After being attacked on the Russian train to Moscow, I missed my flight to Istanbul where a new English teaching job awaited me. I had to spend the night at the Moscow airport. It was huge, brightly lit, and a shiny combination of tile floors, metal rails, and glass dividers. It provided no place to sleep except in uncomfortable steel chairs. Sleep was impossible as, every few minutes, a woman’s voice blared loudly in Russian over the intercom and spotlights shone down on me as a metal chair arm dug into my back.
“This is a Russian form of torture,” I thought as I got up from the row of chairs where lying down was not permitted.
I tried dozing at a 24-hour café, spending too much money on food and tea just to sit there. Eventually I found my way through an unlocked door, down some stairs, and into the basement.
I climbed under the stairs, realizing that I was probably in a forbidden zone, and lay down on my faux fur coat. I was so exhausted that I slept for a few minutes before a woman descended the stairs, her high heels clicking noisily. I decided to move back into the passenger terminal before I was caught and put into a Russian jail.
Perhaps I knew a little how Edward Snowden once felt, caught for months in the same airport.
For $200, I could have slept in a nice, hotel-like room complete with shower, television, and a comfy bed–on the upper floor. But I barely had enough money to leave Russia after teaching English in Samara for 6 long, frozen months when my Russia boss refused to pay me what he promised. At least a kind porter had let me keep my luggage in the storage area so that I could move more freely.
After begging for a morning ticket to Istanbul, I had to fight the Russian airline clerk over my “extra” baggage for which I could not pay.
“They let me bring all this over from America,” I explained. “I can’t just leave it here.” The uniformed woman did not smile. “Nyet,” she only repeated.
I turned to my audience of fellow passengers.
“Where is the Russian heart?” I asked them. “Is everything here about money? Can anyone please help me?”
A woman offered to put my bag on her ticket since she only had a carry-on. I thanked her and nearly ran down the boarding ramp to the airplane that glistened near ice on the runway.