Shortly before we boarded in Frankfurt, Jessica realized she didn't have her passport anymore. We ended up having to leave her in Germany so she could visit the consulate there to receive an emergency passport. It isn't possible to enter Russia with only a photocopy of a passport. She should arrive in Sochi tomorrow.
Once we landed in Moscow, I was surprised how disorganized and relatively easy the process was to get through customs and to get our bags. We said goodbye to Chase and Phillip who flew directly to Sochi. We then spent a while walking back and forth in the airport, getting stared at while trying to exchange money, find an ATM and buy metro and aero express tickets.
The ride on the aero express was surprisingly beautiful. Like the true Asburians we are, we kept exclaiming "it looks like Narnia!" when we saw the perfectly snow-dusted pine trees.
The metro was very busy, and was very reminiscent of London, only with lots of black coats and fur. Pushing through the crowds with our suitcases was nerve-wracking, and we were worried with our lack of navigational skills. Suddenly, a young Russian woman came at the right time and she guided us through the Metro.
She said that she had a special place in her heart for Americans because she married a Texan. She helped all of us until part of our group had to stay in another part of town from the group I was in. My group went further to stay with Julia, a captain in the Salvation Army that lived at the end of the line. Once we got off the subway, it was very challenging to find her. We were running behind and did have a designated meeting place, but we couldn't find her there. When we walked out it was dark and cold (-15 degrees C) and we saw no one who appeared to be looking for us. We then happened upon a shopping mall called Metro Market. We walked back and forth from the metro to the mall, hoping to find our host. We couldn't find her.
At one point we saw one man push another, older man out of the metro station. It was shocking to see his white-haired head hit the frozen ground. After a while of no contact, with Captain Julia, Ben and Morgan decided to buy a SIM card for their phones. I waited for them with the bags outside the shop. Eventually, after many hassles, the SIM card worked and we were able to get through to her.
Julia's friend, Natasha, a petite Russian woman with dark hair found us at the phone store. We were so relieved to meet one of our hosts. Natasha walked us back to their apartment and we were pleasantly surprised by its comfy charm and Julia's warm hospitality. She made us dinner: beef, buttery noodles, cucumber and tomatoes. She then served us black tea saying, "Russians love tea." She also made crepes that we ate with strawberry jam.