The Last Post

On this, my last night in Russia, I have so many people to thank that its ridiculous. Which means I need to get it out of the way first.

Thank you Artur and Rosa, because you will always be my brother and second mom. There isn’t enough space in the entire blogosphere to express my thanks to you. You made my stay in Russia unbelievably pleasant and easy, with almost a seamless transition, and that’s no easy feat. You are incredible and I will remember and love you forever. I hope that we can meet again one day.

Thank you Sasha, Avivushka, Bujew, Fauxjew, ‘Dorbs, Kingson, Gilligan, Sterph, Cai, Deanna, April, Kate, Katie, and Lauren. I definitely didn’t hang out with all of y’all as much as I would’ve like to, but that’s the way it works, I guess. For those of you who I spent a lot of time with (you know who you are), you too are part of my extended family. Y’all were such a big part of why this summer was amazing and it’s difficult to find memories that didn’t involve one of you. We had so many laughs, talks, good times, and confusing encounters with Russians. Lunches at Kukan, group showers at the beach, McFlurrys at Mickey D’s, Rubin games, walks down Baumana, bus rides, eating chak-chak, class, bazaar trips, boat rides on and swims in the Volga, camp, soccer games on the ghetto field, bus rides and every day, 9 to appx. 7 or 8 – all these things will forever be imprinted in my mind and I know its because of the great friends that I made! I miss you already and I can’t believe our time here together is over. I can’t wait to hang out with y’all in the States!

Thank you Lihau, the coolest Hawaiian in Russia. You’re the man and I hope that I can come chill with you and your Tatar wife (I’m gonna go ahead and call that right now) soon. You were always (well, except that time when Sasha kicked a hole in the house) there for us but cool enough to be hands-off most of the time, letting us figure out our own way. Your insight and assistance was actually really helpful (most of the time), so thank you for that. Good luck with the year-round kids (SookaPazhaloosta), and if you ever need a cultural guide of New York, you know who to call.

Thank you Piper, Max, Iago, Abu, John, Yoko, Lindsey Lohan, Jade, Ryan, Creepus Maximus, Bushbaby, Marilyn, Jackie, Ruth, and probably some other people I’m forgetting, but y’all probably aren’t reading this anyways. Thanks for being the people who we could see on Baumana or at Dom Blinov (thanks for that, too) and awkwardly talk to for a few minutes before one of us coming up with a terrible and probably false excuse. Thank you for being in awe of our passion at Rubin games and maybe a little bit skeptical of our sanity. КГУ, forever!

Thank you Rais and Aida. Rais, your passion for Rubin is admirable, but if I have one recommendation to make, its that you stop saying that you “don’t really speak English.” You’re amazing at it and I speak for our class when I say that you were an awesome teacher of Russian and of Russian culture. Aida, your youth betrays your skill at teaching. It took us a really long time to figure out that you could probably understand everything we were saying in English (sorry), but thank you for sticking with Russian (most of the time – the word for adjective is really tricky, I’m sorry!) and for making really cool games for us, and also for giving us guys the opportunity to prove our dominance in Russian grammar games, like the ever-popular “Swat the Instrumental Case Fly.”

Thank you Lyuba, because you gave me such an awesome base before I got here. Without you, I obviously would not have been here at all. That’s a really simple sentence and thank you, but I know you know how grateful I am.

Thank you Matt, Igor, Gisela, Alex, Matvei, and assorted Cherches family members. You are responsible for my first exposure to Russian language and culture, for which I cannot thank you enough. It’s paid off.

Thank you Fyodor Dostoevsky, Alexander Pushkin, Leo Tolstoy, and others. Y’all are extremely dead so this is pretty pointless, but you guys rock and are probably the most convincing factors for anybody who wants to learn Russian.

Thanks Mom, Dad, Corey, and Jesse. I think I’m just going to thank you for being 100% behind me through this whole process, from applying to come here through my stay, and I now know that very few families can claim that. I hope you like the gifts I got you here and that they provide some small token of thanks. Also thanks for letting me live with you and stuff like that.

