I've arrived in Moscow at last. We sailed through customs without any problems, though we almost missed an important stamp on our documents going through Passport Control, I caught it, and the clerk told us that we hadn't completed the form properly. The cruel thing is, she was just going to let us go in to Russia without this stamp, which we'd need to leave the country, and the fine for not having it starts at $150, plus graft. We met our driver and host, got our gear loaded in a van, and began a harrowing half-hour journey from the airport to the institution where we're staying. Driving in Moscow is...well...different. I know the cars run the same way that ours do, but people drive them like they have to choose between accelerating, or slamming on the brakes. No coasting, no gentle braking, it's like NASCAR. We survived, and the frequent stops kept us from falling asleep.
We got checked in, after which I promptly took a shower, which was nearly as good as sleep for rejuvenating me. Alexey, our guide/translator, was supposed to meet us at 4:00 p.m., but in Russia, that means 5:00, so I squeezed in a nap while we waited for his arrival.
After meeting Alexey, we converted some dollars to rubles, bought a SIM chip for the Russian cell phone I have, and got some internet access cards (using it to post this, at 14.4K(!) from my hotel room). We then set out in search of dinner. We walked about 2 miles down one of the main streets, and found nothing that both interested us and was affordable. I can see why Russians don't eat out at restaurants much, Moscow is expensive to dine in. We wound up at a TGI Friday's, of all places, simply because we were tired of walking, and it was one of the first things we passed near the Institute. I had some of the worst chicken fingers of my life, but the fries were good. We finished off the meal, which was 1000 rubles for the 3 of us, and headed back to our rooms, buying some bottled water along the way.
And now it's time for me to go to bed, I've had about 3 hours of sleep in the last 40 hours, and I'm beat. Tomorrow we're planning on seeing the Kremlin and Red Square, and eating at some place called Mu-Mu's. I'm not sure what that is, but I'll be sure to report back here.