I'm excited: I'm gearing up to return to Russia. Another batch of students... another set of amazing experiences... If there is one thing I would recommend to Americans, it would be to travel. Once you have traveled outside of the US, you understand a world of things you will never understand otherwise.
Last year I managed a day in Frankfurt before I got to Russia. I was astonished how much it helped my jetlag adjustment in Russia. I'm considering a couple another side-trip before Russia to duplicate that experience. (Alas, our students won't have the same option: their invitations MUST be processed through our Russian-side academic contact, which means their visas MUST reflect that data. That's a Russian-side requirement. My own visa has to be processed as a business visa, which has a different set of requirements.)
Soon, Russia, I shall return, and I am looking forward to it so much that my breath hurts.
Today I ordered a plane ticket for Barcelona! I'll get to spend three days there before I go to Russia for the summer.
Barcelona is in a part of Spain called Catalonia. The major ethnic group of the area speaks a language the natives call Català (or in Spanish Catalán). I just hate the idea of going somewhere where I don't know the language at all so today I ordered a quick Catalan course from Amazon.
Catalan is closely related to Spanish, but the rhythm and sound of it are very different. If you would like to hear what it sounds like, my favorite Catalan song is embedded here.
Damn. The procedure for my getting to Russia this year has become more complicated. Last year I put together all my paperwork and sent it off to Travel Document Systems. This year I have to do it in two batches.
What's changed is that this year you have to fill out an online form to get your visa, and you can't fill out the form until you have all your invitation data. So first I have to send in the paperwork for the invitation. When I get that back, then I can fill in the online visa app, and then send in the rest of my documents.
I wanted to fax my info into TravelDocs, but the other day they told me the fax wasn't working. So I waited a couple days, and called again. Today they told me they don't have a fax. Now that is just plain ridiculous. What business doesn't have a fax? What they really mean is they don't want me to fax the forms. They prefer me to FedEx it, which of course cost $33. And then I'll have to FedEx in the other batch of docs. Irritating.
That said, I more than willing to work with TravelDocs. They pulled through for all of us last year, although it was hair-raising toward the end; hair-raising is normal for dealing with Russia, so that doesn't upset me at all. I don't envy them having to deal with the Russian consulates and embassies.
Nowadays Russia is properly called “The Russian Federation” ?Российская Федерация?, which is made up of 83 “federal subjects” ?субъекты Российской Федерации?. One of those federal subjects is called the “Republic of Tatarstan” ?Республика Татарстан?, which is outlined in green down below:
There are about 10,000,000 Tatars worldwide, about 5.5 million of whom live in Russia. They are a Turkic people who speak a Turkic language. About four million people live in Tatarstan, of whom over 2,000,000 are ethnic Tatars. There are over a million Russians in the republic as well.
The largest city of Tatarstan is Kazan ?Казань?, which is located about 450 miles east of Moscow and is the eighth largest city in Russia with a population of over 1.1 million. Tatars make up somewhat more than 50% of the population of Kazan. Russians make up somewhat more than 40%. It is located on the confluence of two rivers: the Volga, which is the longest river in Europe, and the Kazanka.