Thanks Seth for coming with me to the intimidating Chasidic camera store to get the camera that’s helped me document this awesome summer!

Thanks Bubbe, Zeide, Papa, and Nana, because I know that you’re with me all the time here. I know that you would be so happy that I’ve had this experience and it makes me really sad that I can’t tell you all my exciting stories.

Thanks Dr. G for writing my rec on the application – that turned out well.

Thank you Russia! You’re really cool and have a very interesting personality. You’re quirky – like your belief that I’ll get a cold by drinking cold water. You’re very difficult to understand sometimes, but I’ve definitely gotten better at that. You have lots of nooks and crannies, but behind each one is a new adventure or discovery, and often times a new challenge. Keep it up. Also, please take a shower.

And, of course, thank you friends and readers alike. I would’ve been happy to keep this blog only for myself, but having an audience makes it that much more exciting. I hope it hasn’t been too boring and I hope this blog doesn’t keep you from asking me for more stories from my time here. So, if you’re reading this right now, thank you for your visit(s)!

And now I’m gonna wrap up the last few days I’ve had here. Yesterday we had a closing banquet in which we thanked our teachers and host families, as well as played on the beach and swam in the Volga one last time. It’s still sorta warm, which isn’t good. This heat wave Russia has experienced this summer is not going to go away – not only has the Volga felt it, but the crops have too. Produce prices have skyrocketed since I’ve been here and people are legitimately freaked out, probably with good reason. I hope that there is a speedy recovery, because anything but that could result in a true ecological and social disaster. Best of luck.

I sit here in my room packing, full of ishpishmach and pilaf, but very, very sad. As much as I want to see my friends and family (which is a lot), it’s very difficult to leave this place. I’ve made such good friends here and had such great experience, but I’ve still got an empty feeling in my stomach that bothers me a lot. I don’t have a choice but to leave tomorrow, but I know that eventually I’ll have to fix that empty feeling. How? I don’t really know. Trips to Brighton Beach should hold me over for a while, but I’m not sure if I’ll ever be able to fill the emptiness. Amazing how 7 weeks could affect me so much. I’m going to remember this summer forever and I think its the type of experience that I’ll be talking about forever as one that really influenced my life. Those don’t come around every day, so I’m thankful to everybody who helped me get here and, once here, produce that once-in-a-lifetime-ness.

It’s impossible to describe the feeling that’s inside me right now. I don’t want to leave, but I want to go home. I feel like I’m leaving a little bit of my soul here. I’m not sure if its retrievable. If not, it’s fine. There are no places in the world I’d rather leave it.

Поэтому, спасибо большое. Я люблю вас. Я буду скучать вас. Я приеду к вам ещё раз. Я обещаю.

До свидания.

Андрей

Конец.

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Winding Down, But Only Just Beginning

I’ve had a recurring dream the last few days. People around me keep on telling me that I have only a few days left here. That I’m going back to America on Friday. That I won’t see another Rubin home game for a long time, if ever. That I won’t see the optimistic young face of Vladimir Lenin every morning. That soon I’ll be relaxing in A/C, drinking cold water from the tap, watching ESPN and speaking English 24/7. I pinch myself but can’t seem to wake up.

That was artsy, huh?

Anyways. The last few days here have been awesome.

Saturday, we had a scavenger hunt around Kazan with alumni of FLEX, which is a program that sends high school kids from former Soviet nations to America for a year. These “alumni” are all about my age, UNBELIEVABLE at English, really outgoing, and, for the most part, really cool. A friend and I were on a team with a girl who was in Visalia, California for a year. One of the FLEX girls was in a really small town in Mississippi, and, I kid you not, is blessed with an amazing Southern drawl when she speaks English. It was one of the most surprising and hilarious moments of the summer when she stopped speaking Russian and broke out into Deep South English, complete with y’alls, ain’ts, and the like. She was also very impressed that I knew where Meridian, Mississippi is – it was the “big city” around where she lived. So funny that a placement like that could completely determine a foreigner’s experience in the US.

