By: Erin Lycan After the overnight flight, we arrived in Moscow at 12 local time. We met our guide Rosa from the Russian Football association and boarded a bus to our hotel in Moscow. After a 2 hour ride, we entered the ritzy, kitschy neon lit lobby of the Hotel Vega, dropped our gear in our rooms, and headed to the second floor ballroom for a fine lunch buffet.
Russian food so far has been an adventure. Our athletic trainer has been designated by the players as a taste tester and despite most buffets having English translations, it’s been an interesting experience. The biggest question mark the girls had was about a gelatinous mass the size of a golf ball, clear but containing what can only be described as some type of stringy meat parts. I stuck with the veggies.
After the late lunch, we got back on the bus for an evening tour of downtown Moscow. As a side note, traffic is unruly at best and psychotic at worse. There is a constant chaotic lurching stop/start haphazard randomness to the whole process. People park at odd angles, sometimes just off the road. Electric trolleys muscle through clattery streets, traffic patterns swirl like eddies in a swollen river as one stoppage creates an outpouring of movement to shift around it by any means necessary. The streets are clear of snow despite piles of the dirty gray iced over bits of it on the side banks. Every car and bus is encrusted in a constant drab ashy grit which doesn’t cheer up the industrial surroundings. In fact, people as a whole don’t smile much, and our bubbly giggly American girls stand out wherever we go.
The language has been fun to play around with. I told the girls that the first word they were responsible for learning was Spasiba – which means Thank you. Since then we have learned:
Minya zavut: my name is…
Das vadanya: goodbye
Kak va vazut: what is your name?
Pa zhalsta: excuse me
Both the girls and I have strangely reverted to replying in Spanish sometimes when asked things in Russian…none of us have an explanation for this but it gives us a chance to practice that language as well!
The bus dropped us off in the downtown area and we walked across the street to St. Basil’s Cathedral and the Kremlin in Red Square.
Dinner that evening was another gastronomic adventure with a multicourse meal that consisted of:
Round 1: some sort of cabbage, canned tuna, and copious amounts of mayonnaise. Wow, do they love mayo here…
Round 2: stuffed mushrooms
Round 3: an at first unidentifiable meat that was later revealed to be pork. The girls enquired about the origin of the critter by asking “quack, quack?”
Round 4: some sort of apple puff pastry for dessert
The players are constantly enageged in coversation on the bus and I am struck by the similarities in the flow of conversation with all of the soccer bus rides I’ve taken as a player and a coach – it seems like movies, past games, old club teams, novels, homework, and food seem to always come up.
We were pleased to get back to our new digs and go to sleep. Before retiring I got to try out Skype with my Mom, which is a wholly new and exciting phenomenon for me but extremely old hat for anyone who’s spent time abroad and knows this is by far the cheapest and easiest (and coolest!) way to connect with people when you’re in another country.