PART C--In detention for visa violation, the transient lounge at Samara airport.
As I explained in the second half of PART A, if one travels to Russia on an official US government visa, one needs to come into that country through a city listed on your visa. This rule goes both ways, Russian government officials coming into the US are also given a list of gateway cities.
BUT, I was simply not aware of this until I arrived at Samara and was refused entry into the country. I was able to contact the US Embassy in Moscow for advice, and the very sympathetic lady I spoke with said this is a matter of treaty, I was trying to violate my visa, and I have to leave the country and re-enter in a city listed on my visa. OK. 25 hours later I was able to fly to Prague, Czech Republic, and from there to Moscow, the first of the 12 cities listed on my visa. I thought that list was an advertisement, really, for these cities. But now I know.
I had planned my trip to give me a free day in Samara, since what I saw on the Internet about the city was quite attractive. So, for 25 hours this is all I saw: the transient lounge! (The Russians who enforced the rules were strict, but ever courteous.)
Whenever there was a flight, which was every 2 hours throughout the day and night, a young woman and I were locked up in this little room. The couch on the right was mine, on the left was hers:
The person I was locked up with in this small room was from Turkmenistan, and she missed her flight home. She had been here, in Samara, to visit her husband, a guest worker.
Visas expire on the day you are scheduled to leave the country, so when she came into the airport and tried to check in she was taken into custody until the next flight to her homeland, 4 days later!
When I came into her room she was not happy to see me. Being a modest Muslim lady, sharing a small sleeping quarter with a man was not a welcome development. But she was put at ease by two things. One was that I convinced her that I had children her age and grandchildren the same age as her two girls, whom she missed so much she cried while looking at their pictures. Thinking of me as a grandfather helped put her at ease some.
Then the second thing was that I loaned her a small laptop computer, and she was thrilled to be able to watch Bollywood movies dubbed in Arabic through the airport's wi-fi system. To show her gratitude she shared some of her fruit with me, apples, oranges and bananas. In turn I was grateful for those gifts, since my fare at the little canteen was very limited: as a vegetarian I could only buy one item--a small Greek salad, and that is what I had for breakfast, lunch, and dinner!
This is her, a very fine young woman, during one of the times we were free to roam the transient lounge and buy a snack:
More often than either one of us liked, we were locked into our little room and could see the people in the larger lounge getting ready to board an international flight.
When they got in line to board, we knew we would be let out soon to use the facilities and purchase food at the little canteen in the lounge:
They could not see us, the glass was a one-way mirror, and several women looked into this mirror to touch up their hair or lipstick. This lady had no clue that inches from her face I was starting up my camera to take her picture looking into the mirror at her eye makeup. By the time I got my camera ready, she had turned away to the right:
My only regret leaving Samara was to leave my "cell-mate" with two more days of detention without the entertainment she had so thoroughly enjoyed the last 20 or so hours.
I could not leave that little computer with her, I needed it to do my work, once I caught up with my work, in Moscow, where we will go on the next page.
At about 4 AM the next morning, I left for Prague (expelled from Russia!), and this is my last view of Samara, the second floor of the yellowish two-story building was my home for 25 hours:
Until Saturday morning I was haunted by that lonesome young mother in that room, now with nothing to occupy her time.
Saturday morning, knowing she was on her way home at last, I felt better.
GO TO PART D--The Bolshoi Ballet
GO TO PART E--The Saint Daniel Monastery
GO TO PART F--The Kremlin (Chapter One)
GO TO PART F2--The Kremlin (Chapter Two)
GO TO PART G--Downtown Moscow walks (Chapter One)
GO TO PART G2--Downtown Moscow walks (Chapter Two)
GO TO PART H--insights into my ancestry from paintings by Dutch masters
GO BACK TO PART A--Why this trip?
GO BACK TO PART B--Quick stop in Frankfurt along the way
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