The scavenger hunt took us all around Kazan as we sought things on the list. Among our objectives were to find kumis (fermented horse milk), chocolate-covered chak-chak, as many different models of Lada as we could (we got 8), a street named after a Tatar writer, a blow-up green alien, and something Twilight-related in Russian. It was one of those “take a picture of yourself with the item” scavenger hunts, and we did awesome, tying for 2nd place and receiving a package of chocolate-covered chak-chak for our hard work. After the scavenger hunt, I spent almost 45 minutes in a store called “Detskii Mir” – Children’s World – searching for face paint and finding none. Throwing caution to the wind, we instead purchased felttip pens.

Sunday was the big day. I made my way to my friend’s house, where the pre-game procedures would begin. We broke out the felt-tip pens and wrote “I ❤ ALAN” on our chests. Alan, of course, is Alan Kasaev, Rubin’s best forward and the scorer of both goals the last time we went to Centralni Stadion. He also possesses a mullet, is really short, and may or may not be from the Russian republic bordering both Chechnya and South Ossetia, the piece of land the Russian-Georgian War was fought over. Then, after discovering some real paint, I had the unique experience of having three girls fingerpaint my face red, green, and white (the colors of Tatarstan – maroon and lime green, Rubin’s colors, are a little harder to come by) until all you could see were my eyes. It was awesome. They did the same thing to another guy, applied some war paint to themselves, and we rolled out.

Walking to the bus stop, passing-by cars honked at us, people inside shouting “wooohooo!” or “Rubin!” A few people walking past us started stadium chants with us. We even made a few militzia smile. Did I mention that I was wearing a maroon Rubin flag as a cape? I guess not. I must have looked quite the fanatic – face painted entirely, “L” (or rather Л) drawn on my chest, maroon cape waving in the wind (hopefully).

When we got to the stadium, we made our friends (and sometimes rivals) from KTSU (or KSTU, I never remember) look quite paltry in comparison. Their “Я ❤ Рубин” shirts were pretty lame when you consider we were decked out in paint, letters, and a cape/flag. Random people took photos of us and at one point a news crew even came up and filmed us for about a minute.

Well, it turns out that that news crew needed that footage – apparently we made the nightly news for the Rubin game. Our resident director is hard at work trying to procure the footage, but it’s pretty funny that we made the local news!

Rubin won 2-1 against FC Tom (from Tomsk, Siberia), by the way. Alan did not score, but two other guys (both named Alexandr) did. It was awesome to see another Rubin victory and, because of how decked out I was, to be part of the atmosphere at the stadium.

Today I did some souvenir shopping (saved that for the last moment, of course) and some chilling. Pretty standard. I’ll probably have one final blogpost on Thursday night before I leave here!

Until Thursday,

Andrew

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I Can Count the Days I Have Left Here on Both Hands

Scary, huh? Seems like just a few days ago that I was writing about my hopes and fears for my time here. Seems like last night that I was writing about the one month anniversary of my arrival here.

At 4:30 in the morning next Friday, (which will be at about 8:30 PM next Thursday for my New Yorkers) I will meet for the last time (this summer, at least!) at the statue of young Vladimir Lenin outside Kazanskii Gosudartskii Universitet. We will make our way first to the Kazan Airport, then to Moscow, then to DC. I will say goodbye to my new friends, with whom I have shared an unforgettable experience, in a terminal somewhere in that airport before boarding a plane for NYC. If these last few weeks have at times felt surreal, nothing can match the surreality of typing those last few sentences.

Anyways. I’ll wax poetic when I’m actually done here – I’ve got plenty of stuff to fill my plate between now and next Friday: school every day, FC Rubin Kazan vs. FC Tom (Tomsk – a Siberian town), a final banquet, lots of rides on the Kazan Metro, Tramvae No. 19, and buses 63, 83, and maybe even 30, and just ordinary moments with friends, both Russian and American. I have a bunch more meals with my favorite chef of Tatar and Russian cuisine and a bunch more man-conversations with my adopted older brother. I’ve got more heat and smog to deal with, too.

