 10 lives lost.” There are 2.7 million strands hanging in this hall. I couldn’t help but feel like a huge weight was on top of me in this hall.

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Above the Hall of Memory and Sorry is the main exhibition area with bronze helmets and rucksacks leading up into the Hall of Glory, where 11,000 Hero of the Soviet Union Recipients are listed along its walls. This award is the equivalent of our Medal of Honor. The military still uses this hall for ceremonies today.

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This was one of the main things I wanted to see in Moscow. If you’ve seen Enemy at the Gates, this is the rifle they mention at the end of the movie. This is the actual rifle used by Vasily Zaytsev during the Battle of Stalingrad, where he earned 242 confirmed kills, many of them officers. After the war, he ran a textile factory, and died 10 days before the fall of the USSR in 1991. He is one of my heroes, for being a regular guy who wanted to defend his home.

Interestingly, the Russians have the eagle from the main Reichstag building of the Nazis in a different Moscow museum, which you can see here. We don’t talk about it much in the US, but the Russians are actually the ones who liberated Berlin during WW2, so they have the eagle.

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A removed and defaced (the nose is broken off) statue of Stalin, with art in the background representing the millions of people imprisoned by Stalin.

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This is a random piece of art consisting of two people rammed through a tree. There’s some folk story behind this, but I’m not sure what it is.

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Statue of Peter the Great on the Moscow River with the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in the background.

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My hotel.
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And the view from my room.
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The monument to the Russian Cosmonauts who made it into space, taken from my hotel room, and then me in front of the bottom part.

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Lots of lots of very communist style art.

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Also from my room, the Worker and Kolkhoz Woman statue. There’s an interesting read on Wikipedia about this statue’s history, but this work of art was meant to represent perfectly the ideals of the communist government, and in their hands are the sickle and hammer.

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There are a whole bunch of ridiculously long subway access tunnels in Moscow.

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So from what I can tell, after the collapse of the USSR, Russia had very little functioning industry, and did not restrict external parties from coming in. What this seems to have done is prevent any uniquely Russian industry from popping up, and instead, all sorts of exiting companies rushed in and now almost everything you can buy there has a familiar label on it from the US or Europe.

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I actually gagged trying both of these chips. So, so gross.

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Their ads are a little more racy. Says something like “You’re useless when you’re hungry”.

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Subway.

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This always made me laugh. In English, it looks like it says “Crapdog”, but in Russian Cyrillic lettering, it’s actually “Stardog”. The Cyrillic lettering is nearly 1 for 1 with our Roman lettering, so the Starbucks and McDonald’s signs above *actually are pronounced* “Starbucks Coffee” and “MacDonald’s”, they’re just in a different lettering system.

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I found out the hard way, hot chocolate in Russia is actually heated chocolate. It’s so thick and rich that it’s kind of gross.

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One of the only uniquely Russian things I found: a soda. It tasted awful.

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Probably my favorite find there: Russian Married with Children. It’s ripped straight off of our show, just localized.

So after getting back then:

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Built a new comp by hand 12/11. Keeping it clean looking was one of my big goals. I like working with my hands which I don’t get to do much at work so these kinds of projects are fun for me.

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Then I broke my leg in March. I was riding around PB on a single gear bicycle and turned too sharply, causing the pedal to hit the ground, the tires to slide out, and me to spin down to the ground on top of my stuck leg, snapping my foot off right above the ankle (notice both bones have spiral breaks). When I came to a rest, I immediately knew something wasn’t right and lo and behold, my foot was facing the wrong direction. Surprisingly, it didn’t hurt at all. The really painful part was the swelling after the surgery. But yeah, I now have a permanent titanium rod in my leg and 3 screws that have to stay in for a year. I can’t wait to get the screws taken out because I periodically hit them on table corners and such, and it doesn’t feel good. Total cost: $46,000. Total cost to me: $0. Thank god for insurance.

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My leg looked like this for almost a month. But at the 3 month mark, I was already running a 9:00 minute mile again. Modern medicine is pretty awesome.

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After recovering from the leg, it’s been a lot of working, moving, and preparing for this trip. I haven’t had a whole lot of time to go out, but I did manage to see my buddies in LA and ending up becoming part of a live performance for a cool cover band. Thankfully for both of us, my leg held up just fine lol.

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Go see Supergirl Soundtrack, they’re amazing.

So yeah, one more week, and then off into the unknown again.

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