Hi everyone. We've been here in Moscow for two weeks now, and I've gotten a little settled. Before coming here, my only experience of the former Soviet Union was Turkmenistan and the other Central Asian countries (except Tajikistan) that I traveled through as a Peace Corps volunteer from 1996-98. It's quite amazing how different Moscow is from those places at that time. For one thing, things here for the most part work. In T-stan, a lot of things evidently used to work, during the Soviet period, but then stopped working sometime between 1991 and the time I got there.
The telephone system, for instance. To call home from T-stan, usually I had to go to the local telegraph office and give the clerk the number for the AT&T operator in Moscow (this often flummoxed the staff, most of whom seemed not to have dealt with a call to Moscow since Gorbachev's time) who spoke English and could put me through to the States.
Often this was a lenghthy and delicate process, involving waiting for the correct booth's phone to ring and then dealing with multiple audible conversations on my line and trying to determine whose voice was that of my family member on the other end.
Now, in Moscow, we just had high-speed internet installed in our apartment. I just talked to several folks back in the U.S. using our Vonage wi-fi phone, and the call was free and for the most part perfectly clear. They can call us using my old cell number, which means it's a local call for people in the Seattle area. Pretty cool.
Also, there's a lot more variety of food here. Though I haven't seen camel yet. We'll see.