Which brings me to actual updates!

It’s still (shocker!) really hot here. And, to make things even better (note: sarcasm), forest fires have appeared all over this nation, and Kazan is not excluded from the fun. What appears to be rainclouds causing an overcast day is actually a huge cloud of smoke/smog which technically (key word: technically) brings the temperature down a few degrees, but really does make the weather worse. Sometimes breathing is more difficult, and for some reason (perhaps not correlated at all), humidity has risen dramatically in the last few days. Not fun.

But there have been good things this week, too! A few days ago, I watched a legit Russian movie called The Dawns Here Are Quiet, (А зори здесь тихие). It’s an old one (about 40 years old – if you wanna know more about the plot, etc. just click on the linked title of the movie), but really, really good. I was able to understand a bit, but I admit that I used the subtitles mostly. It was also a little bit over 3 hours long! Awesome WW2 movie though, some interesting Soviet-type-stuff, as well as Russians waxing philosophical, always a plus.

Today, we went on our final excursion! We went to the Temple of All Religions, a privately funded building that pretty much combines the styles of a bunch of different religions (not All, but, hey, the name sounds better than Temple of A Bunch of Different Religions). Pics to come soon.

Not many people are allowed inside – mostly newspapers and official delegations, but our group somehow found some connections through KGU and were able to go inside! We met the Temple’s caretaker (essentially) who explained how they do everything by themselves, no outside help, no state funding, nothing. He’s also the first person outside a Hollywood studio who actually collects dirt from different places. He has dirt from three places in America – Houston, TX, Manhattan, NY, and College Station, TX. I kid you not. It was freaky. He also had a huge container of Johnnie Walker’s whiskey, which he offered to us – our resident director stepped in on that one.

I’ll finish up by telling you that I have officially learned (sorta) how to make ishpishmach, my favorite Tatar dish: three-cornered (ish = 3, pishmach = corners) meat, potato, and onion pie that is absolutely delicious. So be prepared to eat that when I get home.

Until the next time,

Andrew

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Oh, My Mother Tongue!

Oh, beloved native language
Oh, enchanting mother tongue!
You enabled my search for knowledge
Of the world, since I was young
As a child, when I was sleepless
Mother sung me lullabies
And my grandma told me stories
Through the night, to shut my eyes
Oh, my tongue! You have been always
My support in grief and joy
Understood and cherished fondly
Since I was a little boy
In my tongue, I learned with patience
To express my faith and say:
“Oh, Creator! Bless my parents
Take, Allah, my sins away!”

— “Oh, My Mother Tongue,” Gabdullah Tuqay

That’s a bit of what is basically the “unofficial hymn of Tatarstan.” We went to the Museum of Tuqay today on our penultimate excursion (wow!). It was about an 1.5 hour drive outside of Kazan, deep into Tatarstan. Seriously. In Kazan, most (official) signs are in Russian first, Tatar second. Out here, it was Tatar first, Russian second (if at all). In fact, (we learned) Tuqay was very proud to write his poems in Tatar.

The museum was pretty cool – not exactly a photogenic place (mostly just informational), but our tour guide was awesome. She was unbelievably energetic and enthusiastic about Tuqay, and she also, despite talking really fast, was very understandable (not the write word for that situation, but you get it). It felt really good to get the main idea out of what she was saying, because I would’ve been absolutely clueless even a few weeks ago!

