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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