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Thursday, August 7th, 2003

Moscow, Russia

Travel Glitches

Minor miscues quickly fixed

There's something wrong with my travel stars this week; something's not aligned, or in the wrong house, or something...

Nobody was there to meet me when I walked out of Customs and Immigration in London on my arrival from Turkey on Tuesday. I'm so unprepared: I don't have any pence (to make a phone call). And if I changed by $'s to £'s, I don't know who to call. Fortunately Lavanya Mayi Devi Dasi shows up breathlessly half-an-hour later — it's just the infamous London traffic jams to blame.

Lavanya Mayi is great! As Devashis Prabhu says: "She runs the [London] Math, and I get the credit." With all the hustle and bustle of Srila Gurudeva's 20th World Tour, and with most of the London crew now with Srila Gurudeva in Italy, her service has increased even more: shopping, cooking, booking tickets, making garlands (and she still finds time to go out and collect!). And in addition to all this, she has to act like a soccer mom, ferrying her charges from one location to the other — thanks Lavanya!

But what was I talking about again? Oh yeah — my travel stars.

Siddhanti Maharaj and Paramahamsa Maharaj arrived in London early this morning, and good ol' Lavanya Mayi didi picks them up and changes their tickets so that they can get on the same flight that I am booked on to Moscow.

When we get to Moscow at 8:30 p.m. (fifteen minutes late) the Aeroflot plane taxis to the terminal but the passenger doors don't open for fifteen minutes. We zip through Immigration (no questions at all) but have to wait at the luggage claim area for thirty-five minutes before the baggage carousel starts up.

Yay! — oh darn! It coughs up just three bags then stops.

Some thug in black pants, black tee shirt and a security badge strolls on to the carousel and tosses the bags off. A woman passenger protests: "That's my bag!"

He looks her up and down disdainfully, and sneers: "You from San Francisco?"

Great! All this delay, and they have offloaded the baggage from the wrong plane (SFO/SVO). More shouting and revving of engines outside, and fifteen minutes later, the correct baggage (LHR/SVO) finally arrives.

Well, at least that's over with. Out we march — but nobody's there to meet us either.

Now what?

Paramahamsa Maharaj (who has an onward flight to Saint Petersburg) goes off to make his own arrangements (we later find out that he gets booked on a flight for tomorrow and that they put him up at a hotel for the night).

Siddhanti Maharaj calls Lalita Mohini Devi Dasi who calls Yadhu Krishna Prabhu and Sundarananda Prabhu. Yadhu Krishna Prabhu comes to pick us up just after 11:15 p.m., while Sundarananda Prabhu goes to the train station to try to get Siddhanti Maharaj and me tickets for Saint Petersburg on the midnight express.

We rush over to the train station, but arrive too late, so Yadhu Krishna Prabhu takes Siddhanti Maharaj and me over to the closed Jagannath Express restaurant, lets us in through the back, and makes us a salad. Afterwards, we rest until about 1:20 a.m. and then drive to a different station to catch the overnight train to Saint Petersburg.

It is tough trying to coordinate and track all the comings and goings of all the devotees during this world tour, but the devotees here are doing a fine job under the circumstances, and tonight, so many people went out of their way to rally to Siddhanti Maharaj and my aid, to make sure we get from the airport to the train station, to make the journey to Saint Petersburg to join Srila Gurudeva, who arrived there earlier today.

Shortly after the train leaves the station, I fall asleep to the gentle rocking of the coach.

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