We also watched what might be the single greatest film of all time while at the museum. It was a Soviet-era production of Tuqay’s greatest poem, “Şüräle.” That name is spelled “Shurale” in English. Shurale is essentially the Tatar boogeyman. In the movie, however, Shurale is also a ballet master. The entire movie (a silent film) basically revolved around the failed attempt of Shurale (represented as a hairy man-beast with one horn and “claws as long as boughs”) to capture/kill/rape a local Tatar girl by virtue of his “little tickling game.” These quotes, by the way, are straight from the subtitles of the movie, which were also hilarious. Often times they were in terrible English or awkwardly incomplete. For example, “He showed them his”…with no punctuation to mark the end, and no completion. Awkward. But basically this furry man-monster, in addition to stalking said girl, also does not move like a normal being, but rather danced everywhere, sometimes to the tune of music that completely contrasted the mood of the story. There were also random shots of horses and birds. It was very strange but also just so funny. I inquired about the availability of the film and was disappointed to hear that it was not for sale.

After the museum we went back to Kazan, where I watched FC Rubin Kazan lose 2-0 to first-place Zenit St. Petersburg on TV at a cafe. It was a pretty big bummer. And now I’m home, trying to stay cool. It’s gotta be high 90s here right now, and I know its supposed to hit as high as 41 degrees Celsius here tomorrow (that’s more than 100 F).

Friday was also an interesting day. After finishing up school and lunch, about 2/3 of our group headed to a beach to take advantage of sunny skies and maybe get some water on us. However, due to the heat, the Kazanka and Volga Rivers have essentially been closed down for swimming because of this weird green algae that’s grown/invaded/appeared. So we settled for group (dressed) showers again, as well as ultimate frisbee, beach volleyball, and multiple attempts (all failed) at capturing our human pyramid in a photograph. After the beach, we walked a few minutes to a really nice mall-type-thing where we went bowling. It was a nice few hours of bonding and just hanging out with new friends who I’ll be sad to leave in a few weeks.

After returning to Kazan, a friend and I boarded a bus. Normal. Not normal was that the bus literally stopped working in the middle of a turn about 10 minutes after departing. After a few attempts at restarting, everybody on the bus pretty much peaced-out, and we followed suit. (Rule #1 of living abroad in a country where you don’t really speak the language: follow what the crowd does) We walked to the next bus stop and waited a few minutes before boarding a new bus.

I got to my bus stop at around 10:10 and began the about 10 minute walk back to the apartment. My route was basically pitch-black and there were some pretty shady characters (prostitutes, hobos, rambunctious youths) along the way, but nothing was as big an enemy as the cement block I stubbed my toe against along the way. Wearing sandals, this was not very fun. I basically kicked it. My toe began to throb and continued to throb about 5 minutes later as I walked into the apartment building.

I walked into the threshold of the apartment and reached down to take off my shoes (can’t wear shoes in a Russian house…seriously. Don’t try it.) when I noticed that the entire top quarter of my left sandal was covered in blood. That would explain the throbbing.

My host mom also saw the blood. She told me to go sit on a stool in the kitchen and she walked away. About a minute later she returned carrying, in her left hand, a bottle of vodka, and in her right, scissors and bandage. In the blink of an eye (literally – I had no time to discuss, protest, or even comprehend), she poured some vodka on some bandage and put it on my toe. I bit my tongue so hard that it, too, began to bleed. The stinging was unbelievable. However, it also cleaned the gash really well. My host mom finished up by putting some strange smelling ointment on my toe and then wrapping it up.

I woke up this morning and my toe feels pretty good, especially considering there’s still a pretty nasty gash. I earned a hug from my host mom for calling her the best doctor in Russia. (Igor – I didn’t call her the best Russian doctor!) All in all, a pretty exciting day.

And that’s it for me for now. Less than 2 weeks until I return!

Andrew

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The Eternal Spirit of Vladimir Lenin, and Still More Heat

Still hotter than Hades (its getting difficult to think of other trite sayings about heat) here in Kazan – at last check its hit 100 Fahrenheit here the last four or five days. Brutal. Luckily in the past few days there’s been a nice breeze off the Kazanka/Volga but today the air was flat so it was just a pain to go outside.

However, that didn’t stop a group of us from going to the  bazaar, with my primary goal being to find cheap(er) FC Rubin Kazan gear than is sold in Koltzo (the mall in the city center here). Strangely enough, the FCRK stuff in the bazaar is more expensive. I almost purchased a jersey of Kazan’s smaller soccer team (Ak Bar Bank…seriously) but it was too small. My friend bought it though so that worked out well. I left empty-handed but I’ll probably go there again before I leave.

Yesterday, we went to the Vladimir Lenin House-Museum. It’s basically where young Vladimir lived (very, very briefly) while attending class (also very, very briefly) at the same university I’m studying at, Kazanski Gosudarstveni Universitet (Kazan State University).

Lenin's childhood room in Kazan

There were a few things of note. Firstly was that Vladimir chose his room (first floor, as opposed to everybody else in his family), supposedly that he could sneak back into the house after partying. But the teenage boys in the group (myself included) think that this was probably secondary to the fact that his room was literally right next to the kitchen.

Secondly, Lenin’s report card from KGU was in the museum. He, not surprisingly, did very well in school. He earned all 4s and 5s (the Russian grading scale is on a 2-5 scale, 2 = F, 3 = C, 4 = B, 5 = A), except for the 2 he earned…in logic. Not the most encouraging sign of the founder of a nation based on a political/social system that previously existed only, really, in theory.

The third and most awesome noteworthy part of the museum was the “family” room. In this room were plaques with each member of Lenin’s family, including where and when they were born, and maybe an interesting fact or two. Lenin, apparently, never died. Seriously. No death year written on his plaque. Not even space left for it. Just “1887 г.” – “the year 1887,” to mark his birth. And who says the Soviet Union is dead?

The Eternal Vladimir Lenin

Actually, though, Lenin (unlike Stalin and many of the other Soviet “heroes”) is still somewhat revered. There are statues of him all over Kazan (and, apparently, Russia). There’s a Lenin Street, a Lenin Square, etc. KGU only recently removed his name from the official name of the university (although it might still be there…its sorta unclear. There is a statue of “molodoi Lenin” – young Lenin in front of KGU, as a matter of fact.

Anyways, that’s been this week so far. On Saturday we go to the museum of Gabdullah Tuqay (which I guess I mentioned in my last post…). There’s also apparently an authentic, still active, Tatar village close by that I think we’re going to check out. Should be sweet.

‘Til next time, and long live Lenin!

Andrew

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A Quick Update To Let You Know I’m Alive

Not much going on here. I’m studying pretty hard (feels weird to say that in July…) and doing things after school that are fun but not really worthy for the blogosphere. It is still hot as hell here (there is a declared State of Emergency in most of Russia’s westernmost republics/oblasts in response to this heat wave). Tomorrow we’re going to the house that Lenin lived in for 2 months during his brief stay at KSU. On Saturday, the Museum of Tuqay (or Tukai, or Tukay…), Tatarstan’s version of Pushkin. Hope all is well with you.

Andrew

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A Day Even the Heat Couldn’t Make Bad

My day began at around 6:25 in the morning, when I stumbled out of bed and stumbled to the shower. I ate a quick breakfast of meat and noodle soup, pilaf, cucumbers, wafers, and tea and then walked to the bus stop, where I waited for a few minutes before catching the bus to Rechnoi Port. The bus ride took a shade under an hour, but I arrived at the port with time to spare.

We boarded our boat,”Meteor-240,” which sorta resembled the ship from Star Trek. A 2.5 hour boat ride took us to Bolghar, the ancient capital of the Volga Bulgars and later, a major city of the Golden Horde. I’ll admit that it was a little underwhelming. All that remains is a church, a minaret, and a few mausoleums. The church has been converted into an archeological museum, which had some cool artifacts, like 800 year old scissors. The minaret was probably the coolest part of the whole site. It’s about 36 meters tall (almost 120 feet) and it’s got a staircase inside so we could all climb up and check out the view from the top, which was really nice – panoramic view of the Volga and the plains surrounding Bolghar. The mausoleums were in pretty bad shape.

It was also hot – one of the hottest recorded days they’ve ever had here in Tatarstan. According to local weather reports, it hit about 43 degrees Celsius – 109 degrees Fahrenheit. Some breezes off the Volga helped make the heat a little more bearable but taking a few degrees off of 109 still means you’re left with just obnoxiously hot weather. I broke out in a sweat walking to the bus stop – a 10 minute walk – at 7 in the morning. On the boat ride back to Kazan I slept pretty much the whole way and was welcomed, upon waking up, with huge sweat stains on my back and my chest as well. Just by sitting there. It was ridiculous.

After Bolghar, I went to Koltzo, the “mall” in the center of Kazan, to bide my time until leaving to go to the soccer game. I bought nothing there (and hadn’t intended to) but just relished in the luxury of air conditioning.

After that, I went on the Metro to meet the group near the Kremlin, from where we would walk to the stadium to buy our tickets. The excitement around the stadium was tangible – and visible. Thousands of Kazan-ites adorned in maroon and red, some in jerseys, t-shirts, flags, or scarves (like myself).

A small, but still sizable, group of Dynamo Moscow fans, dressed head-to-toe in blue, bravely made their way through the crowd chanting something that might translate into English as “I had sexual intercourse with your mother, I love Dynamo.” It sounds better when it rhymes in Russian.

We got our tickets and proceeded to the entry gates. A policeman pats each person down, and my policeman was very suspicious of me. This is probably because I am a) American, b) dark skinned enough to look like I could be from the Caucus region, and c) carrying a bag with some interesting contents. He made me take my phone and wallet out of my pockets. Then he asked me what I was in my little money pouch/man-satch. I told him a camera. He asked what else. I said my documents. He asked what else again, still feeling the bag. He pulled out some medicine my host mom had given me for my cold and said “what’s this?” I said “medicine,” and he backed off. But it was definitely a little bit unnerving.

We went to our seats and I finally got to see the inside of the stadium. It was pretty nice – not World Cup-quality (if Russia wins the 2018 or 2022 World Cup, as they are trying to do, they’d have to upgrade for sure). What made it amazing was the fact that just beyond the stadium I could see the Kremlin – Kol Sharif, the Leaning Tower of Kazan, everything. It was really beautiful.

To our right was what our resident director calls “the hooligan section.” It was full of Russian youths, all decked out in Rubin gear and also possessing a few enormous flags. As if in anticipation of something, the fence between the hooligan section and the field was lined with policeman – literally shoulder-to-shoulder along 60 or 70 feet of fence. And to be honest, they were a little crazy. At one point a mosh pit broke out in the middle of their section, which has (like all other sections) really hard chairs very close together and a cement floor. They were also responsible, however, for awesome chanting, cheering, and the such. Their energy literally never went down from the first minute to the last.

They were especially awesome when Rubin’s Alan Kasaev scored two goals within the first twenty minutes of the second half! The first goal was a rocket from only a few meters out that instantly sent the entire crowd into a shouting, singing, clapping, volcanic frenzy. I, along with a few other Americans and the entirety of the “hooligan section” twirled our scarves around in the air and belted out the melody of The White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army.” It was awesome. The second goal was also great – a shot from the top of the box that ricocheted off the right post into the back of the net. Other highlights of the game were mostly provided by the Rubin goalie, who made a few outstanding saves (including one diving deflection with his fist off a corner kick). So, Rubin fans went home happy after a 2-0 defeat of their rivals from Moskva. The atmosphere was awesome and I’m really excited to go to the next home game (August 8th versus some provincial town from Siberia).

After the game, I went home in a gypsy cab with my host brother, who had come to the game with us. A gypsy cab is basically a rogue taxi – a car that isn’t registered as cab but more than happily picks up passengers for a flat rate (150 rubles in our case – paying $5 to go as far as we did would be such a bargain in New York!). Going in a gypsy cab is not something I would ever do on my own, but I was with my host brother so it was fine. We got home safely and quickly by midnight!

And such was my day. Long. Hot. But also really fun and exciting, easily one of the, if not the most, fun days I’ve had here in Russia.

Андруша

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